9 Books to Read Before Starting a Business

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The idea of running our own businesses and directing people to do our biddings is an enticing one. However, as exciting as the prospect of being an entrepreneur is, it can be just as intimidating, especially to the uninitiated. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to become your own boss without prior knowledge, but if you can take advantage of the experiences of others—both successful business people and failures—why not reap those benefits?

Of course, shadowing a successful entrepreneur will give you first-hand field and managerial experience, but what if such an opportunity doesn’t fall into your lap? Thankfully, we have a vast library of business books for beginners to rely on.

This, however, begs the question: what are the best books for starting a small business? While any information from books can be invaluable in helping people start a business of their own, we’ve compiled a list of nine of the best business books for beginners that we think every aspiring entrepreneur should read cover to cover.

A Book for Aspiring Business Leaders

Author Pat Flynn has become somewhat of a legend in his own right. He’s mainly known as an online guru when it comes to making passive income. His blog, Smart Passive Income, has become the go-to place for people to learn how to create passive income streams.

His book titled Will It Fly? offers sound advice applicable in the real world, showing aspiring entrepreneurs how to assess the feasibility and profit potential of business ideas before sinking money into a new venture.

In short, Will It Fly? can be summarized in five easy-to-follow steps: aligning business ideas with your personal goals, analyzing aspects of a business idea you may not have thought of, testing your business idea, and deciding whether to continue or return to the drawing board.

Will It Fly? is one of the most vouched business books for beginners. Pat explains everything is easily digestible words, so non-business students can learn what it takes to take the first step. Anyone who wants to run their own business from scratch should definitely check this book out.

A Book for Gaining Worldly Business Experience

One of the most crucial parts of the book The Lean Startup addresses the main issue people have with starting their own businesses: why do the majority of startups fail? The author, Eric Ries, doesn’t just leave you hanging on this question; he also explains in great detail what you can do to avoid the mistakes of others.

The author is a highly successful businessman who invented the Lean Startup methodology and movement. In this book, he explains in easy terms how shortened product development cycles are used as a means of determining the feasibility of a business model, regardless of the scale of your business. This book is mainly aimed at entrepreneurs aiming to compete in the highly saturated tech industry.

Eric also elaborates on the somewhat misguided notion that successful businesses absolutely require a thorough business plan to succeed. In this 336-page guide, he explains that the fundamentals of a successful business rely on implementing solid principles to measure success and failure, which every business owner should know before taking the risky leap into the world of entrepreneurship.

The main takeaway of The Lean Startup is finding various ways of using capital and finding creative solutions to common and uncommon problems. A lot of his arguments in the book come from his valuable experience working as a software engineer in the early 2000s.

A Book About the Good, Bad, and Ugly Sides of Business

Long-time business school professor and director of Founder Central Initiative, Noam Wasserman explains in great detail the different trade-offs that entrepreneurs have to be prepared to face. In a business founder’s mind, only they hold the key to bring their company to financial success since, after all, the business idea originated from their mind.

However, since their business is their proverbial baby, founders have a tendency to become emotionally attached to their ventures, and they become willing to sacrifice their own wellbeing in order to satisfy the never-ending hunger of their growing baby.

As businesses develop, new entrepreneurs will discover their lack of knowledge in different aspects of their business, forcing them to recruit friends, family, investors, and other people who receive equity in return for decision-making power. However, a loss of majority control over a business, even one you started, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Founder’s Dilemma focuses on the dilemma of business founders parting with equity to increase the value of their companies. Founders of successful ventures will eventually have to choose between being “king” or being “rich.” Through thoughtful examples and cold, hard facts, Noam thoroughly explains the ups and downs of choosing either route.

A Book for Startups

After coming up with a business idea, entrepreneurs need to determine how much capital to invest in their startup. For the most part, more capital means a greater chance of success, but Chris Guillebeau explains that entrepreneurs working with limited funds don’t need to panic. Success is still within reach, even without a fat bank account.

The $100 Startup describes 50 case studies of successful business people who started with virtually nothing. In each case study, Chris reveals the most significant factor that led to tremendous success isn’t always just money.

Those who aren’t very liquid should certainly give The $100 Startup a read. It teaches us how to leverage our skills and passion to start, develop, and profit from a good idea. The main takeaway is to look at every opportunity from every angle and not to use a lack of funds as an excuse to postpone.

A Book for Future Consultants

As a consultant of over three decades, Alan Weiss knows a thing or two about what it takes to build a successful consultancy business. Over the years, he played a role in helping countless people leave their day jobs to create their own consultancy firms. Through their successes and failures, he details the patterns that helped consultants become successful in his book, Million Dollar Consulting.

In short, there are three key takeaways of this book: two types of expertise, where one is more important than the other; knowing how much you’re worth, not just based on how much time you work; and retaining enough liquidity to keep your business afloat for the next 12 months.

In Million Dollar Consulting, Alan covers the basics, from getting your office set up to delegating work to competent employees. Even if you don’t plan on opening your own consultancy firm, the lessons we gain from this book can help us immensely as business leaders.

A Book About Debunking Business Myths

Anyone who stands out and excels as a technical employee is guaranteed to lead a successful business, right? Not exactly. In Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited, he explains the entrepreneurial myth of how technical skills equals incredible business acumen. For instance, a world-renowned baker may not be the right person to lead a business since running a bakery involves so much more than mixing batters, kneading doughs, and baking at 350° for 40-45 minutes.

That’s not to say that technical expertise isn’t valuable. In fact, Michael explains that being a master of your craft while also having effective managerial skills will help you lead a successful business into the future.

In The E-Myth Revisited, Michael addresses the main stages of company growth—infancy, adolescence, and maturity—and provides readers with the necessary tools to build their business from scratch. This business basics book is an essential read for those that don’t plan on pursuing a business degree but also have the inner drive to become their own boss.

A Book for Before Starting Business School

Most entrepreneurs, successful and not, will tell you that business is one huge game of numbers. While this is true, especially when taking into account different profitability ratios, calculating taxes, paying employees, and determining market share, it’s not surprising that most entrepreneurs fail within the first year after starting their own business. They’re drowning in numbers and don’t have the tools to keep their head above the surface.

With the help of Beverly Blair Harzoo, Greg Crabtree helps entrepreneurs see past the numbers and gives them pointers on how to start a business. Since Greg offers his view on entrepreneurship from the lenses of an accountant, Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits! is one of the best books to read before business school. It will help you familiarize yourself with technical jargon that can weigh down on ill-prepared business founders.

Greg and Beverly also explain the intricate process of securing loans, determining the valuation of your company for investment purposes, and creating internal control systems to keep track of your company’s finances. To put it simply, this guide helps you master the essentials regarding the managerial side of owning a business.

A Book to Motivate Aspiring Entrepreneurs

If there’s one book that will get you fired up to start your own business today, it’s Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. The main argument that Timothy uses to get you off your behind is that most people work 40-plus years at 9-to-5 jobs—something that the average person, especially those with aspirations of becoming a small business owner, couldn’t fathom doing.

In The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy summarizes his interactions with numerous successful entrepreneurs. He explains how the “ancient” ways of becoming successful—e.g., retiring early, working when you want, being your own boss and not just an employee—have been updated to better suit the modern business environment based on his and other successful business owners’ experiences.

This guide aims to help readers clear their minds, as well as free up more of their time, by focusing on the important parts of business and life. One important lesson is that being busy is not the same thing as being productive. This book will help you find what you can do to make a positive change in your life rather than focusing on numerous minor tasks that don’t bring you closer to your personal goal. In a nutshell, this book serves as a guide for learning the extreme fundamentals for starting and running a business for dummies (newbies).

A Book About Starting, and Keeping, Small

The popular book Company of One’s title pretty much describes what it’s all about. Author Paul Jarvis explains in tremendous detail what sort of advantages freelancers and solopreneurs can reap by maintaining the scale of their business for longer—one of which is having the freedom to choose which clients to cater to while making a living wage.

In the book, the author makes compelling argument after compelling argument as to why business leaders should postpone scaling their business, especially if you’re accustomed to doing things on your own. One could say that Paul takes a more contrarian worldview of how entrepreneurs should manage their workload, but it’s definitely worth reading if you haven’t already put your leading skills to the test.

Read, Learn, and Get Started!

The list of books discussed above only scratches the very, very surface of what it’s like to start your own business. Some of them are business books for beginners, while others may require a bit of first-hand experience in the business world to understand them. In the end, these are only our top nine best books on starting a business, so if you think we left anything out, we’d be glad to hear from you!

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