Entrepreneurs read a lot – or at least they skim a lot. A great deal of information is on the market in books, blogs, websites, conferences, magazines, etc – and lets face it – some of it is just 100% trash. So how do you know what to read and what not to read? For those budding entrepreneurs looking to break away from corporate life, here is a good reading list. While this list is always changing – this list includes the most popular selections I hear mentioned by entrepreneurs including the likes of Dave Ramsey, Pamela Slim, Guy Kawasaki, Dan Miller, and many others entrepreneurs whose names you might and might not know.
I have arranged these books based on where you are in your entrepreneurial venture – from a glimmering idea to a functioning start up with the typical growing pains. One of the most common things I see in hopeful entrepreneurs is that they become frozen by indecision and cannot decide what to do first. If that describes you, you really need a NEW education that comes not from the halls of universities, but from listening to those who have broken free of the cubicle walls and made something happen. This list of works should really help in that endeavor. But, do not WAIT to read a list of books to get started – the list of books will never end. I am sure there are great reads coming out even today!
Setting the Guidelines for Entrepreneurship
Sometimes we need to make sure we have our head screwed on right before we take a leap into something. Often we find ourselves running from one thing to the next, often just as a result of deciding what we do NOT like. I see this all the time with clients – they can articulate very well what they hate – but are not real sure what is central and important. These books are about getting things right – strategically in your life, business, and finances.
While we see Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, even in the corporate setting – it is really a book about leadership by starting with yourself. So many people dive into activities never having really examined their own priorities. They look back years later wondering why they followed the crowd instead of doing what mattered most to them. Covey’s book really helps you focus on what is key. A bit of a hard read for many people since he does come off a bit academic, but the exercises are still valuable.
In Larry Burkett’s classic, Business By The Book: Complete Guide of Biblical Principles for the Workplace , he takes the biblical principles and shows how they guide business. While you might flip through it and think most of the principles are obvious, a closer read has Larry telling you many stories about how the principles worked in real life. An excellent read for those who have decided they want to focus on seeking the kingdom first!
Dave Ramsey’s advice in, The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness , is right on target. If you are not financially fit, starting a business is dangerous territory. You need a money plan! If needed, let the business be part of the money plan, but get a plan. For most of us in the “want it now” culture we first need a bit of education that comes from a swift kick in the wallet – and Dave offers this in steady doses. The principles in the book apply to running a business as well as running a household budget.
Change Your Thinking about Money and Entrepreneurship
These books challenge the way you think – and if you have been raised in the US (or other government) education system and/or been living in the corporate world – you REALLY need to change your thinking! In fact, your thinking is you number one hurdle to making something happen!
While I would strongly argue against some later advice offered by Robert and his business partners, this one little classic, Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!, really tells the truth. The key principle about how the rich use money differently from the poor is key. I highly recommend this book. Easy to read and entertaining. Not sure if any of the stories are really true – but who cares – the point is made.
Many people who I have suggested read No More Dreaded Mondays: Ignite Your Passion – and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work have come back to me blown away by Dan’s advice and outlook. If you are really struck in the corporate grind and do not see hope, this book will help lift your spirits. You will start to see the possibilities. Some people have told me Dan’s book is cheesy – but I like it. Dan hits home where most of us are – stuck in our thinking. His idea of “Fire yourself” is a solid plan for many of you. Again an easy read with lots of inspirational stories.
Breaking Away from Corporate America and Getting Started as an Entrepreneur
In, Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur, this book Pamela Slim does a wonderful job walking you though much of the baggage you carry as you try to break out of corporate America. While Dan’s No More Dreaded Mondays is wonderful on this front also, Pamela really does hand holding – walking you through the steps and quoting from many other authors and experts. A great book, but it will take you down a journey – it is not a casual read. But, if you really follow it closely, you can walk away with a great new insight and a true business that stands a solid chance to succeed!
Marketing and Creating an Entrepreneurial Brand
Guy’s book, The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything, was the first one I ran across that told it like it is. I started using this no-nonsense book in my entrepreneurship classes and dumped the academic textbooks – which also cost $80 more. Guy will walk you down the path to get real results for making money – not doing a bunch of things like writing large business plans and opening bank accounts and filing legal documents. He is about getting things started by focusing first on your reason and goals – a SADLY missing element in many start-ups. “I want to get rich” is rarely enough to make it work – and if it does work you are just a greedy schmuck.
Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion is written by Gary Vaynerchuk of WineLibray TV. Gary is candid and tells it like it is – and suggests we learn to do the same. In other words – be authentic. If you are familiar with branding and social media tools this book is very helpful and a fast read – and fun. If you are not familiar with social media you might have to read this one slow, spending time trying things out. But, be prepared – he does not tell you a lot of technical details. But even if you are not familiar with these tools, I still recommend it – just do not get overwhelmed – you do not have to follow his formula to succeed. But he has lots of gems about running a business and about the reality of it all – no matter if you are a traditional storefront or a web based operation.
Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling does a great job helping you define your customers – something sadly many mature businesses do not do very well. One of the biggest mistakes I see start-ups trying to do is catering to everyone – which is a recipe for disaster. Michael book picks up where several others leave off on developing the right strategy to target your customers.
Jay Conrad Levinson’s, Guerilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business, is not new to the marketing game – this series of books have been a staple for entrepreneurs for many years. While I have highlighted one of his texts, you could pick any one of the books with these titles, they all have similar ideas. The main point – marketing on a budget with a plan and a purpose! The later versions have details about online marketing, but not as much as other sources. He covers the basic ideas and the way to develop an overall marketing strategy without spending all your profit in the process.
Getting Control of Your Business
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It is a book to solve t4he second business problem. I often tell people, one of the biggest mistakes start-ups make is trying to develop perfect processes and procedures before they even get started – but the second mistake I see is that once a business starts to succeed the processes are never created to keep the business from running your life. E-myth does a great job of helping you get control of a business – even if you have made very little money – a great read. Very practical.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t A classic by Jim Collins which is used even in the MBA classes – and no that was not meant to be negative. I see this book mentioned by almost every successful entrepreneurs reading list. Some small companies have made this required reading by their staff. Collins starts out academic – examining companies histories – comparing those that have made it to those who have not made it. Then the lessons of what made the difference are brought out for us all to use. It should be noted that some of the lessons may in fact be the result of Jim’s wrong conclusion – but so far many other company leaders agree with Jim’s conclusions. So if you follow his lead, you are in great company.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You John Maxwell has the market on leadership books – I think he must release a new one each month. But, most leaders would agree that he does a great job getting to the real lessons in leadership. John takes the leadership from where Steven Covey leaves off – he goes beyond the personal exploration and gets more into the relationships between the leader and the people who follow them. While I do not always agree with him, I think his principles are sound in these books. One thing I 100% agree with is his statement that “everything rises and falls on leadership” – even in the smallest of companies. And the other thing I have found on my own, those who think they are great leaders are usually wrong.
Classic Principles of Business
How To Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie nails people and how they think – yes even you and I. This book can be summarized by saying “if you want people to like you, get them to talk about themselves.” But, the book has so much more to say to back up this summary and to use it for building business and relationships. The only downside is that the book talks about business people and businesses like we know them – and many are from 60 years ago. But the stories are still relevant.
What NOT to Read
This may seem strange to have a not-to-read list on this post, but I think it makes sense to help those along who are often lost in the sea of books and information. You want to skip any book, blog, website, etc that seems to start with or focus in these areas.
- Selecting the right corporate structure – If your book starts with this topic – it is most likely a dud. This is like taking a music class for beginners that starts off teaching you how to work with a manager to promote yourself to Carnegie Hall. It may be important, but it is not the first thing. And who wants to read this legal stuff anyway. When it is time to find a corporate structure pay the $250-$500 bucks to get an attorney to do it.
- How to write a business plan – I hate business plans! But let me say carefully, planning is key – as Pamela Slim tells you in her book. But the old idea of writing a formal business plan is a waste. This is NOT the first step.
- Taxation – Again – BORING! I love my CPA – he tells me where to sign and what to pay. And, often I will call him and say “tell me why what I am about to do is stupid” and he will tell me what pitfalls to avoid. I do not want to read about all the laws – I want to run my business. And the real key to start-up entrepreneurs is that if you have made no money, you owe no taxes! So go make money, then hire a CPA.
- Evaluate yourself – I used to see these ideas all the time. The books start out with a self-evaluation to see I you are cutout to be an entrepreneur. After evaluating yourself any sane person would be left with this sinking feeling and then go back to their cubicle and curl up and cry. Fact is, everyone CAN do it, and there is no one set of personality traits for the budding entrepreneur.
- You will make millions without any work – You know the scheme, everything from real estate, day-trading books, multilevel marketing, etc offer advice as to how to get rich and fast. All those who seemed to do it fast will tell you how hard they worked and for how long – and those overnight successes were rarely overnight. Most people who promise such have never made it themselves.
- You deserve to live the life you want books – You know the type – earn what you deserve, live the life you deserve, etc. Give me a break – you deserve what you work your butt off for. When they resort to these touchy feely types of marketing, there will not be much more under the cover.
- Pay me $1000 and I will make you a success – I am adding this last one in there – since we seem to be flooded with consultants and coaches who will make it happen for you by attending their coaching program etc. While I have paid my fair share for coaching and counsel – and will again – you need to note not everyone knows what they are talking about. Big shocker I am sure – but I still see highly intelligent suckers changing their money for empty wisdom.
Question: So that is my thoughts – with a few borrowed from others. What are some of your favorites? You can leave a comment by clicking here.