- “The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business” – Clay Christensen
We can vouch that it has been truly revolutionary in the entrepreneurial space. Everyone in this space uses the term “disruption” as part of their daily language – and this book is where that term originated. Christensen is a long-time, beloved professor at HBS. He wrote this book over 25 years ago, and while some of the examples may be a bit dated, they’re still incredibly relevant today.
As entrepreneurs, we can feel over-matched by much larger competitors. However, Christensen’s book will help you see where we, as smaller startups, have some distinct advantages over our larger rivals in creating disruptive technology, making it one of the best books for entrepreneurs. We also recommended checking out Christensen’s Ted Talk, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” Great stuff.
- “The Four Steps To The Epiphany” – Steve Blank
Like Clay Christensen, Blank is an amazing professor at a renowned university (Stanford). And thankfully, these smart guys write books and put out great content for entrepreneurs like us to read. Blank, and men like Eric Ries, helped introduce the concept of the “lean startup” to the rest of the world, proving that you don’t have to spend massive amounts of capital to get ideas off the ground and operate as a sustainable company.
This is one of the best books for entrepreneurs because, more than anything, it teaches you to have the courage to “get out of the building” and get obsessive about customer development. The cost of spending 6 months to build a product without any customer feedback is much higher than the cost of a customer telling you that they wouldn’t buy a product that you haven’t built yet.
- “The 4-Hour Work Week” – Tim Ferriss
Don’t let the title fool you, as the book is really about hyper-productivity and not about slacking off. As entrepreneurs, all of us are looking to squeeze more productivity out of finite amounts of time, and we guarantee that this business book will help you think of new ways to do exactly that. It’s a really fun and informative read that will motivate you to be scrappier. (Plus, Kenji has been a big Tim Ferriss fanboy since reading this book, listening to his podcast every week, watching his TV series, and subscribing to his email newsletter, which he normally despises.)
- “Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com” – Aaron Ross
This title rings true. There were numerous possibilities to improve our sales function. Most notably, the book helped Kenji hyperfocus on making sales a repeatable process, where we “fed ourselves” through consistent inside sales deal flow instead of “begging from others,” or waiting on referral partners to tee up deals for us. Very cool for a guy who knew almost nothing about building a sales function a year before!
- “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” – Atul Gawande
Atul Gawande is an acclaimed surgeon and author. So, while “The Checklist Manifesto” is written from the perspective of a doctor, Gawande shows the power of checklists through compelling stories of success in his career and beyond. He relates this idea of a “checklist revolution” back to several industries, diving into how checklists are the key to immediate and drastic improvements. This is one of the top entrepreneurial books because process is a huge component to a successful business.
- “Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity” – Kim Malone Scott
After proving highly successful in her manager position at Google, Scott moved to Apple, where she developed an optimal management class. And I bet you can guess what her management method is: radical candor. Scott has grown increasingly popular for “radical candor,” a method that teaches managers how to balance offering praise and criticism, which in turn, sets employees up for success.
This business book is described as “written for bosses and those who manage bosses,” showing leaders how to maintain humanity while staying effective. We believe that this is one of the best books for entrepreneurs because it teaches crucial skills for growing businesses and their leaders.
This worldwide bestseller is one that Kenji has leaned on most during his business career, making it one of the top entrepreneurial books in our eyes. The insights and examples are incredibly clear, and there’s a rich amount of research and data used to support Collins’ points. The most helpful part of the book for Kenji, personally, was learning that the great leaders were not the ego-driven celebrity CEOs, but instead, the more humble, team-driven leaders. This concept is instrumental in instilling confidence in leaders to be themselves, rather than trying to change to obtain a certain image.
You betcha! Another Jim Collins book makes our list of the best books for entrepreneurs. Collins and colleague Morten T. Hansen wrote “Great by Choice” 10 years after “Good to Great,” posing the question as to why some companies thrive in uncertainty and chaos, while others don’t. Pick up a copy of this business book to learn how to build a successful company amidst the uncertainty, chaos, and fast-paced environment of entrepreneurship.
- “Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs” – John E. Doerr
Doerr is a famous venture capitalist who took to writing “Measure What Matters” to show entrepreneurs how Objectives and Key Results (or OKRs) is a system that can help you thrive. He uses examples from Google, showing how they reached explosive growth, relating it back to how you should set goals in your own business. We’ve implemented OKRs in our company, and this process has helped tremendously in our growth at Acuity. Goal-setting is a crucial process for a growing business, making this one of the best books for entrepreneurs.
- “Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers” – Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares
The unfortunate reality is a good number of startups fail. The key to addressing that failure, though, is not in the product itself but in the lack of customers. “Traction” is one of the great entrepreneurship books for beginners looking to get some traction in their startup (hence the name).
This framework will give you a successful approach to marketing your startup, and not one that lends itself to trying out random things and hope they stick. Plus, it’s packed full of interviews with successful entrepreneurs and information on all of the marketing channels for creating traction in your startup.
- “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work” – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
This is one of the top entrepreneurial books, and here’s why: it debunks the popular notion among entrepreneurs that you have to constantly grind in order to be successful. Fried and Hansson hammer home “the calm company,” explaining why an ideal company culture is one with work-life balance, not one with chaos and stress. They explain why a calm workplace creates productive employees, and a stressful workplace creates burnt out employees.
11.5 “Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters” – Ryan SingerWe know you were probably wondering what number 11.5 is…It’s “Shape Up,” a free, online guide that outlines how Basecamp develops their products. But it’s not just that! This book offers various techniques to apply to your own processes, landing it on our list of the best books for entrepreneurs, even if it does just exist as a short, online book.We all need some tools for our toolbox, but they need to be malleable tools. The beauty of entrepreneurship is the flexibility and creativity that you have to make something your own, and these tools from Basecamp will enable you to own your process.More Resources For Entrepreneurs
To learn more about some of the people and resources that influence Acuity, check out our Drink While You Think episode below!
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