Books on Starting a Business

Entrepreneurship is the American Dream. It really is that simple. Owning your own business is the very definition of success, of freedom, of being your own person. It means not having a boss, being entirely responsible for your own destiny and doing what you love to do. At its best, it also means doing what you’re best at doing.

It also, however, means learning a lot of new skills you may not have had prior. Few people enter their business as experts in marketing, in growth, in tax codes and in all the other behind-the-scenes complications business owners face.

Fortunately, not everyone has to go to college to learn how to be an ace business owner and operator. There are tons of outstanding books on the market that will develop your skills and help you become the best entrepreneur you can be. Check out some great books on starting a business if you’re looking to explore the wonderful world of being an entrepreneur, and get it right the first time.

Books on Starting a Business

You’re not the first small business owner to ask about the best books on starting a business. There are literally dozens of great books out there, from those specific to your state to generalist books on business theory, to economics, marketing and creativity. The biggest challenge for many business owners is sifting through the many books out there and finding the best. Let’s take a look at some of the most outstanding books around.

“The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand

Let’s kick it off with a surprising and potentially controversial recommendation. It’s become somewhat chic to look down upon libertarians these days, and specifically upon Ayn Rand, one of the progenitors of what would eventually evolve into libertarianism. While it’s true that Rand’s theories (which are, in fact, objectivist and not libertarian) are somewhat self-centered, billionaire Mark Cuban and Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures calls “The Fountainhead” a must-read for every business owner.

“Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight

“Shoe Dog” is a favorite book of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, and it doesn’t get much better in terms of a recommendation for business manuals. This particular book is a look at how Phil Knight built Nike from the ground up to become the global powerhouse it is today. After all, what entrepreneur doesn’t want to become a household name with their product?

“Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

“Creativity, Inc.” carries the subtitle “Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.” It’s the story of Pixar Animation —  the operational strategies and behind-the-scenes operations, certainly, but also the story of how it happened in the first place. It’s an exploration of the ideas that president Ed Catmull believes make the best in every entrepreneur possible.

“Winning Through Intimidation” by Robert Ringer

“Winning Through Intimidation” is a book about a somewhat unpopular topic — how to be aggressive in your business operations. Nobody likes conflict, but the truth is, somebody always holds the upper hand in every single transaction and negotiation. This has been true throughout history and it will always be true. Learning to be the one who takes that upper hand can be difficult, but it’s also essential to your success. The truth is, the more you hate the idea of this book, the more you probably need to read it if you’re going to be successful in business.

“Will It Fly?” by Thomas K. McKnight

It was the question the Wright Brothers had to ask before their first historic flight, and it’s the question that every aspiring business owner needs to address. “Will It Fly?” talks about how you can be certain your business idea will get off the ground — and stay airborne — before you start the engine for the first time. It presents a checklist of 44 items to help you determine the potential of your business idea and will guide you through the whole process from evaluating your attitude to developing an exit strategy.

“Rich Dad’s Before You Quit Your Job” by Robert T. Kiyosaki

“Rich Dad’s Before You Quit Your Job” is subtitled, “10 Real-Life Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Building a Multimillion-Dollar Business.” It’s a book that provides a critical overview of the first steps every aspiring entrepreneur needs to take to ensure their business is a rousing success capable of being built into an empire.

“Passive Income Streams” by Kristi Patrice Carter, J.D.

The number one best seller in Amazon’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship list as of this writing, “Passive Income Streams” gives advice and instruction on creating passive income streams that can break you free from the nine-to-five work stream model, help you to avoid long hours and earn a living. It’s written in plain language and customizable based on the amount of time you have to put in. It bills itself as a guide to creating and profiting from passive income, even if you are limited on cash and even a little lazy, but still motivated.

“Zero to One” by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

“Zero to One” is a book full of notes on creating successful startups and building a successful future. Not only has it been the number one bestseller in Amazon’s Starting a Business category, it’s a New York Times bestseller. The book’s main focus is that there are still unexplored business frontiers that are ripe for exploration, far beyond technology and computers. In fact, it argues that the tech sector is stagnating, and the time has come to explore more traditional business models again. Its most surprising assertion is that the future lies not in aggressive competition, but in escaping competition completely by creating a unique business.

“Starting Your Own Business” Fifth Edition, by Entrepreneur Media

Entrepreneur Magazine is the resource for new businesses and startups of all sizes. This book, compiled by the staff of that magazine, is a complete guide to starting up a business. Now on its fifth edition, “Starting Your Own Business” is the best-selling startup guide of all time. It offers the essentials as well as a comprehensive look at your first three years of business. It’s full of all the tools you will need not just to survive your formative years, but to find growth and success.

“The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber

“The E-Myth Revisited” is somewhat unusual in startup guides. It doesn’t focus on what you should do in order to succeed; rather, it tells you exactly why most small businesses fail and how you can avoid the critical mistakes these startups make. It discusses the hurdles businesses face from their formative days through their adolescence and into their mature phase. It also discusses how the franchise model can apply to any business, even if it’s not franchised, to avoid some of these issues, and how you can learn whether you’re working on your business or in it.

“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries

“The Lean Startup” is another book that looks at the problem of competing with existing businesses, how it can lead to foolhardy risks without considering consequences, and in the end, to business failure. It’s a book that understands the dream of running a business and looks at the smart moves you can take to turn your idea into a successful startup. It’s about setting goals and grabbing attention, about leveraging ingenuity and being efficient with your capital. It also makes use of hard statistics, scientific methods, and validated lessons. Some of these may seem counterintuitive, but they are designed to measure progress and increase efficiency.

“The Founder’s Dilemmas” by Noam Wasserman

This guide to anticipating and avoiding mistakes that can sink your startup was based on research at Princeton University and looks at startups from a wide variety of industries. It examines their successes and failures and how they came about. It uses real-world examples to look at the good, the bad and the ugly of modern entrepreneurship and helps new startup owners take the right steps to avoid critical mistakes that can devastate their business. “The Founder’s Dilemmas” is a must-read for establishing business structure and understanding how to create a smooth and efficient operation.

“The Little Red Book of Selling” by Jeffrey Gitomer

Even if you’re starting a business that provides services and not goods or products, you’re still going to need sales proficiency. After all, sales are about lead generation, and lead generation is about getting clients. There’s not a business in the world that doesn’t need clients. This book is an overview of the sales cycle that can be applied to any business. Best of all, “The Little Red Book of Selling” is well organized for quick reference and is a very fast read.

“The Art of the Start 2.0” by Guy Kawasaki

When it comes to books on starting a business, “The Art of the Start” is one of the most roundly respected and highly-regarded manuals out there. It’s a step-by-step look at how to start a business while not falling prey to the dangers that await all new startups. Now in its second edition, this book is a time-tested and battle-hardened guide based on decades of real experience, and it is one of the most important books you can read for starting your new business.

“How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

This may be one of the most venerable books on our list, but it’s also a classic for very good reasons. It’s a classic book on human interaction that teaches you what is probably the single most important aspect of running any business: relationship building. It helps you be a better person overall and teaches you how to create connections with people that will last a lifetime. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” is essentially a guide to networking from before “networking” was a buzz term.

“Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

This is another favorite book of Mark Cuban’s, and the billionaire says he prefers working with people who have read this book to people who have an MBA. “Rework” is a book that has had a massive impact on startup businesses all over the world, and is a great read not just for owners and leaders, but for employees also. It’s all about making a business plan and making necessary moves fast. It’s about focus and avoiding the mistake of multi-tasking.

“So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport

This is a book that gets to the very heart of being a small business owner. The real key to success is, quite simply, offering the best product at the best price and being known for doing so. That means you have to be so good at what you do that it’s impossible for others to ignore you — hence,”So Good They Can’t Ignore You.” It follows up on the idea that you can have all the passion in the world, but if you don’t have the know-how to back it up, you’ll likely fail. You need to be an expert at what you do; this is way more important than the level of passion you have. After all, passion fades. Expertise doesn’t.

“Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is a successful business strategist and entrepreneur, and “Tools of Titans” provides you with the secret productivity tools used by over 200 of the most successful performers he has interviewed on his podcast. It offers a toolbox of tactics and inside information, tips and advice from some of the best-performing entrepreneurs out there, and it provides a focus on actionable items. It covers everything from workout routines to daily habits to the biggest wastes of time to ignore. It is simply an essential strategy guide.

Online Small Business Resources

If you’re looking for helpful resources, from books on starting a business to webinars, infographics and blogs full of valuable information, check out this complete list of online resources for your business!

Want to dig deeper?