12 Must-Read Books For Aspiring Entrepreneurs

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Starting a business is scary. It’s almost as terrifying as running an existing business, and keeping said business profitable. The problem with a new business is there’s no recipe for guaranteed success. However, if you’re smart, careful, and do your research, you can increase your odds of prosperity. To help you on your path to making your artisanal tofu clam chowder company hit the big time, we’ve found 12 must-read books for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup

Eric Ries is a tech entrepreneur who has won business guru status. Everything from small operations to Fortune 100 companies—which are more elite than Fortune 500 firms—have courted Eric to try to help them build something new. The Lean Startup hits all the common failures every new entrepreneur makes, from crafting complex products they don’t test to sticking with terrible ideas way, way too long. Most of the book is about his own experience, plumped up with the tales of woe from other start-ups. Therefore, you aren’t going to be saturated with vague advice or flowery ideas, but true knowledge earned the old-fashioned way: failure and pain.

The 4-Hour Work Week

The 4-Hour Work Week

It’s easy to dismiss this book simply based on the amount of attention it generated when it dropped. It’s also common to discount it because of the type of odious people who tout it as genius. But, to cast it on the pyre of buzz books for kindling would be a mistake. There’s actually a lot of value to be gleaned here. It discusses how to restructure your life to be the type of person and professional you truly want to be, and how to focus your energy. True, there are flaws, as even the author himself attests, but if you take what you can use and leave the rest, you’ll find this is worth the meager investment of time.

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future

Anyone hoping to start a business with a budget that can’t quite afford shoestrings is buried under information. There’s too many books, too many self-styled mavens on YouTube, and too many life coaches who are all too ready to sell you snake oil. This book isn’t one of them. It doesn’t give you clever sayings or self-actualized faith healing. Instead, it provides fast and easy examples of what works for cheap new companies, and what will kill them. It doesn’t promise results without sacrifice, and won’t tell you any nonsense about visualizing your best self. Instead, it tells you how to sweat the right way.

Big Enough: Building a Business that Scales with Your Lifestyle

Big Enough: Building a Business that Scales with Your Lifestyle

Big dreams are common among people throwing their hat in the business ring for the first time. Those dreams are often part of the problem. Amazon didn’t set out to be Amazon. Google didn’t set out to be Google. They started small, with a single idea. Amazon began by selling books online, the place that is slowly killing books, and Google was a search box with a logo. Big Enough helps new business owners keep their dreams attainable. Then it teaches how to remain restless and continue growing and changing so that one day, you too can waste money going to space in a phallic rocket.

Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success

Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success

This book is less about being a shark, and more about being a teddy bear. The argument made by author Gary Vaynerchuk is to start by learning to be happier inside yourself. That is the wellspring from which success truly comes. The book focuses largely on 12 principles: “accountability, ambition, conviction, curiosity, empathy, gratitude, humility, kindness, optimism, patience, self-awareness, and tenacity.” Vaynerchuk says the more someone cultivates and practices these, the better they are internally. Thus, mental and emotional peace calls forth amazing results.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

The title conjures up images of Rooster Cogburn talking about how many men he’s killed. Lose that illusion tout de suite. Though this could be discounted as another “pull yourself up by your bootstraps despite a system designed to annihilate you” load of hogwash, it’s the exact opposite. Grit is based on exhaustive research and evidence compiled over years of study by scientist Angela Duckworth. It will teach anyone, from abused children all the way up to despairing business owners how to get more steel in their spine and their mind so that they’re ready to tackle whatever challenges arise. Even if you never start a business, you’ll be stronger from reading this book.

The Innovator’s Dilemma

The Innovator’s Dilemma

“Innovation” tops the list as the most reviled buzzword out there. If that term shuts you down as fast as “paradigm” or “synergy,” you’re not alone. Nevertheless, if you can fight your gag reflex long enough to read a little bit of this book, you’re going to be rewarded with insight worthy of your attention. Author Clayton Christensen is a Harvard professor who studies innovation. Specifically, the different kinds, how they are used, and how they can help you make a business that can operate smarter and stay competitive while more mammoth operations take a nosedive. It breaks this pop-culture term into nuts and bolts that can be used again and again to make any business smarter, and just a little sassier.

Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business

Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business

Rocket Fuel is really based around a concept popularized by Babs Streisand. “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” The book posits that a lone wolf in the business world is more likely to become prey than predator. That’s because there’s two major types of players that make a business successful. To get the golden chalice, these two must come together. Visionaries must have the big ideas while Integrators are the adept midwives that bring those ideas into the world. There’s multiple examples of huge companies that utilized this basic partnership to international, multi-billion dollar success. Which means all you need now is a friend.

Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork

Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork

The old guard of entrepreneurs tended to focus more on the power of the individual. There’s been a massive exodus away from that idea, and toward the knowledge that people are by far the best resource a business can have. Books like Who Not How stop treating people like marks to be exploited for their money, and more like the tide that helps raise all ships to success.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

We all have bad ideas. Like putting your hand in the garbage disposal. However, this book posits that most ideas aren’t actually born bad or good. That even a bad idea can be worked over until it shines. That even the ugliest ducklings can grow through work and effort to be miraculous swans, or at least turned into good soup. The point for the entrepreneur is to embrace all ideas as potential winners, and use tactics for transforming them from lumps of coal into raging fires.

Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don't Waste Your Time and Money

Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money

Dr. Pepper was originally created as an alternative to prune juice. That shows just because you think an idea is grand doesn’t mean it’s going to work the way you think. Customers are fickle creatures who can decide they love clunky plastic shoes, but hate hand-woven blankets. Which means every new business owner needs to test their market and find the right products delivered through the right avenue. As in life, it is companies that can adapt which survive. Will It Fly teaches how to do just that, and saves you from throwing good money, and time, after bad ideas.

Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive

Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive

Getting started is often the hardest step any entrepreneur makes. That journey of a thousand miles can never begin if you don’t figure out how to lace up your shoes. The whole goal here is to take what you already know and help turn it into a way to keep money flowing in. It also discusses creating wealth, rather than just trading time for money. The author is a professor of business, who has spent her life learning the lessons that work, and seeing the ones that don’t. Let her be your sherpa to success.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management For Mortals

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management For Mortals

Just so you don’t need to count on your fingers like I did, four thousand weeks works out to about 80 years. Which makes sense, considering the book isn’t so much about being an entrepreneur as it is about living without regrets. The point here is to learn to embrace the chaos of being your own boss, and find your blissful success, whatever that may entail. This is more about the inspiration to take the plunge and stop living to build someone else’s dream. No one wants to look back and say they lived to be a wage slave.

Words by M.W. Byrne.

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