The 20 Best Books for Starting a Business
Learn invaluable lessons from successful entrepreneurs before you start your business.
Starting a business is both difficult and time-consuming. Although there are successful businesses all around us, you know the truth as much as we do — entrepreneurship is a tough road and the most successful businesses are beating the odds.
If you’re looking to start your own business and dreaming of similar outcomes, you’ll want to pay attention to the lessons learned by successful business owners who have come before you. Whether you prefer to learn through conversations, articles, or even subreddits for small business — there’s a plethora of helpful information and powerful wisdom for you to discover.
Thankfully, countless business leaders have written insightful books about their successes, failures, and everything in between. Here, the 20 best books for entrepreneurs looking to succeed with their own businesses.
1. Will It Fly? By Pat Flynn
Will It Fly? is a step-by-step guide for testing out your business idea — before you invest your blood, sweat, and tears. Inside, Flynn poses a series of questions about your potential business. Does it match who you are? Is it a waste of time or money? Will people even want it?
Flynn’s book is an entrepreneurial scratchpad that helps you properly vet your business idea, which is why this is one of the best books on starting a business and comes highly recommended.
2. Profit First by Mike Michaelowicz
Profit First gives readers from all kinds of financial backgrounds a new perspective on accounting. Instead of calculating profit by finding the difference between sales and expenses, Michaelowiz proposes that business owners should calculate their expenses by taking the difference between sales and profit.
Michaelowicz suggesst that by taking profit first, business owners are able to clearly identify and measure their expenses. At that point, they can more easily work to cut them down. This book is a great read to make sure your business is financially healthy and sustainable from the start.
3. Zero to One by Peter Thiel
Zero to One is an inside look at Peter Thiel’s strategy for building a successful startup.
Thiel details many valuable lessons he learned throughout his illustrious career, which has included roles at PayPal, Facebook, Palantir technologies, and more.
This is a great book for those looking to refine their entrepreneurial vision and take their business idea from a “Zero” (non-existent) to a “One” (a living, breathing, and profitable organization).
4. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
The Lean Startup is a fantastic read that teaches those looking to start a business how to navigate the many uncertainties of entrepreneurship. The solution for Reis? Constant testing, innovation, and improvement for his products, ideas, and services.
This book serves as a step-by-step guide for testing, reviewing, and adjusting strategy by way of a consistent refinement process and is a highly recommended book for people that are thinking about how they want to run their business.
5. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
The $100 Startup is an inspiring book that shows readers how to successfully combine their passion and skills to start a small business — with only $100 or less.
The author highlights 50 case studies where thrifty entrepreneurs started thriving businesses on tight budgets. He then dissects their decisions and methods, ultimately explaining why each was successful.
This book is a great way to learn from the success of others. If you want to start a business but you’re worried you might not have the necessary funding, this book is for you!
6. The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte
The Fire Starter Sessions is a great book for aspiring business owners and goes deep into why authenticity is so important for sustained success as an entrepreneur. LaPorte offers invaluable advice and game-changing exercises that help those starting a business discover who they are, what they want, and how to get there.
This book will show you how to define yourself through your strengths, embrace the future, and boost your creativity.
7. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris
The 4-Hour Workweek is a step-by-step guide for people looking to start their own business and break out of the 9-5 lifestyle. Ferris details how he created a business to fund his desired lifestyle — and then gives you the tools to do it, too.
The bestselling book helps aspiring business owners validate business ideas, increase operational efficiency, and determine the right price for your products and services.
8. The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman
The Founder's Dilemmas is an insightful book that examines how early decisions made by entrepreneurs can make or break a business. Inside, Wasserman runs through a myriad of common business scenarios and then details both their positive and negative outcomes.
This is one of the best books for entrepreneurs and people who are serious about starting a business, as it allows you to consider and troubleshoot problems that may come up on your entrepreneurial journey.
9. True North by Bill George & Peter Sims
True North is all about leadership and decision making, which are extremely important skills for entrepreneurs looking to start their own business. George and Sims do a great job of examining many important characteristics of outstanding leadership. How do different people practice their values and principles under pressure? How do great leaders find motivation to make their startup a success? How do entrepreneurs maintain self-awareness as they push towards success?
Ultimately, this book is a valuable resource that teaches you how to become a more resourceful leader. It also teaches you how to better build your new business.
10. The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
The Art of the Start is a definitive guide for entrepreneurs looking to start a business. Inside, Kawasaki is masterful at providing helpful advice on a range of business-related topics including raising money, hiring the correct people, crafting a business plan, and building your brand.
This book is recommended for people that are looking for both inspiration and a practical “how-to” guide to start their business.
11. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This classic and timeless book teaches the basic principles of entrepreneurship. What’s the best way to come off as a more likable person? How can you better handle your personal and work relationships? And finally, how can you successfully win people over to your side?
This classic book can act as a handy guide for anyone looking to start a successful business and can be referred to time and time again for advice on sales, marketing, and more.
12. Crushing It! by Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crushing It! dives into the importance of building a brand that’s both impactful and recognizable.
This book does a great job of explaining why brand matters, and then details the best way to go about building your own. Crushing It! will help readers understand marketing in the age of social media and you’ll find plenty of valuable tips for making your brand stand out among the competition.
13. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Yet another of the classic books for entrepreneurs, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People examines why certain people and businesses become successful, and then dives into the minutia of their habits and strategies to uncover what made them that way. This is a hugely influential book for developing the discipline, focus, and courage it takes to be a prosperous entrepreneur.
This book is essential for those looking to bring out their best and distinguish themselves from their competition. Anyone who’s thinking about starting their own business should have a copy to refer to as their business grows and evolves.
14. Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon HIll
Think & Grow Rich is another classic for entrepreneurs that focuses on one of the most important aspects of successful businesses: goal setting. Hill writes about the type of mindset that business owners need, as well as the importance of step-by-step strategies for reaching financial and business goals.
This is a great book for those looking to start a financially healthy business and develop a future-focused mindset.
15. Atomic Habits by James Clear
Atomic Habits is a fascinating book for entrepreneurs that focuses on the overwhelming power of both good and bad habits. The author does a fantastic job explaining how habits are both formed and broken and how seemingly small changes can have huge, lasting effects.
This book is great for those looking to start a business because it’s all about getting organized, taking action, and growing as both a person and an entrepreneur.
16. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
The Effective Executive is a deep dive into how to better manage your time and improve your efficiency. This book is a great guide for setting priorities and making sound decisions and has two main principles: The first is that the executive’s job is to be effective. The second is that effectiveness can be learned through just five habits.
This is a fantastic read for entrepreneurs who are looking to become more effective, efficient, and authentic leaders.
17. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
An inside look at some of the tough decisions that business owners and entrepreneurs need to make, The Hard Thing About Hard Things does a great job of showing what it takes to build a solid organization and become a standout leader.
If you’re serious about starting a business and leading it through good and bad times, this book comes highly recommended.
18. The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong by Laurence J. Peter & Raymond Hull
The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong helps entrepreneurs take an honest look at their weaknesses and create an action plan for overcoming challenges. It also gives readers an interesting perspective on working with and for other people.
This absorbing book helps entrepreneurs better understand corporate hierarchies and the effort it often takes to navigate large organizations.
19. Measure What Matters by John Doerr
Written by the legendary venture capitalist John Doerr, Measure What Matters reveals how Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) help massive tech companies achieve exponential growth. This book outlines how OKRs work — and why every business should be implementing them as soon as possible.
This is a helpful book with important information about starting, measuring, and improving businesses that all entrepreneurs should read.
20. The Simplicity Cycle by Dan Ward
The Simplicity Cycle offers readers a road map for designing new products, services, and business models in a simplified manner. Inside, Ward expertly explains that complexity is often messy and potentially disastrous over time. He believes that owners should be careful when complicating processes, and he explains exactly why.
This is a valuable book for anyone who hopes to start (and continue to run) a successful business. It’s also a great reminder to keep things simple as you start your own business.
So, are you ready to start your business yet?
At the end of the day, it’s always hard to tell when you’re ready to start a business. Thankfully, however, new technology means that it’s now easier than ever to successfully launch your very own business venture.
Whether you’re looking to provide a service or a product, technology allows you to sell to anyone from anywhere, market effortlessly through multiple social media platforms, and even recruit employees with SMS.
No matter how (or when) you decide to move forward, it’s nice to know that there’s plenty of tech for small businesses operations to choose from. We hope these 20 books on starting a business provide the inspiration and knowledge you need to get your business idea up and running.