What are the best business books you should read if you’re starting or growing a business? What books should entrepreneurs read? If you’re looking for the answers to these questions, then read on! Well, business/entrepreneurship is really broad–it includes everything from product development to finance, sales and marketing, human resources, leadership and management. In this article, we’ll share the top business books that we recommend, organized by categories. You can get an overview of each book via the summary links provided, or buy the detailed book summaries You can subscribe to get access to text, infographic and audio summaries for ALL of these books or explore the specific bundles that we’ve created for each targeted area. Read on for more details!
Which are the Best Business Books?
ENTREPRENEURSHIP & BUSINESS STARTUP
Strategic planning for big, established businesses can be quite different from building a startup from scratch. Here are the best books for startups, with links to free book summaries for a quick overview:
1. The E-Myth Revisited summary: Great for thinking about your business goals and what it takes to build a scale-able business.
2. The Lean Startup summary: A powerful model for lean innovation (which every startup will need).
3. Running Lean summary: A practical application blueprint that combines Lean Startup, Customer Development and Bootstrapping.
4. Traction book summary: Practical points about building traction in the early days of business. Can be applied concurrently with (3) above.
5. Zero to One summary: A book that gives you big-picture thinking of what it means to create real value to make your startup a huge success.
6. The $100 Startup summary: A book about micro-businesses, but the ideas are applicable if you’re bootstrapping or starting really lean.
7. Profit First summary: No business can survive without money. A great resource to instill financial discipline in your business from the start (and stay in shape for long-term growth).
8. The Business Coach summary: Useful concepts on the stages of progress that a startup must go through. ReadinGraphics uses the business chassis as a key part of our business growth tracking and improvement!
9. The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster summary: Prepares you mentally for the challenges to expect and get your headspace right before you start.
10. Entreleadership summary: Gives an overview of the range of leadership and entrepreneurial skills and prerequisites needed to grow a successful business organization, many of which are vital for avoiding fatal pitfalls in business.
11. Shoe Dog summary: This isn’t a book on startups per se, but it shows how tough building a business can be, and acts as a great reminder to keep going when sh*t hits the fan (which it definitely will at some points in your business!)
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BUSINESS GROWTH AND SCALING UP
If you already have a proven business model and are ready to scale up quickly, then you need to build a very different set of foundations. These books focus specifically on business growth, with practical tips you can apply to grow your business. Check out the free summaries via the links below to see which book is right for you:
1. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business summary: A comprehensive 6-part model to help you build a lasting business foundation.
2. Hacking Growth summary: This book dives into how to use the systematic approach of analysis-ideation-prioritization-testing to find and implement the best growth opportunities, across the entire marketing funnel (acquisition, activation, retention, monetization). A detailed guidebook for any type/size of company.
3. Scaling Up summary: Well, the title says it all. A book on scaling up your business.
4. The 4 Disciplines of Execution summary: How can you find time to strategically grow your business when you’re swamped by urgent matters daily? This book gives you the tools and systems to work on your most important goals while still managing the day-to-day business operations.
5. Clockwork summary: For stressed and overworked entrepreneurs who need to re-design their businesses that will allow it to run like clockwork without them.
6. Financial Intelligence summary: As you scale up, it’s important to make sense of financial statements and numbers. This book addresses just that (though we strongly recommend reading Profit First).[You can also check out these books from the other lists: The E-Myth Revisited, Zero to One, The Business Coach, Good to Great, and Shoe Dog]
STRATEGY (for various stages of business growth)
Great strategy is never easy to develop. If you can, go through the exercises from a wide range of books below to deepen and widen your strategic insights.
1. Blue Ocean Strategy summary: A great tool for brainstorming about new approaches to your business and finding a unique, viable market niche.
2. Blue Ocean Shift summary: This is the sequel to Blue Ocean Strategy, including the original tools/frameworks PLUS a 5-step process to string everything together for implementation. [Of the 2 books, we recommend Blue Ocean Shift for a more comprehensive coverage]
3. Good to Great summary: Powerful, timeless concepts on the fundamentals of great companies that stand out in the market place.
4. The Advantage summary: A great resource for consolidating and aligning various aspects of your business and crystallizing your short-term focus.
5. Playing to Win summary: A great book on answering difficult questions on strategy, especially as your business becomes more complex (with various sub-brands and business units).
6. The Innovator’s Dilemma summary: Great for larger companies wanting to stay ahead of disruptive technologies, and also for startups wanting to penetrate an established market.
7. The Digital Transformation Playbook summary: If you’re a traditional business trying to develop a comprehensive digital strategy, this book provides 9 key strategic planning tools in 5 strategic domains.
8. Exponential Organizations summary: Another great digital strategy book, with a specific focus on creating exponential growth by leveraging information technology in your business. The book breaks down 11 traits and how they can be applied for startups, mid-sized or large organizations.
9. Good Strategy Bad Strategy summary: So, you think you have a good strategy. But do you, really? This is a great book that differentiates between good strategies and bad strategies, with useful concepts/tools to help you refine your strategy.
10. Outthink the Competition summary: Nice perspectives on strategy and maneuvering (playing on war-related strategems).
11. The Great Game of Business summary: If you’re tired of being the only person driving the business and want to build a company of business-minded co-owners, then check out this book for a fresh approach to business.
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SALES AND MARKETING
Sales and marketing is the lifeblood of any organization or business, so it definitely warrants a list of its own. Here are several great sales and marketing books:
1. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing summary: Good fundamentals to think about branding and marketing.
2. The 1 Page Marketing Plan summary: A step-by-step guide for developing your marketing strategy and plan, ideal for small- and medium-sized businesses.
2. The Ultimate Sales Machine summary: Again, the title says it all…build your sales and marketing engine!
3. Selling the Invisible summary: Focuses on selling intangible services, with some good tips on sales and marketing.
4. Building a StoryBrand summary: Crystallize a compelling message that appeals to your customers. Which business doesn’t need that?
5. The Challenger Sale summary: This book focuses more on Business-to-Business sales. It covers 5 sales profiles, explains why relationship building is actually the worst of the five, and the best sales approach for complex B-to-B sales.
6. Crossing the Chasm summary: This book specifically addresses sales and marketing strategies (plus other useful strategic considerations) for high-tech products.
7. Hooked summary: This book deals with building habits into your product to make it “sticky” and viral, using these 4 steps that run in a loop: Trigger => Action => Variable reward => Investment.
8. Contagious summary: 6 STEPPS for building awareness, spread ideas or growing a customer base more effectively. [An alternative would be Made to Stick which gives a slightly different set of principles for making your messages “sticky”]
9. Pre-suasion summary: This book combines Robert Cialdini’s 6 famous Influence principles with additional ideas to prep people in advance for your message.
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT / TESTING
The first 3 titles are a repeat of the Startup list, along with a few other great resources:
1. The Lean Startup summary: Eric Ries’ famous model for lean innovation.
2. Running Lean summary: A practical application blueprint that combines Lean Startup, Customer Development and Bootstrapping.
3. Traction book summary: Practical points about building traction in the early days of business (blends marketing and product development)
4. Scrum summary: Ideas on how to run a lean team and integrate Agile concepts for rapid development cycles.
5. The Laws of Simplicity summary: Great ideas for getting more with less from your designs.
6. Lean Analytics summary: This book zooms in on the “Measure” component of the Lean startup’s Build-Measure-Learn cycle. With a peek at the key metrics for various business models (e.g. commerce, mobile apps, media sites etc.)[You should also check out The Digital Transformation Playbook , The Innovator’s Dilemma and Exponential Organizations if you want a more strategic perspective instead of execution frameworks]
IMPROVING YOURSELF AS A LEADER, MANAGER AND ENTREPRENEUR
Since your business will only grow as large as you do, you’ll obviously also need to work on your thinking skills, leadership/management skills, financial intelligence etc. Find the best books to read for other goals and challenges, or subscribe to get full access to ALL of these great summaries for a fraction of the price!