5 Essential Business Books for Entrepreneurs

By Julie Knudson | Posted October 04, 2016

Budding entrepreneurs and established small business owners alike know this simple truth; Launching and running a small business is not for the faint of heart or the unprepared. Fortunately, many successful business trailblazers have gone on to publish business books that offer helpful insight, commiseration, and advice on forging your way in spite of the difficulties.

Whether you’re looking for new ideas or you just need some inspiration in the face of adversity, you'll find it in the best business books for entrepreneurs.

EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches

best books for new entrepreneurs

Author: Dave Ramsey
Publisher: Howard Books (September 20, 2011)

Ramsey may be best known for his financial expertise, but in EntreLeadership ye demonstrates that he’s also well-versed in the leadership skills necessary to grow small businesses into thriving ventures. He touches on elements such as successful strategies for time management—always a concern for busy entrepreneurs—and developing a concrete plan to turn lofty ambitions into attainable goals.

EntreLeadership also covers day-to-day issues, from employee management to budgeting to dealing with vendors. Business owners seeking actionable tips will harvest a ton of good information from Ramsey’s years on the front lines of business management.

Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business

best books for new entrepreneurs

Author: Paul Downs
Publisher: Blue Rider Press (August 2, 2016)

For every fledgling entrepreneur with big dreams and an upbeat attitude, you'll find countless seasoned small business owners who learned how surprisingly adept vendors, employees—and even family members—are at coming up with new ways to disrupt the best-laid plans.

In Boss Life, Downs, who also authors the You’re the Bossblog for The New York Times, offers candid insight into what it’s like to run a small company in the real world. People don’t always do what you expect them to do and plans don’t always come together the way you envisioned them.

If the grind is getting to you (or you’re just surprised to find it still exists even though you’re finally the one calling the shots), Boss Lifeoffers some much-needed commiseration, perspective, and reassurance.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On

best books for new entrepreneurs

Author: Jonah Berger
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 3, 2016)

Small business owners often wish they had more insight into what their customers think. Why isn’t a product selling? How is the competition affecting the marketplace? Where can we find opportunities to better connect with potential clients?

In Contagious, Berger looks at some of the less-formulaic concepts that may influence consumer behavior—peer perceptions and a desire to support social causes, just to name a few. If you’re looking for something beyond the conventional wisdom, Berger offers a wealth of advice to help small businesses break out of the pack by developing products and marketing campaigns that speak to customers in new ways.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

best books for new entrepreneurs

Author: Eric Ries
Publisher: Crown Business (September 13, 2011)

Small business owners who like structure will enjoy The Lean Startup's format. Divided into easily-digestible subsections dedicated to defining an entrepreneurial vision, charting a course to success, and building on accomplishments, the book provides actionable advice on every step of launching a new business.

Ries even offers tips on sifting through the seemingly endless list of decisions entrepreneurs need to make, on everything from which customer opinions really matter to where development efforts should be focused next. Readers will also find strategies throughout the book to help them build a business that works like a startup today while it prepares for the innovation it will need for tomorrow.

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

best books for new entrepreneurs

Author: Peter Thiel
Publisher: Crown Business (September 16, 2014)

Serving as an inspiration during a time when Amazon, Google, and other mega-players seem to get all the press, Thiel’s Zero to Oneprovides a great background on the critical advantages small businesses have in driving innovation. Ideas such as focusing on providing good products—rather than just raking in the cash—continue to move many small businesses forward, and Thiel also covers his experience—and the lessons he learned—as an entrepreneur. He even delves into some of what small business owners learned from events such as the dot-com bust in early 2000. These are important lessons for today’s entrepreneurs because many of them remain just as valid now as they were then.

Zero to One offers refreshing insight into why entrepreneurs may still shy away from tackling difficult problems, and why they shouldn’t let challenges stop them from doing great things. If you feel you’re just one more new business in a sea of competitors, Zero to Onecan help you change your perspective and amp up your enthusiasm.

[Looking for more great business advice?: 4 Business Podcasts You Don't Want to Miss]

Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from food service to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.

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