Entrepreneurs Must-Read Book List

These are the books after reading hundreds of books on business I would most recommend to an entrepreneur.   Reading them will cover nearly all the bases they need to build a great company.   (Last Edited March 2021)

Leadership

Leading Change is a classic and John Kotter’s legendary 8-step process for managing change with positive results is a must read for anyone dealing with difficulty that needs changing.

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations is another must read, setting the gold-standard based on research and experience on effective leadership.


The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John Maxwell is easy to read and has quick principles that impact your leadership. I still recall his Law of the Lid impacting me decades ago when I read this.

Ego Free Leadership: Ending the Unconscious Habits that Hijack Your Business lays out how our own ego gets in our way and how to free yourself from that trap. Too often as leaders we have blind spots we cannot see that lead to poor results.

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek is more recent and is helpful for a low-trust generation. I subscribe to this type of servant leadership approach.

Using the Power of Story

Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell – and Live – the Best Stories Will Rule the Future is an amazing book that powerfully shows how companies can use stories to grow and conquer the minds and hearts of their customers.

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen took the above concept to an even simpler framework for a business to implement for their company.

And finally Narrative and Numbers: The Value of Stories in Business brings math and story together and describes how storytellers can better incorporate and narrate numbers and how number-crunchers can build more compelling models that capture people’s attention.

Execution

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals is a great read, helping break down specific ways to execute on your strategy, especially how to manage through leading indicators to create better accountability and manage to your goals.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business is another, and as a business operating system I’ve seen it’s growth skyrocket over the years for its simple practicality. Every business needs an operating system and this one is the most common I’ve seen for smaller businesses.

Lastly, Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t offers a bit more complex business operating system and this book is a rich resource on nearly every area of what needs to be done to scale a business.

Sales (B2B Focus)

The New Strategic Selling: The Unique Sales System Proven Successful by the World’s Best Companies. This book was especially valuable in more complex B2B sales were they are more decision makers, usually a User Buyer who masquerades as the decision maker, but really there is an Economic Buyer who has different buying criteria.

The New Conceptual Selling: The Most Effective and Proven Method for Face-To-Face Sales Planning by the same authors unpacks the actual sales meetings with each step where you ask great questions and listen more than you talk, with the ultimate goal is when someone buys rather than trying to sell.

Building a World-Class Company

Built to Last : Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. Drawing upon a six-year research project, the authors took eighteen truly exceptional and long-lasting companies and studied each in direct comparison to one of its top competitors. They examined the companies from their very beginnings to the present day — as start-ups, as midsize companies, and as large corporations. Throughout, the authors asked: “What makes the truly exceptional companies different from the comparison companies and what were the common practices these enduringly great companies followed throughout their history?”

The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers by Keith McFarland. The book is based on a five-year, 7,000-company study. McFarland’s book provides principles and examples of how certain Inc. 500 companies breakthrough their entrepreneurial status to become formidable organizations while their Inc. 500 counterparts failed to make the breakthrough.

First, Break All the Rules: What the world’s Greatest Managers Do Differently Gallup presents the findings of its study of more than 80,000 managers, revealing what the world’s greatest managers do differently. A tool I love is the 12 questions they ask that determines the strength and engagement of your company based on the research.

Culture

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni is a great overview of what it means to have an amazing culture and why it leads to competitive advantage.

The CEO: Chief Engagement Officer: Turning Hierarchy Upside Down to Drive Performance by John Smythe is in-depth practical research and application of specific ways to use your vision, strategy and culture so that people are highly engaged and/or passionate about the work they do and why it matters.

Growth Strategy

Edge Strategy: A New Mindset for Profitable Growth is incredibly helpful for companies that have an established customer base but would like to continue to grow and be profitable (which should be just above every company).  It shows a framework for how to expand your revenue opportunities through adjacent revenue expansion opportunities beyond your core business.  

Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick: People, Probabilities, and Big Moves to Beat the Odds we’ve all seen the ‘hockey stick’ predictions of growth companies have when they plan big moves.  This Mckinsey-researched book shows the best ‘big moves’ companies have made that led to significant growth and outperforming their market.

Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track–and Keeping It There talks about the stages of growth, from start-up to a mature organization and how to plan and prepare to move into a place of dynamic of visionary entrepreneurialism and operational systems tension to succeed.  

Finance

Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine too often entrepreneurs create a job (and sometimes a below market paying job) and get stuck in the grind of pursuing growth (revenue) instead of profits. This book is a primer on how to build a healthy organization and the ways you can run your business so it creates healthy cash flow for your life.

Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential provides down-to-earth financial discussion and highlights the most common financial errors committed by small businesses, and how to avoid them.

Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture if you are an entrepreneur and are considering bringing in a financial partner or raising capital, whether that is VC, angels or Private Equity this is an easy to understand book that goes over common deal terms and structures and what you need to be looking out for.

Marketing (coming soon)
Raising Capital, M&A and Selling Your Company (coming soon)
Ideal Exit Strategy
Valuation Playbook

What creates the most value for your company?   Learn the valuation approach buyers use to look at your business and the strategies to greatly increase the valuation of your business.  The Valuation Playbook lays out the strategies you can implement as a start-up, all the way to as you seek to sell your business.

Download the Playbook