8 Best Books for the Budding Entrepreneur

Business.com / Business Basics / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Have you ever wondered what's on the night stands of the world's most successful people? Wonder no more.

There’s no shortage of books for entrepreneurs. How to make something from nothing, how to motivate your team, unleash your inner leader, blah, blah, blah. When you’re embarking on a new venture, why not find out what books some of the world’s most innovative and successful people found inspiring on their journey. Let’s take a peek at what’s on their night stands.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

Famous reader: Elon Musk. The Tesla Motors and SpaceX founder, PayPal co-founder and Internet tycoon looks to one of America’s founding fathers for good business sense.

Inventor, business owner, diplomat, writer, and revolutionary – Benjamin Franklin did it all, and then he wrote about it. In his autobiography, he shares amazing ideas about organization, talking to people, generating trust and building an audience.

Who better to learn about organization than from a man who helped America organize before and during the Revolutionary War, founded the Post Office and invented dozens of gadgets we still use today? Ben was truly ahead of his time.

Related Article: Who is the Next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

Life by Keith Richards

Famous reader: John Gerzema. New York Times Best Selling author, social strategist and leadership consultant learned a lot about getting by in business from rock legend Keith Richards, including tapping into creativity and perseverance.

Imagine Keith Richards speaking at your corporate retreat. Well, if you filter out the drugs, groupies and trashed hotel rooms, Richard's autobiography, Life, has some very valuable business lessons—from dealing with longstanding partner conflict (e.g. Mick Jagger), how to create the right conditions for creativity (recording Exile on Main Street the basement of his house rather than a studio) and how to innovate around an existing product (Keith discovered open G tuning using only 5 strings, which gives the Stones their unique sound).

True, the book has more discussion about roadies than revenue forecasting, but it's a remarkable story of endurance in the pursuit of creativity, which isn't easy in any business.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Famous reader: Evan Williams. Co-founder of two of the internet's top ten websites, Twitter and Odeo, picks up the second, lesser-know book by Ayn Rand is a true testimony to tenancity.

Ayn Rand is better known for her impressive tome, Atlas Shrugged, but readers may find this shorter novel to be an easier introduction into the author's controversial blend of individualism and capitalism.

This story of Howard Roark the architect and his battle against the conformist powers of society could be seen as autobiographical. In the same way that Roark struggles against rejection to maintain his individual outlook on architecture, Rand struggled to publish the book after no less than 12 publisher rejections. In 2010, Business Insider added it to their top 15 reading list for entrepreneurs.

The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh

Famous reader: Jack Dorsey. The CEO of Twitter and Square, looks to football legend Bill Walsh for inspiration.

Bill Walsh is a towering figure in the history of the NFL. His advanced leadership transformed the San Francisco 49ers from the worst franchise in sports to a legendary dynasty. In the process, he changed the way football is played.

Prior to his death, Walsh granted a series of exclusive interviews to bestselling author Steve Jamison. These became his ultimate lecture on leadership. Additional insights and perspective are provided by Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and others.

Bill Walsh taught that the requirements of successful leadership are the same whether you run an NFL franchise, a fortune 500 company, or a hardware store with 12 employees. These final words of 'wisdom by Walsh' will inspire, inform, and enlighten leaders in all professions.

I Love You More Than My Dog by Jeanne Bliss

Famous reader: Tony Hsieh. The Zappos CEO and founder recommends this book as one of his favorites.

Since the book's forward was written by former Southwest Airlines President Colleen Barrett, it's not surprising that the focus centers around customer service without excluding either money or fun.

Company examples include AAA, Costco, and Symantec, former author workplaces. The first chapter begins with a Connecticut store that allows test rides on its $6,000 bikes, and the last chapter ends with a Netflix apology. The book's placement on 800CeoRead may have to do with the message of rallying a tribe of impassioned and influential fans, or it may be due to Harley-Davidson and Zappos examples of outstanding customer centricity and loyalty. Either way, it's readable and thought-provoking.

Related Article: 6 Signs from Childhood You’re a Born Entrepreneur

The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field by Mike Michalowicz

Famous reader: Guy Kawasaki. Apple evangelist and social media legend recommends this book that celebrates ordinary people building extraordianary businesses.

Michalowicz, also known for his other best-seller The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, approaches business with the eye of a pumpkin farmer in The Pumpkin Plan. To get beyond the 'sell it – do it' cycle of frustration, entrepreneurs can move beyond long pointless hours with a few methods: plant, weed, nurture.

Focusing on the good pumpkins, and casting out the bad, allows business owners to harness the true strength of their business: the best customers. Pass over quantity for quality, and find the business’s sweet spot.

Wishcraft by Barbara Sher with Annie Gottlieb

Famous reader: Jen Smith of Millionaire Mommy Next Door cites this book as life changing in her pursuit of success.

Jen Smith first read this book after dropping out of college in the mid-1980s. She was serving coffee to homeless customers, working the graveyard shift at Dunkin Donuts, and freaking out over the realization that she was one paycheck away from being homeless.

Wishcraft was her ticket out of hell and into an inspired life. Now in her mid-40s, she’s bootstrapped six small businesses, enjoys a net worth of over a million dollars, and is living the life of her dreams. Her yellowed, copyright 1979 paperback of Wishcraft sits readily available on her bookcase to this day, ready to help her visualize her next dream and craft a plan.

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World (An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Childen) by John Wood

Famous reader: Tim Ferriss. The start-up angel investor (Twitter, Posterous, RescueTime), blogger and entrepreneur, applauds the follow-your-heart mantra of this read.

Wood has been compared to two influential Carnegie's – Dale and Andrew – in two different categories. The author clearly shows the influence of Dale Carnegie's class (author of classic business book list addition How to Win Friends and Influence People) in his approach to people. At the same time, his deep business insights have led to the San Francisco Chronicle's assessment of John Wood as the spirit of Andrew Carnegie let loose in third world countries, according to Rakestrawbooks.com.

This is the story of Wood's rejection of the corporate for the developing world, via the startup of a non-profit designed to inspire the love of reading in children.

Whether you download, check out, or hit the bookstore, add a couple of these reads to your night table, and let sweet dreams fuel your venture.

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