Advertising
Advertising

20 Books to Read Before You Start Your Own Business

20 Books to Read Before You Start Your Own Business

If you dream of starting your own business, there is a way to go around enrolling to business school. Many successful CEOs have actually never been to college and yet they are among the most knowledgeable individuals in their business and industry. You can turn to a more grassroots approach to learn everything you need to know about starting a business by reading the words of those who have been down the entrepreneurial path before.

While no single business “How-to” or “”How-I” book contains all the information you need to launch a successful business, a collection of quality books can help you glean vital wisdom and inspiration before you take the plunge. Here is a list of 20 books I would comfortably recommend to any serious would-be founder.

1. Will It Fly? by Thomas K. McKnight

Will It Fly by Thomas K. McKnight

    One of the biggest questions aspiring founders grapple with before they make the leap into entrepreneurship is how to know if their new business idea has wings. Will the business idea take off or fall flat? McKnight offers a 44-item checklist drawn from his immense depth of experience in business launches to help you evaluate your new business ideas. His book will guide you through everything from evaluating your personal attitudes to your business exist strategy. In the end, you should have a clear idea of what your chances of success are.

    2. Lucky Or Smart? by Bo Peabody

    Lucky Or Smart by Bo Peabody

      Bo Peabody was an Internet multimillionaire by his late twenties after co-founding five different companies in different industries. Was Peabody plain lucky or smart to have achieved this feat at his age? He addresses this question in his book and helps us understand how luck and intelligence work together. Peabody notably observes that he was at least smart enough to know when he was getting lucky and goes in depth to teach us how we too can cultivate the same perception and advantage.

      3. The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte

      The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte

        If you’ve been timid about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, Danielle La Porte’s book is designed to give you that little nudge you need to get right on with it and launch your biz. This beautifully written book, chock-full of personal anecdotes and motivational goodies features 16 elaborate startup sessions that will shake action out of you. This is a pleasurable, self-help read that is definitely one to consider if you are looking for something to get you fired up for the entrepreneurial journey ahead.

        Advertising

        4. Million Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss

        Million Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss

          Million Dollar Consulting is what many people in business circles call the consultant’s bible. The book has earned Alan Weiss the enviable tag of “Rock Star of Consulting.” If you are selling yourself into the C-suite, this is your book. The book covers the fundamentals from setting up your office to writing proposals and delegating labor, as well as effective networking and pricing strategies.

          5. Start Run & Grow a Successful Small Business by Toolkit Media Group

          Start Run n Grow a Successful Small Business by Toolkit Media Group

            If you are looking for the perfect all-in-one small business reference book, this is one of the best references you will get. The book walks you through the entire process of setting up a business from planning to accounting and staffing with handy checklists, case studies and model business plans to help you start and grow your business. You will learn effective human resource management strategies including payroll, benefits, hiring and firing methods.

            6. The Barefoot Executive by Carrie Wilkerson

            The Barefoot Executive

              Wilkerson’s personal story of how life circumstances forced her to work from home is both inspiring and enlightening. If you are thinking of starting a home-based or online business, this book is for you. The book tackles topics like how to find your target market, develop effective marketing strategies and build your brand with easy-to-understand and follow charts and tables. This is a good read for all those in “soft” services like online marketers, consultants and other service providers.

              7. The Business Start-Up Kit by Steven D. Strauss

              The Business Start-Up Kit by Steven D. Strauss

                Steven D. Strauss, small business columnist for USAToday.com and one of the nation’s foremost authorities on small businesses, certainly knows his game. In this book, Strauss offers a compendium of valuable information to benefit every aspiring founder who wants to start and succeed in business. He explains what works and what doesn’t work in start-ups and offers ample tips and guidance on, among other things, picking a business and why one’s passion is important.

                Advertising

                8. Start Your Own Business by Rieva Lesonsky

                Start Your Own Business by Rieva Lesonsky

                  Who are better placed to understand what it takes to start a business than Rieva Leonsky and the editors of Entrepreneur magazine? This book that bears the tagline: “The only start-up book you’ll ever need” is thorough in a quest to live up to its high premise. Now in its fourth edition, the book has sold more than 200,000 copies and become widely regarded as the quintessential business start-up book for people starting their own businesses.

                  9. The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

                  The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

                    Guy Kawasaki’s startup classic is a great replacement for whatever textbook you would use in an entrepreneurship class to prepare for business ownership. The book offers insider information on a wide range of topics, covering all stages of the start-up process from raising money to motivating staff. Kawasaki offers many golden nuggets of information like how investors will view you, which is helpful for those seeking external financing.

                    10. Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim

                    Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim

                      If you are currently an employee for a corporation somewhere silently wishing you could start your own business and be your own boss, this book is for you. If you recently left your corporate job to start your own business, this book is for you too. Pamela Slim lucidly explains everything you need to know about starting a business before and soon after you take the plunge from how to get clients to how to get insurance. She offers valuable guidance and motivation that will re-energize and reinforce your commitment to escape the corporate cubicle horde for good.

                      11. The Business Planning Guide by David H. Bangs Jr.

                      The Business Planning Guide by David H. Bangs Jr.

                        The Business Planning Guide is one of those sobering guide books that offer a reassuring voice of experience when venturing into the unknown waters of business startups. Bangs Jr., a former banker and entrepreneur, draws on his vast experience and provides expert guidance on different aspects of launching a new business venture, including how to analyze your business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and current market conditions. Some people consider this book an essential “compass” and “map” for anyone embarking on the entrepreneurial journey for the first time.

                        Advertising

                        12. Startup from the Ground Up by Cynthia Kocialski

                        Startup from the Ground Up by Cynthia Kocialski

                          Kocialski is a talented writer and her book a handy resource for anyone with a new business idea but isn’t sure where to begin. The book provides useful information to help you transform your idea into a business. You will learn how to take your service or product concept and translate it into a viable business model, as well as how to seek funding and recruit and hire an effective team. If you are ready to build a successful business not just a job, grab this book and read everything the author has to say.

                          13. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

                          The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

                            The $100 Startup is a book I enjoyed reading both for the pleasure of it and value it provides. Guillebeau gives a rousing case for creative thinking and how you can (and should) leverage your natural talent or long-loved hobby to build a thriving business. He gives compelling case studies of somewhat-accidental, but passionate entrepreneurs who built businesses earning more than $50,000 from very modest budgets (often $100 or less). If you’re looking to build a small business that allows you to lead a location independent lifestyle of adventure, meaning and purpose, this is the book that will point you in that direction.

                            14. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

                            The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

                              The Lean Startup is a book you will find handy if you are looking to start a software or technology-based business. Author Eric Ries shares insightful stories and case studies from his experience with software startups and other companies during the dot com boom. Ries teaches on the principles of lean manufacturing and advocates continuous innovation tocreate radically successful businesses. You will find this book especially valuable if you lack experience in creating and measuring business processes.

                              15. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

                              The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

                                Michel Gerber is credited for popularizing the important distinction between working “on” and working “in” your business. If you don’t know what the distinction is, you need to grab this underground bestseller and find out. The book will walk you through the entire steps in the life of a business from idea infancy, through to the troubling pains of business adolescence and the sweet stage of business maturity, as well as dispel any myths surrounding starting a business that you may have. You will also learn how common place advice and assumptions can get in the way of establishing a successful business.

                                Advertising

                                16. The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank

                                The Startup Owners Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

                                  If you are thinking of starting a Silicon Valley style scalable startup, this bestselling classic by Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur and academician Steve Blank is a near-encyclopedic guide you ought to get. The book offers a scientific approach to entrepreneurship that emphasizes on the need for “rigorous and repeated testing” to unlock the secret to startup success. The authors draw from The Four Steps to the Epiphany, one of the most influential and practical customer development business book available.

                                  17. Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson

                                  Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson

                                    Rework is a collection of essays drawn from the authors’ design and usability blog, Signal vs. Noise by 37signals.com. The authors lay bare the philosophies and strategies that have helped propel 37signals to its enviable success with the aim to inspire us to put the strategies into practice. If you would like to hear an alternative voice to much of the startup advice given out there and learn how to make money as a primary goal in the early part of your startup, this is a quick-read book you should definitely get.

                                    18. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

                                    The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

                                      It’s difficult to read The 4-Hour Workweek without feeling fired up and ready to go. The book is fun, inspirational and quite motivational. It teaches the intricacies of how to create an automated income-generator that leaves you free to pursue your other passions, such as traveling. If you’ve heard of the Pareto Principle (otherwise known as the 80/20 rule), this book explores surprising applications of the principle and offers some useful information about building a successful web business.

                                      19. Flying Without a Net by Thomas J. DeLong

                                      Flying Without a Net by Thomas J. DeLong

                                        Flying Without a Net isn’t exactly about how to start a business, but it explores a series of personality traits and anxieties among would-be entrepreneurs that often sabotage the very success high achievers seek when starting a venture. The book teaches how to draw strength from your vulnerability and adopt practices that give you the courage to “do the right things poorly” before “doing the right things well.” If you like a little psychoanalysis and would like to realign your entrepreneurial sensibilities, this is a book that should be at the top of your reading list.

                                        20. Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston

                                        Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston

                                          Founders at Work is a brilliant collection of interviews with successful entrepreneurs from the 80s and 90s sprinkled with an adequate dose of newer blood. The book is weighted more toward inspiration than technical instruction, but there is nothing quite like hearing the stories of the world’s most celebrated founders like Steve Wozniak (Apple) and Max Levchin (PayPal) tell us straight how it was for them in the very early days. You will hear how these entrepreneurs got the ideas that made them rich, launched their businesses, went out of business, overcame start-up challenges and the lessons they learned along the way. If I could recommend only one book to a new entrepreneur, this would be it.

                                          More by this author

                                          David K. William

                                          David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

                                          25 Memory Exercises That Actually Help You Remember More 12 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence Right Now 10 Amazing Health Benefits Of Beer You Probably Never Knew 15 Funny Idioms You May Not Know (And What They Actually Mean) Great Leaders Remember to Offer These 10 Things All The Time

                                          Trending in Productivity

                                          1 4 Effective Ways To Collaborate With Your Team 2 Why Your Habits Hinder You From Reaching Your Goals 3 We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why? 4 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away 5 How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits

                                          Read Next

                                          Advertising
                                          Advertising
                                          Advertising

                                          Last Updated on January 6, 2021

                                          14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                                          14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                                          Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

                                          In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

                                          For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

                                          For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

                                          Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

                                          Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

                                          Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

                                          How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

                                          Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

                                          1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

                                          Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

                                          For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

                                          2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

                                          Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

                                          Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

                                          Advertising

                                          Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

                                          3. Create a System

                                          Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

                                          This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

                                          You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

                                          Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

                                          Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

                                          4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

                                          We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

                                          If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

                                          Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

                                          Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

                                          5. Use a Ratings Scale

                                          Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

                                          Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

                                          Advertising

                                          It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

                                          6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

                                          This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

                                          You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

                                          You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

                                          7. Offer Feedback Forms

                                          Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

                                          First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

                                          Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

                                          You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                                          8. Track Cost Effectiveness

                                          This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

                                          Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

                                          Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

                                          9. Use Self-Evaluations

                                          Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

                                          Advertising

                                          Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

                                          10. Monitor Time Management

                                          This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

                                          Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

                                            The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

                                            While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                                            11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

                                            We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

                                            Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

                                            For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

                                            Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

                                            Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

                                            From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

                                            12. Utilize Peer Feedback

                                            This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

                                            Advertising

                                            Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

                                            Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

                                            It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

                                            13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

                                            When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

                                            Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

                                            Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

                                            14. Use an External Evaluator

                                            Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

                                            They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

                                            While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

                                            Final Thoughts

                                            These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

                                            The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

                                            The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

                                            More Productivity Tips

                                            Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

                                            Reference

                                            Read Next