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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.

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        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.

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                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.

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                        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.

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                                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.

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                                          Published on January 16, 2019

                                          How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                                          How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                                          We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

                                          You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

                                          You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

                                          That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

                                          Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

                                          1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

                                          Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

                                          We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

                                          To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

                                          At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

                                          The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

                                          2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

                                          Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

                                          The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

                                          In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

                                          It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

                                          It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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                                          So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

                                          • Are you a great strategist?
                                          • Are you an effective planner?
                                          • Is Project Management your strength?
                                          • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
                                          • Are you the ideas person?
                                          • Is Implementation your strength?

                                          Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

                                          3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

                                          One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

                                          Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

                                          Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

                                          Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

                                          4. Take Time for Planning

                                          “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

                                          One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

                                          You can take the time to think about:

                                          • What’s the purpose of the project?
                                          • How Important is it?
                                          • When does it need to be delivered by?
                                          • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
                                          • What are the KPIs?
                                          • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
                                          • Who is working on this project?
                                          • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
                                          • What tolerances can I add in?
                                          • What are the review stages?
                                          • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

                                          Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

                                          5. Focus on Priorities

                                          Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

                                          Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

                                          One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

                                          1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
                                          2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
                                          3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
                                          4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

                                          James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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                                            The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

                                            If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

                                            If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

                                            6. Take Time Out

                                            To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

                                            If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

                                            Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

                                            In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

                                            Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

                                            7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

                                            Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

                                            I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

                                            Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

                                            If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

                                            8. Stop Multitasking

                                            Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

                                            So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

                                            When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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                                            If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

                                            9. Work in Blocks of Time

                                            To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

                                            I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

                                            Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

                                            Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

                                            Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

                                            Then take another 10-minute break.

                                            Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

                                            By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

                                            10. Get Rid of Distractions

                                            Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

                                            “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

                                            Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

                                            If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

                                            11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

                                            You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

                                            Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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                                            Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

                                            12. Take a Time Audit

                                            Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

                                            Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

                                            You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

                                            Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

                                            Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

                                            At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

                                            If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

                                            13. Protect Your Confidence

                                            It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

                                            When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

                                            Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

                                            When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

                                            Final Words

                                            A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

                                            The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

                                            If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

                                            Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

                                            Reference

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