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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.

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                                          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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                                          1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 3 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 4 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 5 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

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                                          Last Updated on July 17, 2019

                                          The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                                          The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                                          What happens in our heads when we set goals?

                                          Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

                                          Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

                                          According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

                                          Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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                                          Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

                                          Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

                                          The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

                                          Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

                                          So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

                                          Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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                                          One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

                                          Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

                                          Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

                                          The Neurology of Ownership

                                          Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

                                          In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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                                          But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

                                          This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

                                          Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

                                          The Upshot for Goal-Setters

                                          So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

                                          On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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                                          It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

                                          On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

                                          But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

                                          More About Goals Setting

                                          Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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