I know what you’re thinking. You’re a business person; not a student. You’ve been done with school for years. You shouldn’t have to read books anymore. Besides, you can find all the information you need online to start your business. You’ll just read a couple of “How-to” articles and you’ll be set. Not so fast…
You can stand to learn a lot from people who have already successfully done what you’re attempting to do. The best books on entrepreneurship are written by those who have successfully started businesses themselves. Books aren’t just for college students. Books are for people who want to learn. If you’re thinking about starting a business, you might want to examine the literature from those with experience in such an endeavor. Here are few great reads to get you started.
Poke the Box by Seth Godin. This short book, according to Seth himself, “is manifesto about starting.” It is less strategic and technical in nature than other books on this list. Nonetheless, I would recommend this as the first book to read because it will put you into the appropriate frame of mind. Have you had doubts about taking the risk you are taking? Have you had second thoughts about the importance of launching your business? Seth will set you straight. Poke the Box is a motivation piece that gives you the sense of purpose and determination to make your start-up possible. Read it when you first get the idea of starting your business. Quote for the bathroom mirror: “If you’ve got the platform and the ability to make a difference, then this goes beyond ‘should’ and reaches the level of ‘must.’ You must make a difference or you squander the opportunity. Wasting the opportunity both degrades your own ability to contribute and, more urgently, takes something away from the rest of us.”
The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. Guy’s classic book on entrepreneurship is a hybrid of a “how to” guide and a “why to” guide. Perhaps the most memorable sections of the book pertain to a company’s mission and how it makes a difference in the world. Beyond that, though, Guy discusses how to run a business on a budget and how to pitch investors for funding. I would recommend Guy’s book as a transitional piece from getting motivated to start your business to actually getting into planning its launch. Read The Art of the Start when you’ve just started planning the ins-and-outs of your business. Quote for the bathroom mirror: “The key to evangelism is a great product. It is easy, almost unavoidable, to catalyze evangelism for a great product. It is hard, almost impossible, to catalyze evangelism for crap.”
The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Michael Michalowicz. This book is a classic on getting into the nitty-gritty operations of running a business. While other works emphasize getting started, Michael’s book focuses on growth of a new business. From strategically positioning your product to effectively managing your employees to intelligently acquiring financing, this book shows you how to run day-to-day operations in a clear, matter-of-fact manner. Read this when you’re nearing the end of your business planning process and getting closer to the time that you will launch. Quote for the bathroom mirror: “Success in business isn’t about being right; it’s about being committed. So, do you want to be right or do you want to be successful? I pick success.”
The Entrepreneur Equation by Carol Roth. Now, I’m all for getting motivated and psyched up for your entrepreneurial endeavor. You need to really believe in what you’re doing and be firmly convinced that you’ll successful in order to even stand a chance. Nevertheless, you’ve got to face the facts: most new businesses fail within the first year. If you want to make sure that’s not you, read Carol’s book before pulling the trigger. The Entrepreneur Equation is a no non-sense gut check for your motivations and capabilities in starting your own business. Carol will question you and challenge you until you’re firmly convinced one way or another about whether or not entrepreneurship is for you. Read this book when you are finished planning and are just about to launch. Quote for the bathroom mirror: “Most books on entrepreneurship are written from the perspective that anyone and everyone can do it, and it’s super simple if you just follow these three easy steps. However, anyone who has built a remarkable business knows the truth. There are no three easy steps to your own business making a million dollars a day.”
Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim. If you are leaving a full-time corporate position to start your business, Pam’s classic work is a must read. Making the transition from the stable ebb-and-flow of corporate life to the flurry of activity within a start-up can be rather difficult. Pam shows new entrepreneurs how make the adjustment—both mentally and strategically. Read this when you’ve started your business and are trying to adjust to the entrepreneurial lifestyle. Quote for the bathroom mirror: “Take some time off from work, cut back on nonessential obligations, and make figuring out the next stage of your life a priority. You will not regret it!”
The books above are great guide posts to get you from thinking about your business idea to planning your business to launching your business to adjusting to your new business’s demands. If you’re quick reader, some other great entrepreneurial books to look into include: The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, The Barefoot Executive by CarrieWilkerson, The $100 Start-Up by Chris Guillebeau, The Entrepreneur’s Notebook by Steven Gold, and 3 Weeks to Start-Up by Tim berry.
Whatever you do, whether you read one book or a dozen, the important thing is that you implement the best concepts in a way that works for you. Every piece of advice won’t make sense for your business. But, if you read something that does make sense for you business, find a way to implement it. Reading without application is just flipping through pages. Learn something new…and then go out and change the world with it.