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15 Best Books to Read Before Starting a Business

As any expert can tell you, the best books on starting a business are fundamental to your potential success. That’s because there are no guarantees in the business world, and what appears simple at first can become overly complicated in no time at all. We’re not just talking about interest rates and bookkeeping guidelines, but business permits, shifting government regulations, tax laws, creative angles, competitive tactics, employment basics, and so much more.

Enter our list of the best books for starting a business. On it, you’ll find the best beginner business books for startups and small business owners, along with a few titles that pertain to pretty much any type of independent entrepreneur. Total beginners and seasoned hustlers alike can scope our list of start-your-own-business books to gain some essential wisdom.

The Founder's Dilemmas

The Founder’s Dilemmas

So you have a clever idea and a decent business plan, but are plagued by all sorts of peripheral questions. Do you go it alone or take on a partner or multiple partners? If so, how should the equity be divided? Who should be your first hires? Should you seek investors? Here to provide answers is this acclaimed audiobook from Noam Wasserman (with narration by Mark Mosely). Based on years of research, it delivers the type of fundamental advice that can one day determine the entire fate of your new venture. That alone makes it one of the best books to read when starting a business.

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Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months: A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works

At the core of every new startup are a great idea and an individual (or individuals) with the dream of being his or her own boss. Business expert Melinda Emerson knows as much and that’s why she’s created this helpful audiobook. Laid out in a streamlined and step-by-step fashion, it will take you from office grunt to master of your domain in 12 months. And if you think 12 months is too long, you’re not ready to start your own business.

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Trust me im lying - confessions od a media manipulator

Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

We live in truly crazy times, where a blog post or unconfirmed Internet rumour can cost a business millions (and even billions) of dollars. But what you might not realise is just how much bribery and clever manipulation is going on behind the scenes, with sites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post wielding agendas that aren’t always as obvious as they seem. Just ask Ryan Holiday, a former media manipulator who decided to craft this exposé after growing weary of reckless journalism. More than one of the best books for starting a business, it’s an indispensable primer on the world of subterfuge and irresponsibility in the age of big tech.

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Jab jab jab right hook

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

Running a business means competing with a slew of real or potential rivals and so the boxing analogy pretty much speaks for itself. Taking that analogy to extremes, this top business book from social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk uses the boxing lexicon as a foundation for various marketing manoeuvres. To put it another way, you’ll need high-quality social media content if you want to edge out the competition and this book shows you how to create it. It’s one of the best business books for both beginners and experts. Knock ’em out!

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Simple numbers straight talk big profits

Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!

“It’s all a numbers game,” says pretty much every successful entrepreneur. Yet beyond that simple message is a swath of downright complicated decisions, bringing labour productivity, taxes, human resources, and other metrics into the fold. This book from accountant Greg Crabtree (with help from Beverly Herzog) helps you “see beyond the numbers” by way of essential pointers and a step-by-step guide. It’s one of the best books to read before starting a business because if you wait until after the business has started, you’re already too late.

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Have your cake and sell it too

Have Your Cake and Sell It Too: The 7 Key Ingredients of Business Success

This small business book from growth expert Jason Cunningham targets all the practical self-starters out there, i.e. those willing and ready to sell their baby when the offer is too good to refuse. Sure, you’ll be getting swallowed up by a bigger fish, but also making tons of profit in the process. That said, the book isn’t nearly as cutthroat as we’re making it sound. Ultimately, it’s about building a profitable business and then selling it if and when the time is right. As such, it’s one of the best books for business startups.

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Built to last successful habits of visionary companies

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Authors James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras spent six years researching 18 of the world’s most successful companies before writing this extraordinary business book. It delivers amazing stories of survival, essential insights, and a master blueprint for consistency and profitability. At the end of the day, there’s not a businessman on the planet who can’t benefit from reading these pages.

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Lucky or Smart Fifty pages

Lucky or Smart? Fifty Pages for the First-Time Entrepreneur

Given the supremely affordable price of used copies, this concise business book is practically free. However, don’t take that to mean it isn’t one of the best. Authored by Internet multi-millionaire Bo Peabody, it examines the perennial relationship between luck, intelligence, and success. The ultimate takeaway is that a smart businessman puts himself in a position to get lucky and then makes the most out of that luck. Of course, maximising luck is more complicated than it sounds, which is why you’ll need to read this book to truly understand the process.

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How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Behind every great visionary is both an insatiable curiosity and a powerful drive, according to this wildly popular book from Simon Sinek. It suggests that everyone from MLK to Steve Jobs looked around them and asked one fundamental question: why? Why does one idea work when another doesn’t? Why does a certain type of business need to exist? This sort of thinking helped separate these men and women from their peers and, furthermore, bring their unique prophecies to life. Can it do the same for you?

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The one page business for the creative entrepreneur

The One Page Business Plan for the Creative Entrepreneur

Every business starts with a plan and, if this book from Jim Horan is anything to go by, that plan need only be a page long. As you can probably guess, each word needs to count so don’t think you’ll be taking some sort of shortcut. It’s all about drafting a template and toolkit that cuts straight to the heart of your upcoming business model. The book is divided into five sections—Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Action Plans—and rife with helpful samples. Is it one of the best books for starting a business? You bet it is.

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The Four

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google

It’s no accident that Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google—aka The Four—are more or less impossible to escape in today’s modern culture. In this brilliant book, author and business professor Scott Galloway takes a deep dive into these ubiquitous companies to uncover their proverbial DNA. Delivered in an irreverent and thus completely approachable style, the book goes well beyond the mythological veneer and asks the hard questions. As both a gripping examination and helpful business guide, it makes for essential reading.

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Side Hustle From idea to income in 27 Days

Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days

Best-selling author Chris Guillebeau taps directly into the zeitgeist with this thoroughly modern book. It’s aimed at the people out there who might have big dreams of independence, but not enough capital to get their ideas off the ground. That’s exactly where the side hustle comes into play, allowing you to earn income without quitting your day job. With this small business book at your disposal, you’ll learn how to master the art of deals, build an arsenal of resources, and most importantly, get paid.

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the $100 Start up

The $100 Startup

Before delivering his take on the side hustle, Chris Guillebeau churned out this similarly prescient business book. It introduces a number of figures who turned just a tiny amount of working capital into complete financial success. You don’t need an MBA or even a small business plan to make this book work for you—all that’s required is a commitment to personal freedom and a spirit for adventure. Guillebeau also crunches the numbers and leaves no detail behind. This isn’t just a book on starting a business, it’s a book on changing your life.

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The E Myth Revisted

The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

Michael Gerber’s underground best-seller is more comprehensive and insightful than ever before. Dispelling a number of popular myths, it walks you through the triumph and tragedy of running a small business. Listen to it on Amazon Audible and prepare to have your entire outlook changed for the better. You’re not ready to start a small business until you’ve taken in every word.

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Will it Fly

Will It Fly? How to Know if Your New Business Idea Has Wings … Before You Take the Leap

A number of the best business books wear their concepts on their sleeves and this one is no exception. If you have a great idea and want to know whether it will sink or swim, author Thomas K. McKnight is here to provide clarity. He’s carefully studied a slew of business launches and walked away with some important lessons. You’ll find each one within these pages.

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General FAQ

What books should I read to start a business?

A few books to read before starting a business are Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, Side Hustle, The $100 Startup and Have Your Cake and Sell It Too.

Why should business owners should read?

If you happen to be a small business owner, in particular, you’ll soon discover that there’s no such thing as too much advice. As such, you shouldn’t pick up just one of the best books on starting a business, but maybe two or three or ten or every single one you can get your hands on. Indeed, it’s incredibly important to consider multiple perspectives and hear from various experts since you never know where you might find your edge.