books-to-read-before-starting-a-business

10 Books You Should Read Before Starting a Business

You don’t necessarily have to read business books to start a business. Hell, you don’t even have to be a reader to start a business for that matter. All you need is an idea, a plan, and enough willpower to transform your concept from a sketch on the back of a napkin into a full-fleshed money-making system. If you don’t have any of those. Perhaps, then, it is a good idea to read some business books.

We live, and then we die.

What happens in between is what we call life. We spend so much of our lives working for someone else. Experiencing and doing things we don’t even care about.

Why don’t take an alternative path?

The path of the entrepreneur. The path of the business owner. Become the person who is calling all the shots and building something you deeply care about. Not working on something, created by someone, you only pretend to like.

Now you can.

We all can.

The online world gives us the tools we need to make our vision a reality even if we are freshly graduated – aka total newbies.

If we want to escape corporate slavery. Starting a small business that has the potential to grow to something bigger is the way to go.

And we should do it not because it’s going to be easy. But because it will be worth it. Because starting a business gives us the opportunity to express ourselves and make a living doing something we deeply care about. That should be our main motivator.

If you don’t think that you have what it takes. If you don’t think that you can do it. And furthermore, if you don’t have even the slightest idea how to start, the selection of books below will give you the initial push.

The strength to convince yourself that you, too, can harness the power of the online world and start your own thing.

Behold, the books you should read before starting a business…

10 Books To Read Before Starting a Business:

1. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden

It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be book cover

What’s the book about?

This short book exists to teach you something very simple, yet extremely important concerning anything you want to achieve. Namely, exactly as the title describes, that “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be”.

This title is not a business book per se. Personally, I’m labeling it something more like a motivational short magazine with creative concepts about doing stuff. But it’s valuable in terms of understanding that people build businesses because they want to build businesses. If you don’t want to create something, you won’t create it. In this line of thought, the author will instill the concept of want in your head. Convince you that you should first want to become great in order to become great.

Why it can help?

For people lost in life, this book can serve as a valuable eye-opener. You will understand that starting a business shouldn’t begin by actually starting a business. (I know, confusing). It starts with first figuring out what you want to achieve. The text allows you to create this vision for your life. A goal, that will guide you throughout the long way paved with obstacles all trying to derail you.

There is a reason I’ve placed this book first. Plainly, if you don’t want to do something. You won’t do it.

Thought-provoking quote:

“Nearly all rich an powerful people are not notably talented, educated, charming or good-looking. They become rich and powerful by wanting to be rich and powerful.” Paul Arden

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2. A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young

A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young cover

What’s the book about?

Generating ideas. That’s the core concept of this title. This book is so short, that you might even say that it will fit inside a single tweet. But don’t let the slim word count make you think that the concepts inside don’t matter. They do! James Young presents a simple framework that allows you to create ideas. And ideas, my wanting-to-start-a-business friend, is what you need to create your own online venture.

Why it can help?

People are generally static with their inability to produce meaningful ideas. We presume that creative people possess a magical ingredient in their heads that enables them to come up with original concepts that win awards and make them ridiculously rich. That’s not the case. We can all become idea-generating folks without having to hire a magician to cast a spell on us. We simply need to follow a process. The framework presented in this amazingly short book will help you invent more business opportunities.

Thought-provoking quote:

“Thus, words being symbols of ideas, we can collect ideas by collecting words. The fellow who said he tried reading the dictionary but couldn’t get the hang of the story simply missed the point: namely, that it is a collection of short stories.” James Webb Young

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3. Traction by Gino Wickman

Traction by Gino Wickman book cover

What’s the book about?

While it’s kind of boring at times, Traction by Gino Wickman gives you something valuable. It showcases the systems you need to establish to run a business.

Business becomes successful when there are systems in place. If you can’t adequately identify the feedback loops that make you money and the same things that waste your money, you’re not running a business. You’re running a hobby that is costing you money – not the other way around.

Why it can help?

This book gives you processes. Easy to follow steps on how to appropriately manage your resources. How to think like a business owner and what type of tasks you should focus on. There are plenty of ideas inside that will help you create a business engine. Not everything mentioned is required. But implementing the main components shared by the author will make you at least 50% more productive in your entrepreneurial journey.

Thought-provoking quote:

“Most people are sitting on their own diamond mines. The surest ways to lose your diamond mine are to get bored, become overambitious, or start thinking that the grass is greener on the other side. Find your core focus, stick to it, and devote your time and resources to excelling at it.” Gino Wickman

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4. Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse

Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse book cover

What’s the book about?

Building something meaningful. Something that can withstand the changes of time, takes a long time. Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse will change your perspective. The book will protect you from panicking when there are setbacks. And instead of freaking out when things are not going according to your plan, you will learn to maintain a positive outlook. An optimistic view focused on your main goal. Namely, that continuing to play is far more important than playing to win. That you shouldn’t collapse when there are obstacles. Rather, see them as part of the game.

Why it can help?

I’d say that this book is for everyone. It’s not actually a business book. But it’s a book that everyone interested in starting a business should digest. It will prepare you for the long road ahead. When you’re creating your own thing, whether this will be an online store or a physical store, you need to think long-term – really long-term. Don’t just make stuff thinking 5 years ahead. But make the thing you’re creating strong enough to outlive you.

Thought-provoking quote:

“Strength is paradoxical. I am not strong because I can force others to do what I wish as a result of my play with them, but because I can allow them to do what they wish in the course of my play with them.” James P. Carse

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5. The Unfair Advantage by Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba

The Unfair Advantage by Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba book cover

What’s the book about?

What’s your edge? What’s your unique quality? The thing that differentiates you from the rest? Not sure? This book will show you how to identify your own unfair advantage. How to find the thing that will convince others that your product is not just another brand on the shelf but a product with a soul. Something people can connect with. Something people can fall in love with.

Why it can help?

If you believe that hard work and a lot of capital are enough to stay in business, you got it all wrong. People will happily pay for something unique, even if it’s not perfect. However, they will strategically avoid perfect products that are soulless. You need to think in terms of creating a unique product – something different and relatable – not just a product. Perfect with a lot of funding won’t do you any good either if it’s blunt, and it doesn’t evoke feelings in the eyes of the potential clients. The world of business is unfair. By uncovering your unfair advantage, you’ll have a larger chance of succeeding.

Thought-provoking quote:

“It’s not about focusing on the negatives, it’s about knowing the realities and leveraging the unfair advantages that we do have to help us live our best lives.” Ash Ali

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6. Obviously Awesome by April Dunford

Obviously Awesome by April Dunford book cover

What’s the book about?

Obviously Awesome by April Dunford will help you position your product as awesome. Not only for yourself, but for everyone else. You might think that it’s an easy task. That since you’ve created something, others will immediately want it and get it. Nope. We need to be clever when communicating the benefits of our creation, so others can see what we see. It’s a hard task because of how we think. Our biases prevent us from understanding that others see things differently. Thus, we often can’t adequately explain our product and service. Fortunately, we have this title to aid us.

As I wrote in my summary, the book will make you dangerously good at framing your products and cutting through the noise.

Why it can help?

This is a must-read. Even if your product is eye-catching. You still need to explain why people should care. April Dunford gives you a practical framework. The steps you need to associate your offering with something people can easily understand. That’s the secret sauce. Others need to easily figure out your product before they buy it. If they don’t quite get it, you’re losing revenue.

Thought-provoking quote:

“Positioning is the act of deliberately defining how you are the best at something that a defined market cares a lot about.” April Dunford

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7. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson book cover

What’s the book about?

Getting rich without getting lucky. Naval Ravikant is considered the brightest mind in the field of wealth creation. This book distills his best ideas and concepts about creating a company from his tweets, podcast appearances, and conversations with others in the field of business. There is no reason not to read the book. It’s free, short, and it can help you in all fields of life, not just business.

Why it can help?

The reason you need to read this book is twofold: First, you will understand that starting just a business for the sake of starting won’t do you any good. You need to create something because you deeply care about the subject. Plus, also this thing should be tightly related to your specific skill set. Second, understand that the traditional business lessons school and other mediums teach us are outdated. The newly rich are playing a different game. They create machines that earn them money while they sleep.

Thought-provoking quote:

“The hardest thing is not doing what you want—it’s knowing what you want.” Naval Ravikant

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8. Built to Last by James Collins and Jerry Porras

Built to Last by James Collins and Jerry Porras book cover

What’s the book about?

As the subtitles state – Successful Habits of Visionary Companies – the book is about the successful habits of visionary companies. We create something, and we think that our goals and our main vision will remain the same for the next 10, 20 30 years. That’s hardly the case – at least if you want to stay in business. James Collins and Jerry Porras explain that your company needs to change to endure. The text will show you how to think better about the future of your company. Prepare you for the potential worst moments, so you can create a truly resilient company.

Why it can help?

The book reveals some intriguing: Behind the scenes concepts of the best companies in the world. Or, at least, the companies that lasted for a long period of time. That should be your approach. After all, if you’re planning to start a business. Your goal should be to be something that will last at least for 20+ years. If you’re thinking about something shorter, you’re wasting your time.

Thought-provoking quote:

“Visionary companies are so clear about what they stand for and what they’re trying to achieve that they simply don’t have room for those unwilling or unable to fit their exacting standards.” Jim Collins

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9. Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller

Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller book cover

What’s the book about?

The book, for me, looked like the framework writers use to create scripts for movies. Donald Miller walks you through the typical hero journey we see in movies: the disturbance in the life of the main character, the calling, the path, the downfall, the climax, and finally the moral of the story. Once you get the steps, you’ll have the needed skills to better present your product. Frame in the best way possible so the hero – your customers – can win the game. It’s a revealing book. You will understand how much you don’t know about branding and messaging.

Why it can help?

Clearly expressing what you do and what you sell is not an easy task. You have to detach completely from what you know, so you can arrive at a clearer message that can be better accepted by the masses. If you don’t know anything about framing your products. If you want to create a movie-worthy product, this book will show you the steps. Hey, it can also improve your writing skills.

Thought-provoking quote:

“In every line of copy we write, we’re either serving the customer’s story or descending into confusion; we’re either making music or making noise.” Donald Miller

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10. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

Principles Life and Work by Ray Dalio book cover

What’s the book about?

You might not enjoy this book. That’s OK. It’s kind of weird. Probably even unoriginal. But amidst the ordinary tips, it offers also something refreshing. A way of thinking that is essential for every business. By presenting the principles he follows when he’s creating a company, Ray Dalio motivates us to do the same. A business shouldn’t be founded on the goal of getting money. It should be founded on something stronger. A set of principles. Values that will guide you along your way. Show you the right path to success for both yourself as an owner and your customers.

Who is it for?

There are so many things you should do when you’re starting a business. Create a plan. Create a product (duh!). Hire people. Build a website. Write content. Write content that clearly presents the value of your offerings. Write content to attract eyes to your product – in other words, blog. Above all, though, you should have a set of principles. These are rarely mentioned by business managers who write books about business. But they matter. Your values are your foundations. They will show you the way forward once everything seems lost.

Thought-provoking quote:

“Every time you confront something painful, you are at a potentially important juncture in your life—you have the opportunity to choose healthy and painful truth or unhealthy but comfortable delusion.” Ray Dalio

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Some Closing Thoughts

Don’t get fooled.

If you want to start a business, don’t start with actually starting the business.

Start by learning the meta-skills needed for a business to thrive. Start by first asking yourself: “Why do I want to start a business? Do I want to start because I want more money or do I want to start something because I want to positively contribute to the world?”

If you’re guided by money, I can tell you this: You won’t get far.

Even if you’re lucky enough and you do make an appealing sum of money, I can guarantee you that you’ll end up depressed.

Most successful business owners are not necessarily the most famous ones.

The ones that are enjoying their creation are usually the ones that are building something that is deeply integrated with their personal values and views in the world.

Once you discover your own nature. Once you know what guides you – your values and ambitions. You’d have a chance to create something. Not just business, but a lifestyle that feels richer than the most profitable corporation in the world.

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