What business books should I read? After hearing this question over and over from entrepreneurs who are just entering the startup world, I decided to put together a short list of the business books that have had the greatest influence on me over the years. All of them are awesome. You should go buy them now!
Linchpin by Seth Godin – A paradigm shifter. We give a copy of this book to each new employee at GiveForward and make it mandatory reading. It’s that important. If you want to a glimpse of what this book is about, here’s the Linchpin Manifesto.
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh – If I had one word to describe this book (okay, one hyphenated word), it would be game-changer. In 2010 we decided to write down our company’s core values, and it forever changed our business. It gave us focus and meaning and molded our company culture. We did it in large part because of this book. I can’t overstate the importance of culture in a startup. As this book points out, at the end of the day, it’s the only thing that separates you from your competition.
Hug Your Customers by Jack Mitchell – Of all the books here, this one is probably the least well-known; but it may have had the most profound effect on our business. From day one, out-of-this-world customer service has been the cornerstone of our business. This book is one of the reasons why. Aside from Linchpin, this is the only other book on our mandatory reading list for new team members. (For more of my thoughts on the importance of customer service, check out this post)
Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki – An excellent book with lots of hands-on instruction. We read this when we were just launching GiveForward in 2008 and didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. If you’re trying to start a business but feeling overwhelmed as to where you should start, read this book as your starting point. (pro-tip: for me the single most important piece of information this book offers is the idea that your business should have a mantra rather than a mission).
Purple Cow by Seth Godin – If you are not building a remarkable product or service, stop what you are doing, throw it all away and start over.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – Take as much of the guesswork out of your product development as possible. This is a very popular book right now. But it’s popular for good reason, and that’s because the book is dead-on accurate. Startups all fail for the same reason: they run out of money. Typically, they run out of money because they spend too much time and resources building shit customers didn’t want. This book helps put an end to that.
Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson – I learned more from this book than I did from three years of law school. When we were raising our seed round at GiveForward in 2011, my friend Chris Conn of MightyNest told me to read a blog series by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson called The Term Sheet Series that explains in laymen terms all the gobbledygook that goes into a term sheet. In 2011, Brad and Jason turned this blog series into an immensely empowering book that helps put entrepreneurs on more of a level playing field with investors. I read this book this past fall, and now as we are about to raise our Series A, I am re-reading it again. If you are ever planning on raising capital from angels or VCs this book is absolutely essential.
Do More Faster by David Cohen and Brad Feld and Rework by Jason Fried. Both of these books provide very useful, honest and heart-felt lessons written by entrepreneurs who have been there and done that. If you read these books early in your startup career and you will save yourself a lot of time and heartache. If you read them later in your startup career you will find yourself nodding and smiling on every page because many of the lessons you will have already learned the hard way. Both books are super-fun reads that I highly recommend reading before you start your business, not after like I did.
That’s my list, but I’m sure I’m missing many great ones. I’m curious to find out which business books have inspired you? Would love to hear your suggestions in the comments.