If you’re an entrepreneur, then you’re probably one of the busiest people you know — but that doesn’t mean reading books is a waste of your time.

On the contrary, maintaining a steady reading habit helps you learn from others’ wisdom and mistakes; understand the current economic, cultural, and technological moment and where it might go next; and develop insight into your own company’s past, present, and future.

Here are five books you should not miss:

1. All in: 101 Real Life Business Lessons for Emerging Entrepreneurs by Bill Green

Bill Green has an impressive entrepreneurial resume that covers over forty years. So when he decides to share his life story and lessons learned, it’s a good idea to listen. Green entered the entrepreneurship world as a teenager, when he sold used goods and product samples with his father, a hardware buyer for department stores.

A steady trade in plumbing, electrical, and hardware supplies led him to open his hardware store with his father, and from there, launch his own distribution company, Wilmar Industries. Green took the company public on the NASDAQ in 1996.

Green has also founded a private equity firm, a real estate business, and a lending company. Drawing from his own experiences, Green shares advice on developing leadership skills, outperforming competitors, hiring staff and partners, and adapting to market changes.

Check out: All in: 101 Real Life Business Lessons for Emerging Entrepreneurs

2. Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Duke

Entrepreneurship and poker aren’t that different from each other. Both involve making decisions based on incomplete information, and both reward players who can live with risk yet use strategy to manage that risk.

Annie Duke is an entrepreneur, but before that, she was a world champion poker player. In Thinking in Bets she draws on sports, business, and her years of experience at the card table to explore successful and unsuccessful strategies for assessing risk, taking chances, and bouncing back.

Duke advocates shifting from a craving for certainty — as impossible in the business world as it is in poker–to refinement of one’s decision-making process. A unique take on chances and bets from a woman who’s more than qualified to talk about them.

Check out: Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts

3. Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong by Kristen Hadeed

There’s a premium on success in the world of startups. Like villagers warding off a curse, some founders seem to think that the less they mention the possibility of failure the less power it will hold over them.

That’s why Kristen Hadeed’s memoir about founding her company Student Maids while still in college is so refreshing: it talks openly and engagingly about Hadeed’s many mistakes and stumbles on her road to success, and how she managed to bounce back. There has never been a startup founder who hasn’t screwed up or felt in over their head, but some founders come out the other side stronger than ever because they’ve learned from their mistakes.

Also read: We asked founders and investors for their favourite books from 2017 and this is what they shared

Entrepreneurship could use more voices like Hadeed’s, which treats failure as educational rather than shameful.

Check out: Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong

4. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity Hardcover by Kim Scott

Startup founders often quickly discover that human resources and managing employees is no small challenge. Being a boss doesn’t just require technological or academic intelligence, but emotional intelligence too. People who set out on their entrepreneurship journeys do so in part because they want to be their own bosses, yet those personality traits don’t always translate well to serving as someone else’s boss.

Drawing on her executive experience with Apple and Google, Scott delineates a “radical candor” style of management, in which bosses care deeply about their employees’ progress and challenge them to achieve with frank feedback.

For startup founders struggling with their new position as boss, Scott’s book might be a lifeline.

Check out Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

5. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr

John Doerr first learned OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results, while he worked for Intel in the seventies. Later, Doerr taught the OKRs system to the founders of a small company he’d just invested in called Google.

OKRs helped shape Google into the tech behemoth it is today, and in Measure What Matters Doerr explores how this system has helped Google and countless other companies structure their priorities, obtain transparency, and keep on track.

Case studies covering tech giants, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and even a pizza company help Doerr illustrate how founders can use OKRs to make tough but necessary decisions and build sustainable companies.

Check out: Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs

6. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller

Building a great company isn’t the only element of an entrepreneur’s job–they also have to sell that company to consumers. In Building a StoryBrand, Miller unpacks how to turn a business model into a story founders can share with consumers.

Miller taps into universal storytelling attributes humans respond to, the reasoning behind customer purchase decisions, and the best way to build a coherent, story-based marketing campaign.

Also read: 5 great marketing books to read in 2018

To truly succeed in marketing their new businesses, entrepreneurs don’t need to blow a ton of money on ads and a flashy website. Instead, they need to think through the role their product could play in their customers’ emotional lives through the power of story. Miller explains how to use this game-changing yet straightforward concept.

Check out: Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen


Great ideas rarely grow in a vacuum, and entrepreneurs can gain from reading each other’s stories and wisdom just as they can learn from collaborating with one another. So make time in your startup schedule to read the books listed above.


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