So you’re thinking about starting a company, and you’re trying to sift through the thousands of resources out there to help you get started. We at illume hire want to make it a little easier for you with our Top 10 Books for the First-Time Entrepreneur list.
Our goal with this list is as much to introduce you to the different topics and angles as you consider taking the leap into running your own business as to help you pick specific books. In addition, we plan to keep this a living list as new books come out over time.
1. The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank.
While Blank’s Four Steps is clearly targeted toward entrepreneurs focused on technology businesses, in our experience it provides one of the most widely applicable roadmaps for starting a company. Blank is widely credited with launching the Lean Startup methodology, which has since germinated countless other books and adaptations of his approach.
Top takeaway: Don’t treat your new business like a smaller big business. Know what stage you’re in, and follow Blank’s four steps to minimize cost and maximize your chances of finding success.
2. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen.
While on the surface this may feel like a book that’s more appropriate for leaders in large companies, Christensen’s core focus on the idea of disruptive innovation is critical for anyone considering starting a business. It doesn’t matter if you’re building the next great software-as-a-service startup or thinking about starting a design consulting business: the ideas laid out in “The Innovator’s Dilemma” provider a critical foundation for thinking about identifying and executing on new business opportunities.
3. Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore.
Moore’s book is a must-read. It provides a simple, intuitive framework for thinking about the different phases associated with launching and scaling a business. It’s a great companion to Blank’s “Four Steps”, as it helps provide additional context around the concept of ‘product-market fit.” Moore has several other books worth looking at, but we would recommend starting here.
4. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.
While not specifically a book for entrepreneurs, Ferriss’ we think the core value of Ferriss’ book is to challenge the normal way of thinking about and approaching our professional lives. Using the concept of work/life hacks, Ferriss will get you approaching challenges in new and creative ways, a fundamental skill for any entrepreneur.
5. Principles by Ray Dalio.
Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, is famous for the concept of ‘radical transparency’, through which we accept that we are all wired differently, and that effective teaming requires that we are open about, and account for those differences in how we interact. Part of what we love about “Principles” is that it applies to much more than a business setting, providing a platform for embracing differences, and employing deep reflection to learn from what has happened to navigate best what will happen.
6. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.
Written by one of the founders of juggernaut venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz (A16z), this is a great window into all the practical lessons you don’t learn through traditional schooling that are core to starting and running a business. This book is great because it gets down into the details of the challenges you’ll face, and honest advice based on Horowitz’s own journey.
7. Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profit by Greg Crabtree
This one may seem to be a little less exciting, but it’s fundamental nonetheless. As a founder, your business will ultimately live and die by numbers, and this books provides a great, no-nonsense look at what you’ll need to understand in terms of the money-side of your business.
8. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
Guillebeau’s book makes the list due to its focus on how you can turn what you love to do into a living to support how you do it. Part of what makes this book great is the examples of what are essentially accidental entrepreneurs who manage to turn hobbies, challenges, and strife into viable businesses.
9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Ok, this may seem like it’s more self help than entrepreneurial, but Covey’s book is one of the most-referenced in its domain. Covey’s advice will help you take control of your life during the tumultuous times of starting a business. It will help with interpersonal communication, relationship building at work and in your personal life, and remains foundational book for building better habits for success.
10. Crushing it! by Gary Vaynerchuck
Gary Vaynerchuck is a social media maven, and no top 10 list would be complete with a book focused on the art of social media marketing. A follow up to his original book, “Crush it!”, this time around Gary focuses not only on how to dive deep into each social media platform to make money, but how to do it while having fun doing what you love. Here’s a great quote to get you inspired at the end of our list: “Sometimes you just have to jump into the pool, even when you're scared.”