12 Books All Business Owners Need To Read

Thinking of becoming one of the most successful business owners is almost like trying to find your first job out of school. You’re inexperienced, but you need the experience to be successful. How are you supposed to get the knowledge you need when everything you want to do requires experience? Look to the wisdom of those who came before you, of course. You likely have a lot to learn, so you’d better get started.

The average CEO reads some four to five books every month, according to Jim Kwik, an international speaker and “brain coach.” So even if you aren’t the power executive you want to be just yet, you too can start acting like one. As a new business owner, you should probably start with the experiences of those who came before you.

Here are 12 favorites to get you on your way to the C-Suite.

12. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

business owners

This book is part motivation, part inspiration, and all information. Willink and Babin are former Navy SEALs who now speak to companies and executive gatherings about the importance of their brand of leadership. In this book, they use specific examples of their leadership styles and how they implemented them in real-world combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While your business dealing may not put you in a life-or-death scenario, the authors also explain how to apply these lessons learned to the business world so you can win the respect of your employees and continue your success.

11. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Business owners, without a doubt, need to read this book. There’s a reason the perennial classic has been a best-seller for more than 70 years. Hill was inspired by none other than business tycoon and steel baron Andrew Carnegie.

As the author talks primarily about how to build one’s income over time, the author surveyed the most successful people of his time and determined 13 principles that would allow anyone to become successful in their own right, in any venture they put their mind to. You would be hard-pressed to meet a successful entrepreneur who doesn’t know the name Napoleon Hill. This is foundational literature and that’s why it on our list for all business owners should read. 

10. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur wrote a start-up business bible when he wrote The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Not only does he cover many, many problems and pitfalls that business schools don’t while discussing how he overcame similar obstacles, but the lessons he applies to be all new business owners can also be applied to other aspects of daily life.

9. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss

The avid podcaster and author of The Four-Hour Work Week takes what he learned interviewing the 200-plus leading celebrities, entrepreneurs, athletes, scientists, and philanthropists in his years of hosting The Tim Ferriss Show and compiles their hard-learned life lessons and pro tips into a road atlas for success in life and in business. This book should be on every business owner’s bookshelf.

8. High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil

Are you ready to scale your business up to the next level? If you’re looking for someone to help mentor you through your new growth period, Gil’s High Growth Handbook is as close as one can come to hiring a consultant without actually hiring one. Even if you aren’t yet looking to take your business to the next level, this book can help put you in the mindset of where you should start thinking about taking that step.

7. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Motivation isn’t just about getting the most from your employees, it’s also about getting the most out of yourself. In Drive, Daniel Pink describes how businesses work to motivate people is actually mismatched to what science tells us actually motivates people. He offers three means of motivation and tools and techniques for how to get your people – and yourself – to work smarter through these essential elements.

6. Built to Last: The Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras

As you work to build your new business, you aren’t just building a new enterprise, you’re building the foundational culture that will drive everyone who works there. This heavily-researched map to building a company that is made to stand the test of time offers real, practical guidance, distilled from the best of 18 major companies that outperform the stock markets as well as their competition. Jeff Bezos of Amazon (you might have heard of him) calls this book “required reading.”

5. The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

It takes more than good ideas to build a business empire. Execution is critical and it only becomes more important over time. It sounds simple but Atul Gawande argues that checklists provide a critical reminder of the most important things in business. Even the best in business are human and capable of missing the most important milestones. Having the discipline to stick to these lists will give you an edge, an edge used by pilots, surgeons, and anyone else who can’t afford even the most minor of errors.

If you don’t already own, business owners should order it or visit their nearest bookstore. 

4. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

The renowned journalist and author of The Tipping Point appears on many, many business must-read lists for a good reason – he applies well-researched information to aspects of life most of us wouldn’t throw a second glance. In Blink, he takes on the human decision-making process. He argues that people can make sound, thoughtful decisions quickly – and that those decisions can be every bit as good and effective as slow, cautiously-made ones.

3. Sam Walton: Made in America by Sam Walton 

Who better to tell you how to build a worldwide business empire from a single store with a single idea than the man who pioneered the idea? Let Sam Walton not only describe how he built up Wal-Mart as a lasting business but also his legendary “servant leadership” style. The most valuable aspect of the book is how Walton masterfully teaches the reader how he recognized opportunity when it came knocking. 

2. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

The Facebook COO tells personal stories backed by hard data and research to give women in business a perspective that combines career success with personal achievement while giving men an insight on supporting women in the workplace. Even if you’re a man starting out in business, this book is a useful guide on seeing the struggles of women in the workplace and how you can benefit by supporting women in their dual role – at home and at work.

1. Principles by Daniel H. Pink

As the billionaire, hedge fund manager and philanthropist would describe his book, Principles “are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want of life.” The author is the founder of the Bridgewater Associates investment firm, one of the world’s first and largest hedge funds. Dalio’s Principles cover how he approaches his personal life and how he ran Bridgewater Associates for more than 40 years. This is the man to whom leaders like Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg, and Mark Cuban go to for advice – and now you can, too.

Blake Stilwell

Blake Stilwell is a former Air Force Combat Photojournalist with degrees in Graphic Design, Television & Film, Journalism, Public Relations, International Relations, and Middle Eastern Affairs. He is now a writer and media producer with experience in politics, entertainment, development, nonprofit, military, and government. Blake's work can be seen on Military.com, We Are The Mighty, Military Times, Business Insider, Fox News, ABC News, NBC, HBO Sports, the White House, Skillset Magazine, Booze League, and with considerable effort, his mother's fridge. Blake is based in Los Angeles but is often found elsewhere.

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