Summer may be almost over, but there’s still time to get in a beach read or two. If you have the bandwidth to pick up a book during the last few weeks of August, why not optimize your reading time by combining business with pleasure?
In the past, we’ve talked about The 4 Most Important Books to Understand M&A and given you a head’s up on 4 Must-Read Books for Startup Founders Raising Capital. For this year’s assignment, we’ve decided to broaden our horizons by taking a look back at those high-rollers, successful insiders, and savvy entrepreneurs who are happily willing to share their tips, tricks, advice, and empathy! Below is our list of the top four books every aspiring business leader should have on their bookshelf.
1. The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage
While Daymond John came to fame after joining ABC’s Shark Tank, his journey from Queens to Wall Street highlights how humble beginnings often lead to some of the world’s most successful brands. In what is undoubtedly reassuring for any first-time entrepreneur subsisting on Top Ramen until the funding comes through, John focuses on how being broke can “be your greatest competitive advantage.” John believes the lack of money actually forces businesses to be more efficient and imaginative while also distilling goals and benchmarks to only those that are most meaningful to the organization. If you’re looking for inspiration, or just hoping to find a way to make it through the next round of fundraising, John’s tale of turning a homemade t-shirt business into a $6 billion dollar clothing brand will help you keep hope alive as you hustle towards your dream.
2. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
It’s all fun and games until the hard work begins. Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, believes in honesty, which is why his book focuses on how difficult it really is to start and run a successful enterprise. Horowitz focuses on the lessons he’s learned while building his reputation as one of the most respected entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Shaking up his prose with the occasional rap lyric, Horowitz shines a spotlight into the darkest corners of the startup culture, from poaching competitors to firing friends to figuring out when to stay and when to cash in.
3. Mastering the VC Game: A Venture Capital Insider Reveals How to Get from Start-up to IPO on Your Terms
Jeffrey Bussgang is all about disruption. Co-founder and General Partner at Flybridge Capital, Bussgang also spends his (spare?) time on campus where he’s a Senior Lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School. In his book, Bussgang sets out to provide practical, actionable advice for founders in search of the right VC partner. Using his own experience as well as insights gleaned from interviews with several successful entrepreneurs and VCs, Bussgang presents a clear guide on how to navigate the sometimes stormy waters of fundraising and IPOs without falling prey to heavy-handed investors or bossy VCs.
4. The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything
You’ve got the money, you’ve written the business plan, and you delivered marching orders to your team. You’ve checked all the boxes, but are you sure you aren’t missing something? According to Guy Kawasaki, the critical ingredient to any successful venture is a mindset. Advising that “entrepreneur is a state of mind, not a job title,” Kawasaki cut his teeth spearheading marketing for Apple’s first Macintosh in 1984. Since then, he’s written 13 books, delivered an average of fifty keynote speeches per year, and worked as a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz. Currently, a brand evangelist for Canva, Kawasaki revisits his 2006 tome, The Art of the Start, with a revamped version that studies how new strategies and disruptive technologies have changed the way businesses are funded and launched. Kawasaki looks at the latest set of tools - from social marketing to crowdfunding - and reveals how they can help entrepreneurs overcome the same challenges faced by every new business: staffing, product, and competition.
Bonus: The Founder's Dilemmas
Craving a deeper dive into the origins of today’s successful businesses? Check out The Founder's Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman. Using decades of research as a starting point, this Professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California checks in with some heavy hitters in the tech world to offer a glimpse of what it’s like to be at ground zero when an idea first begins to germinate. With insights from Silicon Valley wunderkinds like Twitter founder Evan Williams and Pandora founder Tim Westergren, combined with quantitative data gleaned from almost ten thousand other founders, Wasserman looks at why people are often the main reason startups fail, and what to do to avoid those pitfalls.