The 8 books I want all startup founders to read

There are so many business books out there and you have limited learning time with your startup. It is hard to know where to begin but learning is absolutely essential to your journey.

There are many ways to learn:

  1. You can figure things out on your own by making mistakes
  2. You can learn by watching your peers make mistakes
  3. OR you can read books to learn from other people making mistakes

Reading is definitely the fastest of the three and you will find that many startup founders are voracious business book readers. That said, there are also lots of crappy business books out there.

Here are some of my favorites that have really made a difference in my business. You will notice that some of them aren’t really startup books – but they still teach skills that are really important for startups.

The E-Myth Revisited

Provides a good overview to entrepreneurship and how to start thinking about working on your business versus working in your business. This is a good book for those considering their first venture into being a business owner rather than an employee. It will also help you think through if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Made to Stick

This is easily my favorite marketing book. It will help you to rethink every demo slide you see, email that you write and story that you tell in your presentations. It gets to the heart of what makes people connect with something and what they will remember. It also teaches you to really think about things from the customer’s perspective.

Business Model Generation

A great way to systematically look at your business and understand all the different factors involved. You would be well advised to try out this exercise for your new startup and even for your established company to see what pieces of the puzzle you may be missing.

Getting Things Done

Still a classic for managing your tasks and mastering optimal productivity. Startups require you to be hyper productive and yet also prioritize ruthlessly because many things won’t get done ever. Make sure you set those items free in your mind and focus on the things that matter. The Law of 1440 comes from this mindset.

The Secrets of Consulting

Another classic. If you are considering a services-based business, this is a worthwhile read. It is also great for getting good at asking questions and getting inside the mind of the customer. There are many benefits to having a consulting mindset when approaching B2B customer sales.


Looking to take your functioning startup to the next level? This is the book for you. It will help you to understand what is working and what is not. Why are people buying? What is your differentiation in the market? It will help you find those answers.

Eric Sink – Business of Software

Lots of solid advice for small software startups looking to understand sales and marketing. It is written by a techie so he gets your perspective. Also helps that his writing is humorous and an easy read. A little dated now but still worthwhile.

The Art of Profitability

Written in parable format and easily accessible. It is a major undertaking though if you do all the extra reading and exercises. It will teach you about profit models and how to think about changing things up in your chosen industry. Learn these models, how they work and you will probably find interesting ways to apply them in your startup. It also teaches the valuable art of thinking on your feet to quickly assess the feasibility of various scenarios. I led a group of employees through a book club for about 6 months reading this book and meeting every week – it was really popular and enjoyed by many people.

Do you have a favorite book that really helped your startup?

Please mention it in the comments below and how it helped your business (please be specific so others can decide if it will be useful for them).