Starting a business sounds great in theory. You’ll be your own boss, work flexible hours and reap the financial and spiritual rewards of living life on your own terms. This is not the reality of entrepreneurship. The cold truth is you’re signing up for a 70-hour week slug fest which will require constant adapting, persisting and more coffees than you’re comfortable with. The experience of others who’ve undergone this entrepreneurial journey, however, can serve to prepare your mind for what lies ahead. This is where books come in.

The Lean Start Up by Eric Riis

Within the first few months, excitement and nativity evaporate in the face of the intense reality and difficulty of starting a business. At the beginning, you feel like you know what you want to do and how you’re going to do it.

This can be a good thing but also very limiting as you can mentally block yourself off to new ideas and fresh business avenues. Alternatively, we also get consumed by the need to be everything to everyone in order to maximise sales possibilities. What results is that the business doesn’t stand for anything with customers confused about the offering. The Lean Start-up deals with mastering the pivot and spotting and taking advantage of opportunities.

By and large, failing and finding out what doesn’t work as cheaply as possible is the main goal. Only then we respond to what the market actually needs not what we think it needs.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Alongside Elon Musk, Peter Thiel co-founded Pay Pal and also operates as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. Zero to One is a bootstrap guide to preparing your business for the future. I personally found it a great guide on building a company both ready and willing to navigate through the fast paced technological industry. Moreover, Thiel also discusses the need for specialisation to be more competitive.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s books should be on the reading list for every entrepreneur. For Marketing professionals, Blink is particularly valuable. In essence, it concerns our brain’s operating and processing systems and how it affects our behaviour and decision making. At any rate, we make decisions rapidly and unconsciously absent rationality.

Blink can help you create a business which is more malleable consumer needs giving your business the best chance of success.

The Virgin Way by Richard Branson

I’m not one for role models. Nor am I someone absorbed in the celebrity culture. Yet, I find Richard Branson inspirational but not just for his business success. It’s his outlook and positive impact on the world which fuels my respect.

The Virgin Way evangelises about the people-centric culture hes curated at Virgin and the simple philosophies he lives by. As a man suffering both ADHD and Dyslexic, his story is one of success against the odds. Overall, it teaches you how to harness your strengths.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

I read this book in the ideation phase of my entrepreneurial adventure. While written in 1937, it still holds weight today and comes with recommendations from business owners across the world.

Napoleon Hill dedication to studying successful business people led him to discover their secrets. Above all, the right mindset is key to high achievement. This book distils how you too can change your outlook and reap the benefits.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Nobody cares about what you do. They only care about why you do it. What’s your motivation? What are your businesses objectives? A business model focusing on making a fast buck and making you a millionaire won’t cut it. This isn’t inspiring to customers or employees.That is a road you’ll have to travel alone.

People want to support companies which stand for something more. Companies striving to make a positive contribution on the world. This book proposes start-ups begin with the question of why they want to start their business. For me, it underlined the need to focus on delivering tangible and substantial benefits to the
marketplace and community.

All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin

A provocative title and thought provoking book. Strangely, many start-up entrepreneurs neglect marketing. They believe they can survive and thrive without promoting their business. Customers will instinctively recognise a great product. Unfortunately, this is a rarely the case.

Tesla and Elon Musk can afford to wax lyrically about investing your budget on improving the product over marketing the business. However, most start-up’s do not possess his celebrity and quickly feel the overwhelming need to make money. Bank Managers and shareholders only care about the bottom line. You must be able to pay off debt and appeases shareholders.

In this book, Seth Godin explains the emotions behind why people buy products. This helps you understand components involved in successfully marketing a new start-up business.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

An ancient book but one whose wisdom still holds true today. Sun Tzu was one of the greatest military strategists of the historic world. His book serves as a different viewpoint on business for entrepreneurs. Business is a war to survive and large competitors will do whatever they can to destroy you. In this way you must learn to fight smartly and strategically.

Sun Tzu shows you how to use old war strategies to defeat the competition and help your business succeed.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

We do what we do not because of our genetics but because of our habits. Neglecting exercise leads to weight gain. Daily trips to the gym yields fitness results. Reading books everyday improves your intelligence. Practicing a skill every day compounds over time into mastery.

Habits aren’t easily formed but shape our personality and potential in life. This book profoundly shook the way I looked at my life forcing me to reevaluate my habitual routines.

Businesses can also learn important lessons. One company focused on changing their employee’s safety habits. Consequently, this minor change led to employees improving their overall work standard. The business was transformed.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

94% of new start-ups will fail within the first 3 years of operation. Success then is no accident and does not come easily. This book is an excellent resouce for teaching you how create a business which is able to achieve our utopian vision. It’s a study of the formation of some of the most successfull companies and what separates them from the great. His sequel book “Built to Last” is also an excellent read.