While the summer holidays might be the time to switch off from work, grabbing a good business book to read on holiday is a great way to build knowledge and spark inspiration – so you can return to work recharged and reinvigorated. Here’s a list of some of the best business books to choose from – including classics of strategy, inspirational success stories, and mindset-shifting self-help guides.
Shorthand for ‘entrepreneurial myth’, Gerber argues that it’s not just skill and a lot of hard work that ensures success. In his book (released in 1986, with a second ‘revisited’ edition in 1995), Gerber walks you through the steps in the life of a business. Gerber goes on to show how to apply the lessons of franchising to any business, then finally onto the (often overlooked) distinction between working onyour business and working in your business. If you want to grow your business in a predictive and productive way – this is the book to read. (It’s also a short, easy read, which is perfect if you’re strapped for time!)
Considered one of the most straightforward books on small business, this no-frills guide explains the economics of running a small business. Topics covered include owner salary, cash flow, taxes, budgeting and reporting. Even better, it lays out a clear picture of the steps required to profit as a business owner. Crabtree – a successful accountant, small business advisor and popular presenter – shows you how to “see beyond numbers” and use your business’s financial indicators as a basis for smart business decisions to grow your revenue. Plenty of real life examples make this book’s step-by-step format an engaging read. If you want to learn about some of the most common financial errors committed by small businesses, and how to avoid them, then this is the book for you.
3. Small Giants: Companies That Choose to be Great Instead of Big – Bo Burlingham
If you love a case study, then you’ll love this book. Small Giants is a collection of case studies of companies that could have been huge, but decided to grow at a slower, more sustainable pace or stay the same size indefinitely. Burlingham explores the psychology and reasoning behind the reasons 14 different businesses chose to stay small – opting for more satisfying business goals over the pressure of endless growth.
Fear of failure is one of the main reasons people don’t make the leap and start a business. Additionally, a lack of proper validation kills more businesses than anything else. If you’re unsure whether your business idea has legs, then this book presents a litmus test for checking the validity of an idea without wasting too much time, money or resources. Flynn goes that step further by explaining ways to take good ideas to the next level through careful planning, research and skillful execution. Offering up action-based examples and real-world case studies alongside litmus tests, this book will help you to properly vet your idea before spending any time or money on your pipe dream.
5. The $100 Startup: Fire Your Boss, Do What You Love and Work Better To Live More – Chris Guillebeau
A New York Times bestseller, this book is your ‘manual to a new way of living’. Learn how to earn a good living on your own terms, achieve that perfect blend of passion and income to make work become something you love, take crucial insights from 50 ordinary people who started a business with $100 or less, and spend less time working and more time living your life. For those who are looking to achieve a greater work / life balance while successfully doing something you love, then give this book a read.
6. Side Hustle: Build a Side Business and Make Extra Money – Without Quitting your Day Job – Chris Guillebeau
If you’re hesitant to ditch your day job before your small business dream takes off, then a side hustle is a great way to test the water without making any major career sacrifices in the very beginning. Many small businesses start out as side jobs. In another successful book, Guillebeau lays out an actionable plan for launching a successful side hustle in just 27 days. The book details taking a business idea from inception to launch to steady extra income, and potentially, a full time job. This book makes a great read for those looking to create an additional stream of income without giving up the security of a full-time job. Guillebeau has launched more than a dozen side hustles over his career, so you can read with confidence that he’s been there and got the t-shirt!
In his bestselling book – often lauded as the startup methodology – The Lean Startup is about learning what your customers really want. It’s about testing your vision continuously, adapting and adjusting before it’s too late. Its methodology is so popular, it’s been adopted around the world – impacting how companies are built and how new products are launched. It’s an inspirational read for those who are looking to better understand the latest techniques in product development within the startup world.
8. The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field – Mike Michalowicz
Drawing from firsthand experience, Michalowicz argues against trying to please and cater to every potential client. Instead, he advocates for a more practical approach of investing energy in the most promising prospects. After reading an article about a local farmer who had dedicated his life to growing giant pumpkins, Michalowicz realised the same process could apply to growing a business. He tested the Pumpkin Plan on his own company and transformed it into a multimillion-dollar industry leader. ‘Plant the right seeds, don’t waste time doing a bunch of different things just to please your customers. Instead, identify the thing you do better than anyone else and focus all of your attention, money, and time on figuring out how to grow your company doing it.’ If you’re limited on time and energy, this book is a useful guide to avoiding burnout and achieving sustainable growth.
This book illustrates that youth is not necessarily a barrier to running a successful business. This useful guide explains how to turn hobbies, skills and interests into profit-making ventures. It suggests ways to navigate the new ways technology can help – or harm! – your business, while also outlining practical logistics such as creating a marketing plan, setting a budget, building a brand, finding funding, filing taxes and sustainably growing your business.
10. The Infinite Game: How Great Businesses Achieve Long-lasting Success – Simon Sinek
This book offers a revolutionary approach to long term business strategy from The New York Times bestselling author, Simon Sinek. The Infinite Game applies game theory to explore how great businesses achieve long-last success. Sinek explains that building long-term value and healthy, enduring growth is the only thing that matters to your business.
Inspirational success stories
11. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies – Jim Collins & Jerry I. Porras
If you’re looking for some feel-good inspiration, while learning about common attributes that successful businesses share, then pick up a copy of Built to Last. Collins and Porras discuss the findings of a six-year study conducted by the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. An inspiring overview of 18 well-known and extremely successful companies provides a real page-turner for those looking for inspiration.
12. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t – Jim Collins
Built to Last was the defining management study of the 90s, but what about the company that isn’t born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies and even bad companies achieve ongoing success? In this book, Collins and his research team identify a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least 15 years. They then contrasted these good-to-great companies with a selection of companies that failed to make the same leap. Over five years, the team analysed the histories of all 28 companies in the study, sifting through large amounts of data and many pages of interviews. In this book, Collins shares his team’s discoveries – the key determinant of greatness, and why some companies make the leap and others don’t.
13. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandberg
Meta Platforms COO, ranked 8th on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, and an icon for millions of women juggling work and family, Sheryl Sandberg urges women to take risks and seek new challenges in her hugely successful book, Lean In.A book about women and power, its origins began from an electrifying TED talk that Sandberg gave in 2010, where she expressed concern that progress for women in achieving major leadership roles had stalled. This book is a great read for those looking for lessons in confidence and leadership.
14. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire – Sam Wyly
Self-made billionaire Sam Wyly recounts his experiences establishing and expanding companies on the leading edge of advancements in technology, energy, retail, and investments over the last five decades. It’s an intriguing memoir to read as it’s both an engaging story as well as a business guide.
15. Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making – Tony Fadell
Known for being the man who led the teams that created the iPod, iPhone and the Nest Learning Thermostat, Fadell shares the journey of transforming an idea into an iconic and indispensable product. Give this book a read if you enjoy personal stories and practical advice.
16. Super Maker: Crafting Business on Your Own Terms – Jaime Schmidt
One of the best small business books for artisans, Schmidt details her journey from kitchen crafter to household brand. Her book covers areas ranging from product development to marketing, customer engagement to sales growth, scaling operations to partnerships. If you’re an entrepreneurial artist looking for business advice, then Schmidt’s book is a really useful resource.
17. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike – Phil Knight
If you’re looking for an inspirational business story, then take a look at Shoe Dog, a candid and riveting memoir by Nike founder and CEO, Phil Knight. This isn’t just a portrait of Knight’s success (only starting out with 50 borrowed dollars!), but it explores Knight’s personal journey through the process and shares some remarkable insights. Knight shares the insider story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up, and its evolution into one of the most iconic, profitable brands of our time. An inspirational read for those who might need reminding that even the biggest businesses of our time started small.
Ali Kriegsman is the Co-founder of Bulletin, a B2B wholesale marketplace where retailers go to discover, shop and support brands. In her first book, Kriegsman writes about her experience launching and growing Bulletin directly from the trenches and also features words of triumph, failure and wisdom from 30 other women-owned businesses. By using the questions she’s most frequently asked as her guideposts, Kriegsman offers insights into the nuts and bolts of running a company – discussing, among other things, pivots, pitching, PR and press – to give women the tools to take their ideas to the next level.
Catmull, the founder of Pixar, reveals the ideas and techniques that have made Pixar one of the most widely admired creative businesses, and one of the most profitable. If you’re looking for team management inspiration, are striving for originality or want to know how to build and sustain a creative culture with a unique identity, then this is the book for you.
Bestselling author Tim Ferriss shines a spotlight on some of the tools and tactics used by more than 200 world-class performers, taken from his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. Guests range from celebrities (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Foxx, etc), to athletes, to Special Operations commanders and more. The Tim Ferriss Show is the first business/interview podcast to pass 100 million downloads. With a relentless focus on actionable details, it’s the ‘ultimate notebook for high leverage tools.’
Based on his highly acclaimed podcast, How I Built This with Guy Raz, this book offers invaluable insight and inspiration from the world’s top entrepreneurs on how to start, launch and build a successful venture. Interviews range from the founders of Five Guys, Airbnb, James Dyson and Netflix.
Visionary founder, chairman and CEO of salesforce.com, Marc Benioff, tells us how salesforce.com grew from a startup in a rented apartment into the world’s fastest growing software company in less than a decade. Now defined as the leader of the cloud computing revolution and sparking a $46-billion dollar industry, Benioff’s story helps business leaders and entrepreneurs stand out, innovate better and grow faster in any economic climate.
Selling over 1.5 million copies worldwide, communication expert Erikson offers a simple, yet groundbreaking method for assessing the personalities of people we communicate with, both in and out of the office, based on four personality types – Red, Blue, Green and Yellow. This book provides insights into how you can adjust the way you speak and share information with each type. This book will help you understand yourself better, refine your communication and social skills, handle conflict with confidence, improve dynamics within your team and get the best out of the people you deal with and manage.
Renowned keynote speaker and performance expert, Ed Mylett, draws on 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur and coach to top athletes, entertainers and business executives to reveal powerful strategies to help you live an extraordinary “one more” life. Learn why you’re closer to your dreams and goals than you think, and why using the book’s strategies will help you cross the finish line.
25. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change – Stephen R. Covey
A New York Times bestseller, over 40 million copies sold, and coined ‘the number one Most Influential Business Book of the 20th century’, you can see why this book has made this list! Considered to be ‘one of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written’, Covey’s book has transformed the lives of millions of people of all ages and occupations for nearly three decades. The habits are to be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win/win, seek first to understand, then to be understood, synergise and sharpen the saw.
26. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek
In his bestseller that ignited a movement, Sinek inspired millions to demand purpose at work – to ask what was the why of their organisation. Serving as the basis for one of the most popular TED Talks of all time – with more than 56 million views and counting – Start with Why shows that the leaders who have had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way – and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organisations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with why.
27. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t – Simon Sinek
And the final Sinek book to make the list is Leaders Eat Last, a follow-up book to Start with Why. This book covers the next step – how do you get people on board with your ‘why’? How do you inspire trust and commitment to the company and one another? Drawing on powerful and inspiring stories, Sinek shows how to sustain an organisation’s ‘why’, while also expanding your team.
28. The 4-Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss
This book is the blueprint for living more and working less. Inside you’ll find lots of practical tips and case studies from people who have doubled their income, overcome common sticking points and reinvented themselves using the original book. It even includes templates for eliminating email, negotiating with clients and bosses, and how to apply lifestyle principles in unpredictable economic times. It also offers the latest tools and shortcuts for ‘living like a diplomat or millionaire without being either.’
29. The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How To Change – Charles Duhigg
In his book, award-winning journalist, Charles Duhigg, explains why habits exist and how we can change them. Enter a surprising world of the scientific study of habits! – From examining why some companies struggle to change (despite years of trying), while others seem to remake themselves overnight. Duhigg visits laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where they reside in our brains. Duhigg goes on to uncover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. By harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.
So there you have it! A long list of beneficial business reads that could inspire you over your ice cream this summer. And if you’re not one for reading, why not give the audio books a listen while you’re on your sun lounger? – A simple way to top up your business knowledge as well as your tan.