Honestly, I don’t have a natural love for reading.
And as an entrepreneur (I currently run two tech companies while advising several more), my packed schedule makes it difficult to dive into a book every day. When I do have some rare downtime, I’d rather watch a movie. But I know there’s an entire universe of insight out there in the pages of business books. So last year, I decided to read a book a month.
Since making that pledge, I’ve read over a dozen business books, a number of which have been instrumental in redefining my approach to my work.
Reading reminds me that, even though what I’m doing with my companies feels unique, many others have been in my shoes before. The trials, tribulations and triumphs of every entrepreneur are often the same. Understanding this parallelism can help you create a roadmap for running your own business.
Soaking in others’ experiences and applying them to your own is incredibly interesting and valuable. Sometimes, you agree with the author’s perspective. Other times you don’t. But either way, as an entrepreneur, it’s fun to imagine what would happen if you took the same path at your own business.
Here are the seven books that have had the greatest impact.
1. How To Win Friends And Influence People
This book, originally published in 1936, is a classic. But the book’s examples and advice are still incredibly relevant today.
I’ve written about my own approach to relationship-building in business, and how the relationships I’ve built in my career have opened so many doors. If I’ve learned anything through my networking experiences, it’s that in order to connect with people, you need to know how to speak to them in a genuine way. This book provides a comprehensive refresher on that vital skill.
The author, Dale Carnegie, makes a number of insightful observations about communication — like how people remember how you made them feel, not necessarily what you said.
2. Growth IQ
Tiffani Bova, the global customer growth and innovation officer at Salesforce, has helped a number of companies experience massive growth.
Through a number of real-life use cases, she illustrates how no two companies are the same. And for that reason, she argues, growth strategies must be developed on an individual basis — not copied from another successful business.
In this book, Bova writes that a purposeful culture, which drives people to achieve and adds meaning to their work, is an absolute imperative for any company looking to scale. She asserts that culture must be a key focus in every growth model because, of course, your people are the ones who are going to create that growth.
3. Measure What Matters
This is, without a doubt, one of the best business books out there right now. It basically teaches you the Google approach to measuring performance.
The key concept here is setting OKRs (objectives and key results). And there are two specific types of OKRs: commitment-focused and aspirational-focused.
Basically, the former encompasses all the basic goals you’re expected to reach, while the latter category is comprised of moonshots. “Measure What Matters” teaches you to balance these two types of goals, and why aspirational ones are so important: even if you only get 70% of the way there, it’s still an outstanding achievement.
In this book, author Gino Wickman walks you through the entire business creation and development process. He covers everything from high-level strategy to in-the-weeds stuff — culture, prioritization, strategy, business frameworks, and more.
I’d recommend it to anyone — first-time entrepreneurs in particular — looking to add some structure to their business knowledge.
5. The Hard Thing About Hard Things
This is one of my all-time favorite business books.
Ben Horowitz is one of the most accomplished VCs in the game. And he acquired his fair share of battle scars to get there.
In “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” Horowitz shares an intimate, raw retelling of his journey — the challenges, struggles and pain inherent to building a company. This book provides a very real, in-depth look at life as a founder and CEO. He definitely doesn’t sugarcoat things.
I recommend it to entrepreneurs, but it’s useful for any business professional.
6. The Lean Startup
This book is focused on business strategy and modeling, with the caveat that you can’t let focusing on strategy distract you from actually executing.
It will teach you what to measure and how to measure it, plus how to gauge what is and isn’t working. So much of succeeding in business is just prioritizing what’s most important. This book reminds you how to do exactly that.
“The Lean Startup” provided me with a much-needed gut check. It forced me to think about where I’m actually at with my companies rather than leaning on what I’ve already accomplished.
7. The 10X Rule
The author, Grant Cardone, urges companies to shoot for 10x more results by increasing their effort 10-fold. This book resonated with me because I’ve always been a big believer in the idea that, if you think small, you can only achieve small. So why not have big, crazy aspirations? No one has ever accomplished their most major achievements because they were focused on small goals.
The real world is very different from business school. School teaches you the concepts but doesn’t always show you how they work in action. Reading about real-world business experiences — journeys, successes, and failures — can help professionals bridge that gap.