Last month, I posted the 10 best books written by entrepreneurs. While those books are fascinating reads, with only one exception (Art of the Start), they don't provide a plan of action or road map to making your startup successful.
The following seven bestsellers contain all the information and perspective you'll need as you start and grow your company.
1. The $100 Startup
Subtitle: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
Author: Chris Guillebeau
Why It's a Must-Read: Sometimes entrepreneurs need inspiration to find cheaper and better ways to get things done. This book provides a perspective on why it's wonderful to be an entrepreneur and how you can be one without draining your finances.
Best Quote: "Imagine a life where all your time is spent on things you want to do. Imagine giving your greatest attention to a project you create yourself, instead of working as a cog in a machine that exists to make other people rich. Imagine handing a letter to your boss that reads, 'Dear Boss, I'm writing to let you know that your services are no longer required. Thanks for everything, but I'll be doing things my own way now.'"
2. The Art of the Start 2.0
Subtitle: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything
Author: Guy Kawasaki
Why It's a Must-Read: This second edition of what's probably the world's best startup guide is even better than the original. Every page has something valuable that you can apply immediately. This book is so good that rather than trying to pick a best quote, I repeatedly opened the book and put my finger down on a random place on a random page -- each time I came up with something useful. The "best quote" below is just an example.
Best Quote: "Many entrepreneurs believe that investors invest in teams, so they should demonstrate teamwork in their pitches. Using this line of reasoning, four or five employees attend the pitch, and each has a speaking role. The logic that everyone should have a speaking role is terrific for a school play. Parents and grandparents see their precious jewels in action, and there are plenty of opportunities for video. Life is good, fair, and equitable. A pitch, however, is not a school play. In a pitch the DEO should do 80 percent of the talking. The rest of the team (and there should be no more than two others) can present the one or two slides pertaining to their specific area of expertise. They can also provide detailed answers if any questions arise. However, if the CEO can't handle most of the pitch by himself, he should practice until he can, or he should be replaced."
3. The E-Myth Revisited
Subtitle: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It
Author: Michael E. Gerber
Why It's a Must-Read: This book is myth-buster. It explains why much of what you've learned about small business is not just wrong but dangerous to your budding firm's health. By describing the pitfalls that most people miss, Gerber reveals the pathways to success that really will work.
Best Quote: "The problem with most failing businesses I've encountered is not that their owners don't know enough about finance, marketing, management, and operations -- they don't, but those things are easy enough to learn -- but that they spend their time and energy defending what they think they know. The greatest businesspeople I've met are determined to get it right no matter what the cost."
4. The Lean Startup
Subtitle: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
Author: Eric Ries
Why It's a Must-Read: This book provides a counter-narrative to the hyped Shark Tank view of entrepreneurism. Rather than extolling the need for a grand vision, this book discusses the nuts and bolts and busywork that are a big part of starting a business.
Best Quote: "The story of perseverance, creative genius, and hard work persists. Why is it so popular? I think there is something deeply appealing about this modern-day rags-to-riches story. It makes success seem inevitable if you just have the right stuff. It means that the mundane details, the boring stuff, the small individual choices don't matter. If we build it, they will come. When we fail, as so many of us do, we have a readymade excuse: we didn't have the right stuff. We weren't visionary enough or weren't in the right place at the right time. After more than ten years as an entrepreneur, I came to reject that line of thinking. I have learned from both my own successes and failures and those of many others that it's the boring stuff that matters the most. Startup success is not a consequence of good genes or being in the right place at the right time. Startup success can be engineered by following the right processes, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught."
5. The ONE Thing
Subtitle: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
Authors: Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
Why It's a Must-Read: This book is all about staying on target. It explains how to avoid scattering your efforts in multiple directions and instead focus with laser precision on exactly what's most important.
Best Quote: "The way to get the most out of your work and life is to go as small as possible. Most people think just the opposite. They think big success is time consuming and complicated. As a result, their calendars and to-do lists become overloaded and overwhelming. Success starts to fall out of reach, so they settle for less. Unaware that big success comes when we do a few things well, they get lost trying to do too much and in the end accomplish too little. Over time they lower their expectations, abandon their dreams, and allow their life to get small. This is the wrong thing to make small."
6. Virtual Freedom
Subtitle: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream
Author: Chris Ducker
Why It's a Must-Read: Without balance, even highly committed entrepreneurs eventually burn out. This book provides a model for being successful without getting yourself all stressed out. This is not just a business skill, it's a life skill.
Best Quote: "When I decided to stop being a stressed-out, micromanaging business owner so that I could achieve my goal of becoming a virtual CEO, I never could have truly appreciated what having that virtual freedom would mean for myself, my family, and my business. Now I have the time to help my kids with their homework, I take regular vacations, I've removed Friday from my workweek, and I get to focus on big-picture thinking about my business to move it forward more regularly -- all while my virtual (and some physical) employees keep things running day to day."
7. Zero to One
Subtitle: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
Authors: Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
Why It's a Must-Read: This book puts the future of entrepreneurism into context. Rather than accepting that everything that's going on today is wonderful, it takes a hard look at how everyone has lowered their expectations. It also explains why entrepreneurism and innovation are our best hope to create a future world that's better than what we're experiencing today.
Best Quote: "After 10,000 years of fitful advance from primitive agriculture to Medieval windmills and 16th century astrolabes, the modern world suddenly experienced relentless technological progress from the advent of the steam engine in the 1760s all the way up to about 1970. As a result, we have inherited a richer society than any previous generation would have been able to imagine. Any generation excepting our parents' and grandparents', that is: in the late 1960s, they looked forward to a four-day workweek, energy too cheap to meter, and vacations on the moon. But it didn't happen. The smartphones that distract us from our surroundings also distract us from the fact that our surroundings are strangely old: only computers and communications have improved dramatically since midcentury. That doesn't mean our parents were wrong to imagine a better future -- they were only wrong to expect it as something automatic. Today our challenge is to both imagine and create the new technologies that can make the 21st century more peaceful and prosperous than the 20th."