This Is The Single Best Book For Entrepeneurs
If I had to stick with one book for entrepreneurs, I’d go with Founders at Work and here’s why.
There is no recipe for starting a company. That’s basically the defining characteristic of entrepreneurship: you are going where nobody has gone before.
On top of tackling the unknown, you’re almost always working with crummy resources.
You don’t have money to build a team, top people are hesitant to join something without traction, and you’re personally filling roles that you aren’t qualified for.
This is normal.
Unfortunately, every founder goes around spinning a public story about how their entire life has been up and to the right. So it’s easy to be down on yourself just because your own company is a mess.
But again, your company is supposed to be a mess.
And the book that helps you see that this is normal is Founders at Work. The author, Jessica Livingston, does a great job of finding the messy stories behind many successful companies.
There’s a message in this recommendation — nobody is going to solve your problems for you.
So the value of this book is that it helps you focus on yourself.
Maybe that’s disappointing. Maybe you wanted a book that laid out step-by-step directions.
I don’t think that book exists. And the books that try end up being more dangerous than you realize.
The other books that I draw on often all have the quality of getting at some fundamental truth. I try to avoid books that are just about the tips and tricks of the moment.
- Crossing the Chasm — especially the tech adoption life cycle and the characteristics of early customers.
- Four Steps to the Epiphany — especially the customer development pieces.
- Good to Great — especially the difference between Foxes (looking for tricks) and Hedgehogs (looking for fundamental advantages).
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things — the title just summarizes life as a founder. Every problem you solve generates a new problem. So stop feeling like you need to get to some mystical “done state.” You’re never done.
- Rapid Development — every founder should know how to run a rational development team. This is the book I learned that from. For example, you don’t ask how long something will take, instead you measure how fast people are working and then calculate how long things will take. That was eye opening for me.
- Zen and the Art of Standup Comedy — I’m a big believer that genius comes from practice. This book is a case study about how that’s true in comedy. Comedians aren’t funny, they’re obsessive. You could also learn this lesson by reading Talent is Overrated.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People — this is the best book on relationship building. It comes into play for partnerships, recruiting, sales and fundraising.
- Influence — People are irrational and you need to meet them where they are. This is the best book I’ve found on that.