There are few things more humbling than building a business. You start out feeling confident, knowing that you have the knowledge it takes to succeed in our specific niche. But then the reality of entrepreneurship and its many hats sinks in.
Slowly, daydreams of working on that one thing become dashed by the need to answer all the emails, figure out why certain web pages aren’t loading properly, wrestle with payment systems that aren’t as simple as advertised, and try to figure out how to become an expert marketer … yesterday.
It can be overwhelming, to say the least. But here’s the thing. Even though founding your own business requires you to do everything to keep the lights on, the only one expecting you to do all those things perfectly out of the gate is, well, you.
The truth about business isn’t that you have to perform every task at the utmost level. The truth about business is that you just need to stay alive.
Learn, trip, get up, learn some more, stumble again, keep going. The businesses that succeed are the ones that live another day — day after day after day. That’s the one goal you need to accomplish. So, how can you learn the little bit about all the things to help you do just that?
Get reading. The members of the Arena feel this pain just like you do, and we went to them to see what top business books help them keep going. Here’s what they had to say.
All Marketers Are Liars
by Seth Godin
If you’re new to marketing, get used to seeing the name “Seth Godin.” Godin has a way of distilling down complex ideas into bite-sized chunks that sear themselves into your memory. No surprise, then, that you’ll see a few of his books on this list.
First up, the book All Marketers Are Liars, which unveils some truths of marketing you kind of always knew but now have proof of. That’s the first step to understanding that you don’t have to be an expert to market your brand — you just have to be a human person.
Anything You Want
by Derek Sivers
Do you love what you do? Really love it? So does Derek Sivers. The author of Anything You Want, Sivers takes you through the journey of building a business around something he was passionate about — proving that it really can be done successfully.
Badass Your Brand
by Pia Silva
This book is for the person who wants to build a business off their expertise and might be working full-time still or simply needs a boost to get them off the ground. Badass Your Brand explains how to turn what you know into a business and earn real money while doing it.
Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You
by John Warrillow
A fictional story to illustrate what can go wrong when building a business entirely focused on what only you can bring to the table, Built to Sell, help you think bigger. But the fictional story doesn’t mean there aren’t clear takeaways. You can still walk away with actionable tips to help them build a business bigger than themselves.
by Seth Godin
Should you stay or should you go? Will your business bounce back or is a pivot becoming necessary? In Godin’s next book on this list, The Dip, you can learn how to work out the answer to the question of when to quit and when to keep going — and catch onto a little something called “strategic quitting.”
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
by Jocko Willink
Can you imagine anyone more determined than a Navy SEAL? In Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink shows you how to apply the skills he learned on the field to any “team, family, or organization.”
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
by Ben Horowitz
If you’re sick and tired of pithy blog posts and courses promising “3 Easy Ways to Launch Your Business” or “Full-Proof Tactics for Making Six Figures,” then this is the book for you. Cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz, Ben Horowitz uses The Hard Thing About Hard Things to illustrate, through anecdotes, how to handle some of the most difficult aspects of running a business.
Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink: Why 40 Percent of Your Business Is Unprofitable and How to Fix It
by Jonathan L.S. Byrnes
So, your business is making money. Great! Now, how much of that money is your business able to keep? In Island of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink, Jonathan L.S. Byrnes discusses something called “profit levers” to help you understand not just how to make more money in their business, but also how to ensure that money is profit and not just revenue.
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
by Peter M. Senge
Worried about the competition? According to The Fifth Discipline, the best way to win is to learn faster. Author Peter M. Senge talks about how to do that by ridding your company of any learning “disabilities” that might be getting in the way of you doing just that.
For Better or For Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families
by Meg Cadoux Hirshberg
Building a business doesn’t just take a toll on you, it can take a toll on your loved ones as well. In For Better or For Work, author Meg Cadoux Hirshberg talks about how to build a business while maintaining a thriving family life. Sign us up!
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t
by James C. Collins
Ever find yourself wondering why some companies are so much more successful than others? With Good to Great, you can finally find out. Author James C. Collins underwent a massive study to learn which companies achieve success — sustainable success — and what sets them apart from the rest.
Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
by James C. Collins and Morten T. Hansen
A follow-up to Good to Great, James C. Collins revisits his previous questions but in the context of modern-day business environments with Morten T. Hansen. The result? Great by Choice, a book that looks at business in today’s fast-moving world to see what really determines success.
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
by Seth Godin
Have you always felt that you have more to give, but the systems around you force you into a box? In Linchpin, Seth Godin discusses a different type of person: The one who loves what they do and pours every ounce of themselves into it. This approach to work, Godin says, makes this type of person indispensable.
Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way
by Richard Branson
If there’s any archetype of a person who plays by their own rules, Richard Branson is it. And now, in Losing My Virginity, you can read all about how he built business after business his own way and survived in spite of the odds.
Overcoming Underearning: A Five-Step Plan to a Richer Life
by Barbara Stanny
You can’t separate business from finance, that’s for sure. And being your own boss makes the business and finance combination that more complicated in your personal life. But in Overcoming Underearning, Barbara Stanny shows you how to empower yourself to reach financial independence.
by Ray Dalio
Founder of Bridgewater Associates Ray Dalio shares his principles for life and business in the aptly named Principles. Not meant to be prescriptive, Dalio shares that he wants this book to help people make up their own minds.
Profit First: A Simple System to Transform Any Business From a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine
by Mike Michalowicz
If you find accounting to be about as exciting as going to the doctor and as painless as pulling teeth, Mike Michalowicz’s book, Profit First, should probably make its way to your nightstand. To start with, Michalowicz talks about how traditional accounting methods cause the panic many feel regarding the subject — and then explains a method that promises to easier and more successful.
by Seth Godin
Godin again, this time with a rather inspirational message. In Purple Cow, Godin helps you see how honing in on the thing that makes your offering truly unique can take your business from “meh” to “must-see.”
by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Forget about traditional business advice. Rework challenges the idea that you need to plan every step and work yourself into the bone to succeed.
The Sales Bible: The Ultimate Sales Resource
by Jeffrey Gitomer
If sales don’t come naturally to you, it’s easy to believe that they never will — but you don’t have to succumb to failure. Instead, read The Sales Bible and learn everyday techniques that’ll help you build your sales game, even if you never had one to begin with.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
by Stephen R. Covey
This book is a classic, and for good reason. Read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People so you can discover principles that’ll help you give your all to every aspect of your life.
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
by Phil Knight
It’s hard to imagine, but Nike wasn’t always the household name it is today. However, if you read Shoe Dog, you can find out just what it took to get it there. From a $50 loan and selling shoes out of the back of a car to the iconic world-renowned brand it is today, this is the true story of how a business can grow from a good idea to a global institution with the right person and principles behind it.
Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big
by Bo Burlingham
Nothing can kill an innovative idea as quickly as a sole focus on revenue growth. Small Giants uncovers the stories of a few companies that chose unconventional routes and lived to tell about it.
The Ultimate Sales Machine
by Chet Holmes
Do you ever feel like you could use a little more focus in your life? It’s little wonder if you do, given the fact that running a company forces you into dealing with all the things. The Ultimate Sales Machine can help. This book shows how just an hour per week focusing on one improvement at a time can transform your business.
The Win Without Pitching Manifesto
by Blair Enns
Twelve proclamations to help you stand out from all the rest. How does that sound to you? If you read The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, you can learn just what those proclamations are and start transforming your business in the process.