Robert Kelsey picks his top 10 entrepreneurial reads.
- The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber. The original exploder of entrepreneurial myths (swashbucklers we ain’t), this revised edition should be compulsory reading for anyone thinking of going it alone. Gerber’s dispassionate examination of “why most small businesses don’t work” can certainly help would-be entrepreneurs avoid the same old mistakes, traps and false assumptions.
- Worthless, Impossible and Stupid, Daniel Isenberg. More myth-busting about the nature of entrepreneurs. We don’t have to be innovators, experts, lucky, clever or young, says Isenberg. Yet he’s keen to plant some fables of his own – including our “surprisingly ubiquitous relationship with adversity”. We’re contrarians, he says, seeing value where others don’t. And we persist, long after the sane have surrendered.
- The Entrepreneur Revolution, Daniel Priestley. While Priestley’s global philosophy borders on the cheesy, his radical proselytising about the changed nature of work gives way to some seriously clever ideas on how to discover – and reconcile – your place in the entrepreneurial landscape. His Ascending Transaction Model transformed my approach to marketing and his Create Vs Consume dichotomy is the clearest indicator of your true taste for entrepreneurship.
- How to Get Rich, Felix Dennis. Business bookshelves groan with “how I made it” entrepreneurial tales of derring-do. Yet none quite match this one in terms of both chutzpah and bluntness. Dennis’s zany madness somehow gets to the point, meaning that – as a collection of biographical anecdotes – it’s probably the most relevant (as the title implies). Judicious salt-pinching required, and try not to be put off by the poetry.
- The Beermat Entrepreneur, Mike Southon/Chris West. Feels in need of an update, but the first book to offer solid practical advice to potential entrepreneurs while also being a cracking read (it was all bank freebie list-fodder prior to Beermat). The cornerstones and the need for a mentor are now entrepreneurial mainstays and the advice on funding (hold on to your equity) worth the cover price alone.
- Never Bet the Farm, Anthony Iaquinto and Stephen Spinelli. Too many books focus on the entrepreneurial giants: Branson, Jobs, Gates, Sam Walton etc. But what about us mere mortals? Iaquinto and Spinelli set out 15 principles for start-up entrepreneurs, including the need for realism, the joy of bootstrapping and the fact successful entrepreneurs are risk managers not risk takers (hence the title).
- Start It Up, Luke Johnson. Along with his previous work The Maverick, this is an entertaining mix of thoughts and ideas from one of the UK’s best known serial entrepreneurs (and Sunday Times columnist). The widest range of subjects are attacked with gusto, insight and optimism. Johnson pulls no punches – the point is to make a profit. But his message that entrepreneurialism is great fun is infectious.
- The $100 Start Up, Chris Guillebeau. More bootstrapping advice from this highly-readable and curiously empathetic “quit the rat race” bestseller. The book begins “Dear Boss, I’m writing to let you know that your services are no longer required” and goes on to extort passion, happiness, simplicity and free thinking. Lots of examples of how ordinary people have achieved extraordinary things in startup land.
- Life’s a Pitch, Roger Mavity, Stephen Bayley. Having a great idea is easy. Execution more difficult. Selling the idea to those that matter – customers, investors, partners – is hardest of all, especially given that many entrepreneurs are introverts by nature. Mavity and Bayley turn up the heat – make no mistake, this bit’s critical – while deconstructing the process using irreverence and wit.
- From Vision to Exit, Guy Rigby. Time to get serious. What makes a good business great? And how should a great business grow and, in time, be sold? Having the right strategy is essential, as is developing and pursuing an executable plan. Guy Rigby, Smith & Williamson’s entrepreneurial guru, certainly knows his onions – and his carrot and bananas too.
Robert Kelsey is the author of What’s Stopping You? and The Outside Edge, and deputy chairman of the Centre for Entrepreneurs