Expert Picks: The Books Every Entrepreneur Must Read

By at 1 January, 2015, 9:44 am

Old Book

A blue-ribbon panel of business experts and seasoned entrepreneurs select their go-to books for successful entrepreneurship.

By Karen Kerrigan-

Successful entrepreneurs are voracious consumers of “how to” information and business intelligence. If your goal is to make your business more competitive in 2015, or to launch a successful start-up, then the acquisition of new skills, strategies and know-how is essential. Of course, countless books promise “tips” and guidance that will lead to entrepreneurial success. But what books are worth your limited time and money?

I turned to ten of the nation’s most trusted and well-known small business advisors for help.

I asked this blue-ribbon panel to recommend one book that is required reading for entrepreneurial success. Their selection could be a book that had the most impact on his or her thinking or actions in business, or one that provides critical information for entrepreneurial success generally. I received some great responses.

The recommendations of the panel cover the spectrum of essential information, skills and strategies that are key to business success. In addition, each of the experts I queried is an accomplished author. As such, I’ve included links and information about their recent books following their recommendations.

So, grab your reading glasses or fire up the audio device. Here are the “must reads” for every entrepreneur who wants to succeed:

Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz

Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady, recommends the book "Profit  First," because too many entrepreneurs focus on profit last. The 2nd edition of her book "Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months" is now out. @SmallBizLady.

Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady, recommends the book “Profit
First,” because too many new entrepreneurs focus on profit last. The 2nd edition of her book “Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months” is now available. @SmallBizLady.

MELINDA EMERSON, the SmallBizLady whose advice and columns reach more than 3 million entrepreneurs each week, including through her New York Times column, recommends Profit First because: “Too many small business owners focus on profit last, if at all. Mike has developed an incredibly simple system that will turn any business profitable from the next deposit. I love this book.”

Melinda’s Book: Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, 2nd Edition. This book provides a realistic, month-by-month planning guide to start a sustainable and profitable small business. If you’re planning to start a business soon, the key to being successful is not only to create a sound business concept, but also taking the time to figure out the business of running a business. The book points out the important and necessary steps to take – so you will have the right foundation.

Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months is everything you need to run your successful small business.  The book covers the Emerson planning system, crowdfunding, building your website, leveraging social media, hiring your team, opening for business, and the things you should be measuring in your small business.

Good to Great, by Jim Collins

Sherwood "Woodie" Neiss attributes "Good To Great" for his entrepreneurial success. His company was a three-time INC 500 winner. You can be a finance winner once you complete his book "Crowdfunding for Dummies."

Sherwood “Woodie” Neiss attributes “Good To Great” for his entrepreneurial success. His company was a three-time INC 500 winner. You can be a finance winner after reading his book “Crowdfunding for Dummies.” @woodien

SHERWOOD NEISS, a successful entrepreneur and co-leader of the effort to make equity and debt-based crowdfunding legal in the U.S., selected Good to Great because: “When starting and growing a business, one often wonders what it takes to succeed. Luckily there is a book that can guide you on the path to success and that is Good to Great. This book shares examples and experiences of companies that did things good and those that did things great.  It provides you with a roadmap to be a successful entrepreneur just by learning about what these great companies did and merging those philosophies into how you operate your business.  I attribute this book in a large part to the success of our 3-time INC500 company!”

Sherwood’s Book: Crowdfund Investing for Dummies is co-written by Jason Best and Zak Cassady-Dorion. This book covers the fundamentals of crowdfunding, including: what crowdfunding is and how you can raise money for your business, the risks and rewards of crowdfunding, best practices, tips for growing your crowd and much more! After joining President Obama in the Rose Garden for the signing of The JOBS Act in April 2012, which made equity and debt-based crowdfunding legal, Sherwood and Jason Best (see Jason’s book recommendation below) started Crowdfund Capital Advisors. They now travel the globe, helping entrepreneurs and governments understand crowdfunding, and designing frameworks for countries to help entrepreneurship flourish.

How to Be a Power Connector, by Judy Robinett

Jason Best recommends "How to Be a Power Connector." High-value relationships are critical to crowdfunding success, which Jason covers in his book "Crowdfunding for Dummies," co-aouthred with Sherwood Neiss.

Jason Best recommends “How to Be a Power Connector.” High-value relationships are critical to business success. They are also key to crowdfunding success, which Jason covers in his book “Crowdfunding for Dummies,” co-authored with Sherwood Neiss.  @CrowdCapAdvisor

JASON BEST, a successful serial entrepreneur and co-leader (along with Sherwood Neiss) of the legislative effort that made equity and debt-based crowdfunding legal in the U.S., selected How to Be a Power Connector because: “If you are going to be a successful entrepreneur, instead of a want-rapraneur, you must have a strong network to support you.  Judy’s book teaches you ways to build relationships….NOT how to ‘network’, which makes most people, feel uncomfortable.  Building trusted relationships is a very important part of your current and future success!  Judy’s strategies and tactics are easy to use, and the book is a great and fast read.”

Jason’s Book: Along with Sherwood Neiss, Jason authored Crowdfund Investing for Dummies. Crowdfunding is growing – it has moved beyond “alternative financing.” It is now mainstream. Crowdfund Investing for Dummies will help you prepare and understand the key strategies for crowdfunding success.  As a co-founder and principal of Crowdfund Capital Advisors, Jason travels the world advising entrepreneurs, governments, and investors about crowdfunding. Crowdfund Investing for Dummies embodies much of the expertise and content he shares in his engagements, while drilling down on the fundamentals that are needed to grow your business through crowdfunding.

Relevance: Matter More, by Phil Styrlund and Tom Hayes

Andrew Sherman, partner, JonesDay

Andrew Sherman recommends “Relevance” to keep entrepreneurs in the game. His book “Harvesting Intangible Assets” will do just that, and more.  @AndrewJSherman

ANDREW SHERMAN, business growth expert, college MBA professor and partner at Jones Day, knows a lot about books. He’s authored 24 of them. He selected Relevance because: “In this rapidly-moving world where the fast get beat by the faster and the fat get beat by the lean, and where consumer loyalty is fickle and short-lived, Relevance teaches to be just that in a nutshell. Evolve or die. Stay close to the customer. Understand what matters most and demonstrate genuine empathy. Sage advice from the authors for both business and life.”

Andrew’s Book: Harvesting Intangible Assets instructs organizations about how to make the most of everything they have to offer, and specifically intellectual property (IP), if they want to remain competitive. Andrew asserts that the majority of companies are oblivious to the wealth of revenue-producing opportunities hiding just below the strategic surface. He shares insights and expertise gleaned from his work with some of the world’s leading companies who have capitalized on intellectual assets such as patents, trademarks, customer information, software codes, databases, business models, homegrown processes, and employee expertise. The book reveals how companies large or small can implement IP-driven growth and licensing strategies, foster a culture of innovation, turn R&D into revenue, and much more. Smart companies reap what they sow. Harvesting Intangible Assets gives readers the tools they need for a profitable harvest.

The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

USA Today's small business guru Steve Strauss likes "Lean Startup." It emphasizes starting small, testing what works, and then going big. Entrepreneurs  need Steve's book "The Small Business Bible" every step of the way in their journey to "going big."

USA Today’s small business guru Steve Strauss likes “Lean Startup.” It emphasizes starting small, testing what works, and then going big. Entrepreneurs should also turn to Steve’s book “The Small Business Bible” in their journey to becoming big and successful.  @SteveStrauss

Steve Strauss is USA Today’s Senior Small Business Columnist and hosts resource site. He suggests new entrepreneurs read The Lean Startup: “While the book generally deals with startups that have some serious capital behind them and potential products in the pipeline (which in my experience is not most small businesses), I really like the overall take of the book. Specifically, the main idea is that you should start small, test, see what works, refine your ideas, and then, only after that, go big. The Lean Startup shows you how, even if you don’t have products in the pipeline!”

Steve’s BookThe Small Business Bible is everything the subtitle says it is – “Everything you need to know to succeed in your small business.” The 3rd Edition of Steve’s book shows you what really works (and what doesn’t!) and includes scores of tips, insider information, stories, and proven secrets of success. Even if you’ve run your own business for years, this handy guide keeps you up to date on the latest business and tech trends. This edition includes entirely new chapters devoted to social media, mobility and apps, and new trends in online discounting and group buying that are vital to small business owners everywhere. The Small Business Bible offers every bit of information you’ll need to know to succeed.

Hunting in a Farmer’s World: Celebrating the Mind of an Entrepreneur, by John Dini

Small Business Advocate Jim Blasingame recommends "Hunting in a Farmer's World," an all-around dynamic book about the challenges and rewards of business ownership. In his book "The Age of the Customer," Jim covers the challenges and provides sage advice for staying relevant in an age where relationships have made an epoch shift.

Small Business Advocate Jim Blasingame recommends “Hunting in a Farmer’s World,” an all-around dynamic book about the challenges and rewards of business ownership. In his book “The Age of the Customer,” Jim provides sage advice for staying relevant in an age where relationships have made an epoch shift. @JimBlasingame

Jim Blasingame, The Small Business Advocate and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, selected Hunting in a Farmer’s World. Jim says the book: “Will help you gain a proper perspective on how your efforts as an entrepreneur fit into the world around you. Entrepreneurs are different. They’re the modern-day hunters who have provided for others for thousands of years. John F. Dini draws on thousands of hours of face to face coaching with entrepreneurs, using the personal true stories of successful owners to drive home the challenges, rewards, exhilaration and terror of being a business owner. Hunting in a Farmer’s World is filled with the stories of real business owners who overcame real challenges to find success. This isn’t a management book, it’s an ownership book.”

Jim’s Book: In his most recent tome, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance, Jim says the current  period marks “an epochal marketplace shift that’s causing the 10,000-year-old Age of the Seller to be replaced by the Age of the Customer.” In the book, Jim instructs entrepreneurs on how to make the shift to “Age of the Customer-thinking” and to prepare for relevance. He notes how the age is impacting love, trust, emotions, niches, globalization, intellectual property, selling, branding, and even technology. Jim also reveals what is not going to change. In the Foreword of The Age of the Customer, Steve Forbes says Jim “has both the foresight of a prophet and the courage of a heretic.” That’s Jim, and his book shares important insights and lessons.

Winning Angels: The 7 Fundamentals of Early Stage Investing, by David Amis and Howard Stevenson

Judy Robinett recommends "Winning Angels" as it clearly outlines.  Judy is know as the woman with "the titanium rolodex" and her book "How to Be a Power Connector"

Judy Robinett recommends “Winning Angels” as it clearly outlines what angel investors want. Judy is known as “the woman with the titanium rolodex.” Her book, “How to Be a Power Connector,” shares her secrets for building high-value relationships.  @JudyRobinett

JUDY ROBINETT, a business thought leader, former CEO and “the woman with the titanium digital Rolodex,” is the ultimate “super connector.” Judy says she thought long and hard about what book she would recommend and why. She ultimately decided upon Winning Angels: “As an investor, advisor and educator, I’ve found and agree with Y Combinator, Phil Graham who says there are only two reasons startups fail; 1- lack of a customer and 2- lack of funding. The majority of pitches fail due to lack of knowledge. With 300+ angel groups and Credit Suisse projecting $369 trillion in global private wealth by 2019, there is no lack of money. Angels fund 90% of high potential companies and a founding team usually gets one shot to pitch. It is critical that they understand what angels want, how valuations are determined, plus basic knowledge of terms. This book can’t be beat. Howard Stevenson was labeled, ‘the Lion of Entrepreneurs at Harvard Biz School,’ with 80+ investments. He and his co-author interviewed top winning angels globally – including Esther Dyson – across different verticals.”

Judy’s Book: Jason Best (above) is one of countless fans and experts who recommend Judy Robinett’s book How to Be a Power Connector. In the book, Judy argues that strategic relationship planning should be an entrepreneur’s top priority. When you combine your specific skills and talents with a clear, workable path for creating and managing your relationships, nothing will stop you from meeting your goals. With high-value connections, you’ll tap into a dynamic “power grid” of influence guaranteed to accelerate your personal and professional success. Robinett uses her decades of experience connecting the world’s highest achievers with one another to help you build high-value relationships. She reveals all the secrets of her trade in How to Be a Power Connector.

Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company, by Jim Collins and William Lazier

Laurel Delaney ---- Her books on going global-"Exporting" and  "Export Essentials" - offer A to Z assistance for entrepreneurs who are interested or ready to go global.

Laurel Delaney recommends “Beyond Entrepreneurship” for those who wish to build enduring enterprises. In both of her books -“Exporting” and “Export Essentials” – Laurel encourages business owners to look beyond the U.S. market, and offers A to Z guidance for entrepreneurs who are interested in going global.  @LaurelDelaney

Laurel Delaney, President of and global business expert, says most entrepreneurs have probably read, or at least know about, Jim Collins’ best-selling books Good to Great, Built to Last, and Great By Choice.  She calls one of her favorites by Collins “a sleeper.”  Co-authored by William Lazier, Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company covers enduring principles for entrepreneurs. According to Laurel: “I read this book in the early nineties and earmarked with interest just about every other page. Whenever I need great leadership principles, am developing a strategy, or simply want to ignite passion in my company, I return to this book for inspiration and ideas. Whether you are running a startup enterprise or a business that has been around for a while and wish to build a great and enduring enterprise, you should read this book.” Laurel adds that she just finished reading The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, by Brad Stone. She was engrossed by the Bezos story and his journey building Amazon. “The book is filled with insights, ideas, best practices, and all around good management advice,” says Laurel.

Laurel’s Book: Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably is for entrepreneurs and small business owners interested in taking their businesses to the next level through exports. Laurel’s book will equip you with the knowledge you need to market, sell, and fulfill orders internationally. It also imparts a can-do spirit for exporting, which can lead to greater revenues, stability, and profitability for your business. Have you thought about going global? 2015 could be your year! Learn how to do business abroad through Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably. Laurel’s new book, Exporting Essentials: Selling Products and Services to the World Successfully, is an abridged version of Exporting: The Definitive Guide.

Road Rules: Be the Truck, Not the Squirrel, by Andrew Sherman

Barbara Weltman

Barbara Weltman recommends “Road Rules: Be the Truck Not the Squirrel,” as she relates to its humor and practicality. Her latest tome, “Small Business Taxes 2015,” offers lots of practical advice and it may even make you smile when you discover an overlooked deduction.  @BarbaraWeltman

BARBARA WELTMAN, tax and business growth expert and founder of Big Ideas for Small Business, says she highly recommends Road Rules: Be the Truck. Not the Squirrel. In her recommendation, Barbara notes: “The book developed in part from a talk Andrew gave at a small business event that I attended, so it was especially interesting to see the book fully develop from that one event. Each chapter covers a lesson for navigating the road of life. The author says the book is a non-business book designed for inspiration and personal development, but I view it as a great read for small business owners to learn how to avoid problems, keep perspective, and succeed. What’s more, it’s a very enjoyable and often humorous read.”

Barbara’s Book: Small Business Taxes 2015: Your Complete Guide to a Better Bottom Line is the 5th edition of Barbara’s practical and useful guide to taxes.  Eliminate confusion, maximize deductions, reduce payments, and conquer your small business taxes with ease. J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2015 is the most trusted name in tax guidance, and Barbara’s book is fully updated for 2014 tax returns and 2015 tax planning. The detailed guide provides concise, plain-English explanations of tax laws tailored to business owners who are experts in their field — but not in taxes. The book includes a complete listing of available business expense deductions, dollar limits and record-keeping requirements. Sample forms and checklists allow you to organize your preparation, and clear instruction on tax form navigation helps you get it right the first time. Small Business Taxes 2015 simplifies the process, breaking down tax laws and the filing process.

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, by Peter Thiel

Raymond Keating recommends Peter Thiel's "Zero to One."  When Ray is crunching numbers or analyzing the latest economic data, he is writing suspense novels like his current one "The River: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel."

Raymond Keating recommends Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One.” When Ray isn’t crunching numbers or analyzing the latest economic data, he can be found writing suspense novels, like his current one: “The River: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel.”  @RaymondKeating

RAYMOND KEATING, business professor and SBE Council’s chief economist, says Peter Thiel’s Zero to One: “Is a valuable, quick read that provides fascinating insights on thinking about entrepreneurship and the economy, and what’s needed to start up a business. His central theme is the need for entrepreneurs and startups to create new things. Thiel points out, ‘Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1.’ Thiel warns, ‘Unless they invest in the difficult task of creating new things, American companies will fail in the future no matter how big their profits remain today.’” Sage advice from a man whose companies he founded (Pay Pal) or was an investor in (Facebook) have changed business, and even the world.

Ray’s Book: Ray proves that not all economists are boring. He retreats from the daily grind of number crunching and economic analysis by writing suspense/mystery novels. His book, The River: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, is the latest in a series of thrillers. The main character, Stephen Grant, once used his lethal skills for the Navy SEALs and the CIA. Now, years later, he’s a pastor. In The River, Pastor Grant’s wife is kidnapped and a deep mystery ensues. Allies and suspects from his CIA days arrive on the scene. In the book, Pastor Grant ultimately faces a moral dilemma – to seek justice or revenge. Can he tell the difference any longer? As noted by Amazon: “Keating wields his formidable story-telling skills by serving up a fast-paced adventure, rich characters, faith, humor, big ideas, and murder. reviewers have compared Keating’s thrillers to the works of Clancy, Ludlum, Grisham, Cussler, and Morrell.”  Wow, now that’s power connecting!


If you make it your goal in 2015 to read one book per month, you can read through this outstanding list of books in less than a year — a sound investment of your time and resources. If you have a book recommendation to add to this “must read” list for entrepreneurs, I’d love to hear from you! Please submit your choice by using the comment field below, or send to  I will post your feedback and/or recommendations.

From all of us at SBE Council, here’s wishing you a prosperous, healthy and successful 2015!

Karen Kerrigan is President & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

Follow her @KarenKerrigan @SBECouncil

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