Best Management and Entrepreneurship Books - feature image

Best Management and Entrepreneur Books (Updated 2022)

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by Sven WoltmannMarch 4, 2022

Do you, at some point, no longer want to work as an employee?

But rather self-employed or even as a solopreneur or entrepreneur?

On this page, you'll find short reviews of the best books on management, top leadership books, and great books on entrepreneurship and startups.

(Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention

by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

Link to the book at Amazon

Netflix is one of the most innovative and successful companies in the world. What is the secret behind this success?

In their bestseller, founder and CEO Reed Hastings and author Erin Meyer write about the unique corporate culture accountable for Netflix's success. The unprecedented flexibility it fosters has transformed the company from a DVD shipper to a streaming service to an international film producer.

The cornerstones of Netflix's corporate culture are excellent employees, transparency, and minimal control at all levels:

  1. Netflix hires only the best employees, pays them top salaries, and adjusts them on its own initiative. Salary increases of 30% or more are not uncommon. In this way, the company retains its top talent, and employees are motivated to achieve creative excellence.
  2. Absolute honesty, regular feedback – also to superiors (direct and indirect) – and a consequently high level of ability to accept and adopt criticism are expected from all employees.
  3. Leadership takes place through "context" instead of control. Instead of controlling the number of working hours or vacation days, travel budgets, or working methods of employees, the only guideline is: Act in the company's interest! Within this framework, employees have maximum freedom to make decisions.

The fact that these freedoms encourage errors is generally accepted. Innovation and flexibility always take precedence over error prevention.

Among the numerous anecdotes from the company's history, many deal with mistakes at all company levels (up to the CEO) – and the lessons the company has learned from them.

The book is easily written, well structured, and highly entertaining – a must-read for every entrepreneur and those who want to become one.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It

The E-Myth Revisited - Book cover

by Michael E. Gerber

Link to the book at Amazon

Most companies are made up of "technicians" (bakers, craftsmen, mechanics, lawyers, web designers, programmers, etc.), who are dissatisfied as employees and hope to find happiness in self-employment.

Over 90% of these companies fail. A good cook is not automatically capable of running a restaurant. An excellent lawyer is not necessarily a good partner in a law firm. A good computer tinkerer cannot automatically build a company like Apple or DELL.

On the one hand, a successful business needs not only the technician but also an entrepreneur (that's what the "E" in the title stands for) and a manager.

On the other hand, the company needs a system of processes so that the founder can hand over areas of responsibility and not remain solely responsible forever and ever (which will ultimately be more stressful than the employment relationship from which he wanted to get out).

Thus, one of the book's core statements reads: The founder must not only work in his business – he must work on his business.

The book is easy to understand and entertaining due to numerous practical examples and a (fictitious?) conversation with a self-employed pie baker that runs through the whole book.

A must-read for everyone who wants to start a business and for every entrepreneur who realizes that he is reaching his limits.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change)

innovators dilemma clayton m christensen

by Clayton M. Christensen

Link to the book at Amazon

Why do large, established companies falter or are even driven out of business entirely by rapidly growing start-ups as soon as groundbreaking innovations make their way into the market?

And how can large companies prevent this?

In "Innovator's Dilemma," business professor Clayton M. Christensen gets to the bottom of these questions:

Established companies have optimized their culture and processes to continuously improve their products along evolutionary paths according to the wishes of their regular customers.

Disruptive products often initially have poorer quality, reliability, and performance than established products (think of the first digital cameras, for example). As a result, they target small market niches that are insignificant to large companies, consisting of customers who care about other features (e.g., sending the captured image instantly via email). Sales that can be generated with these products in their initial phase are uninteresting for large companies and cannot cover their cost structures.

Thus, they leave the market to start-ups (often founded by former employees), for whom the revenues are very interesting and who are betting on the enormous growth potential of the new technology.

Meanwhile, the big companies keep evolving their products so that at some point, they over-fulfill their customers' needs (who needs 1,500 features in Word?). One day, the disruptive technology (Google Docs in this example) has evolved to the point where it meets the needs of the big companies' customers – now at a much lower price – and they replace the existing product with the disruptive one in droves.

The start-up grows and builds structures – until, at some point, it is itself the established company that is displaced by the next disruptive innovation.

How can companies resolve this dilemma?

The only way for a large company to get a piece of the pie (or to survive) is to create its own start-up (or other entity entirely separate from the main company) that develops the disruptive product, builds a separate customer base, and operates and grows independently with lower margins and revenues.

The book is excellently organized, written in an easy-to-understand manner, and has not lost its relevance more than twenty years after its publication. Numerous impressive case studies from various industries illustrate the dilemma and the ways out.

A book every entrepreneur should have read.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

Toilet Paper Entrepreneur: The tell-it-like-it-is guide to cleaning up in business, even if you are at the end of your roll

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Mike Michalowicz

by Mike Michalowicz

Link to the book at Amazon

In this book, toilet paper is a metaphor for resources. The more you have, the more carelessly you use them. And if you have only a few, you have to get inventive.

Mike Michalowicz, founder of several multimillion-dollar companies, offers an unconventional guide to starting and running a business. A sustainable business is usually built not with millions of dollars in venture capital but with ingenuity and passion.

The book is divided into three parts:

Part 1, "Values": Values are enduring and guide a person. Businesses also need values, and when the values of the founder and the business match, the business becomes authentic and automatically attracts customers who share those values.

Part 2, "Focus": In the initial phase, a company must focus on one product – namely, the one that corresponds to the founder's core competence. Founders must say "no" to everything else.

Part 3, "Actions", contains numerous practical tips and instructions, including long-term planning and its continual adjustment, short-term planning of action items, defining and monitoring metrics, and – ultimately – raising capital.

As a reader, you quickly realize that the book was written by an experienced founder, not an economist. Theory and detailed analysis should not be expected in a book with "toilet paper" in the title. Instead, you are confronted with the unsparing truth about entrepreneurship – in profane language and with a good dose of "potty humor".

I found the book very inspiring and recommend it to anyone who is thinking about starting a business (or has already started one).

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, and it is narrated by the author himself.

The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field

pumpkin plkan mike michalowicz

by Mike Michalowicz

Link to the book at Amazon

What toilet paper was in the "Toilet Paper Entrepreneur", pumpkins are in this book.

The author transfers the systematics of successful pumpkin farming to establishing and managing a sustainably successful company. He presents a step-by-step guide for business management without frustration and exhaustion but with joy and quality of life.

To grow a giant pumpkin, the farmer needs the right seeds; he must focus on the most promising sprouts, water the plants, regularly check the roots, and remove pumpkins that are too small and rotten, so that the robust and healthy ones can thrive.

Accordingly, entrepreneurs must:

  1. Find a business model that a) fits them, for which b) there are customers, and which c) can be systematized.
  2. Promote their own strengths and those of their strongest employees.
  3. Identify their top customers, cultivate good relationships with them, and tailor their products to meet those customers' needs. 
  4. Find other suppliers to their customers and together serve their joint customers better.
  5. Walk away from high-maintenance customers that add more stress than value, and say "no" to opportunities (= distractions) that arise far from the core business.

The steps are by no means presented as easy. The author gives concrete instructions for action and makes it clear that each step involves hard work and uncomfortable decisions – but in return, the chances of success are maximized.

Each chapter ends with a "pumpkin-plan your business" section, using a fictional company (from a wide range of industries) as an example to apply the strategies presented.

The book is easy to read, understandable, and written in humorous, easy-going language. A recommendation for anyone who owns a small or medium-sized business or plans to start one.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, and it is narrated by the author himself.

Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine

by Mike Michalowicz

Link to the book at Amazon

Many small business owners and freelancers know the problem: they work twice as much as employees but can barely keep themselves and their businesses afloat.

The Profit-First system is designed to bring relief by putting the entrepreneur's profit first rather than last. The system is simple: distribute income to four bank accounts according to specific percentages: profit, owner's compensation, taxes, and operating expenses. And never spend more than is available in the operating expenses account.

Of course, business owners could derive the relevant data from their accounting reports – but few read them regularly. What they look at is, however, their bank account. And so, most base their financial decisions on their bank balance: they spend first – and end up forgetting their profits.

The Profit-First system allows entrepreneurs to maintain this "management by bank balance" principle by utilizing Parkinson's Law, according to which we use as much of a resource (in this case, money) as we have available. And if we only have a limited amount available for expenses, we become innovative and find solutions to get along with it.

The book is extremely practical; the author describes how to introduce the Profit-First system step by step. Besides, the book contains numerous case studies and amusing anecdotes from the author's life, which lighten up the dry numbers and instructions in a highly entertaining way.

Sometimes, the author rambles and repeats himself, and he probably could have condensed the book's content into half as many pages. However, this in no way detracts from the usefulness of the book.

I recommend it to all entrepreneurs who have so far based their decisions on their bank balance.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes absolutely! It is narrated by the author himself, and all graphs and tables are available online.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

by Nir Eyal

Link to the book at Amazon

Why are services such as e-mail, WhatsApp, or Instagram so popular that many can no longer imagine everyday life without them?

How can entrepreneurs design products so that they attract and retain the attention of their customers - without costly advertising - until they use them out of sheer habit?

Nir Eyal, lecturer, investor, and expert in consumer psychology, has systematically explored these questions. The result is the "Hook Model" - a cyclic process consisting of the following four phases:

  1. Trigger: First external (e.g., an e-mail or a notification), later internal (e.g., boredom) triggers lead to action.
  2. Action: This must require as little effort as possible, i.e., the product must be as intuitive to use as possible.
  3. Variable reward: Rewards should vary (e.g., news and feedback from friends, progress indicators) and motivate to continue using the product.
  4. Investment: The more time and effort users invest in a product (e.g., progress in a game, tracked activity in sports apps, their timeline in social networks), the harder it will be for them to part with the product or replace it with another.

The book contains numerous illustrative examples - from social media to Bible apps. It reads smoothly and includes a summary of the key findings at the end of each chapter, as well as practical checklists for applying the theory to your products.

Ethical issues are also addressed, albeit somewhat superficially ("Only develop products that improve people's lives and that you would use yourself").

A recommendation for entrepreneurs, product managers, designers, and anyone who wants to develop products that excite their customers enough to integrate them into their everyday lives.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Built to Last - Buchdeckel

by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras

Link to the book at Amazon

What distinguishes long-standing, decade-long successful companies such as Coca-Cola, Disney, Walmart from their less successful competitors who were in the market at the same time and under the same conditions and opportunities, and who are also well-known, but only succeeded in phases?

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras spent years of research on this question. In this book, they present their results.

The lastingly successful companies have one thing in common: a core ideology that they preserve over decades, around which they constantly stimulate progress and change.

The core ideology consists of authentic core values which the founders believe and which are rigorously protected, such as innovation, quality, and decency. As well as a purpose, a "guiding star on the horizon – forever pursued but never reached" (David Packard) – such as "bringing happiness to millions of people" or "improving the lives of people around the world".

Progress is driven by "big hairy audacious goals" – BHAGs: goals that inspire and motivate people; goals that are formulated in simple terms and require no explanation, such as "we will bring a man to the moon and safely back to earth before the end of the decade". Employees of successful ventures have absolute confidence in achieving their goals – failure is unimaginable for them. Lasting companies never rest on their accomplishments – once they have reached a goal, they set new ones.

The book is very entertaining, thanks to the many illustrative and lively examples – a recommendation for all interested in lasting success. The findings are not only applicable in professional but also in private life.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, absolutely.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't

Good to Great - Book cover

by Jim Collins

Link to the book at Amazon

How can good and mediocre organizations be permanently transformed into those that achieve extraordinary and sustainable results

To answer this question, Jim Collins and his team identified and analyzed eleven companies that initially had average (or below average) results over at least ten years compared to the general stock market – and over the next 15 years, exceeded the average return by at least three times.

This book presents the results of this study.

In essence, great companies have a culture of discipline: disciplined people engaging in disciplined thought and taking disciplined action.

At the heart of this culture are level five leaders characterized by humility, selflessness, motivation, hard work, and willpower – not by a strong ego and constant media presence. They first put together excellent people and then consider what the company will do ("first who then what"). Employees are selected primarily based on character traits such as willingness to take responsibility and perseverance, not professional competence.

Great companies have confidence that they will prevail in the end, but always face the brutal facts of their current reality.

They focus on one product or one service that they are deeply passionate about, that they can be the best in the world, and that customers are willing to pay for ("hedgehog concept") ... instead of diluting their time and passion in a variety of areas.

A great company is not created overnight. Like a flywheel, it continuously builds momentum until it is unstoppable. There is no such thing as the one miraculous moment, the one great breakthrough.

It is fascinating how entertaining the book is written despite its scientific basis. It is filled with numerous examples and anecdotes and opens your eyes to how great things can be achieved, even outside of business.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, absolutely.

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All

by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen

Link to the book at Amazon

Ten years after his best-selling book "Good to Great," Jim Collins has published the results of another comprehensive study. His question was:

What did successful companies do differently than comparable companies in the same industry during turbulent times, i.e., in an environment that executives could not predict or control?

Specifically, Collins and his team studied so-called "10Xers": companies whose stock market value outperformed their respective industry index by at least a factor of ten over fifteen years.

The surprising result: the 10X companies had neither adapted particularly to changing circumstances nor were they more visionary or more willing to take risks than their competitors. On the contrary: they were more disciplined, extremely empirical in their approach, and hedged against a wide range of potential risks.

Collins and his team identified the following three core behaviors:

  1. Fanatical Discipline: Act steadily and consistently, not erratically. Push hard and ambitiously in bad times – and hold back in good times. Growing too fast often overwhelms companies.
  2. Empirical Creativity: Don't act on opinions, wisdom, or untested ideas. Instead, explore small steps in different directions, and deploy more resources only when empirical data justifies it.
  3. Productive Paranoia: Constantly identify potential threats, analyze their impact, and develop mitigation plans.

The authors also examined the extent to which luck played a role in success. The result: 10X companies were no luckier than their peers, but they made more out of it.

Like its two predecessors, the book is based on empirical research yet is entertaining, inspiring, full of compelling anecdotes, and directly actionable for entrepreneurs.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, absolutely.

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

Book cover "The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses"

by Eric Ries

Link to the book at Amazon

"Lean Startup" describes a management approach to bring new products to market faster and more successfully. The term "startup" does not refer to the size or age of a business, but to an organization that creates something new under extremely uncertain conditions.

In traditional development, new products are designed and developed for months or sometimes years to eventually determine that potential customers have no interest in the product.

Lean Startup, on the other hand, is about bringing a rudimentary prototype, a so-called MVP ("Minimal Viable Product"), to market as early as possible. The goal is to receive customer feedback as quickly as possible and – based on this – to improve the product ("Build-Measure-Learn" product cycle).

The book is particularly worth reading because the author does not only explain the lean startup approach. Instead, he vividly reports how he developed it based on his own painful experience.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, absolutely, and the author reads it himself.

Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice

Competing Against Luck - book cover

by Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, David S. Duncan

Link to the book at Amazon

Similar to "Nail It Then Scale It," this book deals with how successful innovation can be systematically planned so that customers are willing to pay premium prices for the products and services offered.

However, the focus in this book is not on the product development process itself, but on why customers spend money on specific products and services.

The answer is to be found in the so-called "jobs to be done" theory: customers do not buy products and services; instead, they hire them to do a particular job.

One product can be used for a variety of jobs: a daily newspaper, for example, provides information, covers waiting times, helps people find a job, offers relaxation after work – all tasks for which completely different products can be used today. Likewise, different products can be used for the same job: For relaxation after work, I can hire Netflix, my smartphone, family, and friends.

To succeed with innovation, an entrepreneur must understand what job his product does for the customer. Otherwise, he risks being taken over by a competitor with a product that does the job better.

The book explains the theory and its application in practice with numerous vivid and convincing examples, which makes the book very entertaining and worth reading.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Start with why - Book cover

by Simon Sinek

Link to the book at Amazon

“Why is Apple so successful when it’s just a computer company like many others? Why did Martin Luther King lead the civil rights movement when he wasn’t the only good speaker to suffer racial discrimination? And why did the Wright brothers manage to do controlled motorized flights when others were better qualified and better-financed?”

In this insightful book, the author presents answers to these questions in a very inspiring way: All these personalities placed the question “Why” before their actions. Among other things, this book led me to search for my personal “Why” and finally to start this blog.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, but I’ve read the printed version and therefore cannot judge the audiobook edition.

I also highly recommend Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, “How great leaders inspire action,” which presents the contents of the book in a condensed form. This talk is so inspiring that I’ve probably watched it more than ten times.

Choose: The Single Most Important Decision Before Starting Your Business

by Ryan Levesque

Link to the book at Amazon

In "Ask", Ryan Levesque presented a method that enables us to offer our (potential) customers precisely what they need.

"Choose" is about the step before that: choosing the market we want to go into as entrepreneurs.

Using a detailed step-by-step guide, he takes us through a brainstorming, research, and selection process based on years of research and experience that has enabled the author himself to build numerous successful businesses.

This process is designed to minimize the risk of failure through checklists and objective criteria.

Levesque writes passionately and motivationally. Inspiring stories of people who have successfully applied his process and personal anecdotes from the author round out this otherwise very technical book.

A recommendation for anyone thinking of starting their own business and who wants to maximize their chance of success by choosing the right market segment.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

Nail It then Scale It: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating and Managing Breakthrough Innovation

Nail It Then Scale It - Book cover

by Nathan Furr and Paul Ahlstrom

Link to the book at Amazon

The number of successful businesses, measured by the number of start-ups, is small. Most entrepreneurs fail. But if the probability of success is so low – why do successful entrepreneurs exist who repeatedly manage to be successful and innovative?

The authors have spent years investigating what distinguishes successful from unsuccessful entrepreneurs. They have analyzed recurring patterns, and, with the "Nail It Then Scale It" method, they present a timeless step-by-step process that successful entrepreneurs follow to minimize risks and increase the probability of success.

The method is based on the realization that entrepreneurs do not fail because they cannot build a product. Instead, they fail because they build a product that nobody wants.

Instead of following their instincts, entrepreneurs should proceed scientifically and unemotionally. It is necessary to identify a monetizable pain, i.e., a problem that customers are willing to spend money on. Then they should verify this need, and finally – together with the customers and through early prototypes and feedback – develop a solution. Just like in agile software development.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich

by Tim Ferriss

Link to the book at Amazon

Working 40 hours (or more) a week for a mediocre salary? For the next decades? Putting off fulfilling your dreams until you retire?

That outlook (shared by most working adults) pushed Tim Ferriss to transform his life completely.

He reduced his work hours to four hours a week and created a free, luxurious, yet fulfilling life for himself. Four steps ("DEAL") were necessary to achieve this:

D – Defining your lifestyle not as 40-hour weeks until retirement but as a mix of work periods and mini-retirements.

E – Eliminating distractions and unimportant activities. Focus on your strengths and the 20% of activities that bring 80% of the benefits.

A – Automation: Build a business that provides you with a sustainable income sufficient to achieve your goals with as little effort as possible.

L – Liberation: As an employee, work remotely as much as possible to increase your productivity. Use the freed-up time to build your business.

Implementing all this is certainly not easy. And not everyone dreams of a life as a "digital nomad" like the author. But everyone can benefit from his insights and integrate many of the concepts into their own life plans.

The author demonstrates this with numerous stories of people who have escaped the traditional work routine and are living their dream – including families with children!

The book is humorous, entertaining, provocative, motivating, and inspiring. A recommendation for all who want to rethink their way of life and retake control of it.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.