Best Management and Entrepreneurship Books - feature image

Best Management and Entrepreneur Books (Updated 2021)

by Sven WoltmannMarch 25, 2021

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Sven Woltmann
About the author
I'm a freelance software developer with more than two decades of experience in scalable Java enterprise applications. My focus is on optimizing complex algorithms and on advanced topics such as concurrency, the Java memory model, and garbage collection. Here on, I want to help you become a better Java programmer. Read more about me here.

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