Skip to content

Pardon the dust! We're remodeling the website. Order processing and fulfillment times are not affected :)

Howdy Curiosity
Previous article
Now Reading:
The Best Books for First-Time Entrepreneurs
Next article

The Best Books for First-Time Entrepreneurs

Let's start with a huge understatement: Entrepreneurship is hard.

Your first forays into entrepreneurship are going to be particularly difficult. There's so much ground to cover– from finances to marketing to sales to hiring to labor laws to tax implications– and it will often all fall on your shoulders as the founder. 

Even folks who have excelled in leadership positions in the corporate world will likely struggle when they strike it out on their own for the first time, especially if they choose to do everything on their own at first.

One of the most common (and, we're biased, but... best) ways for new entrepreneurs to fill in knowledge and skill gaps is to turn to books. As a result, a lot of experts and thought leaders have written books on various topics that are pertinent to budding entrepreneurs. If you want to build your own mini-MBA syllabus, you fully can. 

The downside? There's a lot of noise, and it can be hard to figure out where to start. Some books in the space are intended for later-stage entrepreneurs, others are more esoteric than practical. If you dive in without a plan, you risk getting overwhelmed, distracted, or further confused. 

To give you a starting point, we've compiled a selection of some of the best books for first-time entrepreneurs. Here's what we'd recommend.  

Read BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne to Learn About Business Strategy

What we like about it: Blue Ocean Strategy presents entrepreneurs with a call to action to think outside the box and explore entrepreneurship through a lens of competitive differentiation. Readers will consistently be pushed to consider why consumers would choose their product or service over someone else's. For new entrepreneurs, defining your target audience and your unique value propositions can be a slog, especially if you're going into entrepreneurship with the intent of pursuing a passion project that feels more intuitive than strategic to you. As such, this book is a push in the right direction to consider how to make what you do and love to stand out and persist in a competitive and unforgiving economic environment.

What we don't like about it: Like many books in the genre, there are parts of this book where things slow down and seem to get bogged down. Additionally, not all of the concepts and examples translate well across industries and business models, particularly if you're just getting started and haven't gone through this process before. This is not a book explicitly written for beginners, so even though it is incredibly valuable for first-time entrepreneurs, you may find yourself having to slow down and power on at points. 

Honorable mentions & alternative reads: If you've already read Blue Ocean Strategy or want to expand upon the concepts within it, consider the following options. 

  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries to learn about applying principles of scrum and agile to your business development. 
  • Measure What Matters by John Doerr to learn about making data-driven strategic decisions. 


Read THIS IS MARKETING by Seth Godin to Learn About Marketing

What we like about it: Seth Godin's name is a staple in the marketing space, and for good reason. His writing style is readily approachable and he packs a lot of value into his books, covering a lot of territory in relatively few pages. This is one of those books you'll want to read with a pen and Post-It notes in hand so you can mark up the margins and flag the things you want to come back to later. 

What we don't like about it: Godin sometimes presents ideas and strategies as so straightforward and simple that you feel guilty or frustrated when they don't click. Godin's efforts to empower anyone to be excellent at marketing can have the unintended side effect of making tactics and aspects of marketing sound easier than they actually are. Additionally, there are times when Godin's advice and observations stay at the surface level and do go as deep or in-depth as would be ideal.

Honorable mentions & alternative reads: If you've already read This is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See or want to try something different, consider the following– 

  • Guerilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Marking Big Profits for Your Small Business by Jay Conrad Levinson if you want an easy-to-digest read full of ideas about how you could market your business, even if they're not all realistic. 
  • Marketing 4.0: Moving from Traditional to Digital by Philip Cotler if you want a book that specifically hones in on digital marketing and how you can use technology to your advantage to grow your small business.

Read SPIN SELLING by Neil Rackham to Learn About Sales

What we like about it: SPIN Selling: Situation Problem Implication Need-Payoff by Neil Rackham helps cut your teeth on sales concepts by giving you a framework to work within that doesn't feel forced or scammy. The premise is rooted in using real-life situations that are relevant to your target audience to identify the problems or challenges they face, present a solution, and communicate the payoff of that solution. Obviously, the book goes into much greater depth and makes that framework feel tangible and actionable. And that's coming from someone who is, frankly, really bad at sales. 

What we don't like about it: This book feels a bit dated at times, and as a reader I found myself wondering if I could directly lift the lessons and concepts from the book and apply them to my own business without doing some serious modifying and updating of the approach. Additionally, some passages are far longer than they need to be. A couple of the chapters felt like they could have been condensed down to long blog posts instead of fleshed out further into chapters. 

Honorable mentions & alternative reads: For more flavor and variety in the world of selling, we recommend dipping your toes in goodies like the following– 

  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini for a seminal read into the sales and negotiation process. Like a loaf of French bread, it can be a little dry and dense but is still pretty good. 
  • The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness by Jeffrey Gitomer for a snappy read covering sales principles that are largely applicable across various industries. 

Read ACCOUNTING FOR NON-ACCOUNTANTS by Wayne Label to Learn About Small Business Accounting

What we like about it: This is a fairly accessible read. At 224 pages, it's not necessarily a short read, but in my experience, it goes by pretty quickly. It gives non-accountants a solid foundation of what to consider and how to approach accounting for their small business so that they don't make exceedingly expensive blunders early on in their entrepreneurial journey that can trip them up and undermine their success.

What we don't like about it: Perhaps this is more of a personal bias rooted in my relationship with accounting than it is an actual critique of the book, but there were a few points where I found myself asking what the point was or why accountants have to make things so complicated when a simpler spreadsheet would do the trick. 

Honorable mentions & alternative reads: If you're scrambling for more accounting books to read, you're probably a nerd. And that's adorable. But also, we've got a few alternatives we'd encourage checking out.

  • Accounting for the Numberphobic: A Survival Guide for Small Business Owners by Dawn Fotopulos is very similar to Accounting for Non-Accountants and it almost got our top recommendation spot. If you read both, there will be a lot of overlap, but you'll still get much value from each.
  • Bookkeeping All-in-One for Dummies by Lita Epstein is a well-written, comprehensive overview of the core principles of accounting you need to know to be successful as an entrepreneur. Frankly, though, I dislike the "for dummies" branding. 

Read LEGAL GUIDE FOR STARTING & RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS by Fred S. Steingold to Learn About Small Business Legal Obligations

Let's break the pattern real quick to say that you should 100% hire a lawyer for your small business or entrepreneurial endeavors. Neither we nor any of the books we recommend can provide legal advice, and a professional who is familiar with your industry and region is going to be your best resource. That said...

What we like about it: This is a comprehensive overview of common small business legal questions and obligations, specifically covering how to raise start-up money, get licenses and permits, insure your business, hire independent contractors safely, understand small business tax rules, resolve legal disputes, adopt the best customer policies, cope with financial problems, and more. 

What we don't like about it: Law and legal matters are dry. They just are. You have to be very specific and consistent with how you approach legal matters and compliance, which comes with the territory, but this is definitely the type of book that sits on your shelf until you have a question you want to look up as opposed to something you read in bed after a long day. 

Honorable mentions & alternative reads: This is actually an area where I haven't read widely, so I'm not able to offer recommendations for alternatives at this time. 

Read HIRING FOR ATTITUDE by Mark Murphy to Learn About Hiring and Recruiting

What we like about it: In this book, Murphy offers a healthy perspective about hiring that is a good reminder for new entrepreneurs. The first time I made a hire for a contract role in one of my entrepreneurial endeavors, I was so desperate to get someone to start that I leaped at the first person who didn't have glaring red flags. Thankfully, that didn't come back to bite me on the butt, but had I read this book beforehand, I probably would have had a different approach, asked smarter questions, and had a clearer understanding of how the role I wanted to hire for fit into the bigger picture of my business. 

What we don't like about it: While this book has a lot of really good advice within it, the author also takes significant amounts of time to promote his own consulting services. At times, I found this distracting from the more valuable material in the book. There's a fine line between "Here's how I did this and what I learned from my experiences" and "I really want you to know you can hire me and give me your money." 

Honorable mentions & alternative reads: This is another area where I haven't read extensively, but I can recommend The Best Team Wins: Building Your Business Through Predictive Hiring by Adam Robinson as a good alternative for learning in this area. 

Books Mentioned in this Article

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published..

Cart Close

Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping
Select options Close