Six Business Books for Every Entrepreneur

Six Business Books for Every Entrepreneur

One of the best things you can do as an entrepreneur is read. Stories of the business tycoons who made their way to the top, tales of businesses who succeeded against the odds contain invaluable lessons that will sculpt you as an entrepreneur and give you new perspectives that you can apply to your own business. Without further ado then - here are the top six business books that I've ever read. I guarantee they'll make you a better entrepreneur.

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Shoe Dog

Author: Phil Knight
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Highlights: From his humble beginnings selling imported Japanese shoes out of the boot of his car, to the first office with smashed windows, Phil Knight reinvests every dollar that isn't nailed down on buying and selling more shoes. It's a tale of raw, lean and agile business spirit and sheer willingness to succeed at all costs.

Phil Knight Author of Shoe Dog

I remember that when I first picked up Shoe Dog on holiday a few years ago, I got through it cover-to-cover in one sitting. It's the story of Nike founder Phil Knight in his own words, and it gives a captivating and humble overview of the story from day one.

The book more-or-less starts with Knight as a teenager, posing as a businessman to wrestle his way into the office of a Japanese shoe company on his gap-year. After a spell in the business of importing Japanese sports shoes, he entered the manufacturing game - and Nike was born.

After a brand name chosen on a whim, an eccentric track-coach turned business partner, a $35 logo and countless run-ins with the banks, Nike is on it's way to becoming the world's biggest sports brand.

The book stops before we get into the era of "Air Jordans" - which is a shame, because the next chapter of Nike's history is equally fascinating. But Knight's story is a gripping read; candid, ballsy and full of real risk and entrepreneurial spirit.

McDonalds: Behind the Arches

Author: John F Love
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Highlights: As a millennial, I've always considered McDonalds a behemoth of a corporate company. It's a pleasure to read about the days of McDonalds the scrappy start-up - who made changing the rules of the game in franchising, accounting, marketing, distributing, food hygiene and more. Everything is aggressively optimised - down to the number of pickles in your cheeseburger.

Early McDonalds Store Behind the Arches

Don't be put off by the fact that this book was published in 1986. For business and startup enthusiasts, it's a real thriller. A comprehensive and revealing look at McDonalds from the early days of the fast food industry, it's the perfect book for anyone who watched Michael Keaton's The Founder and was left wanting more.

McDonalds was far from the only fast food restaurant during the 60's (when Ray Kroc was aggressively squeezing the McDonald brothers out of their business) but it is the only one to rise to such meteoric heights.

This book explores exactly how - and the answer is a fascinating blend of unusual, driven characters, brilliant ideas and perhaps most importantly, incredible ambition. The balanced narrative never shies away from addressing the challenges and disputes that McDonalds faced either - be it labour disputes, health concerns or environmental impact.

My cover arrived second hand, with bent pages and no dust jacket. I wasn't expecting a thrilling read, but it's a rollercoaster, choc-a-bloc with detail. I lent it to my co-founder here at Suave & Debonair, and I still don't think I've gotten it back.

Steve Jobs

Author: Walter Isaacson
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Highlights: Hit takes a certain type of person to redefine the way we interact with technology so many times: the iPod scroll wheel, the computer mouse, the iPhone touchscreen. Jobs' eccentricities, his pursuit of success and ultimately his passion and vision make this an unmissable read.

Steve Jobs Biography

Every business and tech enthusiast should read this book. Isaacson is an incredible biographer, with a talent for immersing himself into the lives of his subjects - and this is one of his finest works.

We trace Jobs' story from his unconventional upbringing in Silicon Valley, trying to shift some of the first ever personal computers from his parents garage with Steve Wozniak. Through his experiences at colleges and psychedelic communes alike, you begin to understand how he became the man we picture today.

Like all good stories, there are peaks and troughs. For every ground-breaking success like the MacIntosh and the iPod, another disaster is around the corner; such as Jobs' controversial ousting from Apple in the mid 80's.

Pleasingly, it's not all just about Steve Jobs' legendary perfectionism, complex personality and visionary genius. We see behind the curtain, exploring the relationships of his personal life and some of his lesser known ventures into NeXT and Pixar.


Author: Howard Schultz
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Highlights: Schultz's well-written memoir of his return to Starbucks is an absolute masterclass in leadership. At times, he makes it sound easy - refocusing on core values, streamlining operations and closing underperforming stores. In reality, Schultz is a genuine guy made of tough stuff, and despite modest prose his grit and business prowess shine through.

Starbucks Store

The full title of this book is "Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul." True to it's word, Starbucks does both in this superb account by former CEO Howard Schultz.

It's hard to believe, but there was a time when coffee in the States was just black or white. Aged only 30, it was Howard Schultz, the director of retail and marketing at Starbucks, who persuaded the owners of Starbucks to take a punt on introducing espresso to his fellow Americans.

With a grounding in the early days of the Starbucks story, Onwards actually focuses on Schultz's return to the company in the financial crash of 2008. Facing declining sales, store closures and a suffering brand reputation, it's up to him to turn the plane around.

Through pivotal moments, shrewd judgement calls and leadership skills, Howard Schultz does just that - and it's thanks to him that Starbucks remains a force to reckoned with.

Losing My Virginity

Author: Richard Branson
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Highlights: Everyone knows Branson - but at times, the details of his tale are so unconventional that they are ridiculous. Hauled into jail in his twenties for a wacky attempt at defrauding customs (Virgin Records), chartering his own plane after a cancelled flight (the birth of Virgin Airways), circumnavigating the world in a hot air balloon… He may not look it now but Branson is a true maverick.

Richard Branson Virgin

Most people have heard of Virgin in some capacity - whether it's airlines, music, broadband, banking, radio, space travel. Branson even had a punt at Coca Cola with Virgin Cola, for goodness sake.

In his remarkable autobiography, we learn about the kind of guy you have to be to build a seemingly infinite number of businesses under one roof. Of course he's savvy and innovative, but Branson is also a colorful risktaker with a zest for life.

Losing My Virginity is funny, charming, inspiring and practical in almost equal measure. His rebellious streak is no less evident during his upbringing as it is as a billionaire. There are highs and lows; bold new companies and amazing adventures followed by financial setbacks and regulatory challenges. Which you may have guessed make for a great page-turner of a book.

Elon Musk

Author: Walter Isaacson
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Highlights: Musk operates on the edge. How does a man with eleven kids run multiple mega-corporations trailblaze the electric car industry, co-found OpenAI (the company who brought us ChatGPT), build rockets to get to Mars and more? The answer is that him and his companies constantly operate as if they're in survive-or-die mode, defying the odds at every turn. And it's fascinating.

Elon Musk Tesla

I remember finding out before it's release that Walter Isaacson was doing a biography of Elon Musk - and having read his work on Steve Jobs, I was already hooked.

Love him or hate him, Musk is a modern day Hercules of business. With Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX, Solar City, The Boring Company, X (formerly Twitter) all under his belt, it's no wonder that he's in and out of the top two world's richest men.

We know that, though. What you may not know is that in business, Musk has defied the odds again and again. He's stared death in the face, pushed all his chips to the table - multiple times. If you're under the impression that he's ever had it easy, you're wrong.

He's madly ambitious, incredibly interesting and (I think, having read this) genuinely trying to change the world for the better. Put it on your list!

Closing Thoughts: Business Books for Entrepreneurs

I've purposely chosen books here that don't contain a list of lessons. They aren't self help books for entrepreneurs, about productivity or focus.

Instead, the lessons are between the lines. Howard Schultz sitting down on his return to Starbucks to write a list of goals may seem devastatingly simple - anyone can do it for their own business. But it's incredibly effective. Steve Jobs disregarding focus groups because he knew what consumers wanted won't work for everyone - but it might give you the inspiration to push your ideas through, even though the world isn't ready for them yet.

I also found all of these books intensely readable, which can't be said for all business books; they are thrilling and gripping as well as practical.

I hope you enjoy them. I believe they've made me a better entrepreneur and I'm sure they can for you as well!

Note: Suave & Debonair is a business at the beginning of it's journey. If you do choose to buy any of these books via the affiliate links above, it will make a big difference to us. Thank you!

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