“It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds. In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.”
– William Ellery Channing
As with most things in life, through reading is where people learn. And in business, a person’s ability to continuously learn is something that separates a great entrepreneur from one who is not. For you to survive in the ever-changing world of business, it’s critical that you arm yourself with knowledge.
Business books are relatively cheap and are still an excellent source of information and inspiration. If you want to know how successful people think or if you want to get yourself expose to new trends, business books are the way to go. Even if you’re trying to start a business with no money, the wisdom imparted in some books is invaluable.
That said, here are five of the best business books of all time that are definitely worth your while.
The Intelligent Investor
Written by Benjamin Graham, it’s without a doubt, one of the best business books of all time. It’s a very influential value investing book that it was considered as a ‘stock market bible’ since 1949 when it was originally published. Warren Buffett even described this business book as “by far the best book ever written on investing”.
What made this book a huge success was the fact that Benjamin Graham was able to explain complex concepts using terms that could easily be understood and implemented even by the average investors. By reading this book, you will be able to learn:
- How to manage risks by allocating assets and diversifying
- Valuation analysis and margin of safety to maximise probabilities
- How to prevent consequential errors to a portfolio using a disciplined approach
‘The Intelligent Investor’ is a highly-recommended business book for anyone who wants to learn more about stocks. It doesn’t matter whether you are a young and aspiring investor or someone with a wealth of experience under his belt. This book has withstood the test of time and to this day, is still a must-read for entrepreneurs.
The Innovator’s Dilemma
This business book is the most well-known work of Harvard professor and businessman Clayton Christensen. ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ used both the successes and failures of leading companies, explaining the power of disruption. More importantly, it gives you a set of rules to follow on how to use disruptive innovation to your advantage.
Quick Trivia: One of Apple’s founders, Steve Jobs, had said that this book deeply influenced him. That’s coming from the person who was able to build one of the most valuable companies in the world. Additionally, Steve Jobs didn’t have that many books he referenced throughout his interviews with his biographer which makes this business book even more special.
In summary, the book shares three lessons to its readers. The first is that there are two kinds of technologies: sustaining and disruptive. Secondly, no management can save a company if its resources, processes, and values don’t match that of its market. And third, acquiring and founding subsidiaries are one of the keys to solving an innovator’s dilemma.
The Art of War
“Master Sun” was supposedly a military general, strategist, and philosopher in China from the late 6th century BC. And although some scholars doubt there was indeed a certain Master Sun Tzu that existed, this book was traditionally attributed to him nonetheless.
It was so great a book that it is still being used for military strategy until today. It profoundly influenced not just the Eastern and Western military thinking, but also business tactics, legal strategy, and a lot more. Up to this day, people from different walks of life like entrepreneurs, athletes, political and military leaders, all draw inspiration from ‘The Art of War’.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, ‘The Art of War’ will teach you when and how to fight your battles wisely. You will also gain valuable insights about the importance of knowing your competitor to come up with strategies to outmanoeuvre them. Overall, the teachings of this book apply not only in real wars but also in many other things in life.
Good to Great
The world of business is an ever-changing one and companies who fail to adapt and embrace these changes are doomed to fall. Just take a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer as an example. A lot of these businesses did well back when Amazon and other online retailers weren’t available.
‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins is a management book that was published in 2001. It talks about how good companies became great and how most companies fail by not making the transition. This book is the fruit of analysing 28 companies for more than 30 years and how some of them succeed while the others failed.
According to Jim Collins, what sets apart companies who were able to become great from being good is they were able to come up with their own ‘Hedgehog concept’. This concept took form from the most straightforward defence strategy of the animal — curling up and becoming untouchable regardless of what its predators do.
For a company to arrive with its ‘Hedgehog concept’, it needs to answer these three questions:
- What can you be the best in the world at?
- What are you passionate about?
- And what is the key economic indicator we should concentrate on?
The Lean Startup
Eric Ries, the author of this book, defines a startup as an organisation dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. Unfortunately, many startups fail even though most of those failures can be prevented.
And while startups are seen as ‘risky’, they actually don’t fail because of that. They fail because of the founders. Specifically, it’s because most founders of startups are so hard-pressed on their unique ideas that they want to prove to the whole world that it will work — even if they’re not sure yet that it will.
To prevent mistakes like this from happening, ‘The Lean Startup’ suggests that entrepreneurs use a semi-scientific approach to building a business. This can be done by using validation, finding a profitable business model, and creating a growth engine.
Furthermore, ‘The Lean Startup’ offers entrepreneurs a way to test their visions continuously. It also teaches valuable skills like adapting and adjusting to changes before it’s too late. If you are on your way to building your first startup company, this business book is definitely a good read.
Business Books To Start Reading
These are just five of the best business books of all time, and there are many more out there. Since the beginning of time, reading has been the best way to learn, and rightly so. And that remains true even in today’s modern world.