The best business books: Eighteen entrepreneurs share their source of inspiration

Barbara Hyman

PredictiveHire chief executive officer Barbara Hyman.

A quick search for business books on Google, or on the shelves of your local book store, will likely leave you overwhelmed for options.

The fact is, there are thousands of business-related books out there claiming to have the answers to an entrepreneur’s burning questions.

So how do you choose? How do you know what is worth reading, and what will really make you a better leader and manager?

On that front, we’ve got you covered. We asked 18 entrepreneurs to pick one book that has changed the way they do business.

Barbara Hyman, CEO of PredictiveHire

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

The title really says it all.

David Fairfull, co-founder of Metigy

Maverick by Ricardo Semler

I love it. It’s the story of a 19-year-old man who inherits his father’s manufacturing business which is about to go bankrupt as he heads into a recession.

He overcomes militant employee relations and ensures his team become an unstoppable force which propels the business to greatness.

If you’re facing unbelievable challenges in the business world, read this book and it’ll change your view on what you can overcome. 

Sam Arcadipane, founder of Fusspot Collagen Beauty Tea

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

I think this book forced me to consider testing the market first, and really considering the end-user, not my own viewpoint, which has been highly vital in developing my brand. 

Sarah Cichy, founder of Piccolo PR

Reboot by Jodie Fox

Jodie Fox was one of my first clients. She was amazing, inspiring, calm and compassionate. Intimidating, really.

One thing she said to me before launching my business was “do everything before you’re ready”. And so, I backed myself and did it.

When her multimillion-dollar global collapsed, I was shocked. Are you kidding me?  

Reboot tells the raw truth about her rise to success and her demise. She makes failure feel like it’s a success, in its own right. I like that.  

Katriina Tahka, CEO of A-HA

Legacy by Jim Kerr

In 2007, the All Blacks hit an all-time low in their quarter-final loss during the Rugby World Cup.

How did they come back from that place to become what some would say is the world’s best rugby team?

Legacy analyses how the leaders and the team built the now-famous team culture that keeps them performing individually and collectively at their very best. 

The book is a great read as it focuses on 15 clear simple mantras that any other person or leader can be inspired by to create momentum and a vision for change. Two of my favourite mantras are “write your legacy” and “be a good ancestor”.

The team talks about ‘planting trees you will never see grow’. Imagine if we all thought with that lens about the impact of our decision-making and behaviour on the future, and what a different world we might live in.

I’m not a rugby fan and I loved this book. The mantras can apply at home or at work and inspire you to think about the legacy you want to leave and principles to live or work by.

Luke Mcleod, founder of SoulAlive

4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

This book changed my approach to working and running a business completely. I first thought it was all about building a big business. When in fact, having a business that gives you more freedom, cashflow and time is the answer.

Yvonne Kelly, founder of Glow Up Careers

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

It’s the story of how Nike started.

It shows that from one idea and determination, an amazing brand can grow.

Brodie Haupt, co-founder of WLTH

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

I learned so much from this book about the state of flow. It explained to me the power of the flow state and how to control it so that I get the most out of myself to be able to work towards achieving my goals.

There are so many great takeaways from this book and I highly recommend it.

Justine Alter, co-founder of Transitioning Well

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

The concept of courageous leadership is an absolute cornerstone of how we run our own business.

I’d rather sit with discomfort over resentment, and Brene’s work continues to guide us while reflecting our values of authenticity and courage. 

Anthony Zaccaria, co-founder of Linktree

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E Gerber

This book might be considered a little old school, but it was one of the books that I read early on, that helped shape my thinking in terms of working ‘on’ the business, rather than ‘in’ the business. 

Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but I often come back to the learnings as a way of reminding myself how to focus my attention on the right things.

Laura Keily, founder of Immediation

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Building a business is a challenging and at times solitary experience, so hearing how those before you have navigated impossible decisions and the trials and tribulations of startup life can feel comforting.

This book stands out for that reason.

Lisa Cox, director at Muse Management

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

I read this about two decades ago and still come back to the lessons now.

Working in media, marketing and communications, it gave me that extra insight into understanding why consumers think and act the way they just do which has made me a better communicator. 

Bron Williams, a bias specialist 

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

In a year in which business went pear-shaped for many, and others completely rethought their business style, this book resonated with me.

Sinek encourages business leaders to commit to a ‘just cause’. He defines this as “a specific vision of a future state that does not yet exist … so appealing that people are willing to make sacrifices in order to advance toward that vision”.

A just cause, for Sinek, is all part of the infinite game in which winning is not the chief objective, rather the pursuit of a purpose beyond ourselves. This does not mean that profitability is no longer important, but rather that it is not the end game in itself.

I know that unaddressed bias lies beneath all inequity and injustice and, in particular, systemic bias lies at the heart of discrimination and inequality in the workplace. By addressing bias, leaders acknowledge that systems may be disadvantaging some of their workforce and seek to redress this inequality.

As staff see leadership pursuing equity and justice, trust builds. When equity is established and trust strengthened, people at all levels of the workforce are more engaged and productive, which in turn positively impacts the bottom line.

Playing the infinite game is good for business in all ways. 

Carla King-Turner, founder of Mooi

Winging it by Emma Issac

I have always suffered from imposter syndrome and have always felt like my whole career has been a combination of following my passion and winging it.

It is not until you look back that you realise you were making progress and it was the risks you took along the way that made that happen.

David Holmes, CEO at Fergus

Good To Great by Jim Collins

It is fact-based, insightful and has a people-focus. 

Jason Waller, CEO of InteliCare

Scale: The Universal Laws of Life and Death in Organisms, Cities and Companies by Geoffrey West

It’s not even really a business book, it’s a science book.

But it deals with the science behind scaling and the unifying principles between growth and death of organisms and how those exact same rules apply to companies and other ‘human’ creations.

Fascinating and a superb insight into network effects.

Terry Roberts, founder of WhiteHawk

Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki

Kawasaki is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist and he’s a big believer in ignoring fads and nonsense and focusing on common-sense business practices. 

One of the original Apple employees and the person who brought the word ‘evangelist’ into Apple’s marketing, he has some great insight from Silicon Valley.  

Sharon Williams, founder of Taurus Marketing

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E Gerber

This book showed me how to set up systems and templates that ensured, from the outset, I was building an entity that would be better and bigger than me.

I loved its simple analogy: a story of a baker building a business. Plus, it was simple and quick to read.

I used to hand it out to all my interns who were interested in building their own businesses. It’s premise still holds true.

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