There are many challenges that come up over and over again in business. Predictable issues that emerge at various stages of the journey. So this list focuses on the best business books for understanding and resolving these common challenges.
The resource is for founders, CEOs, investors, or anyone else that plans to have a long career in business. If you’re interested in the best business books for related topics, I have lists that focus on leadership, entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and more.
1. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
This book is geared towards startups, but it’s an essential read for anyone in business. That’s because it defines the fundamental differences between a startup and an established business. And it introduces key ideas that can benefit businesses of any size.
In fact, large organizations often try to have individual teams or divisions operate more like a startup. And this book can help, because it addresses various aspects of how to run a startup more effectively. Including those that are operating under a parent company.
2. Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis & Morgan Brown
Many businesses organize their teams and employees based on what they do. For example, the marketing department works together as a cohesive unit. And the product development department works elsewhere as an entirely separate unit.
Unfortunately, this prevents teams from being able to quickly identify and act on opportunities to improve the business. Everything needs to be passed through multiple departments. And the overall progress of the organization slows to a crawl.
This book explains the importance of building cross-functional growth teams. The goal is to bring together diverse talent to more effectively act on key business opportunities, including: customer acquisition, activation, retention, and monetization.
3. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
It’s common to see established businesses being disrupted by nimble startups. And it’s all too easy to assume the larger firm suffered from bureaucracy, arrogance, poor planning, or short-term investments. But that is an overly simplistic view.
This popular book explains why it’s often the strengths of well-managed, customer-driven businesses that cause them to be overtaken by startups. It’s a must-read for new ventures that are looking to break into existing industries. And for established businesses that are seeking to avoid being disrupted.
4. Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Many businesses focus on communicating ‘what’ they do. Some will go a step further and explain ‘how’ they do what they do. This is often an attempt to differentiate their own approach from that of potential rivals or competitors.
But, as Simon Sinek explains, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” The most successful brands focus on clarifying and communicating their ‘why’ – the deeper purpose behind everything they do as a business. And this book provides practical advice on how to do this more effectively.
5. Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore
Many innovative businesses fail to appeal to mainstream customers. They find initial success with early adopters, but are unable attract the more lucrative mainstream market. And this failure severely limits their potential for long-term growth and profitability.
This book is about how to market disruptive products to mainstream customers. It applies to any product or service that requires users to change their behavior in some way. So if you offer a solution that breaks with the status quo, this is one of the very best business books that you can read.
6. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Reis & Jack Trout
Businesses often struggle to stand out from the crowd. Even if their products and services are unique relative to the competition, consumers may not identify or understand the differences. And this can make it difficult to attract and convert customers.
This book is all about positioning. How to make it easy for people to identify your brand as the leading option in a specific category. That way, whenever potential customers think of the relevant category, they naturally think of the brand.
The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books. If you’re interested in learning more before picking up a copy, check out my book summary of The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing.
7. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne
Many businesses fall into the trap of obsessing about the competition. They focus on appealing to the same customers, with the same core product, and the same general strategy. Unfortunately, this leads to a bloody red ocean of competition that destroys profit margins and limits long-term profitability.
Blue Ocean Strategy offers an alternative approach that makes the competition irrelevant. It provides tools and frameworks for creating uncontested market space. And it can help you provide exceptional value for customers while generating healthy profits.
8. The Language of Trust by Michael Maslansky
Today people are more skeptical than ever before. Many have been burned by institutions, governments, and businesses. And as a result, they are far less trusting than they may have been in the past, and are more likely to question everything.
Therefore, it’s no longer enough for businesses to just do the right thing. That’s because people now assume an ulterior motive. So we must communicate things in the right way if we want to cut through the skepticism and connect with people on a deeper level.
This book is all about how to communicate with people on their own terms. This is essential in the age of social media where false information spreads faster than ever. And after-the-fact corrections do little to change people’s initial impressions.
9. Friction by Roger Dooley
Friction is anything that needlessly complicates things for prospects, customers, or even employees. For example, anything that make it difficult for people to complete a purchase. Or extra steps that a customer must take to use the product afterwards.
This book is about finding ways to eliminate steps, reduce confusion, and address uncertainty. This is important because when something is easy, people do more of it. And when something is difficult, they are more likely to avoid or give up on it.
So if you want to boost sales, increase customer engagement, and drive word-of-mouth referral. Then it’s important to identify and remove friction. Not only does this apply to products and services, but also to internal business processes and procedures.
10. Measure What Matters by John Doerr
As an organization grows it becomes difficult to establish and communicate strategic goals. That’s because increased size leads to increased bureaucracy. And this can bring momentum to a grinding halt as individual teams struggle to identify priorities.
This book introduces ‘Objectives and Key Results’, or OKRs. It’s a proven approach that Google, Intel, and others use to be more effective at managing organizational goals. That’s because it can boost transparency, accountability, and collaboration.