When you’re first starting a business, it seems like there’s a million things you need to do, and no time to do them. However, some of our biggest improvements as a company have come as a direct result of reading excellent books.
You heard me correctly. There wasn’t some magic formula or complex coding application that set us apart from the competition.
Research, experimentation, perseverance, and sheer luck all play a role in finding success. Ultimately, taking the time to read is worth the investment!
In a nutshell, starting a business starts with identifying problems, and then finding profitable ways to solve them.
But the work doesn’t stop when you start a business. Growing your business means learning new skills and trying new things.
Fortunately, there’s some amazing books out there that serve as tools to help you get to the next level.
Below is a list of some of our favorite books that can help you start, grow, and expand your business. The principles in each of these books have helped our team thrive, as well as our clients–and we’re confident they can help you thrive too!
Winnona Partners Book Recommendations
- A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young
- Blitzscaling by Chris Yeh and Reid Hoffman
- Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
- Content Chemistry by Andy Crestodina
- Futureproof by Kevin Roose
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
- How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming
- Outliers by Malcom Gladwell
- The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
- The Ten Day MBA by Steven Silberg
- Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Khaneman
- Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares
A Technique for Producing Ideas
by James Webb Young
Description excerpt (via Amazon): Since its publication in 1965, A Technique for Producing Ideas has helped thousands of advertising copywriters smash through internal barriers to unleash their creativity. Professionals from poets and painters to scientists and engineers have also used the techniques in this concise, powerful book to generate exciting ideas on demand, at any time, on any subject. Now let James Webb Young’s unique insights help you look inside yourself to find that big, elusive idea–and once and for all lift the veil of mystery from the creative process.
by Chris Yeh and Reid Hoffman
Description excerpt (via Amazon): For most of the world, the terms “Silicon Valley” and “startup” are synonymous. Indeed, Silicon Valley is home to a disproportionate number of companies that have grown from garage startups into global giants.
But what is the secret to these startups’ extraordinary success? Contrary to the popular narrative, it’s not their superhuman founders or savvy venture capitalists. Rather, it’s that they have learned how to blitzscale…
Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
by Donald Miller
Description excerpt (via Amazon): If you use the wrong words to talk about your product, nobody will buy it. Marketers and business owners struggle to effectively connect with their customers, costing them and their companies millions in lost revenue. In a world filled with constant, on-demand distractions, it has become near-impossible for business owners to effectively cut through the noise to reach their customers, something Donald Miller knows first-hand.
The StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their companies. Without a clear, distinct message, customers will not understand what you can do for them and are unwilling to engage, causing you to lose potential sales, opportunities for customer engagement, and much more.
by Andy Crestodina
Description excerpt (via Amazon): The result of thousands of conversations about web marketing with hundreds of companies, this handbook is a compilation of the most important and effective lessons and advice about the power of search engine optimization, social media, and email marketing. The first and only comprehensive guide to content marketing, this book explains the social, analytical, and creative aspects of modern marketing that are necessary to succeed on the web…
by Kevin Roose
Description excerpt (via Amazon): How can we be happy, successful humans in a world that is increasingly built by and for machines? In Futureproof: 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation, New York Times technology columnist Kevin Roose lays out a hopeful, pragmatic vision for how humans can survive in the machine age. He shares the secrets of people and organizations that have thrived during periods of technological change, and explains how we can protect our own futures. He shares the secrets of people and organizations that have survived technological change, and explains how we can protect our own futures.
Good to Great
by Jim Collins
Description excerpt (via Amazon): Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning. But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness? That’s the subject and study of Good to Great…
by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
Description excerpt (via Amazon): How did companies like AirBnB and Uber grow from humble beginnings into the powerhouses they are today? Contrary to popular belief, they didn’t explode to massive worldwide popularity simply by building a great product then crossing their fingers and hoping it would catch on. There was a studied, carefully implemented methodology behind these companies’ extraordinary rise. That methodology is called Growth Hacking, and it’s practitioners include not just today’s hottest start-ups, but also companies like IBM, Walmart, and Microsoft as well as the millions of entrepreneurs, marketers, managers and executives who make up the community of Growth Hackers…
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
by Ben Horowitz
Description excerpt (via Amazon): While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.
How To Win Friends & Influence People
by Dale Carnegie
Description excerpt (via Amazon): Dale Carnegie (1888–1955) described himself as a “simple country boy” from Missouri but was also a pioneer of the self-improvement genre. Since the 1936 publication of his first book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he has touched millions of readers and his classic works continue to impact lives to this day. Carnegie’s rock-solid, time-tested advice has carried countless people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. The simple principles and legacy of this book makes it one of the most groundbreaking and timeless bestsellers of all time….
The Lean Startup
by Eric Ries
Description excerpt (via Amazon): The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute. If there’s one book a startup company leader should read, it’s this one!
Out Of The Crisis
by W. Edwards Deming
Description excerpt (via Amazon): In his classic Out of the Crisis, W. Edwards Deming describes the foundations for a completely new and transformational way to lead and manage people, processes, and resources. Translated into twelve languages and continuously in print since its original publication, it has proved highly influential. Research shows that Deming’s approach has high levels of success and sustainability. Readers today will find Deming’s insights relevant, significant, and effective in business thinking and practice.
by Malcom Gladwell
Description excerpt (via Amazon): Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
The Personal MBA
by Josh Kaufman
Description excerpt (via Amazon): Josh Kaufman founded PersonalMBA.com as an alternative to the business school boondoggle. His blog has introduced hundreds of thousands of readers to the best business books and most powerful business concepts of all time. Now, he shares the essentials of entrepreneurship, marketing, sales, negotiation, operations, productivity, systems design, and much more, in one comprehensive volume. The Personal MBA distills the most valuable business lessons into simple, memorable mental models that can be applied to real-world challenges.
The Ten Day MBA
by Steven Silberg
Description excerpt (via Amazon): With more than 400,000 copies sold around the world, this internationally acclaimed guide distills the lessons of the most popular business school courses taught at Harvard, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, Northwestern, and the University of Virginia. Author Steven A. Silbiger delivers research straight from the notes of real MBA students attending these top programs today—giving you the tools you need to get ahead in business and in life.
Thinking Fast and Slow
by Daniel Khaneman
Description excerpt (via Amazon): In his mega bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, world-famous psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think.
Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives―and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Topping bestseller lists for almost ten years, Thinking, Fast and Slow is a contemporary classic, an essential book that has changed the lives of millions of readers.
by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares
Description excerpt (via Amazon): Smart entrepreneurs know that the key to success isn’t the originality of your offering, the brilliance of your team, or how much money you raise. It’s how consistently you can grow and acquire new customers (or, for a free service, users). That’s called traction, and it makes everything else easier—fund-raising, hiring, press, partnerships, acquisitions. Talk is cheap, but traction is hard evidence that you’re on the right path.
Traction will teach you the nineteen channels you can use to build a customer base, and how to pick the right ones for your business. It draws on inter-views with more than forty successful founders, including Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Alexis Ohanian (reddit), Paul English (Kayak), and Dharmesh Shah (HubSpot).