Art of War
For ancient lessons in leadership
It’s almost clichéd to translate the ancient work of Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu into business lessons, and some have made careers drawing on the Art of War’s entrepreneurial teachings.
However, many of Tzu’s maxims are useful from a business perspective, particularly in his accessible definitions of powerful leadership.
“When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.”
Here, Tzu identifies the characteristics of a successful leader – wise, courageous, strict, and who puts the needs of the troops first. A vital lesson for employers leading small teams.
Business as Unusual
The case for moral business
Starting out in a single shop to put over 3,000 stores into 66 different countries, The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick established herself equally as a campaigner for ethical consumerism as her own business success.
Roddick authored several books, but Business As Unusual, referred to on her own website as “part autobiography, part manifesto”, provides biographical balance to her own entrepreneurial lessons.
Like a Virgin: The Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School
For thinking outside the box
Arguably the UK’s most ubiquitous entrepreneur, Richard Branson’s Virgin brand has become one of the most recognisable in the world.
Numerous Branson-authored books tell the story of Virgin from a mail order record retailer to the corporation that exists today, but Like a Virgin sees the entrepreneur leverage his personal experience to give budding founders practical business tips and strategic advice.
Miracles Happen: The Life and Timeless Principles of the Founder of Mary Kay Inc.
Mary Kay Ash
As founder of US cosmetics giant Mary Kay, Mary Kay Ash played a leading role in changing perceptions of women in business.
Ash’s 2003 autobiography covers her approach to brand development – builing her “dream” company upon the principles she held closely. For Ash, her business was less about selling cosmetics as it was attempting to empower women.
The book acts as a point of inspiration for so-called “olderpreneurs”. Contrasting with many of the young prodigies on our list, Ash founded her company after retiring at 45 years old on an investment of just $5,000.
My Life in Advertising & Scientific Advertising
Claude C. Hopkins
For the marketeer
The oldest book on our list. Claude C. Hopkins was one of the world’s earliest advertising pioneers, and this brings together two of his key works.
In both books, Hopkins addresses the core purposes of advertising – something that can only be qualified by the results it produces.
“A vast amount of space is wasted in displaying names and pictures which tell no selling story.”
Hopkins was credited with the laying the template for customer tracking and loyalty schemes, and was a strong supporter of product sampling. A surprising number of his methods remain underused by current advertisers, making his books crucial reading.
If we’ve omitted what you think are the best books for entrepreneurs that inspired your own business journey, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a look at some of the entrepeneurial lessons we’ve taken from these successful business people:
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