7 Books Every Serious Entrepreneur Needs to Read

One of my first jobs after I got out of the Marine Corps was at a software company during the dot-com bubble. There, I was responsible for selling training software designed to help network engineers, software developers and database administrators pass their certification exams.

This was an especially interesting time to be in the tech world because the internet was just starting to become popular. Most of what we take for granted online today simply did not exist yet, and the internet was rapidly evolving in real-time. There was so much that we had to learn along the way. For me, despite knowing how impactful the internet would soon become, there was a more important topic that I had to learn. A topic that would prove to be one of the most valuable skills I would ever learn — sales.

Sales skills were essential in my job at the software company because it was a commission-only role. In other words, if I didn’t sell, I didn’t get paid, and at that point in my life, I wasn’t very good at selling. This company offered phenomenal sales training, but I wanted to get better faster because that meant more money. Instead of simply relying on company training, I supplemented that with my own training. Back then, we didn’t have the luxury of simply buying a course online or even going to a free website to learn something because there wasn’t much available online. So I stopped at a Barnes & Noble to look for a book to improve my sales skills.

I still have that book today — it was Tom Hopkins’ How to Master the Art of Selling.

Reading this book, and more importantly, consistently applying its principles, helped me to become one of the top-selling reps at that software company within 90 days. That further reinforced my love for reading because it showed me a faster, more efficient path to success. By reading advice from those who had already mastered what I was trying to learn, I could follow a proven framework and avoid the common pitfalls people tend to make.

Be Obsessed or Be Average (Grant Cardone)

Whether you love him or hate him — and there are plenty of people on each side — I think we all can agree that Grant Cardone is absolutely obsessed with success.

It’s true that there is a negative connotation to the word “obsessed.” Particularly when it comes to entrepreneurship because some people think it means working 24/7. But I choose to see the positive side.

Being obsessed doesn’t mean grinding all the time. It simply means that you are so aligned with your goals that a majority of your thoughts and actions are focused on achieving them. With this mindset, you’re not limited to a typical 9-5 window. Instead, ideas find their way into your head at any time, and you consistently work to build skills, relationships and assets to further your pursuit of these goals. In other words, even though you may not be working all the time, everything you do is aligned to your goals.

I believe that kind of obsession is critical to massive success, because without it, it’s easy to be pulled off track by distractions, fear and discomfort.

Pitch Anything (Oren Klaff)

Sales strategy and tactics have changed a lot over the years, but unfortunately, a lot of sales training has not adapted to what works in the real world today.

I stumbled across Oren Klaff’s book, Pitch Anything, after hearing him speak on a podcast about his unique approach to sales. Today, just as when I first started my career, sales, raising capital and negotiating are essential to success as an entrepreneur. We’re all facing a more competitive environment than ever before, so we need every advantage we can find.

Pitch Anything will give you a powerful advantage because rather than outdated techniques that depend on bludgeoning prospects into submission, Klaff’s approach leverages psychological principles to craft a pitch that makes your audience feel like your ideas are their own.

It’s also worth noting that Klaff published another related book, titled Flip the Script, which I also highly recommend.

The War on Small Business (Carol Roth)

As entrepreneurs, we’re so busy with day-to-day operations that we often don’t have time to keep tabs on what our government is doing that could adversely affect our businesses. This is understandable, but it’s also dangerous.

During the pandemic lockdowns, small businesses all over the country were forced to close their doors while giant corporations were allowed to remain open. This move funneled billions of dollars to the giant corporations while starving small businesses that employ nearly half of the U.S. workforce. And while this is one of the more egregious cases of government overreach and crony capitalism, there are countless other examples.

The War on Small Business is an important one for entrepreneurs because it clearly demonstrates, using facts and data, exactly what entrepreneurs are up against. And once you know what’s happened, you can adapt and fight back at the local and federal levels to prevent it in the future.

Read More: 10 New Books for Leading in a Hybrid Work Environment

Can’t Hurt Me (David Goggins)

“Life isn’t fair. It’s not supposed to be. Life is not biased to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white. Gay or lesbian. Rich or poor. Life doesn’t discriminate. Once you accept the fact that life is going to f— you up in one way or another, you can start preparing for it. The right mindset is everything.”

This was written by David Goggins in the introduction for his book, Can’t Hurt Me.

I knew this book was going to be powerful within the first 30 seconds after opening it. About eight years ago, I faced a health crisis that nearly killed me. I spent two years on my deathbed and have been racked with tremendous pain ever since.

As entrepreneurs, we’re going to face intense challenges every single day that most other people never will. And despite what some may believe, things don’t get easier as we become more successful. In fact, they become more difficult. But with the right mindset, we become tougher.

I love Goggins’s book because every story that is shared is about reframing your mind about what is possible. These stories demonstrate that we are all far tougher than we realize. That’s something entrepreneurs need to know as we pursue the next level.

Extreme Ownership (Jocko Willink)

Leadership is viewed differently in the military than it is anywhere else. While victory is generally shared, the blame for failure and mistakes falls squarely on the shoulders of unit leaders.

That is the foundation of the book Extreme Ownership by Navy SEAL Jocko Willink. The idea here is that the leader of an organization is responsible for everything.

An employee didn’t perform a task properly? That’s on you. Maybe you didn’t give them clear instructions or express the importance of the task. Maybe they weren’t capable because you didn’t give them sufficient training. Perhaps you hired the wrong person in the first place. But it’s not about blame — it’s about learning from these situations and adapting your leadership approach to prevent them from happening again in the future.

This is critical for entrepreneurs because if we’re going to scale a business, we need to be able to lead our team and delegate tasks effectively.

Some readers, as well as Willink himself, felt certain aspects from Extreme Ownership were too rigid and not clear enough, so he published a sequel to this book, titled The Dichotomy of Leadership. This book refines and clarifies the principles from his first one in a way that makes the concept even more effective

A CEO Only Does Three Things (Trey Taylor)

I’ve always had a difficult time delegating tasks because I want things done my way, to my standards. But I had to break myself of that mindset in order to scale my company.

Trey Taylor’s book, A CEO Only Does Three Things, has played a key role in that for me. It does a phenomenal job of breaking down exactly what a CEO should be doing — only the high-level tasks related to the culture, people and numbers in your business. By focusing on only these three things, you free up more of your time, which you can then reallocate to the kind of high-level tasks that have the greatest impact on your business. Lower-level team members and contractors handle everything else.

This concept, while simple in theory, is difficult to implement. It’s also a game changer because when you implement this in your business, you can begin making exponential gains.

Atomic Habits (James Clear)

I think we all can agree that it’s difficult to build good habits, but it’s incredibly easy to build bad ones. Who among us hasn’t wasted time doom-scrolling through our favorite social media platform when we should have been doing something more productive?

Self improvement requires us to build the kinds of good habits that will move us toward our goals. This is essential to take our businesses to the next level, but we can’t approach it haphazardly — we need a process. In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear shares his process for doing that.

As entrepreneurs, we often get caught up in the day to day chaos that comes from running a business. This derails our potential. The reality is that we do not rise to the level of our goals — we fall to the level of our systems. That’s where this book comes in; it provides a clearly documented process, much like the processes we create for the workflow in our businesses, which you can use to eliminate bad habits and build good ones.

This book really resonated with me because Clear was faced with a health crisis that completely changed his life, and many of the principles outlined in this book are based on how he rebuilt his life afterwards.