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Top books for aspiring entrepreneurs

Are you toying with the idea of quitting your job and setting up your own company? Or are you still at university and suspect getting a job won’t make you happy? You may be on to something, especially as not having set up your own business early enough is one of the top 5 career regrets even very successful corporate executives and investment bankers name, according to a study by Daniel Gulati published in the Harvard Business Review. I have read a lot of books on starting up your own business or going freelance over the last year, and here are my top picks that I recommend anyone just getting started with the idea to read – for practical guidance and mistakes to avoid as well as for inspiration, which is the most important part in my opinion. If you are inspired and have the drive, you will figure out how to do it soon enough!!

  1. The $100 Start-Up by Chris Guillebeau

    I recently read the kindle version of this book and really enjoyed it. As the name says, the book shows that nowadays you don’t need to think of a big business idea for which you need to raise VC funding or invest heavily in machinery and production – it gives many ideas of how to set up a business from scratch with minimal capital – so it is a great book for graduates considering becoming entrepreneurs, or employees who want to start something on the side without taking a big initial risk. The book is fully based on case studies of entrepreneurs who have done it with minimal investment.
  2. Self-Made Me: Why Being Self-Employed beats Everyday Employment by Geoff Burch

    This is a hilarious book by British coach Geoff Burch who started out as an outplacement counsellor and has thus numerous stories of horrible business ideas and failed start-ups. He very much focuses on the “how not to do it” side of things. It’s very funny and what I enjoy is his honesty – some other books may boast about spectacular successes, but he shows all the things that go wrong in an effort to prevent people from blowing away capital needlessly. Highly recommended!
  3. Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pam Slim

    Inspired by her successful blog of the same name, life coach Slim shows readers how to navigate the transition from corporate slave to entrepreneur. The book has a good mix of inspiration and practical advice, and what I like most about is the numerous case studies to inspire readers.
  4. The 4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferris

    When I first started toying with the idea of setting up a business, a friend (who has recently quit his job and set up his own company) gave me this book. I must say personally I find Tim Ferris’ style slightly self-congratulatory and boisterous, but you need to see beyond this as he makes some very good points, and you can learn a lot just adopting some of his way of thinking about how to generate money. It is definitely a book you should read. It’s very much in the style of other books in this list that recommend starting with low cost and low investment and focusing on revenue generation, rather than risking a lot of capital and depending on VC funding to get started.
  5. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

    I will forever be grateful to my MBA classmate who recommended me this book. As in the case of the 4-hour work week, you may not agree with every word or believe each of the author’s claims about his success, but you will benefit a lot from taking over his way of thinking about money and wealth. He does not write about starting up a business directly, but mainly tries to teach people to take care of their own business rather than handing over their fate to corporations. He shows how you can be entrepreneurial inside a company just as well. He also dedicates a large effort to personal finance and reaching financial freedom. I have benefitted a lot from this book and recommend it highly!

What are you favourite books on starting up a business?

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