August 5, 2011 5:20 PM   Subscribe

What would go on your reading list for an aspiring entrepreneur, looking to open his or her small business soon?

I've somewhat plateaued in the industry I work in. I'm very happy doing the work that I do. I consider myself incredibly lucky. However, to really be financially successful in this industry beyond this point in my career, the next step is really to start my own company.

Sights are set on slowly creating this business over the course of next year; time I have, and I want to educated myself as much as possible about actual opening of a business. I'm pretty confident in my abilities to produce the goods and run the business, but opening up seems like an entirely different can of worms.

The reading list I'm looking to create is two pronged:

First- Anecdotal. I'm looking for stories from small business owners, or non-fictional accounts that provide some sort of insight to owning and operating a business. To narrow it down, if they're in the general realm of the food or wine sectors that would be great (Large swaths of Kitchen Confidential fits very well in here, regardless of the fact that my aims are not to open a restaurant).

Second- Small-Business school for dummies. More like small-business school for laymen. I've worked for significant players in my industry, as well as helped open and operate smaller ones. However, having never planned for the opening of a business, nor having been an owner, this is where I need insight.

So, what would ideally go on your reading list?

(Oh! And if you are yourself an entrepreneur, feel free to memail me if you have non-reading-list advice. All will be taken thankfully!)
posted by furnace.heart to Work & Money (8 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

As someone who can technically pay the bills with contracting but still works a 9-to-5, I would suggest asking yourself if you have the same option, something you can do as an intermediate stage where you still have a "real" job before taking the plunge into pure self-employment.

Yeah, I can keep myself from starving with contracting. And when I get contracting jobs, I make damn good money. And the three or four such jobs I get per year, with almost nothing long-term, wouldn't put me much over the poverty line.

One bit of tax advice, though - Don't forget to claim your expenses. I know, it sounds stupidly obvious, but my first year getting anything worth reporting, I just thought "Okay, I didn't have to pay anything out-of-pocket for that job, so no expenses". Mileage, airfare, consumable supplies, taking the client to lunch - Claim them ALL. Read your schedule SE and C(EZ) instructions with a magnifying glass, and claim, claim, CLAIM! And even for out-of-pocket expenses, don't think that just because you charged them to the client, you can't still claim it - It still "cost" you whatever it cost you, making it not income for the purpose of paying taxes.
posted by pla at 6:32 PM on August 5, 2011

Can't recall the exact name, but one of the founders of Dogfish Head Brewery wrote a book about the startup process in the microbrewery pub sector. Gives a pretty good lok at their marketing and regulatory environments; not so much financial.
posted by webhund at 6:56 PM on August 5, 2011

Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point has a number of insights about what makes a business successful.
posted by hypotheticole at 7:33 PM on August 5, 2011

Every small business benefits by having lots of books tailored to them. I can't see yours, so I'm guessing you are becoming a consultant of some kind. Tell me if I'm wrong and I'll look for some books for you.
posted by parmanparman at 9:44 PM on August 5, 2011

I am an entrepreneur. Well, freelancer! My advice:

1. Find a course run by the IRS (I am in the UK so went on an HMRC one - I am sure something must be offered in the US too) on becoming self-employed.
2. Find entrepreneurs' meetup groups to join
3. See if you can get a mentor

This is not mindless self-promotion: I have been running a series of interviews with freelancers on my blog; I set it up to share ideas on what to do and what not to do, and there's a specific question on what they wish they'd known when they set up. Might well be useful so linking here: My Blog
posted by LyzzyBee at 11:51 PM on August 5, 2011

Check out The Personal MBA.

The reading list mentioned on the site includes many of the books mentioned above as well as many more.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 1:53 AM on August 6, 2011

Nthing the Personal MBA. Also Rework.
posted by summerstorm at 8:31 AM on August 6, 2011

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