What's a good "how to start your own business" read?
January 20, 2007 9:33 PM   Subscribe

What's the most compelling, narrative-driven (perhaps), "how to start your own business" book you've read?

When you browse the reference aisles in most bookstores, there seems to be an abundance of two types of "how to" books: "how to write/publish your own book", and "how to start your own business." Of all the "how to write your own book" books I've read, Stephen King's "On Writing" was the best. It was astute, succinct, enjoyable, and very compelling. Beyond, perhaps, "The Elements of Style," I can't think of another book that made me want to take up a pen and paper more.

But what about "how to start your own business" books? Have you read one that stood out as being better than the usual trite "Dummy's Guide?" If so, what was it, and what made it so compelling? Bonus points for something as humorous and wry as "On Writing."
posted by c:\awesome to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Guy Kawasaki's The Art of the Start

Succinct and captivating, this is an excellent read-through and reference. Most of its anecdotes come from the venture capitialist perspective, but the lessons apply to any new endeavor.

I wish I had read the book before starting my non-profit organization a few years ago, but I'm glad I came across it sooner rather than later.

Good luck with your business!
posted by asuprenant at 10:21 PM on January 20, 2007

Secrets of a Freelance Writer by Bob Bly. It was just so gosh-darn upbeat and to the point. Shortly after reading it, I submitted my first article for paid publication -- and I was only 20. Over the next few years, I read a lot of books, but I read that book over and over. All these years later, I'm running a consulting business, teaching, developing information products and running a site to help other people start consulting businesses. I wouldn't say that book was the starting point or that it made the rest happen, but it really got me fired up.
posted by acoutu at 10:42 PM on January 20, 2007

I read Good to Great and then watched the public TV show based on the book, which gave me a lot of ideas although I work at a non-profit.
posted by parmanparman at 10:44 PM on January 20, 2007

Don Lancaster's Incredible Secret Money Machine.
posted by kindall at 11:30 PM on January 20, 2007

I just want to chime in that I'm looking for a good book of the same nature - mainly with nuts & bolts aspects like what I can write off on my taxes, how to make sure my ass is never in a sling with the tax people, when to incorporate, basic business accounting....

I know that marketing is a big deal - but I also think that marketers have no soul, and I'm curious to hear more suggestions, too.
posted by rougy at 11:35 PM on January 20, 2007

Anyone Can Do It.
It's the story of a pair of British siblings who quit their jobs and started the country's first high street coffee chain. It's a very candid and inspiring read.
posted by far flung at 12:52 AM on January 21, 2007

Growing A Business by Paul Hawken (of Smith & Hawken).

"Using examples like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream, and University National Bank of Palo Alto, California, Hawken shows that the successful business is an expression of an individual person. The most successful business, your idea for a business, will grow from something that is deep within you, something that can't be stolen by anyone because it is so uniquely yours that anyone else who tried to execute your idea would fail. He dispels the myth of the risk-taking entrepreneur. The purpose of business, he points out, is not to take risks but rather to get something done." [Powell's]

See also Natural Capitalism, a book co-authored by Hawken in which he argues that environmentalists and capitalists should not be adversaries; if capitalists designed their business systems after nature's own systems, there would be less waste and more money.
posted by reeddavid at 3:17 AM on January 21, 2007

Lots of Paul and Sarah Edwards books are great. (Link has some non-related books, but you will see which are pertinent.)

They are mostly known for "working from home" advice, but the working from home books can be applied to any business venture.

Some of the most valuable and practical advice has come from these books.

I particularly like Finding Your Perfect Work, Working From Home, and Getting Business to Come to You.
posted by The Deej at 6:54 AM on January 21, 2007

Growing A Business by Paul Hawken (of Smith & Hawken).

Yes, definitely.
posted by ericb at 7:10 AM on January 21, 2007

I got a lot out of Bootstrap: Lessons Learned Building a Successful Company from Scratch by Ken Hess. It's essentially a narrative about Ken's founding and growing a software company, very well detailed and packed full of useful advice. Not especially humorous, but well worth a read.
posted by milquetoast at 8:23 AM on January 21, 2007

I second Good to Great and The Art of the Start, but also recommend The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship. I recently graduated from a prestigious Entrepreneurship program, and these three books were heavily used.
posted by messylissa at 7:38 AM on January 22, 2007

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