The entrepreneur’s must-reads: Inspiring books for building successful businesses

Whether you are a freelancer, an independent consultant or work inside a large corporate, we reckon that if you are a regular visitor to Outsized, you’re probably interested in entrepreneurship and building successful businesses. We have surveyed colleagues and our wider network for the best reads that have inspired them and here are some of the mentions!

The hard thing about hard things

This is perhaps the all-time favourite amongst the Outsized launch team. It’s written by Ben Horowitz, co-founder of venture capital fund Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs. What we particularly like about this book is that it doesn’t sugar-coat that building and running businesses is hard. Really hard. If you find a person saying anything else rest assure s/he is lying, or more likely, has never tried. Despite the title, it’s a positive and funny book with lots of tips on how to approach difficult situations. Buy this and if you’re anything like the team over here, it will become a firm favourite that you will read over and over again.

Shine bright

Most of our community members are independents and as are effectively running small businesses – the very essence of being entrepreneurs. But many others are permanent employees, perhaps thinking about career changes and ways to make an impact. We are always trying to be transparent at Outsized that going solo is not the best way for everyone. In ‘Shine bright’, Rashmi Bansal tells inspiring stories about ‘intrapreneurs’, in other words, people who are change-makers within a large corporate setting. The fact that many of these corporate entrepreneurs come from humble backgrounds is even more inspiring.

Alibaba’s world

This book offers a fascinating insight into Alibaba, one of the world’s most groundbreaking ecommerce companies. The book is written by Porter Erisman who was the head of international marketing. He gives a first hand account from his eight years of experience, illustrating how Jack Ma created a company that has influenced an entire global business landscape.

How we made it in Africa

African entrepreneurship is so much more than Tony Elumelu, Strive Masiyiwa and Aliko Dangote. This book tells 25 entrepreneur’s stories in an honest way, taking the reader through the ups and downs of company builders across the continent. There are examples from Nigeria to Kenya, from Egypt to South Africa.  

HBR’s 10 must reads: On managing yourself

The entire Harvard Business Review 10 must reads series is worth exploring but the pick of the bunch is arguably this one, ‘On managing yourself’. This classic contains 10 articles, all from global thought leaders like Peter Drucker, Clayton Christensen, and Daniel Goleman. Some of the articles may reinforce things you already knew, for example, that the hard part is executing day-to-day, every day; whereas other pieces give you true aha moments about communication and managing and prioritising your time. Although predominantly Western focused, we believe this is a book that should be on your list.

Rich dad, poor dad: What the rich teach their kids about money – that the poor and the middle class do not!

So this was arguably the most contentious entry to the list, a ‘love it or hate it’ choice! Chances are that if you haven’t read it already, at least you’ve heard of it. It’s well over 20 years old by now and is never far off the top 10 business and investment books sold even now. The people who love swear by the fact it changes your whole approach to work and life, whereas the critics say it’s superficial and that the advice that is given ranges from bad to dangerous… We say, have a look at the reviews and decide for yourself.