A CEO’s 7 Favorite Books on Entrepreneurship & Fulfillment
Growing up, I was never a big reader. I credit my lack of reading as a child to my perfect vision and my athletic prowess. Later in life, my friends joked that I was the first individual to finish law school without ever having completed a full book. This may or not be true.
Through the power of audiobooks, I’ve been able to grow and maintain consistent self-education as an entrepreneur. While diving into fiction is definitely on my to-do list, my Audible account is currently full of non-fiction. Many of my favorite non-fiction books are on entrepreneurship, building relationships, or finding fulfillment.
If you know me, you know these topics are some of my favorite things—excluding white wine. I’ve even written blog posts on these subjects, like The 4 Pillars of Happiness and The Human Element: How Building Strong Relationships Leads to Success. (A blog post on white wine could potentially be next on the list.)
I’ve compiled a list of seven books that have truly inspired me over the years. Read on to find out why I’ve found them so impactful.
1) How to Win Friends and Influence People
My dad gave me this book when I graduated high school. Full disclosure: I didn’t read it until recently. By Dale Carnegie, the book details how to achieve simple ways to establish human connection like giving genuine smiles or showing honest praise and appreciation.
While I’m thankful that my experiences working closely with many people and building strong relationships throughout my career have provided me with exposure to these skills, reading about them in print was incredibly valuable. Not only did Carnegie make me think about human connection in a new light, but it served as positive reinforcement for continuing these habits of authenticity.
At times, I found the book to be a bit outdated. Nevertheless, it’s truly a classic and it’s worth the purchase.
Who should read it: Everyone.
2) Delivering Happiness
This book put Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, on the map. He’s an expert in culture and this work explains the rise of Zappos, Hsieh’s mistakes along the way, and how he grew his company to earn over $1 billion in revenue.
Occasionally, I did think the book was a little dry. Still, it’s definitely a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the importance of culture in an organization and, more specifically, a workplace.
Who should read it: Anyone who is involved in Human Resources, Employee Engagement, building a company, or passionate about culture.
3) Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Toolkit for Entrepreneurs
I found this book by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham extremely helpful and refreshing because it had a new perspective on entrepreneurship. Many books focus on growing a company as fast as possible while making it as valuable as possible—and then they tell you how to exit and become even richer. This book doesn’t do that.
Street Smarts taught me so many lessons on how to build a sustainable brand for the sole purpose of building a great company. This book should not be under the radar for anyone with a passion for growing a sustainable business.
One of the unique perspectives I gained from Brodsky and Burlingham was that some businesses are building a 2-person sales team without commission-based compensation instead of scaling the sales team like Groupon. How dare someone recommend this! Stop the madness!
Who should read it: Individuals running more established organizations.
4) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
I had the pleasure of seeing the author, Patrick Lencioni, speak. I found him to be the most magnetic speakers I’ve ever witnessed. I thoroughly enjoyed his book as well.
His anecdotes are amazing and his pillars to building a successful team are extremely important. Almost all successful leaders will credit their strong team to their successes. (If they don’t they should.) A company’s core is the group of people who come together with a shared vision or purpose.
Who should read it: Everyone. Teamwork is instrumental in everything we do.
5) Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t
By James C. Collins, this book looks at a group of companies that all had average success—and then experienced a period of extreme success. He used many factors to evaluate this transition; it’s completely worth your time to read the book to find out all of them.
There are so many lessons to be learned by these great companies, like Walgreens, Kroger, Kimberly-Clark, and more. All of them were public, established companies. None of them were startups trying to scale quickly. There’s a reason for that.
Who should read it: Corporate history buffs and well-read (or aspiring well-read) entrepreneurs.
6) The Challenger Sale
The Challenger Sale comes from the sales leaders at the Corporate Executive Board. This book is a comprehensive study of thousands of salespeople broken up into different profiles.
In the end, they find the one profile most likely to lead to sales success: the challenger profile. While I did find the book a bit dull, the concepts were incredibly valuable and have been occasionally applied here at Perfect Search.
I also appreciated that by reading the book I was able to identify what kind of salesperson I am—relationship-driven—and the requisite weaknesses that come along with this profile. By discovering this, I was able to learn more about how to improve my own ability to sell.
Who should read it: Anyone who cares about sales.
7) Younger Next Year
This book describes my maturity level. Just kidding—sort of. In all seriousness, Younger Next Year is a guide by Chris Crowley for how to live a healthy, happy life into your 80’s.
Okay, I’m not sure how I found this book because the target audience is people in their 50s and 60s. Still, I found the material extremely useful. I don’t consider myself much of a planner, but this book helped me align my current health and nutritional behavior to what makes sense in the long term.
Added bonus: Reading this book in my 30’s made me feel very good about myself because my lifestyle was already similar to what the book recommends—minus the white wine.
Who should read it: Anyone who wants to live a long and fulfilling life.
Do you have any favorite books (or, ahem, audiobooks) that you recommend? We’d love to add more books to our reading list. Tweet us at @Perfect_Search!
Ajay Pattani is a lifelong resident of Chicagoland and is fiercely passionate about his white wine. If he could be a spokesperson for any product, it would have to be white wine. Ajay says if he could be good at one thing, it would be reading minds. If you could read his now, he’d most likely be thinking about white wine.