Books stacked on top of each other.

5 books every start-up founder needs to read

Books have some of the highest ROI you’ll ever find. For the price of a bottle of wine, you can access insights from people who’ve achieved exactly what your setting out to achieve and then laid it out for you as a structured narrative.

However, there’re thousands of business books out there – and it’s often hard to distinguish between a genuinely brilliant book and an average one with great marketing behind it.

To help you along your journey of starting and growing your own business, we’ve picked out five books that every start-up founder should read. Take the time to absorb the lessons in these books to give yourself the best chance of making your new venture a success.

The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss’s New York Times bestseller The 4-Hour Work Week has convinced thousands of people around the world to take the leap into entrepreneurship.

It follows Ferriss’s journey from making $40,000 a year working 80 hours a week on his performance supplement business to earning $40,000 a month working just four hours a week.

Whether you want to follow in Ferriss’s footsteps and launch a lifestyle business that brings in a healthy income through just a handful of hours of work every month or start the next Amazon or Facebook, the lessons in this book will help you get there.

You’ll discover how to come up with a profitable business idea, use the Pareto principle to discover the tasks that will give you the most leverage in your business, and learn how to outsource effectively.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Lean methodology has been a staple of the software development and manufacturing worlds for decades. In The Lean Startup, Eric Ries applies this tried and tested method for producing successful products and software to the world of start-ups.

We’d recommend this as essential reading for anybody launching their own business today, as it will teach you the power of launching your idea quickly and continuously adjusting it to fit the needs of the market.

Follow the advice in this book and you’re sure to adapt your initial idea into a successful business model in less time than it takes most people to get off the starting line with an idea they don’t even know is going to work.

Plus, at DCI we use Lean Startup methodology to help validate your idea at the beginning of the programme, so reading this will help you understand some of the tools and processes we’ll help you with.

The 22 Immutable Rules of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

If you don’t get your marketing right, your business won’t grow. And while the world of marketing can seem hard to get your head around, The 22 Immutable Rules of Marketing boils the art of making your business stand out from the pack into simple rules you can easily follow.

This short and sharply written book gives you a crash course in launching a successful brand and positioning a product. It will teach you why being first in a category you develop is better than being a runner up in an existing space, why it’s so crucial to “own a word” in customers’ minds, and how to win market share as a competitor brand.

If we could only recommend one book on marketing, it would be this one. Read it early in your start-up journey and you’ll avoid a lot of heartache and headaches later down the line.

Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

This book goes hand-in-hand with The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing; Ries and Trout’s book will help you define your go-to-market strategy, and then Traction will help you pick the most effective marketing channels for your business and show you how to succeed with each of them.

Traction is grounded in the philosophy that your start-up’s success depends on one thing – being able to consistently acquire more customers.

Weinberg and Mares walk you through the nineteen channels you can use to build a customer base and a three-step process to figure out which ones will work best for your business.

There’s simply no book out there that does a better job of laying out a step-by-step guide to exactly how to acquire new customers and grow a start-up.

The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

Much like Traction, The Startup Owner’s Manual walks you through the step-by-step process of getting, keeping, and growing customers as a fledging business.

Coming in at over 600 pages, this is an encyclopaedia of insights into growing a start-up from Steve Blank, who has launched eight start-ups (four of which have gone to IPO), and Bob Dorf, one of the leaders of the lean start-up movement.

In these pages you’ll learn how to find a scalable, profitable business model from day one, how to quickly find product/market fit, and how to measure the metrics that matter along the way.

So, there you have it: the five books we think every start-up founder should read. Between them, these will teach you everything you need to know to quickly find a profitable and scalable business idea and acquire your early customers.

For even more insight and guidance into starting and growing your first business, be sure to keep up with our pick of the five best blogs and podcasts for start-up founders.

If you’re after more guidance on starting or growing a business in Durham, apply to be part of the next DCI cohort today. We enable new businesses to test and validate their business ideas at an early stage, assist with marketing strategies to enable growth and provide a broad range of resources and support you in building a profitable business.

The next application deadline is Friday 6th May 2022

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