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7 Books for Entrepreneurs: A CEO’s Recommendations


Ajay Pattani is an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member from Chicago and founder (and reigning ping pong champion) of Perfect Search Media, a digital marketing agency. Ajay is devoted to continuously learning about entrepreneurship, so we asked him which books he recommends. Here’s what he had to say.

Growing up, I wasn’t exactly a bookworm. I attribute my lack of reading as a child to having athletic prowess and focusing on other pursuits. In my twenties, friends joked that I was the world’s first individual to finish law school without ever reading an entire book from cover to cover. I will neither confirm nor deny that claim.

The wonder of audiobooks has since opened a new world where I’ve been able to formulate continuous entrepreneurial self-education. My Audible account is full of topics involving entrepreneurship, building relationships or finding fulfillment―some of my favorite things, excluding white wine.

To kick off our unofficial Entrepreneurs’ Book Club, I’ve compiled a list of seven books that truly inspire me and why I find them so impactful:

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

My dad gave me this book for my high school graduation. Full disclosure: I didn’t read it until recently. Carnegie details simple methods for establishing human connections such as smiling genuinely or expressing honest praise and appreciation.

While I’m thankful that my experiences working closely with people and building strong relationships have helped me to develop these skills, reading about them in print was incredibly valuable. Not only does Carnegie present the impact of human connection in a new light, but the book reinforces the importance of authentic behaviors.

It’s a bit outdated in places but is nevertheless a classic worth reading.

Who should read it: Everyone.

2. Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh

This book put Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, on the map. He’s a culture expert who details the rise of Zappos, his mistakes along the way, and how he grew his company to earn over US$1 billion in revenue.

Occasionally a little dry, 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 involved in human resources, employee engagement, building a company, or who is passionate about culture.

3. Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Toolkit for Entrepreneurs, by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham

This book’s modern perspective on entrepreneurship is extremely helpful and refreshing. Many books focus on growing a company and its market value as fast as possibleand then explain exit strategies designed to make you even richer. This book is a departure from that recipe.

Street Smarts teaches lessons on building a sustainable brand for the sole purpose of building a great company. It’s a must-read for anyone with a passion for growing a sustainable business.

One unique perspective I gained from Brodsky and Burlingham is that some businesses are satisfied with a non-commission-based, two-person sales team and aren’t trying to scale for rapid growth. That’s almost unheard of in today’s business climate: How dare they suggest such a thing? Stop the madness!

Who should read it: Leaders of established organizations.

4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni

I had the pleasure of hearing the author speak, and found him to be one of the most magnetic speakers I’ve witnessed. His book doesn’t disappoint.

Filled with thought-provoking anecdotes, his pillars for building a successful team ring true. Almost all successful leaders credit a strong team for their successand if they don’t, they should. At every company’s core is the group of people who come together to achieve a shared vision or purpose.

Who should read it: Everyone, because teamwork is essential.

5. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, by James C. Collins

This book examines a group of companies that all had average successand then experienced a transformative period of extreme success. Collins uses many factors to evaluate their transitions; it’s fascinating to discover all of them.

The book details valuable lessons from great companies including Walgreens, Kroger and Kimberly-Clark. All were public, established companies; none 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, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson

From the sales leaders of the Corporate Executive Board comes this comprehensive study of thousands of salespeople broken down into different profiles.

They identify the one profile most likely to indicate sales success: the challenger profile. Overall, the book is a bit dull, but the concepts are incredibly valuable and easily applicable to every business.

The book helped me to identify my salesperson “type”relationship-drivenand that profile’s inherent weaknesses. This discovery has improved my own ability to sell.

Who should read it: Anyone involved with sales.

7. Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley

Those same law school friends joke that this title describes my maturity level. In all seriousness, Younger Next Year is a guide for how to live a healthy, happy life into your 80s.

While the target audience is people in their 50s and 60s, which isn’t yet my demographic, the material is extremely useful. It helped me align my current health and nutritional choices to what’s most beneficial in the long term.

Bonus: Reading this book in my 30s made me feel very good because my lifestyle already reflects many of its recommendationsminus my penchant for white wine.

Who should read it: Anyone who wants to live a long, fulfilling life.


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