If you’re looking for inspiration and actionable insights from the successes and challenges of great entrepreneurs and executives, each book on this list tells an eye-opening story in the words of the person who was its catalyst.
This gives every title, some of which are recently published, some of which are classic, essential value for anyone planning, managing, or growing or a business. Or an empire.
Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport by Yvon Chouinard
You would expect that the charmed life of Yvon Chouinard–climber, environmentalist and founder of Patagonia–to be so distinct from the rest of us that it would naturally offer inspiration and wisdom when in print. Some Stories, which was released earlier this year, certainly offers plenty of that, but the thoughts and the example set by Chouinard may also upset the equilibrium of any reader who has become stuck in their work or in how they spend their days. It’s an essential read and a worthy successor to Chouinard’s previous work, the well-known Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman.
Yes is the Answer! What is the Question? by Cameron Mitchell
Cameron Mitchell Restaurants has been in business for more than 25 years with some 60 restaurants in its portfolio and employs somewhere north of 5,000 people. Yes is the Answer! What is the Question? takes you on a ride with Mitchell from his early days as a runaway and small-time drug dealer to where he and his company are today. Along the way, he spells out his belief in “culture first” and in support for employees as the company’s North Star.
My Father’s Business: The Small-Town Values That Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company, by Cal Turner, Jr. with Rob SimbeckThe Dollar General of today is a publicly-traded company with 15,000 stores across America. Few realize that it’s a multi-generational business whose roots go back to the Depression. That’s when author Cal Turner, Jr.’s grandfather started buying and liquidating bankrupt, small-town general stores one by one. Taking us from there to today, Turner reveals the often-stressful dynamics of family involvement in a business, his own need to evolve his leadership style along the way, and the unique realities involved in becoming a prominent, publicly traded firm.
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Ask any aspiring or established entrepreneur, including Bill Gates, and they’ll have Shoe Dog somewhere on their list of favorite business books. In his memoir, Phil Knight details how he went from selling sneakers out of the trunk of his car to building Nike, which would become one of the most globally recognized brands. The memoir by the creator of Nike not only follows the history of his career and company but offers valuable startup lessons, including the difference between being a manager and being a leader and how company culture can make or break your company.
The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch
Thomas Lynch is principal of a family-owned funeral home in Milford, Michigan. He’s also a National Book Award finalist and a poet of renown. Combining his gorgeous prose style with a unique, emotion-laden subject makes The Undertaking, which also spawned a PBS special, an extraordinary read about a business niche that is rarely discussed in the general business press.