6 Must read books for business start-ups

How to find a prince without kissing lots of frogs: six must read books for business start-ups

When you decide to start a business, it’s more than likely that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Mining for those missing nuggets of knowledge can be as challenging as starting a business – if only because there are so many ways to learn; so many places to find them. But it’s vital that you do learn; most business failures happen in the firm’s first 18 months.

So here’s our advice: take a deep breath, and dive into a book. Sure, in this digital age that approach might be seen as unconventional or even old-fashioned, but by picking up a book you avoid the time you’d waste searching the internet. (And what a lot of time that might be. We’ve just done an online search for ‘advice for business startups’, and found 22.5 million results. As they say, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince). Between the covers of a book a great deal of the searching has already been done, and you’re looking at a distillation of someone else’s efforts and experience, probably in more detail than you’d find on the web. You can also write notes to yourself in the margins, and stick post-it notes on useful pages for future reference.

So, which book? There are certainly plenty to choose from, and they fall into two categories – the ‘how to do it’ and the ‘how to do it differently’ kinds. Before you decide to do it differently, and shoot off at some unexpected tangent, we’d suggest you first need to learn what you’re being different from. Once you have the principles straight in your mind, then you can tweak and refine. And no mater how it goes about it, every business has to comply with laws and regulations, and produce accounts at the year end.

With those thoughts in mind, we’d like to suggest six titles you’re probably going to find helpful.

Our six ‘must-read’ choices

6 Must read books for business start-ups-11. Starting a Business for Dummies This starts from the ground up, and assumes you know nothing, which is no bad thing. By doing so it will straighten out any misconceptions you may have and put you on the right track. Consider too its sister volume Starting an Online Business for Dummies, if that’s the direction you intend to take.

2. Business Start Up 2015 (author Sara Williams). This volume is part of the Financial Times Guides series. Author Sara Williams is a former contributor to Which? for whom she wrote for several years, as well as producing tax-saving guides. This work will even help you decide if you’re the kind of person who can run a business.

3. Start your business in 7 days (author James Caan) Billed amongst the top ten best business books by The Independent, this book asks a related question, but this time about your business idea. It will help you to decide if the idea has market potential, and then guide you towards achieving it.

4. Like a Virgin (author Richard Branson) Richard Branson will be old enough to draw a state pension this year, which means he has a lifetime of business experience behind him, with which he has built operations around the globe. This book promises to teach you things that aren’t taught in business schools, about people, big company competitors, attending to details, and the opportunity of risk.

5. Will it fly? (author Thomas K McKinght) Nothing to do with the previous suggestion, but a checklist of points to consider in evaluation your business idea and yourself, enabling you to answer the fundamental question about your chances of success.

6. What no-one ever tells you about starting your own business (author Jan Norman) This collection of profiles of 101 businesspeople offers a strange ‘promise’. Author Jan Norman says that it probably won’t all work for you – but if just one piece of advice in its pages is helpful, then it will take you closer to business success. She also promises eye-opening lessons from successful business owners who have learned the hard way…

There is also a slew of books aimed at specific businesses, like photography, holiday cottage rental, coffee-shop operation, and even private tutelage. All no doubt offer focused pieces of topic-specific knowledge, but the advice in our chosen six applies to and will underwrite them all.

And finally…
If you really do want to start a business, here are two nuggets of advice. Measure everything, even the things you think can’t be measured; the answers are out there and will sustain you as the firm grows. And get a good accountant. They’re a great source of advice far and beyond simple number-crunching.