10 Inspiring Business Books We Love — Small Business
We're sharing the top 10 business books that have inspired us over the years as we created our brand, Mustard Made. Starting a business is not the easy option. It can feel scary, lonely, frustrating + overwhelming. The good news is that you're never the first to do it! Thankfully there are many trailblazers who have walked the path ahead of you, which is why we gain so much from hearing stories from a few steps ahead (ok, maybe a few miles ahead too!) In these books we've found big shiny bright ideas, comfort + useful guidance, as well as them being epic stories in themselves.
Here's our top 10, we'd love to hear your favourites in the comments!
According to Fiona, #Hustle is out and loving your business is in. Remember why you got this far down the rabbit hole of starting a business in the first place? Well that's where this book begins, by reigniting your passion for why it began, then seamlessly guiding you through building a stable, smart and meaningful brand. It's generously down to earth and personal but jam-packed with genuinely actionable advice - plus downloadable worksheets to really help you get stuck in!
Recommended if: you've fallen out of love with the day to day of your business and need a romantic weekend to spark the passion again!
There's a reason Innocent smoothies taste so good and it's not just the responsibly sourced fruit and veg! This book is the story of how Innocent started off well, innocently, with a stand at a local festival as the trio of founders put their concept to the test. From there, it's grown into the kind of brand that redefines the way we see business. This is a groundbreaking story of three guys putting all their skills together, blending up their shared values and producing a business of substance, humour and compassion, all while courageously taking leaps to scale to epic proportions.
Recommended if: you are dreaming big and your values are at the heart of everything you do.
We all have a lot to thank Marc for. Would we have survived 2020 without Netflix? I'm not sure we would, but I am positive that you should pick up this book and discover how it all began. One of the key takeaways from this story is how much the people and the right culture in the early days form the foundation of what a business grows into. It made me reflect on how important the early foundations are while we're still in our toddler years. Marc tells his story with all the juicy bits left in, the fears and the failures, while honestly narrating his experience of being a pretty normal human at the helm of an extra-ordinarily successful business.
Recommended if: You're always dreaming up new ideas for businesses (or you owe Netflix your sanity!)
by Phil Knight
This is not just a founding story of one of the most iconic brands, it's an epic adventure and a captivating compilation of good advice. I read Shoe Dog in the very early days of Mustard and found the bits about his experience of travelling to and working with his factories in Japan mirrored a lot of our own experience manufacturing in China. I was somewhat reassured to hear that Phil began Nike very much like we started: hopeful but without much of a plan, passionate and full of ideas but without much money! (He had $50 borrowed from his Dad to be precise). There are many hairy moments where everything feels like it could go wrong, where Phil is dangerously out of his depth but his instincts and ability to innovate keep him on his curvy running track, moving him closer to the Nike that we now know.
Recommended if: you have a need for adventure and thrive off starting from scratch to create something from nothing.
If you want to know what it takes to nail it at your career then where better to look than right at the top of the ladder. Yep, look right through that glass ceiling that now has a Sheryl sized hole in it and pick up this book. Lean In is a thoughtful reflection of what it means to be a woman at work in world that wasn't created for you to be there. Mixed in with her own experience are studies and data that give strength to her ideas and made me feel a whole lot better that it isn't just me that finds it a juggle. As a mother of three boys my experience of working and parenting has evolved and shape shifted so much over the years, and each stage has come with a new set of guilts and insecurities. While I may not be aiming to be the COO of Facebook, it's nice to know that even Fortune magazine's Most Powerful Woman in Business has a lot of the same internal struggles as I do.
Recommended if: you're trying to work out how much of it 'all' you can have!
Winging It could be my personal life motto, and after reading Emma's story I can see why it became the title of her book. The owner of 'Business Chicks' is the kind of person who thrives off not quite knowing what's around the corner, and is able to rally the people around her that are willing to follow her whirlwind lead. Business acumen seems to have come naturally to her, but it's her willingness to take bold risks and work her butt off that has seen her create a thriving community of women around the globe - even if she admits she never liked the name Business Chicks! Emma is here to shatter the paralysing picture we all hold in our minds that everyone else has their ducks in a row and that success depends on a strictly formulated and perfectly executed 5 year plan. In Emma's words, "once you realise everyone is winging it, it will set you free."
Recommended if: you get struck down by imposter syndrome.
Profit First flips a fundamental business concept on its head. Conventionally basic business math goes like this: Sales - Expenses = Profit. In other words, profit is what is (hopefully) left after you've paid all your bills and you as the business owner get to keep the scraps. Mike's philosophy changes all that and puts profit - you guessed it -first! This is a guide to rethinking your value in your business, whether you and the life you want to live comes first or last on your priority list.
Recommended if: you feel like your business eats up all your time and leaves you no money at the end of the month!
You don't have to be a soulless, truth-twisting salesman to make it in business, you don't have to make gains at any cost, and you don't have to buy into the beast of consumerism without responsibility. Good is the New Cool breaks down what it means to be a brand with a conscience and why it can be good for business too. Brands are being held to account and asked to stand up and speak out like never before. The book is stuffed with great examples of the many ways people have merged their personal values with their offering, leading to successful businesses that make the world a bit more 'good.'
Recommended if: your values matter as much as your bank balance.
Risk and Resilienceby Lisa Messenger
Lisa is a serial entrepreneur who knows a thing or two about reinventing her brand. Along the way she has chronicled her triumphs and screw-ups in a series of books written in real-time, giving a captivating window into her ever evolving ventures. This isn't a story from the finish line - it's a chapter from deep in the trenches of figuring out what comes next. It's also a reminder (and perhaps a word of warning) that just because a brand looks like it's killing it on social media, it doesn't mean it's profitable or sustainable behind the scenes.
Recommended if: you're at a crossroads in your biz and wondering how to pivot.
It's a classic 'must-read' business book and for good reason. 'Why' has become a buzz-word and core principle of business strategy and marketing. In a world that is constantly evolving and pulling us in shiny new directions all the time it's crucial to remain centred so we're not so easily swayed off-course. To achieve that you've got to actually know what your centre point is, where your 'north' should be pointing on your business or personal compass... that's your Why. Then, to build an innovative and inspiring business you need others to believe in your Why too and that's what great leadership is about.
Recommended if: you're not quite sure what your business stands for especially if leadership is an important part of your job.