Last-minute Digital Christmas Presents for Entrepreneurs – books I wish Santa gave me instead of socks

There are some presents a busy entrepreneur may appreciate more than another pair of socks or another mug. Whether you’re an entrepreneur yourself and want to give yourself a treat (or write a letter to Santa…) or you’re looking for inspiration for an entrepreneurial friend, these last-minute Digital Christmas presents  bring value and joy to any businessman and woman. And what’s more:  they are very environmentally-friendly, you won’t need to leave the house to buy them, and they are sure to get to the recipient on time no matter where they live.

Must-have business books every entrepreneur wishes Santa brought them instead of socks

I had a rather beautiful year this year (as of end of 2018) – first, I worked on an interesting startup project, getting up at 6 am and reading a book for 2 hours every day, before going for a run, shower and getting ready to start ‘work’ at 9. Then, when we decided to sell rather than pivot a few months later, I started travelling around South-East Asia. And travelling for me = reading tons of ebooks, sometimes finishing two books a day. So in total, I’m closing the year at 12 countries and probably 40-something books, which I read and then sometimes re-read – as some of them were really so good. 

I would even dare to say some of them have changed my life…

…or at least the way I see my life, business and the world after reading them.

In any case, here’s the list of books I’ve read (or re-read) in the last year that I think would bring so much value to any entrepreneur, arranged by category (business model /marketing/management/ mindset) and – within the categories –  in descending order by my purely subjective perception of value:

Mindset books

You can’t change your life and start a business (or grow it) without changing your mindset. That’s why I would recommend gifting one of those books to your wannabe/fresh entrepreneur friends first.

10X Rule – Grant Cardone

This was the first book I read this year and it made me want to spring out of my shoes and get to work. One of the best and most readable mindset books I’ve read recently. Grant’s philosophy is simple: if you want massive results, you need to undertake a massive action. The author describes different states in which people find themselves by the amount of action they undertake – together with the consequenced…but first and formost: he tells you not to give up. It’s not your business, it’s just that you need to put a bit more effort and time to see it succeed.

Biggest takeaway: Everything is much much harder than you think – so if you want to succeed, buckle down and 10X your effort!

Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work – Steven Pressfield

This is another life-changing mindset book – Steve Pressfield shows the readers hot to turn from an amateur and dreamer, to a pro and doer – based on a real-life story. It’s not easy, it takes incredible levels of stamina to achieve – including locking oneself up in a spartan log cabin in the middle of nowhere…but it also shows that anything you’re dreaming of is definitely doable if you’re ready for a mindset shift.

Biggest takeaway: you need to really commit (“turn pro”) to achieve success, whatever you’re doing. Success is not a part-time job. Don’t quit until you succeed.

The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime! – MJ DeMarco

A book that will challenge all the traditional misconceptions around making money and ‘success’ in life – highly critical of a conventional wisdom, living a hand-to-mouth existence, or even conservative investing to ‘retire rich’ – instead, DeMarco proposes an accelerated path to success – the fastlane- and describes the prerequisites to join it.

Biggest takeaway: conventional wisdom about saving your way to wealth is B.S.! It’s not only hardly possible, but also a lot more risky than people think. The Fastlane is the only alternative to have real wealth.

RichDadPoorDad books 

Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki

After about 5 years I decided to revisit this business classic – and was actually pleasantly surprised to discuss a few new angles in it.  Rich Dad Poor Dad remains an fundamental book teaching people the difference between working (=selling their time) for money and making money work for them. It’s the first book I recommend to people who are thinking of starting their own business – a lot of solopreneurs who end up being trapped in their business selling time for money and never really being able to step out of it need to be read it too.

Biggest takeaway: Don’t work for money, make your money work for you.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Mason 

A global best-seller teaching people to lower their expectations of their life and give fewer “f*cks” (aka care less) about things. Much as I can’t agree with everything in this book, the core philosophy about paying attention to only what is really important was the thing that made it really worth reading (twice!) for me. Plus: the book is written in a great style and reads as well as eating ice-cream 😉

Biggest takeaway: you have a limited number of fucks to give in life. Spend them wisely on things that matter.

Books on business models

Once you are mentally prepared for the challenges of running a business, it’s time to decide on how you are going to structure it – what you will sell, how and for how much. Making the right decision about your business model can be a make-or-break for an entrepreneurial career, and I would really highly recommend reading the two books below before you start packaging your services and selling. Really mind-opening.

Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You – John Warillov

This book literally blew my mind. Most people start a business to have freedom and be independent, only to find out after a while this is completely not the case. Sometimes it’s downright the opposite – they are working all the time and feeling incredibly stressed because there is *no* paycheck, you do whatever your clients ask you, so you often feel like they are your boss and they are running your business, you’re having problems with your employees, all the knowledge in the business is tacit and you can certainly *not* leave it without it imploding.  Each month brings anxiety and insecurity: will I find enough clients / have enough orders to keep the lights on/ pay my employees / feed my kids?! Some of you will probably relate. ‘Build to sell’  tells this extremely relateable story of a business owner, who was tired of running his messy advertising agency that was giving his all this anxiety even after 8 years, and wanted to sell it. After consulting his coach he realised that he can’t sell it…because his business is not sellable. It’s messy, not generating consistent income, not having systems and dependent on him. The book walks the reader through the process of turning this business around into a sustainable business – slashing all but one service, building a system around delivering it (to the highest standard) developing a sales process, hiring a sales team, and finally making the business run like a well-oiled machine even without you – and you can finally enjoy your life, while your business is making money for you while you sleep.

Biggest takeaway: less is more to build a business based on systems that can run without you.

The Automatic Customer –  John Warillov 

Another great book by John Warillov, which complements ‘Built to sell’ – this time by showing how to create a business with recurring revenue – e.g. a subscription business, membership site etc.  Everyone know the hardest thing in a business is to find and keep customers – so planned repeat purchases is what helps business owners sleep well at night – basically, when you know that the customer will pay you every month, you don’t need to worry about finding another one to replace them all the time, and the coveted LTV (lifetime value) of that customer goes up. John walks us through different business models and how you can create repeated customers in any type of business.

Biggest takeaway: recurrent income is king. And you can create it in any business.

7 Day Startup – Dan Norris 

I *really* wish I read this book BEFORE I started two out of three of my businesses. Dan’s mantra is “if you can’t start selling [in your first startup] in 7 days, you shouldn’t start at all’. Many beginner entrepreneurs start out with projects that are more than they can chew, without a solid proof of concept [= certainty that anyone wants to actually buy their services or products] and spend lots of time raising funding and/or building a product nobody then wants. Dan addresses the need for a good MVP (and discusses what is NOT an MVP) and testing your idea asap in the only valid way – by asking potential customers for money. Dan has been in the trenches with this – after the ‘traditional way’ of doing startups almost drove him to desperation, he launched his business WP Curve in a few days out of his bedroom, growing it to multiple six figures fast.

Biggest takeaway: if you can’t launch in 7 days, don’t do it.

Strategy and marketing books

Once you have decided on a business model, it’s time to come up with your sales and marketing strategies.

Content Machine – Dan Norris

This time Dan focuses on how he grew his business from 0 to six figures rather than starting it. All this with a marketing budget of…less than $200 in total. “Content Machine” is a must-read for any entrepreneur – showing in a step-by-step and prescriptive way how to leverage the power of content to market your business for free. This includes specific tools, strategies and websites. It also points out the biggest mistakes in content marketing that are killing its effectiveness.

Biggest takeaway: yes, you can grow a 6-figure business with a 0-marketing budget, but you need to be strategic, not ‘blog and pray’.

DIY Marketing Guide – Emilia Korczynska

This is the kind of must-have cookbook for a beginner entrepreneur I wish I had when I started! Similar to ‘Content Machine’, the DIY Marketing Guide is a solid guidebook full of step-by-step strategies how to accomplish different business goals ranging from building a WordPress website that sells, to creating a brand that attracts your dream customers, to growing your Instagram and Twitter following from 0 to 1000 in 30 days.   I know I may be playing my own trumpet here a bit – but I am convinced the book will bring you results if you only follow the instruction it gives. So much so I am offering 100% money back if it doesn’t.

Biggest takeaway: if you are following tested strategies, big results in 30 days are totally possible.

4 Hours Work Week – Tim Ferris 

Tim Ferris will show you that you can have it all – retire within a year, travel the world or engage in any other meaningful activity you wish to pursue – learning a new languages, contesting in martial arts competitions, dancing – while earning a passive income. Doable even if you don’t want to run a business and want to keep your job! What’s more, Tim will show you  how to do it exactly with prescriptive step-by-step instructions – going as far as giving you website of services you can use to outsource your job…a big refresher in outsourcing an passive income creation for me (I was reading it while lying on a beach in Da Nang, Vietnam, in November this time – last time I was listening to it while painting the ceiling in my late grandma’s flat. What a difference a few years’ can make!)

Biggest takeaway: you can retire young if you outsource smart.

Management books

No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits: No Holds Barred, Kick Butt, Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Really Getting Rich – Dan Kennedy

When you already have a team, and happen to be the CEO – this is the HARD truth you need to hear.  Your employees are your assets and you need to know how much Return on Investment each of them is making for you. And you need to demand that.

Biggest takeaway: employees are your asset – make sure they bring you a return on investment.

Re-Work – Jason Fried

On a different note, ReWork presents a much milder view on management – in line with 4-hour work week, suggesting remote work is the new way of growing international companies and attracting top talent, while still keeping the costs low. Also full of no-bs advice on motivation, inspiration and how to manage those to achieve the highest output.

Biggest takeaway: you don’t need to have an office to build a 7-figure business!

Hope this post help you not only make some last-minute gifts to your entrepreneur-friends – but also to make a difference to someone’s (and possibly your own life).

Marry Christmas!

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Emilia is a passionate SaaS marketer specializing in content marketing. She's currently the Head of Marketing at Userpilot, a Product Growth Platform for SaaS.