4 Books for Entrepreneurs Looking to Break the Mold


The opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most new businesses fail within a decade. The actual rate depends on your data source—there are a lot of small companies, which means there are a lot of small business datasets—and your time horizon.

Many more companies continue to falter, neither thriving nor failing. If we’re generous, we might call them “boring.” When we feel powerful, we might call them “zombie companies.”

No entrepreneur wants to run a zombie business. Or a failed company. While doing things differently from your peers is no guarantee against one fate or another, your company is more likely to catch the eye and achieve escape velocity before it runs out of capital, talent, or both.

Read these four new books to gain the confidence and ability to chart your own course as an entrepreneur.

Related: The true failure rate of small businesses

1. Build the Fort: The Startup Community Builder’s Guide by Chris Heivly

Every city wants to be the next breeding ground for unicorn startups. But even at this late stage in the tech revolution, we can count America’s true startup meccas on two hands: Seattle, the Bay Area, Boston, Austin, New York, North Carolina’s Research Triangle, and Perhaps Denver-Boulder, if we’re being generous.

What gives? Time and again, geography is not the problem. It’s entrepreneurs who get in their own way as they try to build the next big thing.

Chris Heivly’s latest book urges entrepreneurs looking to find (or build) a thriving startup community to stop Adult about it. He implores them to literally go back to basics by channeling their inner child and building a “fortress” that will attract talented, ambitious neighbors – and perhaps transform their corner of the world into the next Silicon Valley.

Heivly knows what he’s talking about. In 2009 he founded the Triangle Startup Factory in Raleigh-Durham. The following year, he started a long-running accelerator program, where he met Brad Feld and David Cohen, one half of Techstars’ founding team. Inspired by their work, he spent the next decade developing “numerous founder-focused activities” that he says “helped transform the region into one of the fastest-growing startup communities in the world.” (He’s not wrong: Venture capital has flooded the triangle since 2018, and so has local startups Raised over $3 billion in 2022 alone.)

Building a world-class startup ecosystem is complicated and build the fort Guarantees no rocket growth for your hometown. But it provides an actionable, easy-to-understand and, most importantly, Fun Toolkit for entrepreneurs looking to build vibrant early-stage communities.

Related Topics: 4 books for entrepreneurs who want to challenge the status quo

2. Your Multi-Million Dollar Exit: The Entrepreneur’s Business Success Exit Planner by Wayne Zell

The typical founder hesitates to think about their exit strategy.

writing for Harvard Business ReviewTourag Parang identifies five behavioral causes of “exit avoidance,” including: optimism bias (the belief that they will succeed where most founders fail), present-time bias (prioritizing short-term gains at the expense of longer-term growth), and signaling issues (assuming that investors don’t want to work with entrepreneurs looking to exit), risk-taking mythology (believing risk reduction is a sign of weakness), and acquisition failure mythology (overinterpreting rare but startling stories of post-acquisition implosions).

For some, avoiding flight is downright pathological. The longer it goes on, the greater the threat to the company.

Wayne Zell’s new book tackles exit avoidance head-on. Zell’s blunt, powerful prose makes founders and growth-oriented executives understand the danger of waiting too long to develop an exit plan, then walks them through the pillars of a winning strategy.

Your multi-million dollar exit includes preparing for “unexpected” exits (death and disability), employing a highly skilled team to advance your exit strategy, reducing the tax burden of a sale or transfer, avoiding common pitfalls that erode business value, negotiating like an investment banker and much more . In the end, you will understand the potential value of your business And Have the tools to unlock it.

Related: Do you want your succession planning to succeed? Avoid These 8 Stumbling Blocks.

3. We are all stakeholders: culture, politics and radical boardroom responsibility by Shireen Muhiudeen

The political backlash to environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. grows, but the problems that led to it in the first place are not going away. At least in the environmental area, they are steadily deteriorating, and no amount of political desire can change that.

The political dynamics surrounding ESG are sort of a funny mirror of the dynamics in many boardrooms, both early stage startups wondering if ESG is hurting growth, and established companies used to seeing things at a certain way to do. The “old guard” are eagerly minimizing the risks of carrying on as before. And it retains tremendous power in boardrooms across America.

Shireen Muhiudeen’s latest book offers an optimistic vision and actionable plan for entrepreneurs and business leaders willing to challenge the old guard and build more transparent, sustainable and diverse organizations. The focus is not only on implementing an ESG lens, but also on transforming corporate culture towards radical transparency and globally oriented decision-making. It is essential reading for executives who are tired enough of the status quo to break the mold and reinvent it.

4. Find Your Clear Vision: A new mindset to create a vibrant personal or professional brand with purpose by Lisa Guillot

Changing the dynamics of a petrified boardroom is a difficult task. This also applies to changing the way you think personally and how it affects the world. But at least you don’t have to rely on others to reinvent yourself.

That’s the gist of Lisa Guillot’s new book. she writes Find your clear vision for entrepreneurs and leaders who are more than ready to make fundamental changes in their professional and personal lives, but have no idea how to implement those changes. Or where to start.

Guillot’s Clear Vision Framework advocates a holistic approach to personal reinvention that combines spirituality, creativity, brand strategy and professional development. She explains that we are more than the sum of our professional qualifications and previous roles and that focusing too narrowly on traditional measures of success can actually prevent us from realizing our full potential. Sometimes the easiest way forward isn’t the best – and that’s okay.

Related: How to build a successful personal brand in 5 easy steps

No business leader or entrepreneur begins their journey believing that their business will falter or fail. However, when leaders are willing to adopt practices that help their organization differentiate and break with predictability, they stand a better chance of succeeding. If you’re looking to break out of the more conventional practice patterns of your industry, these new books can serve as a guide.

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