• Elana Duffy

4 Excellent Books for Entrepreneurs, or Anyone



Switching careers – especially if you start your own business mid-career – will leave you short on so many resources: time, money, backup support, and in some cases even energy and hope.

You will have only one thing in almost infinite surplus: advice.

With the goal of cutting through that clutter instead of adding to it, I’d like to highlight the four books which helped me the most when I left a lucrative consulting job in late 2013 and co-founded Present Tense LLC. The books are all quick and insightful reads and fit very well to the zeitgeist of today’s trend toward purpose-driven, work anywhere, “get shit done” economic life.

  • Creative Confidence (Tom Kelley and David Kelley): The founders of IDEO have redefined and reshaped what “design” means in the 21st century. It is easy to assume that the ability to connect disparate things, draw on sudden inspiration, and come up with Big Ideas is limited to “creative types”. The Kelleys demonstrate that this is more of a process and a habit than an inherent gift. It takes a while to get used to constant iteration and to listen closely to what users need and say. The first time you experience their process in action will make you a believer. Six-word summary: Try. Observe. Learn. Apply. Repeat. Enjoy!

  • Give and Take (Adam Grant): The Wharton professor, who just released his latest book Originals, divides people into three categories: givers, matchers, and takers. Givers, as the name implies, are the ones who take on burdens, volunteer, and define themselves around helping others. His studies reveal that “givers” are both the most successful people and the least successful in life. The difference is finding the optimum amount of time and effort for giving, understanding when to say “no”, and learning how to recognize matchers and takers. Six-word summary: Give generously, but don’t overdo it

  • Freedom, Inc. (Brian Carney and Isaac Getz): If you dislike thick employee manuals and long lists of rules and warnings, or often feel hesitant to speak up or act on your own initiative, you will enjoy this book immensely. The two authors – a former Wall Street Journal editorial board member and a business school professor – show not only what happens when managers and executives trust their employees and grant them wide-ranging freedom, but also explain why it works and how you can emulate it. A revised edition came out late last year Six-word summary: Trust people to think for themselves

  • Rework (Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hanson): The founders of 37Signals (Basecamp) skip the business theory and go straight into what approaches worked for them. In a mere 27,000 easy-to-read words, they tear down almost all of the conventional wisdom of 20th century business organization, then offer viable, constructive alternatives. The longer you have worked at a “normal” job, the harder it may be to let go and embrace their advice. But it is a worthwhile, ongoing process. This book, more than any other on the list, serves as a blueprint for Present Tense LLC. Six-word summary: Antidote for the conventional “wisdom” pandemic.

Switching careers and starting a business wasn’t easy. If you are considering going out on your own or have your own start-up already, these books are definitely worth your while, even if you don’t end up following them chapter and verse.

Frank Luby is co-founder and CEO of Present Tense LLC, a communications company dedicated to helping people express their ideas through better business storytelling. He co-authored the book “10/10: How to write business content that is memorable and effective” and was part of the team which translated and edited “Confessions of The Pricing Man” for author Hermann Simon. You can also follow Frank on Twitter: @FrankLuby

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