We know you’re fully capable of starting, managing, and growing your own small business—but that doesn’t mean you won’t need a little help from time to time. And knowing where to turn for informational and motivational content is just as important to a small business owner’s success as gathering a trusted team of mentors and guides. This year, consider downloading some of the best business audiobooks for that extra boost of inspiration.
But you’ve likely already read (or, as an audiobook enthusiast, listened to) the classics in the business-lit canon. You certainly don’t need to pursue an MBA to know that Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” for instance, is basically required reading for entrepreneurs. So in this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the best business audiobooks for the truly modern entrepreneur. You may not have heard of some of these recent releases just yet, but we’re sure they’re on their way to becoming modern classics.
Whether you’re looking for practical advice about starting a business, guidance on how to create a vibrant and inclusive company culture, or you just want to renew your motivation, we know you’ll find the solution you need in one of our favorite business audiobooks.
Start the new year off on the right foot with these nine inspiring business audiobooks.
Christine Comaford-Lynch truly embodies the “renegade” spirit inherent to her book’s title: The high school dropout-turned-model-turned-Buddhist-monk-turned-entrepreneur made $10 million by the time she turned 37, retired at 40, and has consulted for over 7,000 Fortune 1,000 companies. In “Rules for Renegades,” Comaford-Lynch shares her remarkable life story while providing practical advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneurs and self-starters—especially those who share her rebellious spirit. Expect actionable material like sample business plans and lessons on small business marketing, right alongside inspirational content like visualization techniques and tips on how to boost your self-confidence.
In this groundbreaking book, Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman draws on a decade of research to share the most common issues early-stage startups face and how other founders can avoid them (or deal with the fallout if these issues do arise). Wasserman delves into big-ticket topics like the ethics of starting a business with friends and family, securing startup capital, sharing equity among cofounders, and other foundational decisions that entrepreneurs across industries may face in the earliest stages of their businesses. Clocking in at 13 hours and 28 minutes, “The Founder’s Dilemmas” is the longest audiobook on this list—but the lessons you learn may spell the difference between making and breaking your startup.
Brené Brown’s entire body of work has basically become required reading for anyone who wants to live courageously and compassionately. But “Dare to Lead,” her newest book, more particularly targets people in leadership positions—and that can apply as much to a freelancer or contractor as it does the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. As Brown defines it, “a leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas and has the courage to develop that potential.” Brown’s research-driven advice on heart-focused leadership is crucial for creating and nurturing your relationships with your employees, your customers or clients, your support team (like the friends who bring you dinner when you’ve been working for 12 hours straight), and even yourself.
With over 47 million views, Simon Sinek’s “how great leaders inspire action” is the third-most popular TED Talk of all time. His book “Start With Why,” on which that TED Talk was based, investigates what makes some leaders and organizations more influential, groundbreaking, and successful than others. As the title suggests, Sinek believes it’s because these innovators—like Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright brothers, who are among the leaders Sinek studied—remain deeply connected not just to what they do, but why they do it. This audiobook will resonate with business owners who need a hearty dose of motivation, especially those who find themselves stuck, facing major decisions, or who’ve (momentarily) fallen out of love with their work.
Author, blogger, and speaker Chris Guillebeau has never had a traditional job. Instead, he’s learned how to monetize his talents, ideas, and passions sufficiently enough to support his lifestyle, which includes traveling to almost every country across the globe (he’s also happened to make a name for himself as a travel writer). In “The $100 Startup,” Guillebeau shares case studies of 50 solopreneurs like him: those who’ve started ultimately successful businesses (all of the businesses he profiles have earned $50,000 or more) using a tiny investment and tons of innovation. And like Guillebeau, all of the entrepreneurs he profiled achieved the sense of personal fulfillment they couldn’t while holding down “real jobs.” This business audiobook is a must-listen for people who are itching to turn their side hustles into full-time jobs, and who are open to taking a bit of a non-traditional approach to starting a business.
This New York Times bestseller by tech leaders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is a thought-provoking, easily digestible handbook for people who want to quickly turn their side hustles into full-fledged businesses. Aimed at “hardcore entrepreneurs, small business owners, people stuck in day jobs who want to get out, and artists who don’t want to starve anymore,” “Rework” takes a firmly non-traditional approach to starting a business: The essays included in this guidebook, for example, have titles like “Meetings are toxic,” “Press releases are spam,” and “Drug dealers get it right.” Intrigued? The audiobook edition of “Rework” is just under three hours long, so you can easily listen to the whole thing on a weekend afternoon or a long drive.
As the misattributed Aristotle quote goes, “We are what we repeatedly do.” So if you want to become a business owner, an excellent manager, a creator of innovative products, or [insert your business-related goal here], you have to practice the habits required to become that ideal or achieve that goal. In “The Power of Habit,” Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Charles Duhigg unpacks the science behind making and changing habits. Armed with that information, you can train your brain to pick up the habits that’ll get you closer to your goals, and drop the ones that limit you (and your business) from reaching your fullest potential.
If you plan on hiring employees, then creating a positive and productive company culture, and learning how to juggle running your business with being an effective manager will likely be some of your biggest challenges. In “Radical Candor,” Kim Scott, the cofounder of management consulting firm Candor, Inc. and a former tech CEO coach, shares her unique approach to boosting leadership skills, nurturing work relationships, and striking the right balance between being tough and compassionate with your employees. As you might imagine, the foundation for that approach is honesty—which, when wielded appropriately, enables you to be “kind and clear at the same time.” In addition to the original 2017 text, this fully revised and updated version of “Radical Candor” includes a bonus chapter about “radically candid” performance reviews.
While starting and running a business certainly requires critical thought, analysis, and substantial number-crunching, at its heart, entrepreneurship is a deeply creative pursuit. So if you’re struggling to get your venture off the ground, your business is facing a problem you can’t see your way out of, or you simply feel uninspired when you go into the office, the fix may be to get back in touch with your creativity—the force that Chase Jarvis believes lies in everyone, whether they identify as “creative” or not. In “Creative Calling,” Jarvis guides you through exercises, tips, and advice on how to unlock your innate creativity, achieve long-held ambitions, and ultimately lead a more fulfilling life. “This book is about living a better life through creativity,” Jarvis says. “By expressing yourself regularly in small ways, you will discover the agency and drive necessary to create the life of your dreams.” Or, we would add, the business of your dreams.
A new year is the perfect time to set goals for yourself. We think resolving to listen to at least one of the best business audiobooks on this list is not only doable (and fun!), but it can truly turn you into a better business owner. So whether you’re actively seeking guidance about a particular problem, or you’re curious about entrepreneurship generally, we believe these business audiobooks can provide you with the information and inspiration you need to start, grow, and run your business successfully.
Sally Lauckner is the editor-in-chief of the Fundera Ledger and the editorial director at Fundera.
Sally has over a decade of experience in print and online journalism. Previously she was the senior editor at SmartAsset—a Y Combinator-backed fintech startup that provides personal finance advice. There she edited articles and data reports on topics including taxes, mortgages, banking, credit cards, investing, insurance, and retirement planning. She has also held various editorial roles at AOL.com, Huffington Post, and Glamour magazine. Her work has also appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and Cosmopolitan magazines.