A roundup of the best books on scaling your business

Looking for business growth inspiration? We spoke to Scale Up Director Neil Donald about the best books for scaling your innovation business.

Posted on: 16/05/2022

From 4-hour workweeks to the psychology of sales – what makes a successful business?

If you’re looking for some inspiration, we spoke to experienced Innovate UK EDGE Scale Up Director, Neil Donald, who has a background in brand development and communication, to find out about some of the best books for scaling your innovation business.

Find our full reading list below, selected by our team of Scale Up Directors…

Best business books for…diversity in innovation

Diverse perspectives are important for entrepreneurs looking to scale. Having rounded diversity in the team in terms of ability, disability, age, race, ethnicity, neurodiversity, gender, geography and a whole host of other factors can help to foster innovation.

It’s up to the next generation of business owners to implement and determine this change.

Women and Power, by Mary Beard

Mary Beard’s Women and Power explores the cultural roots of misogyny and power. Including personal anecdotes and historical context, this book provides a roadmap for change that can be applied to a business context. This book asks interesting questions about structures of power and where women currently fit, providing food for thought for ambitious entrepreneurs structuring their businesses.

Must-read business books for….time management

Time is one of the most precious commodities, especially for growing businesses.

The Power of Full Engagement, by Loehr & Schwartz

In The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz place the focus on managing energy rather than time as the key to success in the digital age.

This science-based step by step programme helps readers to balance their energy expenditure and renewal, expand capacity and develop positive energy management processes for long-term change.

This book is perfect if you’re looking for a way to become more engaged, connected and focused in your pursuit of business growth.

Required reading for…the psychology of business

Nudge, by Thaler & Sunstein

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R Sunstein is all about the decisions we make every day and the psychology behind them. Drawing on behavioural science, this book explores how we can make better decisions in life and in business.

From choosing lunch to making a significant investment – this book could help nudge you towards the next stage of business growth.

Ego is the Enemy, by Ryan Holiday

The biggest barrier to success according to Ryan Holiday? The ego. This book aims to remind aspiring leaders and entrepreneurs that humility is a key component of achieving innovation.

This work draws on a wide range of examples from the history books to highlight the successful strategies of those who have managed to conquer their own egos and achieve their goals.

Thinking, Fast & Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast & Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, encourages you to analyse your time and energy and how you interact with products and services.

This important book on behavioural economics explores how the brain works as a product of its environment – examining cognitive bias and intuition and how they influence our decision making. This is particularly important from a business perspective as it describes how people can be influenced by science and psychology to purchase certain products or form particular opinions around an organisation. This psychology of change and engagement is also relevant for entrepreneurs, as building a strong and consistent business culture is crucial for sustained success.

This book offers practical techniques for encouraging slower, more rational thinking to help you make better business decisions that aren’t influenced by subconscious prejudices.

Business books to read for…management and leadership

The New Leaders, by Daniel Goldman

The New Leaders: Transforming The Art Of Leadership Into The Science Of Results explores the role of emotional intelligence in effective leadership. The authors describe a new style of leading that values relationships and set out a roadmap for transforming leadership in individuals, teams and organisations.

A good read for those looking to improve their leadership skills as their business scales.

Start With Why, by Simon Sinek

Why are some people and organisations more successful than others? That’s the question Simon Sinek sets out to answer in his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

Sinek argues that all successful people, from Bill Gates to Martin Luther King Jr, start by understanding and communicating why it is they are doing what they’re doing. Thus, by starting with the why business leaders can inspire others and achieve greatness. Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’ offers a framework upon which organisations and businesses can be built.

Powerful, by Patty McCord

As chief talent officer at Netflix, Patty McCord has experience recruiting, motivating, and creating great teams.

In Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility McCord advocates practising radical honesty in the workplace. Whether that’s motivating through challenges rather than perks or dismissing employees who don’t quite fit – McCord offers tips and advice for creating a culture of high performance and profitability.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni uses storytelling to demonstrate the five common dysfunctions within working teams. Meet CEO Kathryn Petersen and follow her struggle to unite a failing team.

From trust to accountability – this book includes actionable steps to help leaders build cohesive and successful teams.

Best books for business success

Good to Great, by Jim Collins

A wealth of data underpins Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t. With a large research team behind him, Jim Collins set out to find out how companies of all sizes can achieve greatness by comparing carefully selected companies and their long-term performance.

The findings can be used by ambitious entrepreneurs to inform everything from management to strategy.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

In this personal account, Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and respected Silicon Valley entrepreneur analyses his experience of starting and running businesses, including how he overcame obstacles to business growth.

The book is full of insightful anecdotes, from firing a friend to cultivating a CEO mentality, and is a great source of advice from someone who’s been there, done it and got the T-shirt.

The Chimp Paradox, by Steve Peters

The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness sets out a way for readers to manage their thinking and emotion to improve wellbeing.

Each chapter offers exercises to tackle a different element of your mind – from overcoming anxiety to mastering greater focus.

Best books on business growth strategies

The following best books for growing your business focus on strategy and practical frameworks for success…

Traction: Get a Grip on your Business, by Gino Wickman

Traction by Gino Wickman offers a practical method for achieving business growth. The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) is based on real-world implementation and covers six key components for running profitable businesses.

Windows of Opportunity, by David Sainsbury

In Windows of Opportunity: How Nations Create Wealth, Lord David Sainsbury draws on his experience in business and government to argue that economic growth comes as a series of jumps, based on investment in high value-added firms. His new theory of growth and development concludes that governments should take a long-term view rather than support individual companies.

The Power of Ignorance, by Dave Trott

In The Power of Ignorance: How creative solutions emerge when we admit what we don’t know, Trott uses real-life stories to provide lessons on solving problems and creative thinking that can be applied to business and the wider world. The central idea is that admitting when you don’t know something can often lead to discovery and innovation.

What should you look for in a good business book?

When looking for a great book on business growth, Neil recommends thinking twice about ‘celebrity’ endorsements and gimmicks. Whilst books written by well-known authors and celebrities can be helpful, they’re not the be-all and end-all. As well as providing business advice, a book should help you to understand your own vision, strategy and delivery without necessarily giving you all the answers.

According to Neil, a good business book should help you gain an understanding of yourself, the way you work and help you along your innovative thinking process.

How can Innovate UK EDGE help innovation businesses scale?

The Innovate UK EDGE scaleup programme helps ambitious innovation businesses deliver their vision for growth. By helping to address key scaleup challenges and identify pitfalls, experienced Scale Up Directors can help you access markets of the future, make connections and attract growth capital.

Get in touch to see if you’re eligible.


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