Tips for summer reading: My Top 10 business books

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With summer holidays around the corner, I’m looking forward to the usual sunshine and family time, but also to occasional hideaways with a few insightful books. I know I’m not alone so I thought of listing out my own all time favorites on the business books front.

I’ve read quite a few biz books over time, and learned to appreciate not only insightful content but also the entertaining delivery that some of the best books offer. (I mean, business books don’t have to be boring!) The ten books below have come out on top of my ranking so far. The books have been most important sources of insight and inspiration for me when growing B2B software and service businesses in particular. However, most of the books really apply to any industry.

I’ve deliberately taken a 360 view in compiling the list: Sales is a big topic but so are company culture, strategy, operational excellence, and preparing in time for exit, just to name a few viewpoints to running a growth business. Hopefully the list will provide some tips and food for thought for you as well.


1. Jim Collins / Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't

The Classic! In my personal view, the most insightful business book yet written. The key learnings are not limited to any specific types of industries or companies but apply across the board.

2. Geoffrey Moore / Crossing the Chasm, Inside the Tornado, etc.

Originally published in the 1990s, this series of books is still highly relevant for all technology entrepreneurs.

3. Eric Ries / The Lean Startup

The “bible” for all startup entrepreneurs. You should read this just in order to understand the language used by investors and other players in the startup ecosystem.

4. Peter Thiel / Zero to One

Very practical tips in an easily digestible format. Makes you think hard on how you can really grow value.

5. Tony Hsieh / Delivering Happiness

Stresses the importance of company culture, which I have learned along the way to be a much more important thing than I originally thought. I think all startups should start thinking about their culture from day one.

6. Robert B. Miller & Stephen E. Heiman / The New Strategic Selling

There definitely should be at least one book about sales in the TOP 10 list. In my view the book by Miller & Heiman is the best especially when you are dealing with large and complex sales cases. B2B SaaS and service providers that aim to challenge their enterprise clients’ existing business processes will learn a lot from this book.

7. Hans Peter Bech / Building Successful Partner Channels: in the software industry

If your product is suitable for channel sales, this book very nicely captures the best practices on how to build sales channels. Overall, I haven’t found many books covering this highly important topic and was very happy to run into this fairly recently.

8. Something on Growth Hacking

I can’t name a single book yet, however I know there should be one growth hacking book on this list. There are several growth hacking books on my reading list, yet I’ve learned my most valuable growth hacking insights so far through individual case stories. I hope to run into the perfect book one day that I can include in this list…

9. Brian S Cohen & John Kador / What every Angel Investor wants you to know

There are many books that cover the art of raising growth finance. This piece of work applies very well to many startup’s situation as it’s typically the angels that you need to charm first. Also, the best practices presented in this book nicely apply to raising finance from other sources as well.

10. Rupert Cook / Selling Your Technology Company for Maximum Value

What would be a more appropriate closing for the book list than a book about EXIT. I don’t suggest though that you wait until starting your exit process before reading this book. Many of the insights discussed in this book are about starting the exit preparations already years before the actual process is kicked off.


I couldn’t fit my own book in the TOP 10 list, yet I wanted to offer it as a bonus tip. The Handbook of Market Intelligence by Hans Hedin, Irmeli Hirvensalo & Markko Vaarnas gives you practical insights on how to build an understanding of your competitive environment.

Market and competitive intelligence is a relevant topic for all B2B software and service companies but that’s not why I added our book on this list. I did, because it nicely demonstrates how a fairly small company (Global Intelligence Alliance in this case) managed to earn a global thought leader’s position in its highly specific field of business. I am a strong believer in thought leadership marketing as a method of standing out in your market, and I encourage all B2B companies to create their own voice and let it be heard. It’s a lot of work but why settle with being one of the followers? To truly become a disruptive company, you’ll have to be a frontrunner with the way you think.

I hope you got something out of this list and strongly encourage you to share your own business book favorites with us!

Enjoy the summer everyone, with books or without!

Markko Vaarnas

Managing Partner, Takeoff Partners Oy


This post was originally published HERE