What is a good, widely used business 101 textbook?


What is a good Business 101 textbook that I, a technical founder, can use to give myself a crash course in business. I'm not looking for "Business for Dummies" or "Start Your Business in 24 Days" sort of thing, but a solid textbook that is used in MBA programs or undergrad business programs.

Books Business

asked Dec 14 '10 at 03:52
Daniel Bingham
148 points
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  • +1 good question; I am curious to see what people will post – Tucson 13 years ago

7 Answers


What aspect of business are you looking for? Marketing? Finance? HR? Business Law? There is no such thing as Business 101. Business has multiple disciplines and a typical MBA is a two year program. This is kind of like asking for a good text to learn Engineering 101. (FYI, I have both an engineering degree and an MBA so I'm not trying to be flip.)

I teach startup marketing at Stanford (Stanford Continuing Studies BUS213 ) and use several of the texts mentioned by John Sjolander (above). Assuming that you are likely most interested in figuring out how to get market traction for your technology/product I highly recommend Steve Blank's Four Steps to the Epiphany as a starting point.

Here is my Top 25 business book list by category.

answered Dec 17 '10 at 10:28
696 points
  • +1 for Steve Blank – Henry The Hengineer 13 years ago
  • In response to the first part, there are business 101 intro to business courses. Similar to Econ 101 Intro to Econ or Intro Physics. These are often -- though not always -- basic surveys of all the different subdisciplines. They often use textbooks that provide short basic chapters on each subdiscipline and what that discipline covers. Such a book would be a great starting point for me, because it would give me a good idea of what sort of things I need to be studying and where to go next. – Daniel Bingham 13 years ago


None of these are class textbooks, but they're extremely good, especially for Internet based startups.

answered Dec 14 '10 at 04:09
John Sjölander
2,082 points
  • I might add, these books are all commonly used in classes, but usually not as the main course book. – John Sj√∂lander 13 years ago
  • Innovator's Dilemma is great. – Alphadogg 13 years ago


I really enjoyed "The Web Startup Success Guide " by Bob Walsh, though it is particular to web-based businesses. Really covers the major areas of a web-based business, and answered many of the questions that are common to such businesses.

(The link is to a review I wrote on my website shortly after reading it.)

answered Dec 14 '10 at 04:47
4,692 points


I recommend Buffettology: The Previously Unexplained Techniques That Have Made Warren Buffett The World's most famous investor.

It's not a book for startup entrepreneurs, rather for investors. The reason I recommend it is that it is the best book I have seen to understand how to quickly analyze a business from a money point a view. It explains in layman terms which information you should look for when analyzing a business and where you can find them: revenues, profits, PE ratio, assets and liabilities, balance sheet, etc. That's for me business 101.

This being said, I have not done any MBA, and I am not sure what they teach there.

answered Dec 14 '10 at 06:01
714 points


Some good books:

Most new entrepreneurs don't know real strategy, and don't know the impact team selection can have on their success. They think resource allocation is "strategy".

Lastly, here's a good one. Not widely used. In fact, the complete opposite: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Practical and simple. Some may find it too simple, but there isn't much in there that is vapid and cannot be put into practice immediately in any small business.

answered Dec 14 '10 at 08:35
1,383 points


I don't have a specific title, but you may want to check the bookstore at a local university or if there are programs you think have merit (Stanford MBA?), you can find their list of courses and required textbooks online.

Some people don't think MBA programs and the theories they use are geared for startups, but it's smart to want to have a solid foundation. Just don't consider it a prerequisite.

answered Dec 14 '10 at 11:34
Jeff O
6,169 points


I would highly recommend "New Venture Creation " by Timmons and Spinelli.
This is a fantastic book that covers all the details about starting businesses and focuses on high growth businesses (although the info is applicable to any sort of business.) It includes case studies and practical exercises to apply the information to your own business and is backed by decades of research.

It is used in MBA courses, but I found it to also be very practical and strategic. I wouldn't be without it on my bookshelf and think it is well worth the money spent.

answered Dec 14 '10 at 12:52
Susan Jones
4,128 points

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