Alfii’s book recommendations: our CEO’s top picks for aspiring founders

Ghina Fahs
January 27, 2023
Alfii’s book recommendations: our CEO’s top picks for aspiring founders
Fun stuff

Hey friends! Since you loved the first edition of our book recommendation series so much, we’re back with another round of alfii’s book recommendations—and this time, we’re hitting you with our CEO’s favorites (reviews included).

If you’re a self-starter or an entrepreneur looking to learn all the ins and outs of what it takes to build and run your own business successfully, these reads are sure to put you in the right mindset and arm you with all the knowledge you need to put your best foot forward. Now let’s get right to it, shall we?

Happy reading and good luck on your journey!

  • For perfecting workplace culture: Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock
  • For the entrepreneurs: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • For a great business boost: Amp It Up! by Frank Slootman
  • For navigating the unknown: From Impossible to Inevitable by Aaron Ross and Jason M. Lemkin
  • For that competitive edge: Competing on the Edge by Kathleen M. Eisenhardt and Shona Brown
  • For a bit of therapy: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
  • For guidance: The Cold Start Problem by Andrew Chen
  • For perfecting workplace culture: Work rules! by Laszlo Bock
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alfii's CEO Yousef Albarqawi shares his book recommendations for founders and entrepreneurs
Yousef Albarqawi, CEO, alfii
“Here are some books that really struck a nerve with me. HIGHLY recommended, especially for aspiring founders!”

- Yousef Albarqawi, CEO, alfii

1. For perfecting workplace culture: Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock

“This is such a great book, full of inspiration and practical advice about how to manage the people in your business… A really refreshing look and loads of new ideas for how to put people at the center of your business and be able to grow as a result. My no. 1 management book and I would highly recommend it.”  

– Amazon reviewer

"Work Rules! offers a bold, inspiring, and actionable vision that will transform the future of work. It should be mandatory reading for everyone who leads, manages, or has a job."

– Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of 5 books and organizational psychologist

Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock is the ultimate guide to crafting an awesome workplace culture. Written by none other than the former SVP of People Operations at Google, it spills all the tea on the strategies and tactics that made Google consistently rated one of the best places to work in the world!

From attracting and retaining top talent, to building a culture that empowers employees and drives business success, this compelling manifesto is packed with insights and practical advice that you can use to make your own office a paradise.

Work Rules! shows how to strike a balance between creativity and structure, leading to success you can measure in quality of life as well as in market share. Read it to successfully build a better company from within rather than from above.

2. For the entrepreneurs: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup is one of the core business books that revolutionized the business startup environment… I found The Lean Startup not only great for advice, techniques and the analogous stories to help reinforce the approach, but it is an inspirational book that dares you to challenge everything and rationalize with customer validation that your vision is viable and scalable.”

– Amazon reviewer

The Lean Startup is the book whose lessons I want every entrepreneur to absorb and apply. I know of no better guide to improve the odds of a startup's success."

— Mitchell Kapor, Founder, Lotus Development Corp.

The Lean Startup written by Eric Ries, is a game changer for entrepreneurs and startups. It's like a secret weapon for building a successful business without wasting time and money. Ries shares his methodology for creating and managing startups in a way that minimizes risk and maximizes success.

He introduces the concept of "validated learning" which is all about testing your assumptions and gathering feedback from customers as quickly as possible. Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, this book offers entrepreneurs—in companies of all sizes—a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late.

This approach helps startups avoid the common pitfall of building products or services that no one wants. The book is packed with practical advice and real-world examples that will help any entrepreneur or startup founder to build a product or service that customers will really love.

3. For a great business-boost: Amp it Up! By Frank Slootman

“As a first time CEO, this book was everything I needed and wanted to learn.”

– Amazon reviewer

"Frank Slootman is one of the best performing CEOs there is. This book is essential reading for every leader who aspires to motivate teams, inspire excellence, and deliver beyond expectations.”

– Bill McDermott, President and CEO, ServiceNow

Amp it Up! written by Frank Slootman, is like a jolt of caffeine for your company. It's a no-nonsense guide for business leaders who want to up their game and take their company to the next level. In this quick and enlightening read, Slootman, a seasoned CEO, shares his insights and experiences on how to drive growth and performance in any organization.

He covers topics such as leadership, strategy, innovation, execution, and much more. Amp it Up! is a must-read for anyone who’s set on boosting their company's performance and exceeding their targets.

4. For navigating the unknown: From Impossible to Inevitable by Aaron Ross and Jason M. Lemkin

“The value within [this book] is phenomenal and I wish it had been released years ago so I didn't have to spend so much of my career learning this first-hand in the trenches. If you know a friend or relative that is working inside a growth-stage startup or considering launching one of their own, do them a kindness and order them this book.”

– Amazon reviewer

"If I'd have had this book at my last company, we would have scaled 4x faster. Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin have brought to the masses what only a few extreme experts have been able to figure out. I get asked all the time from people, 'What should be the next book I read?'…this is it. Don't think twice, just get it, devour it and do it."

– Bubba Page, CEO, QuotaDeck

From Impossible to Inevitable written by Aaron Ross and Jason M. Lemkin, is the ultimate map for business leaders on how to navigate the unknown. It'll guide you on how to scale your business and achieve predictable and sustainable growth.

Ross and Lemkin share their experiences and insights on how to build a sales organization that can generate consistent and predictable revenue. They cover topics such as lead generation, sales forecasting, and customer success, and provide practical advice and tools for implementing these strategies in your own organization.

Whether you're looking to grow your business, scale your sales team, or close more deals, From Impossible to Inevitable will give you all the tools and strategies you need to succeed.

5. For that competitive edge: Competing on the Edge by Kathleen M. Eisenhardt and Shona Brown

“This book should be required reading for anyone who plans to or manages, does business with, invests in, or regulates firms in fast-moving environments.”

– Amazon reviewer

“The book is clearly written, full of insight, and belongs on every manager's bookshelf. Highly recommended.”

– Harry C. Edwards

A must-read for strategy consultants, Competing on the Edge written by Kathleen M. Eisenhardt and Shona Brown, is the game plan you need for winning in the fast-paced, ever-changing world of business. You’ll learn all about how to confidently come face-to-face with uncertainty, make quick decisions, and constantly adapt to stay ahead of the curve.

Packed with actionable insights and real-world examples of companies that have mastered the art of agility and innovation, Competing on the Edge is a timeless guide for anyone who wants to build a competitive advantage and achieve business success in a fast-paced and ever-changing business environment.

6. For a bit of therapy: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

“A good book to read for entrepreneurs and people charting their own courses. I give it my highest recommendation.”

– Amazon reviewer

“This is easily one of the essential books every business leader should read if they’re looking for proven and honest management advice.”

Entrepreneur's 25 Amazing Business Books from 2014

The Hard Thing About Hard Things written by Ben Horowitz, is like therapy in a book for startup CEOs and entrepreneurs, full of insights on how to swim through the rough waters of startup life and navigate the tough decisions that come with running a company.

Written by a seasoned veteran of the tech industry, it's packed with real-world advice and candid stories of Horowitz's own experiences; he offers insights on how to build and scale a successful startup while navigating the challenges of being a CEO.

You’ll delve into topics such as leadership, strategy, and decision-making, all while receiving practical advice and tools for making tough decisions, building and leading a great team, and handling the inevitable crises that come with running a business.

7. For guidance: The Cold Start Problem by Andrew Chen

“Trust me, this is a book you are going to want to keep… It is chock-filled with essential observations about how to solve the chicken egg problem, with lots of case studies and lots of details from numerous companies. It's an essential book for anyone who is starting a company.”  

– Amazon reviewer

"A practical handbook for entrepreneurs struggling with how to effectively apply what can be a devilishly tricky concept."

– Business Insider

The Cold Start Problem written by Andrew Chen, is a practical guide on how to build a startup that soars. It'll teach you everything you need to know to overcome the challenges of gaining traction and acquiring customers.

Written by the growth master himself, this book arms you with the tools you need to successfully acquire new users, engage them and retain them, and keep them coming back for more. With The Cold Start Problem, you can expect to cover a wide range of topics, from effective customer acquisition strategies, to user engagement and retention, and how to measure and optimize growth. You’ll definitely want to have this useful gem on your shelf to come back to any time you need a refresher.

There you have it!

These are our CEO’s 7 book recommendations for aspiring founders and business owners. We highly recommend you place your phone and laptop somewhere out of reach before diving in. Enjoy, and we’ll be back with more soon!

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