10 Best Billionaire Biography Books
“Oh, screw it, let’s do it.”
That’s the philosophy that has allowed Richard Branson, in slightly more than twenty-five years, to spawn so many successful ventures. From the airline business (Virgin Atlantic Airways), to music (Virgin Records and V2), to cola (Virgin Cola), to retail (Virgin Megastores), and nearly a hundred others, ranging from financial services to bridal wear, Branson has a track record second to none.
Losing My Virginity is the unusual, frequently outrageous autobiography of one of the great business geniuses of our time. When Richard Branson started his first business, he and his friends decided that “since we’re complete virgins at business, let’s call it just that: Virgin.” Since then, Branson has written his own “rules” for success, creating a group of companies with a global presence, but no central headquarters, no management hierarchy, and minimal bureaucracy.
Many of Richard Branson’s companies—airlines, retailing, and cola are good examples—were started in the face of entrenched competition. The experts said, “Don’t do it.” But Branson found golden opportunities in markets in which customers have been ripped off or underserved, where confusion reigns, and the competition is complacent.
And in this stressed-out, overworked age, Richard Branson gives us a new model: a dynamic, hardworking, successful entrepreneur who lives life to the fullest. Family, friends, fun, and adventure are equally important as business in Branson’s life. Losing My Virginity is a portrait of a productive, sane, balanced life, filled with rich and colorful stories.
2. Steve Jobs
Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.
At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.
3. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
You want to learn about the path that we took at Zappos to get to over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales in less than ten years.
You want to learn about the path I took that eventually led me to Zappos, and the lessons I learned along the way.
You want to learn from all the mistakes we made at Zappos over the years so that your business can avoid making some of the same ones.
You want to figure out the right balance of profits, passion, and purpose in business and in life.
You want to build a long-term, enduring business and brand.
You want to create a stronger company culture, which will make your employees and coworkers happier and create more employee engagement, leading to higher productivity.
You want to deliver a better customer experience, which will make your customers happier and create more customer loyalty, leading to increased profits.
4. The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg were Harvard undergraduates and best friends–outsiders at a school filled with polished prep-school grads and long-time legacies. They shared both academic brilliance in math and a geeky awkwardness with women.
Eduardo figured their ticket to social acceptance–and sexual success–was getting invited to join one of the university’s Final Clubs, a constellation of elite societies that had groomed generations of the most powerful men in the world and ranked on top of the inflexible hierarchy at Harvard. Mark, with less of an interest in what the campus alpha males thought of him, happened to be a computer genius of the first order.
Which he used to find a more direct route to social stardom: one lonely night, Mark hacked into the university’s computer system, creating a ratable database of all the female students on campus–and subsequently crashing the university’s servers and nearly getting himself kicked out of school. In that moment, in his Harvard dorm room, the framework for Facebook was born.
What followed–a real-life adventure filled with slick venture capitalists, stunning women, and six-foot-five-inch identical-twin Olympic rowers–makes for one of the most entertaining and compelling books of the year. Before long, Eduardo’s and Mark’s different ideas about Facebook created in their relationship faint cracks, which soon spiraled into out-and-out warfare. The collegiate exuberance that marked their collaboration fell prey to the adult world of lawyers and money. The great irony is that while Facebook succeeded by bringing people together, its very success tore two best friends apart.
You want to build something special.
5. The Mary Kay Way: Timeless Principles from America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur
Mary Kay Ash built a global independent sales force that today numbers 1.8 million women, and is respected by business and academic leaders. How? The secret is in this book.
For forty-five years, the principles in The Mary Kay Way have helped the company succeed through changing economic times and explosive global growth. It has been said that no company wholeheartedly embodies the values and reflects the beliefs of its founder more than Mary Kay Inc. Now you can put the same inspiring principles to work for you.
Recognized today as America’s greatest woman entrepreneur, Mary Kay Ash stepped out in 1963 in a man’s world to blaze a new path for women. She grew her business based not on the rules of competition, but on The Golden Rule. By “praising people to success” and “sandwiching every bit of criticism between two heavy layers of praise,” this energetic Texas titan opened new opportunities for women around the world and built a multibillion-dollar corporation.
Mary Kay’s unconventional business philosophy was first published in 1984. Now revised and updated for the first time, with examples from her company’s top independent salespeople, The Mary Kay Way is perhaps her most important legacy.
6. Sam Walton: Made in America : My Story
Meet a genuine American folk hero cut from the homespun cloth of America’s heartland: Sam Walton, who parlayed a single dime store in a hardscrabble cotton town into Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world. The undisputed merchant king of the late twentieth century, Sam never lost the common touch. Here, finally, inimitable words. Genuinely modest, but always sure if his ambitions and achievements. Sam shares his thinking in a candid, straight-from-the-shoulder style.
In a story rich with anecdotes and the “rules of the road” of both Main Street and Wall Street, Sam Walton chronicles the inspiration, heart, and optimism that propelled him to lasso the American Dream.
The national bestseller that tells the fascinating life story and unique business philosophy of billionaire Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. Meet a genuine American folk hero cut from the homespun cloth of America’s heartland, who parlayed a single dime-store in a hardscrabble cotton town into the largest retailer in the world.
7. Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
Since 1987, Starbucks’s star has been on the rise, growing from 11 Seattle, WA-based stores to more than 1,000 worldwide. Its goals grew, too, from the more modest, albeit fundamental one of offering high-quality coffee beans roasted to perfection to, more recently, opening a new store somewhere every day. An exemplary success story, Starbucks is identified with innovative marketing strategies, employee-ownership programs, and a product that’s become a subculture.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a manager, a marketer, or a curious Starbucks loyalist, Pour Your Heart into It will let you in on the revolutionary Starbucks venture. CEO Howard Schultz recounts the company’s rise in 24 chapters, each of which illustrates such core values as “Winning at the expense of employees is not victory at all.”
8. One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com
Amazon’s business model is deceptively simple: Make online shopping so easy and convenient that customers won’t think twice. It can almost be summed up by the button on every page: “Buy now with one click.”
Why has Amazon been so successful? Much of it has to do with Jeff Bezos, the CEO and founder, whose unique combination of character traits and business strategy have driven Amazon to the top of the online retail world.
Richard Brandt charts Bezos’s rise from computer nerd to world- changing entrepreneur. His success can be credited to his forward-looking insights and ruthless business sense. Brandt explains:
– Why Bezos decided to allow negative product reviews, correctly guessing that the earned trust would outweigh possible lost sales.
– Why Amazon zealously guards some patents yet freely shares others.
– Why Bezos called becoming profitable the “dumbest” thing they could do in 1997.
– How Amazon.com became one of the only dotcoms to survive the bust of the early 2000s.
– Where the company is headed next.
9. The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
Here is THE book recounting the life and times of one of the most respected men in the world, Warren Buffett. The legendary Omaha investor has never written a memoir, but now he has allowed one writer, Alice Schroeder, unprecedented access to explore directly with him and with those closest to him his work, opinions, struggles, triumphs, follies, and wisdom. The result is the personally revealing and complete biography of the man known everywhere as “The Oracle of Omaha.”
Although the media track him constantly, Buffett himself has never told his full life story. His reality is private, especially by celebrity standards. Indeed, while the homespun persona that the public sees is true as far as it goes, it goes only so far. Warren Buffett is an array of paradoxes. He set out to prove that nice guys can finish first. Over the years he treated his investors as partners, acted as their steward, and championed honesty as an investor, CEO, board member, essayist, and speaker. At the same time he became the world’s richest man, all from the modest Omaha headquarters of his company Berkshire Hathaway. None of this fits the term “simple.”
10. Oprah: A Biography
For the past twenty-five years, no one has been better at revealing secrets than Oprah Winfrey. On what is arguably the most influential show in television history, she has gotten her guests—often the biggest celebrities in the world—to bare their love lives, explore their painful pasts, admit their transgressions, reveal their pleasures, and explore their demons. In turn, Oprah has repeatedly allowed her audience to share in her own life story, opening up about the sexual abuse in her past and discussing her romantic relationships, her weight problems, her spiritual beliefs, her charitable donations, and her strongly held views on the state of the world.
After a quarter of a century of the Oprah-ization of America, can there be any more secrets left to reveal?
There is a case to be made, and it is certainly made in this book, that Oprah Winfrey is an important, and even great, figure of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. But there is also a case to be made that even greatness needs to be examined and put under a microscope. Fact must be separated from myth, truth from hype. Kitty Kelley has made that separation, showing both sides of Oprah as they have never been shown before. In doing so she has written a psychologically perceptive and meticulously researched book that will surprise and thrill everyone who reads it.