5 Of The Best Business Biographies You Should Read

Australia has a GDP of 1.376 trillion dollars, and to collect even the tiniest slice requires courage, toil, and a lot of knowledge. Thankfully, many of the world’s most successful business people have published autobiographies packed with their life stories, and how they made it to the top.

Here’s five of the best business biographies you should read, brimming with valuable advice on how to succeed in business.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE

Phil Knight is the co-founder and chairman of Nike, and in this autobiography, he shares the inside story of the company’s early days, and how it evolved from selling shoes out of the back of cars into one of the world’s most iconic brands.

As with most schoolboys, Knight didn’t know what to do with his life. So he travelled, and his globetrotting helped to forge a desire to create a successful, world-conquering sports shoe brand. He’d found his calling, and he pursued it with dogged tenacity.

The story suffers a little from elitism—all of the people in Knight’s life seem rich and powerful. His college education and global travels were paid for by his parents, as was his first few orders of shoes. He had comfortable financial backing, but was undeniably brilliant in his use of the money.

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The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

Warren Buffet is the most successful investor in the history of humankind. Stock market junkies hang on his words, which have the potential to send a company’s stock prices soaring, or plummeting.

His autobiography offers deep insight into Buffet’s life, and how it helped to turn him into an investment god. The book is more about Buffet’s life and influences (as an autobiography should be), rather than about investment strategies. Despite this, it’s a must-read for anyone looking to model him, as it offers the following key lessons and more:

  • Discipline is invaluable
  • You must commit yourself to never stop learning
  • Values, philanthropy, and teaching are essential

At 960 pages, this is by far the biggest business autobiography on our list, but don’t let this frighten you. It’s an utterly absorbing read that shows the man’s character like no other work.

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My Life and Work: Autobiography of Henry Ford

On December 1st, 1913, Henry Ford installed the first moving assembly line for the mass production of cars, reducing the time it took to build an entire car from 12 hours, to just two hours and 30 minutes. As the first person to mass produce vehicles cheaply, Ford might be considered the father of modern cars, and in his autobiography, he covers every juicy detail of his company’s story. This includes how he started out, the strategies he used to become successful, and how he built a tenacious company worth around $200 billion Australian dollars. Many who read the book claim that it could have been written yesterday, packed with evergreen business advice that you can apply at your own company.

Ford is notorious for his anti-semiticism, but that doesn’t take away from his business acumen, or the value of this fascinating little book.

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The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

The Ride of a Lifetime is an autobiography from Walt Disney chairman Robert Iger—the man who steered Disney to success when it was most vulnerable, into the world’s biggest media company. Iger helped to increase Disney’s value by nearly five times, and today, the company owns Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox, giving it huge influence over the content that we consume.

The book’s content is split between Iger’s personal journey to success, and valuable business lessons that he absorbed along the way. His thinking comes down to three ideas:

  1. Create the highest quality content possible
  2. Embrace technology, don’t fight against it
  3. Think bigger

As with the other books in this list, Iger’s is a story of passion, focus, and relentless perseverance. He’s a perceptive decision maker, a compelling public speaker, and his book is a lesson in vulnerability.

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Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was an unquestionable jerk. He ripped off his friend and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, fired people without notice, and abandoned his young daughter, to name just a few of his deeds. But underneath the immorality and fiery personality was a man dedicated to creating exceptional products, and a knack for giving people what they didn’t know they wanted. Such acute vision is rare, and Jobs used it to turn Apple into a $350 (AUD) billion dollar a year company. 

His mixture of casual cruelty and brilliance seemed well-suited to making money. Jobs pushed his team until they wanted to murder him, but the result was a suite of incredible, profitable products that would change the world. His intuition and creativity allowed him to blend technology and art, designing products that would find their way into the pockets of millions. 

You might assume that a man as callous as Jobs has a cold heart, but on the contrary, he seems to feel more deeply than most. His behaviour cuts into him and leads permanent scars, but his limitless ambition seems to override it all, and it’s thrilling to read.

This book is a must-read for anyone looking to be inspired and entertained.

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