Lessons Learned, Empires Built: 15 Best Business Memoirs to Ignite Your Spirit

best business memoirs
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Discover the triumphs and struggles that shaped some of the world’s biggest business minds. These 15 inspiring memoirs will equip you with valuable lessons and reignite your entrepreneurial spirit!

Every successful person has gone through a tough journey – one filled with triumphs, challenges, and invaluable lessons accumulated along the way. Learning from their success stories is a great way to both fuel your motivation and provide the clues to map out your own development roadmap. Here, let us dive into 15 of the best business memoirs, which are sure to captivate and empower you on the path to greatness!


  • This article offers a curated selection of 15 inspiring business memoirs, written by iconic figures across various industries. From Benjamin Franklin’s pioneering spirit to Phil Knight’s journey building Nike, these stories provide insights into a variety of success-related topics – including leadership, innovation, and overcoming challenges.
  • Whether you’re drawn to retail giants like Sam Walton or the wisdom of investor Charlie Munger, the list has something for every aspiring entrepreneur – as well as anyone who would like to embark on their own transformative journey!

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Author: Benjamin Franklin

In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” is a monumental work that has resonated across centuries for its multifaceted significance. As one of the earliest recorded autobiographies in history, it offers a profound glimpse into the life and pioneering spirit of President Franklin, a pivotal figure in American history during the Enlightenment and the Revolutionary era.

Franklin’s memoir provides a blueprint for personal development rooted in self-education, discipline, and resilience. Through his own experiences, he articulates a framework for achieving success, both in business and in life. His 13 virtues, etched with principles such as industry and frugality, serve not only as ethical guidelines – but as pillars supporting entrepreneurial endeavors.

The president’s journey from humble beginnings to towering achievements underscores the transformative power of perseverance and ethical conduct. His insights on networking, personal branding, and strategic thinking resonate profoundly in today’s dynamic business landscape.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

My Movie Business: A Memoir

Author: John Irving

If you can’t love crudeness, how can you truly love mankind?

A remarkable testament to the world of film adaptation, “My Movie Business: A Memoir” presents an exclusive insider’s view into the labyrinthine journey of translating literature to the silver screen. Spanning over thirteen years of meticulous effort in bringing his novel “The Cider House Rules” to cinematic life, Irving unveils the arduous process with a depth of insight that captivates and enlightens.

Beyond its cinematic narrative, Irving’s memoir delves into the compelling medical legacy of his grandfather, Dr. Frederick C. Irving. Its rich historical and familial contexts provide a compelling backdrop to the author’s cinematic odyssey, enriching the reader’s understanding of the profound influences that shape his literary works and their cinematic adaptations.

Through affectionate and often humorous portrayals, Irving navigates the highs and lows of his cinematic endeavors, offering readers a front-row seat to the rollercoaster ride of success and failure.

My Movie Business: A Memoir

Read more: 30 Best Creativity Books – Ignite Your Inner Genius

Growing a Business

Author: Paul Hawken

The bottom line is down where it belongs – at the bottom.

A beacon of entrepreneurial wisdom, “Growing a Business” draws from Hawkne’s rich tapestry of experiences to illuminate the path to business success. With an entrepreneur’s keen insight, the author imparts invaluable lessons gleaned from his ventures with Erewhon and Smith & Hawken, showcasing the transformative power of individual initiative and creativity in the business landscape. Throughout his work, he challenges conventional wisdom by highlighting the primacy of personal values and unique ideas over formal credentials or capital in fostering entrepreneurial endeavors.

Through vivid anecdotes and practical advice grounded in real-world experience, Hawken demystifies the entrepreneurial journey, offering a roadmap for aspiring business leaders to navigate the complexities of the modern marketplace. Additionally, his work is also a testament to the profound impact of small businesses on society, underscoring their role as engines of innovation, job creation, and community resilience.

Growing a Business

Best business memoirs

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My Father’s Business

Author: Cal Turner

My Father’s Business” is a rare gem among business memoirs, known for its deeply personal and authentic account of the interwoven journey of family and business. Through Turner’s candid narration, readers are immersed in the saga of Dollar General Corporation, tracing its humble beginnings in a Kentucky small town to its meteoric rise as a Fortune 500 powerhouse. As each page is turned, they are introduced to the intricacies of familial bonds and their profound impact on enterprise.

Central to Turner’s memoir is the exploration of leadership ethos and values, rooted in the indomitable spirit of his forebears. The author paints a vivid portrait of his grandfather’s transformative journey from a third-grade education to entrepreneurial success – as well as his father’s pioneering dollar price point strategy that revolutionized the industry. Through these anecdotes, Turner argues for a leadership philosophy steeped in authenticity, pragmatism, and a deep-seated commitment to both people and principles – which serves as a blueprint for ethical and effective leadership in any organizational context.

Furthermore, the memoir transcends its corporate confines by delving into the role of faith in Turner’s life and its profound influence on his decision-making and leadership at Dollar General.

My Father's Business

Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport

Author: Yvon Chouinard

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which.

Some Stories” is a compelling testament to a life lived on the edge of innovation, adventure, and environmental stewardship. Through a collection of reflections, personal letters, and poetry, Chouinard paints a vivid portrait of his eclectic journey, driven by his passion for sports, business acumen, and environmental activism. His iconoclastic thinking challenges conventional norms, offering readers a glimpse into the evolution of his philosophies and the principles that underpin his life.

Within his work, Chouinard epitomizes a philosophy that blurs the boundaries between labor and leisure, mind and body. Whether scaling mountains or building a business empire, the author embodies a pursuit of excellence that transcends traditional dichotomies.

As the founder of Patagonia, Chouinard is a vocal advocate for environmental conservation; as such, his book underscores the urgency of the climate crisis and the imperative for corporate responsibility. His memoir serves not only as a chronicle of personal triumphs but as a rallying cry for collective action in safeguarding the planet for future generations.

Some Stories best business memoirs

Yes is the Answer! What is the Question?

Author: Cameron Mitchell

Yes is the Answer! What is the Question?” chronicles Mitchell’s evolution from a troubled teenager to the helm of a thriving restaurant empire. Through vivid anecdotes and candid reflections, the author underscores the pivotal role of determination and hard work in surmounting adversity and achieving success against the odds.

Mitchell’s memoir focuses on exploring the concept of a culture of hospitality – a cornerstone principle that he credits for his enduring success in the restaurant industry. Delving into the intricacies of building and nurturing a people-centric culture within his company, he offers readers invaluable insights into the importance of prioritizing relationships and fostering a sense of belonging.

The memoir serves as a treasure trove of entrepreneurial wisdom, brimming with lessons gleaned from Mitchell’s twenty-five-year odyssey in the culinary world. Through candid accounts of triumphs and setbacks, readers are provided with an unvarnished look at the realities of entrepreneurship – which serves as a valuable toolkit for aspiring business leaders and restaurant enthusiasts alike.

From the impactful sale of 22 restaurants for $92 million to the subsequent challenges and near loss of everything, Mitchell’s story exemplifies the resilience and tenacity required to rebuild and thrive anew.

Yes is the Answer! What is the Question?

Best business memoirs

Made in Japan

Authors: Akio Morita & Mitsuko Shimomura

No matter how good or successful you are or how clever or crafty, your business and its future are in the hands of the people you hire. To put it a bit more dramatically, the fate of your business is actually in the hands of the youngest recruit on the staff.

Through the lens of Sony’s formation and ascent to global prominence following Japan’s post-World War II reconstruction, “Made in Japan” provides a rich historical context, illuminating the transformative power of entrepreneurship in rebuilding nations. Aside from chronicling Sony’s evolution, Morita’s narrative also offers cultural insights into Japanese ways of thinking and business management – as well as cross-cultural dynamics in international business.

The author’s leadership philosophy, grounded in a keen understanding of the future implications of present actions, offers precious lessons in strategic management and long-term planning. His influence extends far beyond the confines of Sony, as evidenced by his impact on notable figures like Steve Jobs, who drew inspiration from the Japanese approach to business.

Made in Japan best business memoirs

From Zero to Kyocera

Author: Kazuo Inamori

What is the right thing to do as a human being?

A significant contribution to the business memoir genre, “From Zero to Kyocera” offers a multifaceted exploration of entrepreneurial journey, management philosophy, and personal growth. Inamori’s narrative traces his remarkable journey from founding Kyocera with minimal capital to transforming it into a global powerhouse, which serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs starting from scratch.

However, beyond mere business strategies, the memoir also discusses the profound philosophy of growth encapsulated by Inamori’s mantra, “Respect the Divine and Love People” – a guiding principle for both his personal and professional endeavors.

Within his work, Inamori introduces the innovative “Amoeba Management” system, which revolves around employee accountability and the unleashing of personal potential. This management approach, characterized by its emphasis on quantifiable benchmarks and goals, has left an indelible mark on business practices worldwide, reshaping conventional notions of organizational management.

Woven throughout the memoir is Inamori’s personal wisdom as a Zen Buddhist priest, which presents a unique perspective on leadership, success, and the interconnectedness of business and spirituality.

From Zero to Kyocera best business memoirs

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Losing My Virginity

Author: Richard Branson

I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive then I believe you are better off not doing it. A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.

Losing My Virginity” captivates readers with its riveting narrative of entrepreneurial adventure and audacious disruption across industries. Branson’s journey from music industry rebel to the helm of the Virgin Empire unfolds as a page-turning saga, replete with tales of bold risks and unconventional strategies. Through a candid blend of personal anecdotes and business insights, the author gives a glimpse into the highs and lows of his remarkable career, underscoring the transformative power of passion, courage, and resilience in achieving entrepreneurial success.

Central to Branson’s memoir is his distinctive management ethos, characterized by an emphasis on fun, family, and the courage to challenge norms. He advocates for a people-centric approach to business, in which employee well-being and social impact are prioritized alongside profitability. His inspirational story serves as a testament to the limitless possibilities of daring entrepreneurship, inspiring readers to defy conventions and forge their paths toward success.

The memoir also delves into Branson’s commitment to philanthropy and social causes, adding a layer of depth to his narrative and highlighting the values that drive his business endeavors.

Losing My Virginity best business memoirs

Best business memoirs

Call Me Ted

Authors: Bill Burke & Ted Turner

Whether you’re talking about a person or a country, it’s okay to be rich and it’s okay to be powerful, just as long as you’re humble and cooperative.

Call Me Ted” revolves around the captivating journey of Ted Turner from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of success in the media industry. Turner’s narrative unfolds as a compelling saga, chronicling his evolution from working in his father’s billboard company to revolutionizing the media landscape with groundbreaking ventures like the founding of CNN, the world’s first 24-hour news channel. Through candid storytelling, the author lays bare the emotional impact of personal losses, including the tragic death of his sister and the suicide of his father, as well as his high-profile marriage to Jane Fonda.

The memoir does not shy away from addressing Turner’s controversial business decisions, including the contentious AOL-Time Warner merger. Despite the challenges, it resonates with a sense of resilience and determination, showcasing the media mogul’s unwavering commitment to overcoming obstacles and realizing his visionary ambitions.

Turner’s story is an inspiring testament to the power of perseverance – how one may transform personal and professional setbacks into stepping stones toward unprecedented success and influence in the media landscape. With its honest portrayal of Turner’s life and business transactions, “Call Me Ted” has garnered widespread acclaim, earning recognition as one of the best business books of its time and solidifying its status as a must-read for anyone seeking inspiration from the life of a true industry icon.

Call Me Ted

Tough Choices: A Memoir

Author: Carly Fiorina

All triumphs are made of the same stuff: the right support, the right team, the determination to achieve the goal, lots of really hard work. And all triumphs are much more about choice than they are about chance.

Through remarkably candid reflections, Fiorina offers an intimate glimpse into her life and career – including her triumphs, failures, fears, and pivotal moments. As the first woman to helm a Fortune 50 company, Fiorina’s trailblazing leadership at Hewlett-Packard (HP) unfolds as a groundbreaking saga, marked by major internal overhauls, navigating through technology slumps, and steering through the controversial merger that etched her tenure into high-tech history.

What distinguishes “Tough Choices: A Memoir” is its provision of behind-the-scenes insights into Fiorina’s tenure at HP – the enigmatic circumstances surrounding her departure and various aspects of her groundbreaking career. Within her memoir, the author humanizes the business landscape by emphasizing that success isn’t merely about numbers – but about the people behind them.

Through her account, Fiorina navigates themes of leadership, values, and confrontation, offering readers a rich tapestry of insights into the complex dynamics of corporate leadership amidst transformative change, globalization, and gender biases.

Tough Choices: A Memoir

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Author: Phil Knight

Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” sheds light on the early days of Nike from the founder’s perspective. Through Knight’s intimate narratives, readers are introduced to the risks, challenges, and triumphs inherent in the journey of building a business from the ground up. From humble beginnings, where Knight borrowed $50 from his father, to the establishment of a global brand boasting over $30 billion in annual sales, his journey embodies the essence of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Knight’s authentic storytelling, marked by honesty, humor, and beautifully crafted prose, captures the entrepreneurial spirit in its purest form. Within the pages of the memoir lie invaluable business lessons, ranging from embracing the unconventional path to fostering strong relationships with partners and employees.

“Shoe Dog” has garnered widespread critical acclaim, including praise from luminaries like Bill Gates, who hailed it as an honest and inspiring portrayal of the journey to business success.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir

Best business memoirs

Sam Walton: Made in America

Author: Sam Walton

Great ideas come from everywhere if you just listen and look for them. You never know who’s going to have a great idea.

Sam Walton: Made in America” is enriched with Walton’s personal reflections and insights into his distinctive business philosophy. Complemented by perspectives from his inner circle, including friends, family, and colleagues, the memoir offers a comprehensive, in-depth portrait of the author’s character and leadership style.

One main theme of the book is the exploration of the strategic pillars that underpin Wal-Mart’s meteoric rise – including a relentless focus on customer service, continuous innovation, prudent financial management, and a commitment to empowering employees. These strategies, as pointed out by Walton, serve as a roadmap for aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders seeking to emulate his remarkable success.

Beyond the individual narrative, the book also explores the broader cultural impact of Wal-Mart on the retail landscape and American society.

Sam Walton: Made in America

Delivering Happiness

Author: Tony Hsieh

I had decided to stop chasing the money, and start chasing the passion.

With a blend of humor and sincerity, Hsieh shares pivotal moments from his early ventures to the founding of LinkExchange and the eventual success of Zappos. Through his narrative, readers are invited into the inner workings of his mind, experiencing the highs and lows of entrepreneurship alongside him.

One notable part of “Delivering Happiness” is Hsieh’s emphasis on the significance of company culture in fostering long-term success. He articulates how cultivating a strong culture centered on employee happiness serves as a potent catalyst for sustainable growth and profitability. His narrative culminates with the acquisition of Zappos by Amazon for $1.2 billion, underscoring the transformative power of prioritizing happiness and employee well-being in business.

Delivering Happiness

Poor Charlie’s Almanack

Author: Charlie Munger

Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Day by day, and at the end of the day-if you live long enough-like most people, you will get out of life what you deserve.

Poor Charlie’s Almanack” is a distinctive addition to the realm of business memoirs, primarily due to its rich collection of wisdom drawn from Munger’s speeches and talks. The author’s insights extend beyond traditional investment strategies, offering profound reflections on decision-making and intellectual development.

One of the book’s highlights is Munger’s introduction of the concept of ‘Multiple Mental Models’ – a framework for cultivating a multifaceted understanding of the world, drawing from various disciplines. His emphasis on the importance of overcoming personal biases and nurturing a stable and successful life makes the book not just a manual for investing – but a holistic guide to life’s challenges.

Poor Charlie's Almanack best business memoirs

Best business memoirs

Final Thoughts

These business memoirs aren’t just chronicles of success; they are testaments to human resilience, innovation, and the power of unwavering passion. As you ponder over the stories of these remarkable individuals, you will not only gain valuable insights – but will also discover the fire within yourself, ready to be ignited and fuel your own journey. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your favorite reading nook, turn the pages, and let the lessons begin!

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