As musician Frank Zappa once said, “So many books, so little time.” For a business owner or budding entrepreneur, books can be a life preserver. Of course valuable lessons often come from doing. Business lessons can be learned by trial and error and putting yourself out on the line. But the same lessons can also be had from a book. Reading about the errors and triumphs of other business leaders can prevent you from making mistakes and push you in the direction of success. Beyond lessons, a good business book can inspire you to lift your business to an even higher level. Below are a selection of business books chosen as favorites by entrepreneurs and business owners.
#1- Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
After reading it, I have put it into practice in both of my companies and have immediately seen a change in customer interactions. As business owners, we have a difficult time succinctly representing our products to customers. We end up with a confusing mess for customers and they leave your site before taking the action to purchase or find out more. StoryBrand helps you refine your messaging, making your customer the hero and not you or your business. In almost every business, I see them trying to be the hero. It is a mistake I also made until reading this book! As a business, we are the guide that helps our customers reach success. I wish I had read this book ten years ago!
Thanks to Alane Boyd, BurgerFit!
#2-The Power of Human Connection
My favorite business book is The Power of Human Connection: How Relationship Marketing is Transforming the Way People Succeed. I love this book because it reminds people to add thoughtfulness back to marketing, which is my favorite part. Your audience and clients does business with you because they know, like, and trust you. This book shows business owners how to put the relationship and heart back into marketing so that we can build strong relationships and keep changing the world.
Thanks to Cassandra Freeman, Thoughtful Inspirations!
#3- Digital Millionaire Secrets
A book that has had an incredible impact on my business is Digital Millionaire Secrets by Dan Henry. It's a newer release (2019) so has valuable insights on how doing business has changed with the surge in e-commerce and digital media. The content is short and snappy, with lots of real-world examples. It's an easy read, but each chapter is packed with actionable advice. A must for anyone who wants to do business online.
Thanks to Jennifer Long, The Corporate Canuck!
#4- The Catalyst, by Jonah Berger
This book covers the psychology of what makes people change their minds. Ultimately, in business and marketing in particular, we are all fighting not only against our competitors, but against inertia. Convincing our customers to work with us instead of doing nothing” is sometimes the biggest battle we face. This book gives a psychological analysis of why people are so resistant to change and provides a framework that you can implement to combat the forces of inertia. It has transformed our marketing engine and it can do the same for your business!
Thanks to Charlie Camisasca, The eCommerce Boardroom, LLC!
#5- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
It's written like a story and has concepts like team building and team dynamics that are easy to understand and apply. It's highly recommended for the leader who experiences challenges getting people on a team to embrace a collaborative process. Add this to your library.
Thanks to Tahnya Brown, We Will Inc.!
#6- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight
I think it is one excellent business memoir any entrepreneur might like. Best for anyone in need of inspiration and motivation, you can enjoy an epic tale of determination, failures, and triumphs from the very man who created the famous swoosh logo by starting his company with just $50 borrowed from his father.
Thanks to Richard Roberts, CustomLogoCases!
#7- Contagious: Why Things Catch On
A business book I have thoroughly enjoyed is called Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Dr. Jonah Berger. Dr. Berger is the expert on social influence, word of mouth, consumer decision making, product adoption and abandonment. I'd highly recommend it to any business owner looking to influence others. I also had the privilege of being Dr. Berger’s Research Assistant at the Wharton School.
Thanks to Geneva Long, Bowlus Road Chief!
My favorite book is Fanocracy – Turning fans into customers and customers into fans by David Meerman Scott. David's latest book is a real world practitioner's guide from someone who has lived the job from the front line, he has been there and done it so he tells it like it is not theoretically but from the trenches. The name of the game today is how to get your audience engaged online and here is the manual to do it with practical advice and relevant tips.
Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!
#9- Reinvention by Arlene Dickinson
I co-founded Workhoppers after a career as a busy consultant at McKinsey and found this book truly inspiring. Arlene discusses how you can change your life at any point and find success doing what you are passionate about. Arlene's approach gives you a step-by step plan that is based on her extensive experience at creating and promoting corporate brands. Her marketing approach at reinventing companies provided me with useful information to review my company's strategy as well as my own personal career path. Her methodology provided further insight on how to align my personal goals, my values and beliefs with what my company is working towards accomplishing in the world. For example, after several years of focusing on all the challenges that a growing startup brings you must always remind yourself of the purpose that inspired you at the onset. Reinvention is about remembering your dreams and making sure that your company's value proposition is in line with them. Purpose is what allows you and your company to achieve full potential. Finding your currency, pushing your comfort zone and communicating your story makes all the difference to succeed.
Thanks to Vera Gavizon, Workhoppers!
#10- The Bible
The Bible is an outstanding (and often overlooked) guide to business ethics. First, the biblical framework contextualizes work and business as a necessary and noble part of a life well lived. The classic commandments of ethical behavior, honesty, equal justice under law, against theft, against fraud, against false witness, etc. set the ethical foundation for a just society or a good business. In addition, there is a strong emphasis on compassion, affirming human dignity, individual autonomy, respect for others, standards of conduct, and sharing the burden to support the larger society. Finally, the Bible is not traditionally simply read once, but it is studied weekly in small groups, which helps develop critical thinking skills, hones logical arguments, and teaches one to understand and respect different interpretations of the same story or verse. These are all critical skills in building a good workplace and a culture of leaving the world better than we found it.
Thanks to David Blumberg, Blumberg Capital!
#11- Lean Startup
The book Lean Startup is essential reading material for anyone working in or transitioning to a startup. Business school may teach you how to work under normal conditions. But a startup, by nature, is disruptive and uncertain. What you're doing may never have been done before. This requires a build measure learn framework, which is clearly presented in Lean Startup. Testing, instead of relying on, your assumptions leads to better decision making and better results.
Thanks to Pamela Ellgen, Work for Impact!
#12- Agile Project Management
One of the most helpful business books I’ve read is ‘Agile Project Management with Kanban’ by Eric Brechner. This book really was a game-changer. In the beginning, we struggled trying to bring different departments together and form a cohesive unit. We didn’t know how to manage the interconnectivity between teams, and by implementing the Kanban system, it really revolutionized the way we ran our business.
Thanks to Monica Eaton-Cardone, Chargebacks911!
#13- Good to Great
The biggest mistake I see CEOs, and especially founders, make is that they place too much emphasis on their own self-importance. In the early stages of an enterprise it's a necessity, since resources are limited and oftentimes the leaders have to wear many hats. The problem is that as the enterprise grows, it's no longer sustainable for all decisions to flow through one person. Instead as Jim Collins, the author of my favorite business book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don't explains, it's about finding people that are the best at what they do. It's your job as CEO to provide them with the resources they need, and then get out of their way, so they can succeed. Jim's book is a must-read.
Thanks to Scott Sensenbrenner, Enzymedica!
#14- Thinking, Fast and Slow
It perhaps isn't the most traditional business book, but I'd highly recommend Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. If you ever want to delve into the minds of your customers, employees, competitors, and even yourself, then this is a must-read! Kahneman perfectly explains how our brains think fast (intuitively) and slow (more rational thinking), and how we can use them to our advantage. I believe it can help you make better decisions in business and in life, while also understanding what might nudge your customers to buy from you over a competitor.
Thanks to Bex Spiller, The Anti-Burnout Club!
#15- Go-Giver by Bob Burg
It is based on The Five Laws of Stratospheric Success: value, compensation, influence, authenticity, and receptivity. One that aligns with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Law of Compensation: you will always be compensated for your contributions, one way or another. Therefore, it’s better to focus on giving more if you wish to receive more. We have implemented these laws into our 28-year-old bartending business and have found that it has helped us grow and give back to our clients and industry. It is a great book for new business owners and sales reps to understand that it's not about you, but taking care of your clients and team. It truly changed the way we run our companies.
Thanks to Dave Forman, Pour Masters Bartending Service!
#16- The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky
There are hundreds of books about starting a business but far fewer about the challenges you face once your startup begins to gain some momentum. That’s exactly what The Messy Middle is about. It tackles subjects like resilience, how to cope when levels of business stagnate, building and managing cohesive teams, and – most importantly – how to scale. The chapters are bite-sized and easy to digest, and the advice is solid.
Thanks to Ben Taylor, Home Working Club!
#17- Den of Thieves By James B
Anyone who needs to understand the modern investment environment should read Den of Thieves. Hedge Funds are the new stuff bonds with even less clarity and even more inside the practice. Minutes can mean the distinction between profit and loss. Greed has given an even more fevered pitch. We should learn from the knowledge and encourage our enforcing agencies to stop the repeat of history. We all lose. Den of Thieves clearly explains how arbitrage investors drive up funds and then sell.
Thanks to Brack Nelson, Incrementors SEO Services!
#18- The E-Myth Revisited
As someone who is in business, I love reading and listening to business books. One of my recent favorites is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. This book clearly explains why, and how a skilled employee decides to become an entrepreneur and the trap that they find themselves in once they suffer from what Michael Gerber calls an entrepreneurial seizure. When reading this book, I was able to pinpoint the exact moment that I suffered my entrepreneurial seizure. In his book, he talks about the stress and hardships the owner of a pie baking business suffers. As a reader, I can feel her pain and her emotions as she learns about the entrepreneurial myth. Throughout the book, I kept finding myself thinking, This is me. Once I understood the E-Myth, and how I got myself into my own entrepreneurial mess, I learned the solution. This book has taught me, as a business owner, I need to kill off some of my thoughts about my business in order to make room for more productive thoughts. I'm now starting an additional business without the do everything myself attitude that prevents entrepreneurs from becoming successful. Obviously, there is much more to this book than in the above paragraph. If you have recently suffered an entrepreneurial seizure or if you are a business owner, this book should be required reading.
Thanks to Jeff Kolodny, Jeff Kolodny Photography, Inc!
#19- Two books
Start With Why and Find You Why by Simon Sinek are two books that have changed the way I have looked at my work, and ultimately my life’s mission. The importance of understanding your “why” is crucial because this is what creates inspiring leaders. When you think of Apple and how successful the company has become, you understand people do not pledge loyalty over just the products offered, but for what the company stands for (innovation, dedicated customer service, etc.) and are even willing to pay more for their services and products because they believe in it. I recommend this book for all leaders regardless of the industry they work in, the age of their organization, or the size. A leader with a clear “why” and understanding of purpose is one who can inspire others and lead an organization from god to great.
Thanks to Dino Selita, The Debt Relief Company!
#20- Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek
I was always interested in becoming a good leader and providing space for my employees to constantly grow. I stumbled upon Sinek’s book ”Leaders Eat Last” and read it in just one afternoon. The book talks about real-life leadership, without any idealized scenarios or superhero people. Sinek explains well why some systems thrive and people are ready to do everything for each other while others are doomed to have people fighting all the time and eventually breaking up. The book takes you step by step through the process of becoming a good leader who won’t be egocentric but supportive of others. I have applied some of the concepts in my business and I loved the results so far.
Thanks to Stefan Chekanov, Brosix!
#21- Atomic Habits
Atomic Habits by James Clear has been on the top books for entrepreneurs and self-help lists for the past two years and for great reason. James Clear gets into the scientific level of habit formation and how to change bad ones to good ones. He also gives you actionable guidance on how to successfully form these new healthy habits. As a physician and an entrepreneur, this is one book I recommend to all my patients to give them the tools to motivate them to make life-changing habits and to my employees to motivate positive change to make them thrive.
Thanks to Dr. Paris Sabo, Dr. Brite!
#22- It Takes What It Takes
It Takes What It Takes: How to Think Neutrally and Gain Control of Your Life by Trevor Moawad is a book that has transformed my life in regards to brain control and how to go after and achieve what you set your mind to. Trevor is a coach to the most successful athletes, business owners, and military personnel in the world. His teachings focus on the mind and how to succeed through remaining positive and managing negativity. I believe this book will be a valuable lesson to any business owner, as it includes valuable tips on perseverance and how to maintain a strong and focused mind, which are both must qualities of an entrepreneur.
Thanks to Dr. Livingood
#23- Death By Meetings
There’s one book I recommend, particularly if you're in a leadership position at your organization, which is a book called “Death By Meetings”. As a CEO, you spend your life in meetings and it’s important to learn how to make meetings as exciting and as successful as possible and this book will help you do just that.
Thanks to Alexandre Douzet, Pumpkin Pet Insurance!
#24- The Obstacle is the Way
One of my favorite authors is Ryan Holiday; the man is a marketing genius. A book that I always go back to and that holds its value even in the current rapidly changing business world is “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. The book explores The Ancient Greek philosophy of stoicism, which is built on the idea of turning obstacles into opportunities. This concept is relevant when it comes to entrepreneurship especially in the oversaturated e-commerce market as well as the future of disruption and innovation.
Thanks to Brandon Monaghan, Miracle Brand!
#25- The Virgin Way
When I started off in entrepreneurship, I was incredibly turned off by business books that were stale and in the form of lists. I didn’t want a 7-point roadmap to success; what I wanted was to be inspired. When I came across Branson’s book in Barnes and Noble years ago (old school, I know), I opened the cover and read: This is a book on leadership from someone who has never read a book on leadership in his life. I was sold. From learning how to listen to prioritizing people, many of the chapters — to this day — have guided me through my career. If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur who wants to be captivated, inspired and learn lessons all along the way, I highly recommend The Virgin Way.
Thanks to Josh Pelletier, BarBend.com!
#26- The Nuclear Effect by Scott Olford
In this book he outlines the exact steps he has used to help multiple of his own, and dozens of other companies to 7 figures and beyond using the omnipresence and ad-based marketing. The principles of omnipresence are based on human psychology, and when applied to a business, they can have mind-blowing effects. The book taught me so much about marketing and how to stand out to grow your business, and I recommend it to anyone looking to take their business and brand to the next level.
Thanks to Stacy Caprio, Deals Scoop!