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 2019 favorites by entrepreneurs and business owners.
#1- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
In today’s day and age, it is so easy to get distracted by the many things vying for our attention. We get bombarded with texts, calls, emails, invitations to parties or events, and more. We may often find ourselves saying “yes” to many requests or invitations thinking that we have some sort of obligation to do so. But we must realize that when we say “yes” to something, we are saying “no” to other things. Most of the time, the things we commit to don’t even align with our true goals or interests. Essentialism reminds us to have intention and to focus on the vital few instead of the trivial many.
Thanks to Chris Bello, Chris Bello Real Estate!
#2- How to Have Impossible Conversations
It seems like this year has been the year of impossible and uncomfortable conversations for a lot of leaders–about hours, salary, furloughs, layoffs, cutbacks etcetera. One book that I read recently on the strength of a podcast appearance from both authors was How to Have Impossible Conversations: A very Practical Guide by academic philosopher Peter Boghossian and mathematician James Lindsay. The book's title is a reference to difficult conversations surrounding contentious cultural, social and political issues but it contains psychological and philosophical insight that is broadly applicable at the interpersonal and organizational level. It provides a road map for recognizing your communication idiosyncrasies, especially during tough conversations. These quirks may be skewing your message; rubbing your conversation partners the wrong way; prohibiting you from finding common ground and convincing others to see things from your perspective; and establishing the empathy necessary for successful communication and successful leadership.
Thanks to Rolf Bax, Resume.io!
#3- This Will Never Work by Marc Randolph, one of Netflix's co-founders
The reason I liked it is that while it's a narrative about the founding and forming of Netflix as we know it, it teaches many lessons about raising money, surviving tough environments, building a team, and changing to adapt to scale. It definitely is an inspiring story with many good tips and lessons. This is also the book that I read while I had COVID / recovering from it. It was a great feeling just walking over to Washington Square park (after I recovered) after work to do a bit of reading and get some fresh air.
Thanks to Rany Burstein, Diggz!
#4- Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz
It has helped me to hone in on what my most important role is in my company (creating). He calls this role the QBR, or queen bee role. Michael gives practical advice for how you can delegate and get your company running more smoothly, much closer to the auto-pilot you hoped for. For example, one of those practical items is creating training videos as you perform tasks as a way to eventually bring on someone to take that role on. He advises to break them down into 4 training categories – Attract, Convert, Deliver, and Connect. The whole goal is to get your business running like clockwork. I'll be reading again in 2021.
Thanks to Brooks M. Conkle
#5- The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ is one of my best reads this year and it really boosted my self-confidence. We always talk about how the pandemic has affected our economy but we don’t really go in-depth with how it’s affecting our emotional health and self-esteem. This book has a positive message that’ll uplift the spirits of those who are battling self-doubt and those whose dreams have been put on hold. It’s one of the best examples of ‘art with a heart’!
Thanks to Simon Elkjær, avXperten!
#6- The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team
As a CEO, I believe I still have to learn a lot in terms of running a business. I have been reading books ever since but recently I have read one that I have also been recommending to my friends. The book is called “The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team” by Patrick Lencioni. This book talks about leadership. In these times of uncertainty, I believe a great leader is what we all need. With this book, you will be able to create a stronger team. By learning how to identify problems and how to talk and articulate it to your team in a particularly clear manner would make you gain their respect. This book can give you insights into how you can handle your team better. It also makes you more understand how people in a team reacts and how you can make everyone work together.
Thanks to Vietek Ladislaav, Square Motion!
#7- All In
As a business owner, reading books has been my hobby ever since I was a child. This broadens my perspective about life and even about business. Despite the heavy load of work every day, I always find time to read books that will improve my perspective as an entrepreneur. As for me, the best and my favorite book that I have read so far is “All In” by Bill Green. This book is filled with business lessons that every entrepreneur should know. These books have quickly been one of my favorite books because of the interesting journey of how a small business turned into an industry.
Thanks to Scot J Chrisman, NWT3K!
#8- How to Get To The Top of Google (2020 edition) by Tim Cameron-Kitchen
Cameron-Kitchen takes the dark arts of SEO and website optimization and throws clear daylight across it. Not only is one left educated after reading his book, but you also have a very clear plan of action for how you are going to take things forward. It is an ideal read for those readers who are completely clueless on the subject matter right thorough to those with a solid knowledge base, but wish to continuing building on it. The first edition was written nearly a decade ago, but the current edition takes all the learnings since then and packages them into a roadmap you can apply to your own business. If is a must read for any business owner wondering what they need to do improve their google ranking.
Thanks to Simon Royston, The Recruitment Lab!
#9- Blue Ocean Strategy
‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, both of whom are professors at Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires. For two years now, I have religiously followed my resolve to read at least one book each month. As it is my custom to read one book each month, I have already read eleven this year. However, my best read by some distance is ‘Blue Ocean Strategy.’ This marketing book describes the four principles of blue ocean strategy formulation – visualizing strategy, creating new demand, aligning unprecedented offering utility with strategic pricing, target costing and overcoming adoption bundles. It then differentiates between blue (unexplored new market area) and red ocean and how adopting the blue ocean strategy can make your competition irrelevant and force a leap in your value. It is a must-read for every marketing specialist, and manager.
Thanks to Kelsey Chan, CocoSign Inc.!
#10- The Monk who Sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma
This is one of my favourite books that teaches you many life lessons. For example, empty your cup so you can fill it with new ideas, you must open your own heart before you can touch other people’s hearts and many more. I give this book a buy recommendation for anyone interested in organizing routines and habits that can convert their lives, help them reach their dreams, calm them and make them more happy. Yes, it’s a mixture of too many ideas, and the ideas included within are probably very powerful. Plus, it’s a fun and easy read.
Thanks to Shiv Gupta, Incrementors!
Fooled by Randomness Nassim Nicholas Taleb gave me a whole new perspective on life. The main premise of the book is that some things happen by pure luck while we attribute our skills to it and that we confuse correlation with causation. What I’ve learned is that some things stay random and don’t depend on us. You can do everything wrong and win, just the same as you can do everything right and lose. Life’s events don’t necessarily need to reflect our performance in various situations. Lots of things depend on pure chance. It really does put all of that covid affair in perspective.
Thanks to Mike Sadowski, Brand24!
#12- Who Moved My Cheese?
My business journey goes through ups and downs and as the founder, I always take difficult times as a challenge for me to push harder to achieve greater success. And for 2020, we all know it is a tough time for everyone and while working remotely, reading books has been my hobby. My favorite book to read this year is Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and Your Life by Spencer Johnson. This book helps me cope up especially with the massive changes brought about by the pandemic. It gives me the idea to have the right approach so I can embrace and adapt to this situation quickly.
Thanks to Jacob Martinez, SwiftClean!
#13- The Art of War
As an avid reader, I’ve read a lot of books for self-improvement and leisure. Rereading classics has been one of my favorite hobbies for 2020. On the top of my reading list is The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Despite its military connotations, The Art of War is about outsmarting your enemy without having to engage in physical battle. This book is quite popular in business circles for its insights on managerial tactics and advice on how to succeed in competitive business situations.
Thanks to Chris Muktar, WikiJob.co.uk!
#14- Super Fans, by Pat Flynn
In the digital world, where we are more focused on driving traffic, more followers, more views, and more subscribers, Pat Flynn drives us to the roots of having an authentic business and that is by focusing our efforts on building superfans. From having a disconnected audience, the book gives a winning-formula to build a tribe of superfans.The magic is in creating exceptional experiences for our audience that will make them feel special, by just being more human and curious about people. A very energizing book with practical pointers for anyone wanting to build an audience for their brands in today's highly competitive market place. Because it is not about brands anymore but more about the community that makes the brand!
Thanks to Smruti Ghag, PharmaDigiCoach!
#15- Bring Yourself by Mori Taheripour
Mori teaches Negotiation at Wharton and her book focuses on how to use negotiation principles in a way that doesn't negate yourself and your values. Her book helps you use your instincts, mindfulness and curiosity to become a great negotiator. For me, it has come in very handy. In this year of many negotiations, from negotiating the rent for my office, working closely with my staff to create online classes for our students, to working with my banker on PPP funding, to raising a college kid in a pandemic, I found her book spot on. It was both helpful, practical and yet a very entertaining read. Additionally, it supported many of my hunches (we all like confirmation!) that a good negotiation is honest, direct and requires knowing as much as you can about the position and the situation of the person with whom you are negotiating. I wouldn't have though a book about negotiation would be so likeable, comforting and fun to read.
Thanks to Laura Hart, Robofun!
#16- Two books
2020 has been a year demanding reflection, redefinition, evolution, and a call to purpose. With the world deprived of its usual distractions + relentless pace, this year has demanded everyone, from individuals to the biggest corporations, focus on their purpose + act with intention. For many, this great pause meant taking the time to discover their purpose for the first time; for others it meant evaluating + redirecting our purpose + direction, but for all of us, it has been a wake up call. For myself + my company, Maven + Co, Play Bigger by Dave Peterson, Al Ramadan, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney as well as Conscious Leadership by John Mackey, Steve McIntosh and Carter Phipps were great reads for facilitating my evaluation of our vision, purpose, and strategic position. Both poise tough, insightful questions, demand even harder decisions, and help any entrepreneur make the critical choices of defining their position + the impact they will have on the world around them.
Thanks to Liza Tullidge, Maven + Co!
#17- 7 habits of highly effective people
I discovered this book thanks to Stephen Covey and his “7 habits of highly effective people” book. Man’s Search for Meaning is a lesson on endurance and resilience. Victor Frankl was arrested by Nazi Germans and sent to a concentration camp. A reputable Doctor before, he found himself fighting for self-preservation. Being deprived of food and sleep. Enduring a life of hard work and humiliations. In very poor hygiene conditions. To get through the cruelty of camp life he uses some weapons that are also very useful in business and normal life. These are: develop a capacity for self-detachment, learn to see things in a humorous light, choose the right attitude in any given circumstance, and love is the ultimate goal to which you can aspire. As he estates: “any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him”.
Thanks to Juan Pineda, Agile Digital Agency!
#18- The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
I can confidently say – without exaggeration – this book changed my life. The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington has revolutionized how I, and many other entrepreneurs and business leaders, have planned for and worked to achieve our goals – becoming 4X more productive than before. It allowed me to identify the areas that matter most and show up with my best in those areas, consistently. It reduced the overwhelm while increasing momentum, accomplishment of the RIGHT things, and success. I use this training in my business to help my clients shift their goal setting and attainment, and the changes have been incredible to see. I highly recommend the 12 Week Year to anyone who feels they're just not meeting their goals or who feels they're always working for results that just don't seem to materialize!
Thanks to Cheryl Himburg, Key Element Solutions!
#19- The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
I can wholeheartedly say that this book has catapulted my business to new heights even amidst the pandemic we are currently facing. I've recommended this book to clients and colleagues, and all have come back saying the author transformed their way of thinking. Although it may not have looked like it on the outside prior to this year, I felt like I had checked off all the boxes for my business goals as a whole already and I didn't know what was next. The Big Leap showed me that there was so much more I could be doing for my life, both personally and professionally. I was putting limits on my beliefs and the heights I could go to. Working my best to eliminate those boundaries, I have done things this year I would have never dreamed possible. In a year of doom and gloom, I have so much light in my life and I know it is just beginning. I accredit it to this book.
Thanks to Laura Rike
#20- A World Without Work
I absolutely loved “A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond” by Daniel Susskind. It focused on new technologies and how they can help (as well as hurt) us. As someone who enjoys the latest advancements in technology, it’s important to know the reward and risk of using them. Technology can be good when used appropriately and this book made me look at how we should be using the latest advancements moving forward.
Thanks to Cormac Reynolds, VelSEOity!