Finding a good business book is hard, even though there too many to choose from! It is even harder when you are a small business. Why?
Because most business books focus on larger businesses.
But small business owners have different needs.
As an avid reader and having been a small business owner for over 20 years. I have read a lot of business books.
Here are my favorite business books, specifically for small businesses. I broke them into three categories.
- Best books for small businesses that are written for or about small business.
- Biographies of business owners.
- Books for or about bigger businesses that are still good for small business.
Let's dive in and start with my all #1 all-time favorite!
All Time Best Small Business Book
The E-myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
This is one of the first small business books that I ever read. It is also the most beneficial. Two decades later I still go back to it and remember the advice when working on my strategic plan, marketing and more.
Short summary: how to not work so hard in your business that you become exhausted and can't keep going.
Read this as early in your small business journey as possible.
The Rest of the Best Small Business Book
*In no particular order
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin
This is one book that I think everyone needs to read. Even if they are not business owners. My son read it in the 7th grade, and he loved it.
This will help you not only manage employees, but yourself, vendors - really anyone that you interact with.
Hands down the best leadership book that I have read.
The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
Thinking of starting a business? Not sure it is right for you or what you would even do? This is a great easy read that will help you figure out what is right for you.
It is inspiring and one of my favorite parts – it is not just for starting tech companies. (There is way too much focus on tech in my opinion!)
Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message so Your Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
I am a finance person. I get numbers. So, when I started my own business, I struggled with the marketing part.
Let’s just say it took a long time for me to get it.
Luckily, I love to read and learn things, and don’t give up! Of all the courses, marketing consultants and books I have consumed in my marketing journey this ranks in the top 3!
Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard
I picked up this book when I was in between businesses. I wanted to create a business that was outside the “normal” way of managing. I love many of the things that Patagonia stands for, so decided to learn more about how they go their start. I love this book, because it takes you from the very beginning and shows you how they managed while growing.
And I also discovered one of my favorite quotes in this book.
“It’s okay to be eccentric, as long as you are rich; otherwise you’re just crazy.” – Yvon Chouinard
Fish!: A remarkable way to boost morale and improve results by Stephen C. Lundin
This is a fun, easy to read book showing you how to get better outcomes in business by increasing staff happiness. Absolutely an “oldie” but a goodie!
One you can read many times and still get benefits from. Even if it is just a touch of motivation.
The Art of Selling Your Business by John Warrillow
Think you might want to try and sell your business? This book is fantastic for helping you understand the process. Plus how to approach the entire process.
Selling your business takes time. The more you can run it on a daily business as if you are going to eventually sell it, the better.
Saves you time, money and you will get better offers for your business.
Biographies of Business Owners
I love reading biographies of business owners, because it can give you an inside view of not just the business but the mind of the founder.
Now this does not mean that they have their stuff together, in fact many amazing empire builders did not have life balance, good relationships and had other problems.
What I am looking for when I read these is more about patterns in the founders, the time period and the businesses. I look at each of these as a case study. Allow them to build on each other. Then adapt them to me and apply what I know what would work best for me.
Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
Love her or hate her – it does not matter. Learning more about how she got started, and how her business evolved is fascinating.
This is a great read if you are looking to build your business around you as a brand. There are lots of issues facing this, so the more books you read about others that have done it the better.
Another great person to read about for this reason is Oprah. In fact comparing the two women's businesses is a great case study!
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
This was a great book, because it was good for not just learning about him and his business. It also covered the creation of an entire industry and the creation of our countries monopoly laws! So many lessons to take from this one book.
Just a heads up, it is long. You may want to supplement reading with also listening to it!
Big Business Books That will Still Help You With Your Small Business
Not all "big" business books are useless. So here are some of my favorite business books. The thing to focus on when reading a non-small business book is what themes the author is trying to teach. Then how do you apply that to your small business.
The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success
This is another one of my all-time favorite business books. This book covers eight CEO’s that had amazing success but did not always do things the way Wall Street wanted them to.
This book will help you understand the value of good capital decisions. Plus, how to not always worry about what the media and “experts” are saying about how to run a business.
You must do what you believe will work.
Simplify: How the Best Businesses in the World Succeed by Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood
This is another great book for looking at how to build a business. It is based on the idea that your business should be one of two types – a price simplifier or a proposition simplifier. The authors walk you through case studies of big businesses and then how to do it on your own.
Why in for big businesses? Because while it helps you figure out your business the idea really is to build up to a larger company. Most small businesses are not looking to go crazy large. There are still some great ideas in here, so add it to your list!
80/20 Sales by Perry Marshall
The concept of 80/20 can be applied to many areas of life. In this book Perry helps us see how it impacts our marketing.
I am a fan of the way Perry teaches. In fact I have bought many of his products, and even a hot seat at one of his live events.
He approaches it not just from ideas, but how to actually make things work in your business.
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Reis & Jack Trout
This is an older book but has many great points. It can be helpful in understanding the basics of marketing. While not directed to small businesses, it is a good way to build up your foundation information.