Recommended Reading For Small Business Owners

For success in life, you really need just a couple things. First you need essential knowledge. Not just any knowledge, but the information necessary to think clearly and make the best possible choices.

Second, you need to apply that knowledge effectively. This art of applied knowledge is what the ancients called “wisdom”. It isn’t ivory tower theory that never touches ground in the real world. Wisdom is all about living effectively by applying essential knowledge for the most effective outcomes.

The small business owner can easily get caught between the extremes of gathering too much knowledge without putting it to use, or being so involved in the business that they fail to improve essential knowledge to help guide them to the most effective outcomes. The smart small business owner will effectively balance a steady accumulation of key knowledge combined with deciding the best ways to apply that knowledge to make the best improvements possible.

Below is a list of books I have personally read all the way through (some of them more than once) and I wholeheartedly recommend to any business owner. They are written by true experts with decades in business and some of the best at what they do. Ignore their wisdom at your own peril.

Good to Great (Business Strategy)

Jim Collins spent years asking the question, “What makes some business extremely successful over a long period of time?” Jim assembled a time that spent thousands of hours analyzing businesses that have demonstrated success over several decades and found that most of them shared a few common traits. Wouldn’t you like to build your business on principles that have proven to work? This book is especially for those business owners with a long term outlook and aren’t interested in fast money.

Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got (Marketing)

Jay Abraham is a marketing genius. He’s advised business of all sizes and commands an insane hourly rate for his marketing consulting. In this book, Jay 21 ways that any business can accelerate their sales, do more with limited resources, and outthink the competition. Jay doesn’t waste space and doesn’t waste your time. Every chapter is loaded with great advice that will open your mind to strategizes and opportunities that are probably lying right under your nose.

Tested Advertising Methods (Copywriting)

If you want to waste your advertising dollars on meaningless sales copy that won’t do a thing for your business, don’t read this book. Inside, John Caples details what makes for effective sales copy that has been tested to work time and time again. This book isn’t about theory, it is about data driven conclusions gained from decades of tracking a variety of print advertising. Absolutely essential reading for anyone who is involved in sales copy or in charge of hiring marketing companies that could quickly waste your hard earned money on ineffective advertising.

Getting Things Done (Time Management)

If you are a business owner, you know that the amount of work just keeps coming and gets more and more difficult to track. In fact, tasks can become so numerous and complex your mind may want to just shut down and avoid dealing with any of it. David Allen has devoted his life to advising the busiest of CEOs on how to effectively manage their tasks with a stress free system. It takes work and discipline to learn and implement what Allen advises, but once you do, you will be amazed at how easy it is to keep track of the never ending flow of work headed your way.

The Power of Focus (Goal Setting/Time Management/Business Strategy)

Freedom can sometimes be a curse. One of the great joys of being a business owner is the freedom to blaze your own trail. Yet it is also tremendously easy to lose your way through bad habits, poor planning, and ineffective execution. Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt pool their decades of business consulting experience into a book that can help you set a course and stay on target. Every chapter concludes with a worksheet that will help you think through and apply what you’ve read. By the end of the book, if you’ve done your work, you will have a vastly greater sense of clarity and purpose in the direction of both your life and your business.

United We Brand (Branding)

It is not enough just to have a business. To last in this competitive environment, you must learn how to build a brand that effectively separates you from your competition in a way that is meaningful to your customers. Mike Moser is a branding expert and walks you through how to create a brand around the core values of your business. Mike includes step by step help at the end of each chapter so you don’t have to figure out how to apply what you’ve read. You just need to follow the directions.

Positioning (Business Strategy/Marketing/Branding)

Think of the companies you do the most business with. Why do you keep spending money with these companies? Odds are that these businesses have figured out how to provide you something of value in a way their competitors haven’t. This book is all about how to become that business for your customers. Al Ries and Jack Trout tell you how to cut through all the noise generated by your competitors so you can stand out in ways that are meaningful to your customers so they choose you instead of other options. This book is essential reading for business owners who refuse to be just like everyone else.