10 Best Management Books for Small Business Owners

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Running a small business requires a combination of both leadership and management skills. While leadership and management come easily for some business owners, many find that reading management books helps keeps them informed and current with today’s best management practices.

With thousands of books to choose from, it can be frustrating and overwhelming deciding on what to read. That’s why Small Business Trends has put together this list of top 10 best management books every small business owner should read. (Listed in no particular order.)

1.  “Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization” by Daniel Patrick Forrester.

Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective ThinkingIn today’s on-demand, always-on world, it seems counter-intuitive to take a moment and consider your next decision. Daniel Patrick Forrester interviews leaders in high-stakes and high-risk circumstances who have mastered the art of taking time out to think and process their options before rushing into a decision.

Small business owners will appreciate the many examples and techniques used by great leaders and managers of critical projects to calm themselves down, collect the information that they need and then communicate their decisions and actions clearly.

Read our review of “Consider (available at Amazon and other retailers)

2. “No Jerks on the Job: Who They Are, The Harm They Do and Ridding Them from Your Workplace” by Ron Newton

No Jerks on the Job

There isn’t a workplace around that doesn’t claim its share of jerks. In fact, working with difficult people is one of the most popular management books topics around, In the book No Jerks on the Job, Ron Newton explains where jerks come from and he gives solutions for dealing with jerks; create a transparent environment, embody your values and huddle up to solve problems.

The biggest benefit that any businessperson can get from this book is being able to identify jerky behavior and not feed into it or make it worse.

Read our review of “No Jerks on the Job (available at Amazon and other retailers)

3. “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose” by Tony Hsieh

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

In Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh, the visionary CEO of Zappos explains how an emphasis on corporate culture can lead to unprecedented success.

The lessons in this management book come from Tony Hseih’s own experiences.  They include the lessons he learned from poker that he applies to business:  Make sure your bankroll is large enough for the game you’re playing and the risks you’re taking, figure out the game when the stakes aren’t high, differentiate yourself and do the opposite of what the rest of the table is doing.

Read our review of “Delivering Happiness(available at Amazon and other retailers)

4.  “StrengthsFinder 2.0” by Tom Rath

StrengthsFinder 2.0 is an updated strengths assessment published by the Gallup organization. This book includes a password that allows you to take the StrengthsFinder assessment online. After completing the StrengthsFinder assessment, the results will uncover your top strengths. Readers will also get a personalized strengths planning guide as well as 50 ideas that they can put into action in their business and personal life.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a great management book for small business owners who are looking for smart ways to balance out the strengths inside their management teams.

(Available at Amazon and other book retailers)

5. “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement With the Principles of RESPECT” by Paul Marciano

Carrots and Sticks

If you’re looking for a management book that will help you motivate your employees without spending yourself silly with financial incentives, look no further than Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work.

Paul Marciano reviews all the motivational theories we’ve used and abused over the last hundred or so years. He then gives you practical advice on how to upgrade your conversations in a way that will benefit your employees and your business.  You don’t need to spend your company into bankruptcy trying to please employees – the answer is much simpler.

Read our review of “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work (available at Amazon and other retailers)

6. “Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality” by Scott Belsky.

Making Ideas Happen

There is a method and a skill to making ideas happen and in this management book, Scott Belsky shows you how to run your brain spark of an idea through a process that converts the idea from a thought to something real and tangible.

Making Ideas Happen takes you through project management, how to maintain your focus, harnessing the power of your community and developing the chemistry of your creative team. It’s a real world management book that you can use daily by yourself or with your team.

Read our review of “Making Ideas Happen(available at Amazon and other retailers)

7. “Do More Great Work: Stop the Busywork. Start the Work That Matters” by Michael Bungay Stanier.

Do More Great Work

If you find yourself feeling unproductive, Do More Great Work is one of the management books for you. Inside this small and well-designed books are 15 maps and exercises that will help you identify the elements of great work and triggers for less-than-great work.

For example, where to find clues to your great work, how to find the sweet spot between what you want to do and what your organization wants you to do tactics to manage the overwhelm and more.

(Available at Amazon and other book retailers.)

8.  “Awesomely Simple Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas Into Action” by John Spence.

Awsomely Simple

Awesomely Simple is a management book that gives the small business owner and department managers a clear and easy roadmap to follow in building the business and then planning for growth.

John Spence delivers an MBA in a management book that is easy to read and follow.  Ultimately it’s a guide you can turn into management practices in your business.

Read our review of  “Awesomely Simple (available at Amazon and other retailers)

9.  “Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others” by Justin Menkes

Better Under Pressure

What is it about some managers and leaders that has them perform at their best under pressure and then the others who simply fold? In Better Under Pressure, Menkes reveals the common traits that make these leaders successful.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with sixty CEOs from an array of industries and performance data from two hundred other leaders, Menkes shows that great executives strive relentlessly to maximize their own potential — as well as stoke their people’s innate thirst for their own triumphs.

Read our review of “Better Under Pressure (available at Amazon and other retailers)

10.  “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?” by Seth Godin.

In Linchpin Art + Profession = Rewards For All

Seth Godin takes his unique way of looking at things and brings it to the world of management.  Linchpin is one of those management books about what it takes to become indispensible at a workplace.

Godin warns that it’s no longer good enough to treat people like factory workers, nor is it enough for workers to simply just do what they are told.

Today’s world of work asks more of both employer and employee.

Read our review of “Linchpin (available at Amazon and other retailers)

With this guide to best management books, you will get concrete advice on how to manage your company and your team in a smart way.  Go ahead — set a goal to read all 10 books.  Then integrate the ideas from these management books into your daily work and create a world class business.

Looking for other business books to read?  Here at Small Business Trends you will find new business book reviews each weekend, and over 225 business book reviews in the archives.



Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

18 Reactions
  1. Hi Ivana, many thanks for putting this together. It’s quite the convenient list for reading. I like how the books are chosen for small biz owners and leaders. Many management books are best for those in large corporations, but these can be applied by small biz.

    – Anita

  2. Thanks Anita – When I look at the books, I also think about how even people who are working within larger businesses can take on that entrepreneurial spirit of the small business owner and apply it to their positions as managers.

  3. As an avid book reader, it is very convenient to have a top list of books in different categories.

  4. Thanks for this. It is possible to get used version of those books in Lagos.

  5. Looks like a great list, some I’m familiar with and some I haven’t read. Let me suggest one more, The One Minute Manager. This book does a good job of condensing ideas and taking you straight to the point.

  6. Thank you for putting up this list. I am currently reading ~ “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work…” by Paul Marciano, and I am a big fan of by Seth Godin, I haven’t read his books but I am reading his blog. One that is not in the list is “The 5-star business networks” by Vivek Sood ~ a popular book at Goodreads. These books makes me understand economics, finance and modern commerce. Have you read all of these books?

    • Hi Wilkins! I’m sure that you will love “Carrots and Sticks”! I really liked that one too. I’ve read several of Seth Godin’s books and find them very thought provoking. To answer your question — yes — I’ve read most of these books. The sad fact is that there are SO MANY wonderful books out there that it is crazy hard to choose.

  7. Thanks. There are also a lot of good books that you can find in the Harvard Business Review blog.

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