10 Small Business Management Books to Read This Year

small business management books

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Successful management for small business owners is about identifying the right things to do, building a team, and then pulling them together to accomplish those things.  When done well, the whole enterprise and your life appear to be running smoothly and effortlessly. When done poorly, or not at all, you find yourself in a never ending whirlwind of unfinished projects and missed opportunities, feeling like there’s too much to do and not enough time.

This collection of small business management books will help you to focus, leverage and manage all of the tasks, teams and personalities that are a part of your business and your life.  We’ve included the publication date and the Twitter handles of each author, too:

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

by Daniel Goleman (@DanielGolemanEI) (October, 2013)

Focus by Daniel Coleman

Psychologist, journalist and author of “Emotional Intelligence” Daniel Goleman is giving small business owners more brain food with “Focus.”

This book is all about “attention” in all its many forms and how building your attention-ability will drive excellence.

Goleman says that the ability to focus is much like a muscle.  And in a world filled with distractions, this is a skill worth developing.  Focus is filled with case studies and science that is not only intriguing, but informative and entertaining.

The 80/20 Manager: The Secret to Working Less and Achieving More

by Richard Koch (@RichardKoch8020) (October, 2013)

80 - 20 Manager by Richard Koch

With so many shiny new objects vying for our attention, this book aims to give you new strategies to leverage the old 80/20 rule, or Pareto principle.

The Pareto principle says that 80% of the effects (or benefits or results) come from 20% of the causes (or actions). And Koch applies it to management.

If you already know you want to simplify, but don’t know where to begin, “The 80/20 Manager” has some ideas for you.  In fact, it has ten ways or strategies that you can use to help you leverage your time and resources.  You don’t have to do them all, just pick the ones that will work best for your situation.

Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking

by Adam L. Penenberg (@Penenberg) (October 2013)

Play at Work by Adam Penenberg

Have you heard the word “gamification” yet? Even if you haven’t heard the word, you have certainly experienced it.

Gamification is the idea of using play to accomplish work tasks.  If you’re a member of a frequent shopper program, that is a form of gamification.

Adam Penenberg, investigative journalist and author of “Viral Loop,” explores the power of using play to accomplish work tasks in his latest book.  Penenberg shares stories, case studies and features a variety of businesses explaining how they use game inspired strategies.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

by Scott Adams (@Dilbert_Daily) (October 2013)

How to Fail by Scott Adams

Dilbert fans rejoice!  Scott Adams, the cartoonist who pokes fun at the workplace and managers, is lending his unique perspective on the world of work to this book.

If you secretly resent all those “made it big” books about people who seem to succeed in life while you fail and flail around — this is the book for you.

Adams shares all of his downfalls and failures (which are many and kind of funny) and explores his unlikely success.  It turns out that Adams had a long list of small business failures before making it big.  A great read for when you’re feeling down and out but still kind of hopeful.

The Gen Y Handbook: Applying Relationship Leadership to Engage Millennials

by Diane Spiegel (@Diane_E_Spiegel)  (Apr 2, 2013)

Gen Y Handbook by Diane Spiegel

Did you know that there are now four generations working together in many businesses?

With that many different viewpoints on life, you are going to need a communications manual and this is it.  Any manager of a multi-generational workforce will want to use this book as a reference. Inside you’ll find helpful tips on how to manage and motivate Gen Ys (also known as Millennials).

Some people object to making generalities about an entire generation.  But look at it this way:  the goal is not to stereotype millions of people just based on the year when born.  Instead, it’s to understand the cultural forces that shape the way many of them think and act.  And that’s important information to know, as a manager.

Bankable Leadership : Happy People, Bottom-Line Results, and the Power to Deliver Both

by Tasha Eurich (@tashaeurich) (Oct 1, 2013)

Bankable Leadership book

Today’s work environment increasingly uses teams, and motivated teams are key.

Whether you’re in a multinational organization or solo-preneur with a virtual team, you’ve probably struggled with the balance of getting results from your team, while maintaining a fun and enjoyable work environment.

Bankable Leadership contains a variety of tools that include online assessments and case studies. These will help you take a no-fear approach to leading your team.  Whether you’re a new manager or a seasoned one, these tools can make a difference in a small business.

You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done

by Liane Davey  (@LianeDavey) (Sep 23, 2013)

You First by Liane Davey

We talk about the rugged individualism of entrepreneurship, but the truth is that not much gets done these days that doesn’t involve working with or being part of a team.  Even if you are a solo entrepreneur, chances are you hire some independent contractors and service providers.

So what is it that makes some teams stellar performers and others implode or explode and die?

This book by Liane Davey gives you the updated building blocks of running and being part of a high-performing work team.  You’ll learn how to start your projects with positive assumptions and get practical advice on the most effective language to use to move your team forward.

Remote: Office Not Required

by Jason Fried  (@jasonfried) and David Heinemeier Hansson (@DHH), (Oct 31, 2013)

Remote Office book

What started as a “radical” concept of flex time and working from home is quickly turning into the norm.

Fried and Hansson (trend setting thinkers and founders of software firm 37 Signals) set out to show the many benefits of moving work to the worker instead of the worker to the office.

While this isn’t an option for many businesses, it might be a profit boosting strategy for your business.  Their research shows that 60% of working moms would love this option and that there are many benefits including the ability to work across and service a variety of time zones.

Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day

by Todd Henry (@ToddHenry), (Sep 26, 2013)

Die Empty by Todd Henry

If you spend your days in a flurry of activity, yet go to bed feeling like you wasted your day, this is the book for you.

Todd Henry helps you take on the mindset and the urgency to make each day and each minute matter.  Henry explores what it means to “Die Empty” — it DOESN’T mean working yourself to death or following every whim.

The book is a deep exploration of finding the unique contribution that only YOU can bring to the world and then leveraging every minute to see it through.

Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Keep, and Nurture Talent

by Nolan Bushnell, and Gene Stone, (Jul 16, 2013)

Finding Next Steve Jobs

You may not know the name Nolan Bushnell, but you know Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, two of the companies he founded.

This is the ideal book for small business owners looking to get the best from themselves and to recognize and nurture great talent inside their organizations.  It’s one of the best small business management books about recruiting, hiring and growing a team.

The book contains a checklist of best practices that you can use to either hire great employees or build a great team.

* * * * *

And if you are looking for more small business management books, see our earlier list from 2011.  Good management advice is timeless.

Now, go out there and create a great team and a great company!

Management books photo via Shutterstock


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. Really interesting titles you have back there. I am particularly interested in “Focus” and “Play at Work”. I guess I need to know how to balance these two. I need to know to focus without overdoing it and remember that there must be a time to play too.

    • Hi Aira – Isn’t there some kind of Buddhist or Zen saying out there that the true master is one where there is no line between play and work (that was not the quote – but the essence of it) — I think that’s what Play at Work means to me. How awesome would life be if we never lost that childlike feeling of learning and doing and playing!

  2. Thank you for a list of interesting books that I will check out on for some of them. There should be a balance between work and play.

  3. José Rafael Fariñas

    Thanks so much for that information. Focus is a great book, really.

  4. Relationship Economics must have been #11 on your list! 🙂

    • Hi David — How did you know?! LOL — there were LOTS and LOTS of books on my fave lists and narrowing it down to 10 is SO HARD.

  5. Oh gosh, I think Die Empty is the book for me. I often go to bed feeling disappointed at the day. I also like How to ‘Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big’.

    Right. Gonna add those two to my book wish list.

    • Hi Ebele — I totally get what you are saying — in fact, I had that yesterday — the gift of a wide open day and when it was all over, I asked myself — what did you contribute today? The answer was disappointing. I wish that the information that I get from these books would literally take over my brain sometimes. Instead, I have to remember to put the learning into practice.

  6. Ivana,

    A nice list of must-reads! I gotta read these two: “Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking” and “Remote: Office Not Required”

    • Hi Ivan – The Play at Work book is truly awesome. I think with so much blending of work into our personal lives, learning how to play at work and solving problems with games is truly the next wave.

  7. Ivana: As always a great book compilation. I am supporter of the Pareto Principle and I have read Koch’s original book, so I have to check out the new one. I think you could apply it on your social media activities…

    Scott Adams is a funny guy and successful business owner, so I am curious to learn more about his life.

    I am fascinated by the Third Place (between your home and your office), and I tried to establish a place for entrepreneurs and business minded individuals years ago. I have read Re-work and I will get Remote.

    • Hi Martin — I love how you always take what you are learning in books and looking for ways to apply it in your life and your business!

  8. Hello Ivana, Thank you for sharing this great list! I plan to read some of these. I’ll add my own award-winning book to the list, “Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service: The Essential 60-Minute Crash Course”. Here’s what one small business owner said about my book: “We have started an “evidence” book full of positive customer feedback. Since we read Smile as a team, our evidence book has exploded.”(Thad Szott, Thad Szott Auto Group, Highland, MI). Thank you again.

  9. Great list. I am sure Scott Adams book is beyond hilarious. I’ll definitely make time for that one.

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