Have you ever noticed that you always seem to be thinking or worrying about the same old things in your business?
- Creating a business you love.
- Having a life outside your business.
- Standing out from the competition.
- Get and keep customers.
There Just Might be a Business Book for That
Since 2008, I’ve read and reviewed well over 300 business books.
In fact, I’ve read and reviewed so many books, that whenever someone asks me for some type of small business advice, I’ll often mention and refer to a book I’ve read and reviewed.
Here are the top business books I find myself referencing over and over again whenever the conversation turns to any of these topics.
UUUGH! My Business is Taking Over my Life!
You started your business to “be your own boss,” but soon enough, you discover that the freedom you were seeking wasn’t the freedom you were getting. Sure, you’ve freed yourself from your boss, but now, you’re also free from weekends, family events, vacations, and a good night’s sleep.
At some point, you might find that you aren’t quite as in love with your business as you had been.
Well, there are books for that.
Whether you’re thinking of starting a business, or the business you’ve been running for a while has sort of lost its “sheen” — these books will get you back on track — or maybe off the track. Either way, you’ll find your center and your joy once again.
Designing Your Life: How to build a well-lived, joyful life
by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
When you find yourself saying “Is this it? Is that all there is?” It’s time to pick up a copy of “Designing Your Life”.
Two Stanford software design professors apply design thinking to create a business or life you can get excited about.
The key take-a-way is the concept of building your way forward. Instead of getting everything right the first time, you move forward from one experience to the next and note what worked. Then in the next round, you look for what worked and then add another element that worked and inspired you.
If you’re a business owner, you can already see how powerful this new context is. Entrepreneurship is a journey, a grand experiment. The key to success is to pivot and change and this book will show you how to do this with your life and your business.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You
by Cal Newport
Did someone tell you to “follow your passion” when you started your business? Well, guess what? That doesn’t work!
Following your passion is what gets you to open a restaurant because you love to cook or start a yoga studio because you love yoga. But great businesses (and fulfilling lives) are a function of discovering and building on your skills.
Author, Cal Newport was Inspired by a phrase used by Steve Martin on what it takes to be successful. “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” breaks down the myths of what you need to do to build your “skills inventory”; observing and identifying your strengths and then doubling down on intentional practice and learning those skills.
Read a review of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”.
Find Your Balance Point
By Brian Tracy
How often do you find yourself thinking, saying or maybe screaming “I’ve got too much to do and not enough time”? Too often?
“Find Your Balance Point” is a book that I’ve read, re-read, reviewed, recommended and purchased as a gift many times. It’s a book I go to whenever I feel out of sorts, overwhelmed and ready to throw in the towel.
Written by sales and small business expert, Brian Tracy with his daughter Christina Stein, “Find Your Balance Point” shows you that true balance is when your are clear and focused. To help you get there, Tracy and Stein walk you through some basic exercises such as clarifying your values, setting priorities and putting together a plan you can get excited about.
Read a review of “Find Your Balance Point.”
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
By Michael Gerber
I’m sure you’re heard of “The E-Myth” and maybe you’ve been promising yourself that you’ll read it. If you haven’t yet, here’s why you should.
It’s ok to be a solo-preneur and run a business all by yourself. A lot of businesses start that way. But if you aren’t writing and tracking what you do and how you do it, you’ll never grow your business and you will burn out.
Author Michael Gerber shares stories of business owners just like you and how they transformed their story, their passion and process into real systems and procedures. Soon, they were able to deliver on their vision and create delightful customer experience without doing it all themselves.
Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
By Atul Gawande
If you want something done right, you could do it yourself, or you could create a checklist and guarantee that it’s going to be done right — no matter who does it.
Atul Gawande’s “Checklist Manifesto” makes a simple point; no matter how expert you may be, well-designed checklists can improve outcomes.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed and “not good enough”, you’ll see that checklists actually free you up to focus your talents on what you do best.
HELP! How Do I Stand Out from the Competition?
Whenever a business owner or sales person tells me that their price is too high, my answer is always the same: “If your customers are complaining about price, they have no idea why they should choose you.”
Here are a few books that will help you stake a unique claim to your market and never compete on price again.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
By Simon Sinek
Your customers are just looking for a great reason to choose you. So give it to them. In his book, “Start With Why.”
Author Simon Sinek explores why some people, even among the successful earn greater loyalty from others. The answer was not who they were, what they did or how they did it. It was all about their WHY.
This book will cause you to stop, reflect and think about the deeper reasons of why you started your business or why you serve your customers.
As you discover and uncover your deeper why, you’ll find yourself enrolling employees and customers alike to your cause.
By Tom Rath
By all means, fix your weaknesses. But differentiate yourself by your strengths.
Once you understand your “Why”, the next most difficult part is putting words to your uniqueness. The best book for uncovering your strengths and giving you some jump-start language that you can use in your marketing is “Strengthsfinder 2.0”.
You’ll buy the book for the assessment. After all, who doesn’t want to read about themselves. But you’ll keep the book as a reference.
I often ask clients to take the assessment so that I can see their strengths and then pull inspiration from the description to create website copy, bios and more.
Riches in Niches: How to Make it BIG in a Small Market
By Susan Friedman
You can’t sell anything to everybody. It seems counter-intuitive, but focusing your marketing on a smaller, more targeted group will actually yield more customers.
The real muscle of “Riches in Niches” comes from helping you pin-point your target market.
As I always say, take your strength and apply it to the group of people who struggle the most with what you do best.
Read a review of “Riches in Niches”
Creating Competitive Advantage: Give Customers a Reason to Choose You Over Your Competitors
By Jaynie L. Smith
It might seem like some businesses are just lucky and know exactly how they are different from the competition. But most likely, this isn’t going to be you.
To get to the heart of your competitive advantage, you will have to actually do some analysis and some work.
“Creating Competitive Advantage” will show you how.
You’ll get inspiration from dozens of real-life stories explaining how other companies found their competitive advantage. The author also provides a step-by-step guide.
I’d love to tell you it’s intuitive and easy. But the work will be worth it.
Read a review of “Creating Competitive Advantage.”
Get Customers. Keep Customers. Make Money
Ahhh. The never-ending conversation about how to get more of those profitable customers, keep those customers and make more money.
Here are the books I recommend to make that happen:
The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself
By John Jantsch
Want to get customers fast? Create and practice a referral system.
John Jantsch’s “The Referral Engine” is my go-to recommendation for building a referral system because he provides so many examples. The best part is that these are examples from other small business owners, just like you — and not some big corporation.
Word-of-mouth is still the best, most profitable marketing strategy. Why not make the best of it.
Read a review of “The Referral Engine.”
Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine
By Mike Michalowicz
“Pay yourself first.” That’s the advice most of us have always gotten from our parents. And that was great advice when you had a job. But then you start your own business and somehow you decide that everything and everyone should get paid before you do.
This is no way to run a business.
The surest way to run a profitable business is to make profit a priority and build it in. And this is what author Mike Michalowicz shows you how to do with “Profit First.”
It’s not complicated, but it can take some getting used to. “Profit First” breaks everything down into simple steps. Start today and you’ll be profitable — guaranteed. Read a review of “Profit First.”
Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses
By Joe Pulizzi
I can’t begin to count how many times I have recommended this book. Because it’s easy to say “content is king” but it’s not as easy to actually explain how a time-strapped small business owner can use content.
That’s what you’ll get from “Content Inc.”
There are a few lessons that are worth keeping this book on your shelf:
- How to uncover your “content tilt” — that’s your own unique point of view.
- Choosing a content channel – you don’t have to use all of them, but choose the channel you want to own.
- How to create content that attracts your ideal customer.
While there are hundreds of content marketing books out there. This is the book I recommend for small business owners BEFORE they jump into creating content.
Read a review of “Content Inc.”
The Back of the Napkin (Expanded Edition): Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
By Dan Roam
If you can’t communicate your uniqueness or how you solve a customer’s problem, you aren’t going to get the sale.
Dan Roam’s “Back of the Napkin” isn’t a book about drawing or design. It’s a book about how to communicate ideas from your head to another’s head.
And the way to do this is with images.
Don’t worry if you can’t draw — it’s not about the drawing, it’s about which images to choose to communicate which concepts.
The 1% Windfall: How Successful Companies Use Price to Profit and Grow
By Rafi Mohammed
I’m ending this book recommendation section with what I think is the most powerful book on pricing that no one knows about.
Every small business owner I know struggles with charging enough for their products and services. And if you’ve gone through all of the books on this list, you are ready for “The 1% Windfall“!
Raise your prices! You are good enough. Your products are valuable enough. And, your bottom line deserves it.
Read a review of “1% Windfall“.
Can a List of Business Books Change Who You Are?
Is it too much to say that a series of books can transform you or how you run your business? Maybe. Maybe not.
But these are the books I’ve read and recommended over and over again to business owners who have gone down the rabbit hole of worry.
I love these books because they gave me something to hang my ideas on. They gave me new ways of looking at my business. And, they have helped me take my business forward.
I hope that they will do the same for you.