10 Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read

Dec 17, 2019

Small business owner reading a book

Knowledge is power. It’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for good reason, especially for people taking on big ventures like running their own business. 

Starting, running, and growing a small business is no easy task, and there is so much information you need to know to find success long-term. 

Plenty of people know that they should get a business license, obtain the required forms of commercial insurance and that they should make customer service a priority, but what about everything else? Business owners also need to learn about management strategies, marketing tactics, financial investments, self-employed retirement accounts, company culture, and so much more, and it only gets more complicated the bigger your business gets.

As we’re heading into 2020, there are ten incredible books that every small business owner will want to read if they haven’t already, giving them a wealth of knowledge that can guide them in the new year. Let’s take a look at each one. 

1. Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is a well-known author of The 4 Hour Work Week (which you should also check out if you haven’t already), and his 2016 book Tools of Titans includes actionable tips to establish routines and habits that have benefited more than 100+ successful business owners that come from diverse backgrounds. He uses anecdotes to help drive his points home, keeping the book enjoyable to read, too. 

Ferriss is a productivity guru, to the point where he even actively encourages readers to skip sections of his own book that aren’t relevant to them, so consider checking out the book on Kindle for free and find the sections that will benefit you most.  

2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini

Business owners are typically going to be most successful when they have enough charisma and skills in the art of persuasion to help them sell their services. This doesn’t mean being manipulative or slimy, but you need to know how to convince employees and vendors that working for you is a good choice and that purchasing from you is a solid move.

Dr. Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is an oldie but a goodie, diving deep into what motivates people to say yes, and how you can adapt those principles to influence people ethically and effectively in the real world. Even if you feel like you’ve got great people skills, check this one out, as business owners and marketers alike have been using it as a guide for over 30 years. 

3. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber

Every business is unique and has its own individual qualities that make it successful. That being said, there are plenty of reasons in common why a large majority of businesses fail. Knowing what those reasons are and how to avoid them is key.

Micahel E. Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It can help you there, ensuring that you’re one of the 20% of small businesses that survive by avoiding common pitfalls and devastating mistakes. 

4. Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia

Capitalism at its core is good for business owners, providing great potential for opportunity, but we all know that some businesses take advantage of the system to the detriment of others.

Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia argues that you don’t want your business to be one, especially since the national call for accountability for corporations is growing by the day. Understanding how to create responsible, sustainable businesses that do good in the world (and for their employees) while still being competitive is a great read. It turns out, you can have your cake and eat it, too, and this book can help you do just that. 

5. Speak and Get Results by Sandy Linver

Sandy Linver’s Speak and Get Results will help anyone who gets a little jittery thinking about public speaking, which is often an important part of being a business owner. Whether you’re managing your staff or delivering sales pitches to potential clients, being a persuasive and confident speaker can help you go a long way, and this book can help you get there. 

6. Getting Things Done by David Allen

Finding ways to increase productivity is tied directly to an increase in profitability as far as a business owner is concerned, and David Allen’s Getting Things Done can give you the tools you need to create and organize a workflow system so that you can more efficiently accomplish tasks without the stress. 

7. Built to Last by James Collins and Jerry Porras

The unfortunate reality is that more small businesses fail than succeed, even if they start out alright in the beginning. Creating businesses that can actually stand the test of time isn’t an easy feat, but James Collins and Jerry Porras wrote Built to Last to help you get there. 

Collins and Porras researched 18 wildly successful companies over the course of six long years to discover what steps each organization took as they scaled. If you’re interested in growing your business, this is one to read. 

8. Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World by Rand Fishkin 

Rand Fishkin is a pretty famous entrepreneur in the tech world, and he’s been brutally honest about his successes and failures alike in Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World

His book takes an honest look at the world of startups, including warnings about venture capital financing challenges, flagging some growth strategies that do more harm than good, and a look at his own mistakes. He looks at what does and doesn’t work so that you don’t have to learn the hard way. 

9. Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur by Cara Alwill Leyba

Written for women by a woman, Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur by Cara Alwill Leyba is a must-read for female business owners who often face different challenges than male business owners. The book can help you gain confidence as a business owner, focus on your “why,” and how to establish strong personal connections that will offer value and support. 

10. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup is all about agility and adaptability, focusing on the fact that businesses need to be able to adapt quickly in today’s rapidly-evolving world. Ries goes into detail about how you can be adaptable, offering tips about how to be more capital-efficient and utilize creativity more successfully and efficiently. This one is a favorite for tech businesses, and plenty of entrepreneurs recommend it, too. 


It goes without saying that not every book on this list will apply to every single business owner out there. “The Lean Startup,” which focuses heavily on concepts for tech-startup businesses, may not be a good fit for a local dentist trying to start their practice, and “Girl Code” may only appeal to female audiences. 

That’s ok; pick the ones that feel most relevant to you and where you are in your journey of business ownership, and start there. And remember that even if you’re busy, you’ve got options; you can check out digital versions, including audiobooks you can download for cheap. And if books aren’t your thing, check out business podcasts instead. All that really matters is that you’re arming yourself with reliable, new information that you didn’t have before.

Author:

Jillian Enterline

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