Five Business Books Every Small Business Owner or Manager Must Read

Your fall reading assignment

“Attention class!” As the weather turns cold and gray, it’s the perfect time to give all you small business owners and managers a fall reading assignment. I have listed five books below that I think provide some great perspectives and tools for small businesses.

Now before you complain “Dang, that this is way too much homework,” I would like to point out that you chose to be in Small Business 101, and you’ve probably been in it long enough to know that success requires constantly learning how to make your business better. And I have read all these myself so I’m not asking you to do anything I haven’t done already. Granted, I’m a bit of a bookworm – and read all different kinds of books, mostly non-fiction, from history to science, but mainly business books.

I’ve always felt that experience is the best teacher. And reading about others’ learnings and experience is a great way to shorten your learning curve.

Here are 5 business books I love:

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, by Patrick Lencioni

Many of the most successful entrepreneurs and successful leaders understand that if your employees aren’t engaged within your organization, then not much else matters. This book, by my favorite business author (you should really read ALL of his other books), focuses on how you can improve the health of your organization through many different variables.

Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives, by Kip Tendell

If you’ve ever been to The Container Store, you know that this place has great people, great selection, and most importantly a great culture. In this book, chairman/CEO of The Container Store explains his philosophy about the importance of focusing on your employees, creating mutually beneficial relationships with your suppliers and customers, and the key to maintaining effective communication. While these seem like pretty obvious tenets of business, you need to hear them from the perspective of an amazingly successful entrepreneur.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This is one of the many great nuggets from this book that focuses on trying to help you find your “why.” This book is derived from the concept of the “golden circle” (you should also watch the author’s Ted Talk about it – “How great leaders inspire action”). The golden circle in a nutshell – you start with WHY your business exists, then ask HOW your business fulfills that core belief, then lastly, WHAT your business does to fulfill that core belief. If you’ve ever asked yourself how your business is different, this is a great book to read.

The Art of Strategy: Guide to Success in Business and Life, by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff

How does game theory apply to your business? It can teach you to predict what other players – competitors, employees, customers, etc. – are going to do. This is a great book which does a fantastic job of breaking down why people do what they do, and how you can best plan and respond to their actions. (It can be a little “academic” at times, but still very worth the read.)

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Business, by Eric Reis

Not only is this an incredible book for startups, it’s also a great tool for all business owners who are working on expanding their business, growing their product line, or just planning for the changing environment in their industry. It is important, as a business, to be flexible and understand when you need to change your direction/strategy.

As you can see, I have provided links for those of you interested in purchasing any of these books. I love the unique and valuable perspectives they bring. I also like analyzing and discussing them with others. So, if you want to stop by my office to rehash any of these books, please do! And if you have any suggestions for great books for small business owners, please share them with the class (Or email me and I will share them.)

And no, I haven’t decided yet if these books will be on your final exam.