It is a well-circulated statistic that the world’s leading CEOs read about 4-5 books a month. And if that number seems to vary based on the source, we can at least be sure that it is much higher than the average professional including the small business owner.
So, there is definitely some truth to the idea that reading books can directly help you lead your organization better, see more growth and generally be a frontrunner in your industry.
- Top 5 Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read
- 1. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, Or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
- 2. The Lean Startup by Eric Reis
- 3. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz
- 4. The Miracle Morning: The Not-so-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life Before 8 am, By Hal Elrod
- 5. Triggers: Sparking Positive Change and Making it Last, by Marshall Goldsmith
Your natural follow-up question to that statistic, of course, might be, “What can they possibly be reading so much of?”
Think leadership, philosophy, how-to, and success stories.
To help you along your way, we’ve shortlisted 5 books you should read as a small business owner. We can personally assure you that these 5 books are an especially great place to start.
And if you can actually read all 5 within a month, more power to you!
Because 5 is quite a small number (it would have been so much easier to recommend 20 books and let you do the choosing), we have made sure to pick the absolute, essential best for small business owners.
Top 5 Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read
1. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, Or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
A popular book for entrepreneurs, Zero to One helps you find value and innovation in unexpected places.
The premise behind ‘Zero to One’ is the idea of creating something that hasn’t existed before- Where creating more of something that’s already available takes the market from 1 to n, creating something that doesn’t exist basically helps you gain a first-mover advantage.
The book is well articulated, with relatable examples and thought-provoking concepts from Thiel.
Interesting fact – the book is actually based on Blake Master’s notes from Thiel’s startup class at Standford. Blake Masters was a student in Thiel’s class in 2012.
Defining excerpt- “It’s easier to copy a model than to make something new. Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1.
The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange. Unless they invest in the difficult task of creating new things, companies will fail in the future no matter how big their profits remain today.”
This a great book for when– You need some inspiration to reinvent your approach/outlook and widen your horizons.
2. The Lean Startup by Eric Reis
Most startups around the world fail – even with initial success, they dwindle into has-beens and are put onto the metaphorical back shelves until they eventually need to shut down. This journey from an exciting startup to a failed company can take a matter of a few years or a few months.
The Lean Startup examines how more startups can hit success, primarily by being agile and innovating.
Eric Reis takes you through the entire cycle of entrepreneurship – right from the building of a business and the concept of entrepreneurship vs management, to scaling a startup to be successful.
He puts forth the idea of a process for success and aims to equip entrepreneurs to build successful businesses.
Defining excerpt– “I was building IMVU’s product development team, using unorthodox methods. Measured against the traditional theories of product development I had been trained on in my career, these methods did not make sense, yet I could see firsthand that they were working.
I struggled to explain the practices to new employees, investors, and founders of other companies. We lacked a common language for describing them and concrete principles for understanding them.
I began to search outside entrepreneurship for ideas that could help me make sense of my experience. I began to study other industries, especially manufacturing, from which most modern theories of management derive.
I found that by applying ideas from lean manufacturing to my own entrepreneurial challenges – with a few tweaks and changes – I had the beginnings of a framework for making sense of them. This line of thought evolved into the Lean Startup – the application of lean thinking to the process of innovation.”
This a great book for when– You’ve established a company and are only a few members deep, but are swinging in the dark in terms of leading it to certain success.
3. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz
Most of the business books you read are full of wonderful concepts that inspire you, and one hopes that by reading them you can extract their context and apply it to your business. This book, however, gets right into the messiness and reality of running a business. All small business owners should perfect these challenges that they’re undoubtedly facing.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a no-holds-barred book that realistically navigates the different complications you’re likely to encounter as a small business owner.
Ben Horowitz uses his personal experience to set the background for numerous challenges, including very real ones such as “what to do when smart people are bad employees”.
What makes this book a most magnetic read is Horowitz’s personal journey. As any successful businessman, he’s faced a large number of setbacks, failures, and cringe-worthy moments that he tells you about them, keeping you hooked and wondering how he dealt with it all.
His ‘in your face’ style of writing, with no drama and no fuss, draws you in easily and puts the essence of his story first. You’ll be left not only inspired but armed with actionable insights on dealing with very real business scenarios.
Defining excerpt- “The hard thing isn’t setting a big, hairy, audacious goal. The hard thing is laying people off when you miss the big goal. The hard thing isn’t hiring great people. The hard thing is when those ‘great people’ develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things.
The hard thing isn’t setting up an organizational chart. The hard thing is getting people to communicate within the organization that you just designed. The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.
There’s no recipe for really complicated, dynamic situations. Nonetheless, there are many bits of advice and experience that can help with the hard things. I do not attempt to present a formula in this book. Instead, I present my story and the difficulties I have faced.
As an entrepreneur, CEO, and now a venture capitalist, I still find these lessons useful – especially as I work with a new generation of founder-CEOs. Building a company inevitably leads to tough times. I’ve been there; I’ve done that. Circumstances may defer, but the deeper patterns and the lessons keep resonating.”
This a great book for when– You’re scaling and seeing cracks in the foundation, or want to avoid any cracks in the foundation.
4. The Miracle Morning: The Not-so-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life Before 8 am, By Hal Elrod
When we were compiling this list, we knew we didn’t just want to fill it with management titles that help lead your company to success.
Your personal outlook is key to your company’s success, so we also wanted to include books that will help you evolve into the best version of yourself, in the context of your company.
The Miracle Morning is the ultimate business management guide to help you turn your business around and one look at its reviews will make you want to pick it up for yourself.
This is a book for which the reviews don’t just praise the writing and readability, they praise – and personally validate – the very concept.
Hal Elrod takes you through his concept of the miracle morning, the premise of which is, of course, waking up early!
But it’s not just about waking up early, it’s about what you do with that morning time. If you’re not used to rising early, now’s the point at which you will say, “I’m not too much of a morning person, and I wake up reasonably early enough for work anyway”.
But if you trust the reviews, the practices Elrod outlines will make you be and want to be a morning person and will add so much value to your life that you’ll see yourself making visible strides in achieving success.
Defining excerpt- “Whether you consider yourself to be a ‘morning person’ or not, you’re going to learn how to make waking up every day easier than it’s ever been before.
Then, by taking advantage of the undeniable relationship between early rising and extraordinary success, you’ll find that how you spend the first hour of your day becomes the key to unlocking your full potential and creating the levels of success you desire.
You’ll quickly see that when you change the way you wake up in the morning, you’ll change your entire life.”
A great book for when– you feel like you can be going so much further! But also, for anytime, really.
5. Triggers: Sparking Positive Change and Making it Last, by Marshall Goldsmith
As a small business owner, chances are you’ve heard the name ‘Marshall Goldsmith.’ He’s one of the world’s leading business coaches (and many legitimately argue he is the world’s leading business coach).
Besides the countless global leaders he has coached, he has also established coaching concepts and techniques that have contributed immeasurably to the field of coaching and management.
Needless to say, when Marshall Goldsmith writes a book, business leaders pick it up.
‘Trigger’ is now a commonly used word, and Marshall means it in exactly the same context –
What is it that triggers you to react and behave in a particular way in your day-to-day life? How do you respond to those triggers?
The book’s goal is not only to help you answer these questions but to change the way you respond to your triggers.
Think about it – if you could control your response to the countless triggers you must face as a small business owner, wouldn’t so much more of your day feel within control? Wouldn’t challenges and hurdles be put into context and navigated more productively?
Wouldn’t you be a better leader, and wouldn’t your company’s culture and the environment take a turn for the better?
Most importantly, in addition to helping you master your triggers to make positive changes, the book gives you actionable structures to make these positive changes last in the long term.
Defining excerpt- “This is a book about adult behavioral change. Why are we so bad at it? How do we get better at it? How do we choose what to change? How do we make others appreciate that we’ve changed?
How can we strengthen our resolve to wrestle with the timeless, omnipresent challenge any successful person must stare down – becoming the person we want to be? To answer these questions, I’ll begin by focusing on the triggers in our environment. Their impact is profound.”
A great book for when– you think (or you’ve been given feedback) that you need to change your behavior in some way to create a better impact or benefit in your work/company.
And that concludes Kylas book list!
We tried to keep it well-rounded and, rest assured, no matter where you are in your journey as a small business owner (or as a person, really) you will find that these books are evergreen in adding value and insight to your life.
And if you need social proof, know that they’ve all been written by extremely successful people and are rated very highly by other industry leaders and readers in general.
And in turn, if you have any that you’ve read and would like to recommend, we’re all ears – or rather, eyes!