5 Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read
Gary Paulsen once said, “I owe everything I am and everything I will ever be to books.”
Today, people read for different reasons: Reading can be an escape or a form of entertainment. It can also be a powerful platform for education, which it commonly is for small business owners.
In addition to helping us see life from different angles, reading provides inspiration and motivation – both of which are precious resources for anyone working to build a brand.
If you’re feeling uninspired or stuck in a rut, these five books for small business owners will help you get your fire back and adopt a stronger-than-ever approach to running and growing your business.
5 Essential Books for Small Business Owners
For hundreds of years, the world’s greatest thinkers, scholars, and businesspeople have used reading as a platform to transcend their circumstances and learn new things.
Today, it’s no different.
Whether you’re gathering yourself to jump out of your day job, or working to keep up with a fast-growing small company, these books can help:
The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday
“We forget: In life, it doesn’t matter what happens to you or where you came from. It matters what you do with what happens and what you’ve been given.” – Ryan Holiday
The Obstacle is the Way is a must-read for all founders. Written by Ryan Holiday, the former Director of Marketing for American Apparel, The Obstacle is the Way is a pillar of strength for anyone battling the challenges of small business ownership.
The book’s thesis goes like this: Someone stole your business idea? Someone has more money than you? Something didn’t go right? Too bad. Let’s learn how to deal with it, rather than wasting time and energy complaining, or fighting futilely.
Funny, real, and to-the-point, this is a short book that earns a permanent spot on your nightstand.
Deeply rooted in Stoic philosophy and ideology, The Obstacle is the Way will help you get out of your own path and fight for your company’s success.
2. The 4-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss
“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align, and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.” – Tim Ferriss
Regardless of what you think of Tim Ferriss – love him, hate him, or have never heard of him – The 4-Hour Workweek is a must-read. Designed to help entrepreneurs master the art of “lifestyle design,” this book offers a wealth of hacks to make your daily life easier, faster and more efficient.
Among them are dozens of things that are useful for small business owners, including hiring virtual assistants, firing headache clients, automating processes, outsourcing pain points, and doing regular 80/20 analyses to limit stress in business and maximize outcome.
3. Rework – by Jason Fried and David Heinmeir Hanson
“Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day; they just use it up. The real hero is home because she figured out a faster way” ― Jason Fried
Rework is brought to you by the revolutionary founders of 37signals and Ruby on Rails.
Most of the founders I know have read this book at some point or another during their careers, and probably 90% agree that the strongest takeaway is this: being a workaholic doesn’t help anyone.
There’s a saying that goes, “small business owners are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”
While this is true, and many founders wear it as a badge on their lapels, being a workaholic also places you at acute risk of burnout. As such, learning to work smarter, not harder, is a wise decision. This book can help.
By offering tips on how to avoid time-sucks like pointless meetings and phone calls to advising entrepreneurs on how to manage their time and segment their lives more effectively, this book is essential for anyone who wants to outpace the competition by being more efficient.
4. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho
This is a book I often recommend to entrepreneurs who are just getting ready to take the initial leap into self-employment.
That can be a frightening time, and The Alchemist is an uplifting and inspiring chronicle of exactly what can happen when you square your shoulders and follow your dreams.
While this book has some of the chunky language you often see in translated text (Coelho is Brazilian), it’s a beautiful read. At the end, you’ll feel on fire, inspired, and ready to go out and grab life and business by the lapels.
5. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World – Cal Newport
“If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive—no matter how skilled or talented you are.” – Cal Newport
This one, though, is just a bit different.
In fact, many people think it’s even more applicable to small business owners and founders.
Designed to cater to entrepreneurs, founders, and small business owners, this book addresses a problem we all have but few of us know how to solve: despite our best intentions, our days are eaten up by busy work, interruptions, pointless tasks, and distraction.
Written for people who need to get more done (who doesn’t?) but find their fragmented and wasted with minor tasks, Deep Work provides a formula for getting into a flow state and destroying your to-do list. When done correctly, this can decrease “founder’s anxiety” and make every day more efficient and rewarding than the last.
In a world where alerts, distractions, and multitasking claim more of our time than ever, Deep Work is essential. By helping you learn to be productive rather than busy, this book enables you to grow your business and decrease your stress all at once.
Reading Your Way to the Top
While there are dozens of small business growth strategies out there, reading is one of the simplest and most effective. Ideal for helping you broaden your horizons and learn new things, these powerful books are chock-full of entrepreneurial wisdom and hard-won lessons from some of the top performers in the modern world of business.