The best small business books

7 authors have picked their favorite books about small business and why they recommend each book.

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Built to Sell

By John Warrillow,

Book cover of Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You

Built to Sell is the perfect parable that taught me how to build a scalable business with processes and predictable revenue. I read it, I shared it with our leadership team, who all read it, and then we built and sold a company for 8 figures. Whether or not you plan to sell your company, this is the most important book for all entrepreneurs to read.


Who am I?

I love building businesses. I’ve built several businesses, ranging from a one person consultancy to a venture-backed tech company to an 8-figure marketing agency to a managed HR marketplace to a virtual memorial services company. The only thing I love more than building businesses is building and helping create new entrepreneurs. These books have helped me tremendously in my journey and I hope they help you as well!


I wrote...

The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want

By Dave Kerpen,

Book cover of The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want

What is my book about?

Some people think that in today’s hyper-competitive world, it’s the tough, take-no-prisoners type who comes out on top. But in reality, argues New York Times bestselling author Dave Kerpen, it’s actually those with the best people skills who win the day. Those who build the right relationships. Those who truly understand and connect with their colleagues, their customers, their partners. Those who can teach, lead and inspire.

“This book is like How to Win Friends and Influence People—only better suited for today’s world.” —Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take and Originals

Scaling Up

By Verne Harnish,

Book cover of Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It...and Why the Rest Don't

Scaling Up taught me how to be an effective leader - what to focus on and what not to focus on, how to effectively build a one-page strategic plan and how to use that plan to grow a company, and how to build and meet with leadership teams. I’ve used it successfully with three companies and I plan on using it with every company I ever build.


Who am I?

I love building businesses. I’ve built several businesses, ranging from a one person consultancy to a venture-backed tech company to an 8-figure marketing agency to a managed HR marketplace to a virtual memorial services company. The only thing I love more than building businesses is building and helping create new entrepreneurs. These books have helped me tremendously in my journey and I hope they help you as well!


I wrote...

The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want

By Dave Kerpen,

Book cover of The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want

What is my book about?

Some people think that in today’s hyper-competitive world, it’s the tough, take-no-prisoners type who comes out on top. But in reality, argues New York Times bestselling author Dave Kerpen, it’s actually those with the best people skills who win the day. Those who build the right relationships. Those who truly understand and connect with their colleagues, their customers, their partners. Those who can teach, lead and inspire.

“This book is like How to Win Friends and Influence People—only better suited for today’s world.” —Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take and Originals

The E-Myth Revisited

By Michael E. Gerber,

Book cover of The E-Myth Revisited

In this book, Gerber outlines some of the business mistakes that plague small business owners and restrict their ability to grow their ventures.

As a business mentor to entrepreneurs this hits very close to home. It’s something that I talk to founders about, and need to be aware of myself as a business owner.

Coming from a corporate tech background I feel very strongly that small businesses shouldn’t be chaotic, and that intelligent systems can be put in place to help any business to scale and run efficiently. The E-Myth Revisited demonstrates the power of systems to revolutionise businesses using vivid examples. He also breaks down the 3 directions that entrepreneurs get pulled in and the challenges they face as a result. You’ll have to read the book to find out more!


Who am I?

I’m the founder of Purposeful Group, an author, and a multi-award-winning entrepreneur who has started multiple businesses from scratch. I believe that when you have the right mindset, positive things will flow from this. As the designer of programmes for entrepreneurs and digital learners, I have recommended books that I hope will give readers a great foundation to build on to achieve their entrepreneurial goals. From a personal perspective, they have kept me on track, and helped me build a framework of “success behaviours.”


I wrote...

Don't Hire a Software Developer Until You Read this Book

By K.N. Kukoyi,

Book cover of Don't Hire a Software Developer Until You Read this Book

What is my book about?

Do you have an idea for a web or mobile app? If you do but are unsure how to transform your business idea into a technical product, then this practical “software survival guide” is for you!

This is the second of 5 books I've published for entrepreneurs, designed to show you how to build your software application smartly! I mentor entrepreneurs and tech startups from around the world. As a qualified tech professional and software delivery specialist, I explain the do’s and don’ts involved in getting your startup business off the ground step-by-step, so you can avoid the common mistakes, pitfalls, and challenges experienced by aspiring tech entrepreneurs. 

Profits Aren't Everything, They're the Only Thing

By George Cloutier,

Book cover of Profits Aren't Everything, They're the Only Thing: No-Nonsense Rules from the Ultimate Contrarian and Small Business Guru

This book is very basic and aimed mostly at small business owners or readers who are interested in the fundamental mechanics of profit. It’s a hard-hitting book and controversial, e.g. with recommendations such as, “Never pay your vendors on time. Wear your control-freak badge with pride.” It shows that many little things influence profit and should be observed. Useful for start-ups and readers with basic economic knowledge. The obsession with profit as the only priority is, however, somewhat exaggerated. 


Who am I?

Hermann Simon is a world-renowned expert on price and profit management. He is the founder and honorary chairman of Simon-Kucher & Partners, the global leader in price and topline consulting with 1700 employees and 41 offices worldwide. He is the only German in the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame of the most influential management thinkers. In China a business school is named in his honor. Profit is at the core of Hermann’s writing and consulting activities.


I wrote...

True Profit!: No Company Ever Went Broke Turning a Profit

By Hermann Simon,

Book cover of True Profit!: No Company Ever Went Broke Turning a Profit

What is my book about?

Profit is the most important indicator of business success. It is all the more surprising that there is no “pure” profit book. This book is the first and only one. It clears up false profit concepts and gets to the bottom of actual profits. Profit is the cost of survival. The ethics of profit, as well as the causes of low profits, and the therapy for high profits are discussed. Finally, I prove that price, with a profit multiplier of 10, is the most effective profit driver, followed by cost, with a multiplier of 6, and sales volume, which has a multiplier of only 4.

The book is strategic and equally relevant for large and small companies.

Guerrilla Marketing

By Jay Conrad Levinson,

Book cover of Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business

Jay Conrad Levinson is one of my heroes. His first book, Guerrella Marketing, released when he was in his 50s, and went on to sell more copies than any other marketing book in history. A legendary creative genius from the ad world, he was teaching a class on impromptu, clever marketing tactics when his students (which included Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison) begged Jay to write the book that became the bestseller. Jay’s amazing book shows what’s possible when you apply lots of creativity and audacity to any marketing challenge. If you’ve read my earlier book, you’ll see plenty of Jay’s influence, starting with his foreword.


Who am I?

Throughout my oddly circuitous career, my mission has always been to help clients grow their businesses. Along the way, I’ve come up with some pretty useful insights and innovations. I mixed cartoons (I’m also one of the WSJ cartoonists) with direct marketing and created a new genre that broke many response records. Then I wrote How to Get a Meeting with Anyone, which helped readers drastically improve their sales results (and was named one of the top 64 sales books of all time). And now, How to Grow Your Business Like a Weed adapts nature’s ultimate growth model for business use, to produce explosive, sustainable growth. 


I wrote...

How to Grow Your Business Like a Weed: A Complete Strategy for Unstoppable Growth

By Stu Heinecke,

Book cover of How to Grow Your Business Like a Weed: A Complete Strategy for Unstoppable Growth

What is my book about?

Everybody knows what it means to grow like a weed. Curiously, no one has ever examined weeds as a source of business growth strategy. To write this book, I interviewed botanists, billionaires, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, four-star generals, CIA operatives, countless business and financial experts, weed scientists, and more, to discover the secrets weeds use to grow, expand, dominate and defend their turf. The result is a stunningly effective model anyone can understand and immediately apply to their business, to create explosive growth. You know, just like a weed.

Trajectory

By Dave Parker,

Book cover of Trajectory: Startup – Ideation to Product/Market Fit

I love Dave Parker’s book, Trajectory: Startup – Ideation to Product/Market Fit, because it provides a clear, but detailed roadmap to guide entrepreneurs through and over all of the necessary steps and obstacles to entrepreneurial success. The nature and degree of the best practices and practical insights laid out in Trajectory: Startup is somewhat similar, but even more granular, to that found in my own book but for the business side of things instead of the legal, governance, or regulatory side.

There is a lot of intellectual and procedural handholding in these pages, including checklists, to-do lists, and template forms for gathering and analyzing research and data, that first-time entrepreneurs will find indispensable and that even experienced entrepreneurs will find illuminating and useful. In the book’s Introduction, Parker summarizes what he hopes to help aspiring entrepreneurs do: create value with your product or service; decide on primary and secondary…


Who am I?

I have worked with startups since 2000, when I joined ShareBuilder, ultimately sold to Capital One in a $9.5 billion deal – one of my five successful startup exits to date. I am currently an officer of seven startups. Startups drive global job creation and problem-solving innovation. But 90% fail, often for preventable reasons. I am helping entrepreneurs beat those odds. I wrote Startup Law and Fundraising to help entrepreneurs build on a solid foundation, avoid common legal and regulatory mistakes, and fund their vision. My books are used globally in law and MBA schools, and I speak constantly on entrepreneurship-related topics, including recently to groups in Istanbul, Ramallah, and Tehran. 


I wrote...

Startup Law and Fundraising for Entrepreneurs and Startup Advisors

By Paul A. Swegle,

Book cover of Startup Law and Fundraising for Entrepreneurs and Startup Advisors

What is my book about?

Entrepreneurship is chaotic. Some chaos drives innovation. But legal chaos rocks startups to their foundations, dashing dreams, jeopardizing jobs and investments, causing liabilities, and slowing innovation. Swegle wrote Startup Law and Fundraising for Entrepreneurs and Startup Advisors to help startups avoid these pitfalls, including the pitfall of struggling to grow a poorly funded business. 

This is a practical book meant to help entrepreneurs and their advisors: build on a solid foundation; avoid costly legal and regulatory mistakes; and raise the money needed for stability, innovation, and operational success. Startup Law and Fundraising is read in by entrepreneurs, lawyers, CFOs, investors, and others across the globe interested in business, business law, and startup fundraising. Its pages cover an unmatched range of startup-focused concepts, tips, traps, strategies, and best practices. 

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

By Peter F. Drucker,

Book cover of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Although Peter Drucker is best remembered as a management guru, he also produced some seminal work on the topic of entrepreneurship, of which Innovation and Entrepreneurship is the most comprehensive. The book explores the close relationship between creative problem-solving (or “innovation”) and successful/socially impactful entrepreneurship. In his lively prose, the fondly remembered business writer provides a rigorous review of the opportunities for entrepreneurship. 

For example, he discusses how “changes in perception” such as changes in how women see themselves in modern society, create opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs. Dr. Drucker also provides excellent insights regarding different forms of entrepreneurship. Perhaps most relevantly, he also explains the ways in which entrepreneurship impacts society and, in his view, makes the United States and some other developed countries more economically resilient. 


Who am I?

As an entrepreneur and a professional business valuation specialist, I have a passion for understanding entrepreneurship and its often-transformational impact on society/civilization. Having worked with many business owners and inventors over the years, I've noticed that money is not always the primary motivating factor for entrepreneurs. In many instances, the benefits their products and services are intended to provide—and, in some instances, the wider social implications of those benefits—are what animates these business adventurers the most. So, these days when the work of NewSpace entrepreneurs like Musk, Bezos, and Branson are likely leading humankind to a multiplanetary future, it's an opportune time to explore the impact of entrepreneurship on society. 


I wrote...

A Brief History of Entrepreneurship: The Pioneers, Profiteers, and Racketeers Who Shaped Our World

By Joe Carlen,

Book cover of A Brief History of Entrepreneurship: The Pioneers, Profiteers, and Racketeers Who Shaped Our World

What is my book about?

A Brief History of Entrepreneurship charts how entrepreneurship has been a prime mover in revolutionizing civilization. Entrepreneurs often butt up against processes, technologies, social conventions, and even laws. As such, they circumvent, innovate, and, in some instances, violate to obtain what they want. This creative destruction has brought about overland and overseas trade, colonization, and a host of other phenomena that have transformed society.

Consulting rich archival sources, including some that, heretofore, have never been translated, Carlen maps the course of human history through nine episodes when entrepreneurship reshaped our world. Highlighting the most colorful characters of each era, he traces this phenomenon from Mesopotamian merchants' creation of the urban market economy to the current "flattening" of the world's economic playing field.

Making a Living Without a Job

By Barbara Winter,

Book cover of Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love

I recommend this book because it’s a crayon box of creative and practical ideas and insights. This is a great read for someone who wants to be entrepreneurial, l but isn’t yet in the I-have-to-dominate-the-market-and-own-Silicon-Valley- stage. I guess I’d call it approachable entrepreneurship. The author gives you ideas for how to be “joyfully jobless” including multiple profit centers and marketing on a shoestring. I love authors who can give you creative hope, no-nonsense ideas, and specific creative ideas like “find all the ways to put raspberry and chocolate together.”    


Who am I?

I am moved by the deepest potential in all of us. Having graduated from Harvard Law School and working as an unfilled attorney, I finally left everything to follow my true desire to write. So, I know how vital it is to have support for our inspiration instead of our fears. That’s why I’ve written 5 books to champion visionary minds, creative souls, freedom junkies, and more. And as a TEDx speaker and USA Today featured visionary career coach, I am always reading for my own growth and for my students. I recommend these books because they helped me to trust in greater possibilities. I hope they support your dreams. 


I wrote...

This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love

By Tama J. Kieves,

Book cover of This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love

What is my book about?

For anyone who has ever yearned to discover or live the true work within them  In This Time I Dance! you’ll find the inspiring story of how Harvard lawyer Tama Kieves left her corporate life to discover her buried creative self and develop the livelihood that stirred her soul and paid the bills. Going beyond the “5 easy steps” self-help formula, Kieves offers you an intimate mentor to map out the real process of realizing your wildest dreams. With her startling honesty and edgy humor, she will stir you to realize your own astonishing capacities. Kieves begins by asking the question she answers with her life: “If you’re this successful doing work you don’t love, what could you do with work you do love?” 

Duct Tape Marketing The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide

By John Jantsch,

Book cover of Duct Tape Marketing  The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide

Duct Tape Marketing is probably the best “if you could only have one book” guide to marketing for small businesses. Written by a guy who’s been “in the trenches” working with small businesses on their marketing for over two decades, it’s practical and actionable and keeps you firmly focused on what’s really important to succeed, not on “flavor of the month” tactics.

It’s a great book for non-marketing people. And it very much focuses on setting up systems and processes so we get consistent results from our marketing. In other words, the boring stuff we tend to avoid but that actually makes the most difference!


Who am I?

I'm a writer and consultant on marketing and creating online courses. I’m obsessed with “cracking the marketing code.” Ever since I saw firsthand what a huge impact even small marketing changes could have on a business's success I’ve been determined to figure out what the really big impact but low workload changes are. I’ve written about some of them in my book Email Persuasion and I share others in my blogs and videos.


I wrote...

Email Persuasion: Captivate and Engage Your Audience, Build Authority and Generate More Sales With Email

By Ian Brodie,

Book cover of Email Persuasion: Captivate and Engage Your Audience, Build Authority and Generate More Sales With Email

What is my book about?

Email Persuasion is the definitive guide to engaging your audience, building authority, and getting more sales with email marketing. Described as a “results getting tour de force” and “inspiring but practical” it will take you step by step from getting subscribers to nurturing relationships to winning new clients.

Email Persuasion was created for small businesses and sole practitioners. It’s written in clear and straightforward language and includes real-world tips that will elevate your results from email marketing whether you’re a beginner or an advanced-level marketer.

Diary Of A Bookseller

By Sean Bythell,

Book cover of Diary Of A Bookseller

This non-fiction book is uplifting, funny, and heartbreaking in equal measure as Shaun Bythell shares his diary of owning Scotland’s biggest second-hand book store. We get to meet the eccentric readers who frequent his bookshop and learn first-hand about the struggles of owning a small business, and the importance of books and the community.


Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by books since a young age. Not just reading the stories but also how they’re written, the cover design, literary agents, and the publishing industry in general. I’ve written five novels (four of which are USA Today bestsellers) and my work has been translated into twenty-five languages worldwide. My second novel, Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone, was made into a Hallmark movie in 2021. I still get excited about generating ideas for characters to take on unusual and joyous journeys of discovery. I’m a huge fan of reading books about the craft of writing, and I especially love novels about bookshops and libraries.


I wrote...

The Messy Lives of Book People

By Phaedra Patrick,

Book cover of The Messy Lives of Book People

What is my book about?

A heart-warming, feel-good story from the USA Today bestselling author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper and The Library of Lost and Found.

Mother of two Liv Green scrapes a living as a cleaner to make ends meet, finding escape in books while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So, she can't believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. When Essie passes away suddenly, Liv is astonished to learn of her dying wish: for Liv to complete Essie’s final novel. As Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women—one that will change Liv’s own story forever.

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