As a small business owner, I’m always trying to learn from the experience of other entrepreneurs, and that happens most often through reading their books.
If you find yourself with some downtime over the holidays, here are the top 10 books I buy in bulk and regularly recommend to clients and colleagues. Read them in any order – this just happens to be the order that I discovered them!
1. Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham
One of my all-time favorites, Small Giants changed the way I looked at growing my company and inspired me to connect with owners of like-minded companies to learn how to create a culture of ownership, trust, and passion for greatness.
2. A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business by Nick Sarillo
Many entrepreneurs feel tied to every element of their business, because they can’t seem to let go and trust in their employees. This book taught me how to build a culture of trust and accountability through education, training, tracking, and process – and changed my way of thinking about my responsibility as an employer to educate and nurture the development of my team.
3. The Great Game of Business, Expanded and Updated: The only Sensible Way to Run a Company by Jack Stack
Most business owners would never dream of opening the financial books up to their employees, but this book may change your mind! Creating a culture of financial intelligence can cultivate a sense of ownership and responsibility in every employee. We started implementing Open Book Management at Whole Brain Group in 2011, and it has transformed the efficiency & profitability of our company.
4. A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading) by Ari Weinzweig
The first of three books written about leadership, this book teaches the power of creating a clear, shared vision of greatness in your company. Once everyone is clear about where you’re going, you can make faster and better decisions – following the 12 “Natural Laws of Business” that every leader should embrace when trying to build a great business.
5. Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You by John Warrillow
If you’re seriously thinking about selling your business, or just fantasizing about it after a particularly bad day at work, Built to Sell will help you take an objective look at what needs fixing before others can recognize the value you’ve built in your company. Once you make your punch list and start fixing things, you may find that you don’t want to move on after all!
6. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman
Most of the drama and lost productivity inside companies is due to the lack of a clear vision and misalignment of teams. Gino’s book outlines a process for defining your company vision, clarifying priorities, and maintaining traction to move your company forward. Implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System was so successful at Whole Brain Group that it’s now the foundation of how we work with our clients on marketing & sales strategy.
7. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
It’s nice to read a book that honestly discusses the experiences of women in business, and the feelings many of us have about leading. I’m used to being in the minority at conferences and business meetings, so I had stopped noticing some of the things Cheryl points out. This book made me think about the culture at Whole Brain Group, and take steps to make sure we aren’t inadvertently perpetuating learned behaviors among men or women.
8. Why is Everyone Smiling? The Secret Behind Passion, Productivity, and Profit by Paul Spielgelman
Think that having fun at work and caring for employees is bad for your bottom line? Think again! Paul’s book describes the culture at Beryl, a company that was built on the principle that employee loyalty drives customer loyalty, which in turns drives profits. Applying concepts from this book helped Whole Brain Group improve our level of service and increase revenue from existing customers by 50%.
9. Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (New Rules Social Media Series) by Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan
If you can’t seem to generate the leads and sales you need to support your revenue goals, inbound marketing may be the answer! Dharmesh and Brian describe how to develop a strategy and process for attracting prospects, converting them to customers, and encouraging them to become evangelists for your company. This book is required reading for all of our customers!
10. Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine With The $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com by Aaron Ross
If you’re frustrated with your sales team’s performance, it may be because your structure isn’t aligned with the strengths of your team members. Aaron’s book describes how to reorganize your sales roles and revamp your process & tools to align with how buyers are making decisions today. This book is a great companion to “Inbound Marketing” by Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan (above).
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books, or suggestions you may have for my list!