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11 Best Small Business Books to Add to Your Reading List Today

The average American reads about four books a year. Bill Gates reads 50. Ajit Singh, venture capitalist and Stanford University professor, reads 60. 

The list of other extensive readers includes names you may recognize, like Richard Branson, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, Mark Cuban, and Mark Zuckerberg. 

It’s clear that reading is a habit that sets the super-successful apart. 

But where do you start? We’ve compiled an essential list of the best small business books for your reading list.

The benefits of reading for small business owners

Entrepreneurs understand the value of lifelong learning. Knowledge doesn’t stop after you get a degree. Reading is the portal to knowledge, specialization, and enhanced skills. 

Many successful entrepreneurs and business owners, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett dropped out of school but continued learning and improving through reading. 

Richard Branson dropped out of school at sixteen but maintained an avid reading habit. In honor of World Book Day, he even shared his list of 65 books that everyone should read in their lifetime.

Prosperous people, famous or otherwise, understand that if they want to get ahead in life, they need to build their knowledge and skills consistently through reading. Some of the main benefits of reading include:

  • Develops cognitive skills: According to brain studies done on readers, reading activates the entire brain and strengthens two neural networks to enhance understanding.
  • Improves speaking skills: The more you read, the more words and phrases your brain stores, which you can use to communicate more effectively. This is a useful skill to have, both in your personal and professional relationships.
  • Reduces stress: Studies have shown that a reading session can have almost the same effect on your body as deep meditation—in as little as six minutes into reading a book, the heart rate slows, the blood pressure lowers, and the muscles begin to relax.
  • Expands specialized and general knowledge: Whether you want to learn broad marketing concepts or the specific money management tricks of billionaires, so much knowledge can be found within the hundreds of millions of books in this world.

11 best books for small business owners

To accelerate your success as a business owner, it’s best to carve out time in your week for reading. If you only read 11 books this year, make sure these titles are on your list.

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

The E-Myth Revisited book cover

This enduring classic, first published in 1995, describes why most small businesses fail—and how to keep yours alive and thriving. 

The E-Myth Revisited explores concepts that help you understand where you are as an entrepreneur and how to get where you want to be. 

It also names the three main roles small business owners often juggle—the Entrepreneur, the Manager, and the Technician—and teaches readers when and how to play each role to further their business. 

It offers a life raft to keep entrepreneurs floating above the rough seas of the initial struggle of business-building. 

If you feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions in your business and struggle to keep your head above water, this book is for you.

Noteworthy quotes

  • The Fatal Assumption is: If you understand the technical work of a business, you understand a business that does that technical work.
  • Contrary to popular belief, my experience has shown me that the people who are exceptionally good in business aren’t so because of what they know but because of their insatiable need to know more.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup book cover

Inspired by science and lessons in lean manufacturing, author Eric Ries offers a working model of continuous production and improvement in your business, which he details in The Lean Startup

The Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop is at the core of the Lean Startup model, which encourages consistent creativity and productivity in your team.

A great key lesson to learn from this book is the art of working through uncertainty and letting go of perfection in pursuit of your vision. 

As most small business owners understand, the first idea is often the worst, and the journey to business success requires constant iteration and change. 

With the lean startup mindset, you can drastically reduce the time to an efficient and successful business.

Noteworthy quotes

  • The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.
  • Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.
  • If you cannot fail, you cannot learn.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Zero to One book cover

Zero to One, written by Peter Thiel, former CEO of PayPal, and venture capitalist Blake Masters, is a manifesto for entrepreneurs who will build the future. 

It inspires readers to innovate, no matter what industry they’re working in, and challenges them to create things that have never been done before rather than trying to compete in a saturated market. In other words, it means going from “zero to one” (introducing something that’s never been seen before) rather than “1 to n” (making more of what is already there).

It’s a must-read for the dreamers of this world—also known as entrepreneurs—who feel the spark of a brand-new idea in their hearts and want the inspiration to act.

Noteworthy quotes

  • The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.
  • The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.
  • All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.

I Got There by JeVon McCormick

I Got There book cover

An inspiring memoir from JeVon “JT” McCormick, president and CEO of Scribe Media, this book details his humble beginnings as the mixed-race son of a negligent pimp father and a struggling single mother. 

Growing up while suffering through poverty, abuse, and racism, McCormick inspires the reader through his tumultuous story, challenging them to think differently about their past and to use it as fuel to achieve their dreams. 

At times heartbreaking and also uplifting, I Got There proves that no obstacle is insurmountable and success can come from anywhere, a lesson that many small business owners should absorb.

Noteworthy quotes

  • “I’m not a drug dealer. I’m not a rapper. I’m not an athlete. But I am very successful.” That’s not how you’re supposed to open a speech if you’re a successful businessman. Especially if you’re a successful minority businessman in America. But I’m no ordinary businessman, this was no ordinary speech, and I’ve had no ordinary life.
  • There’s a phrase in Zen Buddhism called “beginner’s mind.” It’s a state where a person is open, eager, and without any preconceived notions when learning something for the first time.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism book cover

Small business owners often find themselves stretched between priorities, taking on too much while feeling they can—and should—do more. 

Essentialism offers an alternative to the hamster wheel of unproductive busyness. It’s about deciding what is absolutely necessary and aggressively cutting down anything that isn’t, which frees you to make the highest possible contribution to what matters to you. 

The book empowers entrepreneurs to hone in and focus on what’s important to them. It includes a 21-day challenge to get readers to act and implement the essentialism strategies as soon as possible.

Noteworthy quotes

  • Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.
  • You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.
  • Sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.

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Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Dare to Lead book cover

Small business owners are leaders by design. But are you fulfilling your leadership role to its full potential? Are you running your business with bravery and whole-hearted commitment every day? 

Dare to Lead encourages you to step up and approach your responsibilities with integrity and vulnerability, nurturing yourself and the potential of those who follow you. 

You may have heard of Brené Brown from her viral TED talk on the power of vulnerability, as well as her various books on the topic.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown | TED 

With a growth mindset, Brené Brown guides you on a journey of stepping up and into brave leadership based on authenticity and integrity.

Noteworthy quotes

  • I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.
  • The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Start With Why book cover

Start With Why asks and answers the question: Why are some businesses more innovative, more influential, more profitable, and command more loyalty than others? 

Based on his popular TED talk, this book by American author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek draws on his experience with and observations of multi-million and billion-dollar organizations and their leaders. 

Start with why — how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound 

When you have a compelling vision—your “why”—behind your business and everything you do, it fuels persistence and grit, the building blocks of a successful business. 

Start With Why covers the inner section of Sinek’s “Golden Circle” model. It starts with the “Why” and grows outwards into the “How” and then the “What,” giving an important perspective for small business owners on what to prioritize first in their leadership. 

Noteworthy quotes

  • People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.
  • The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.
  • Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it.

Strategize to Win by Carla Harris

Strategize to Win book cover

Strategize to Win offers real-life advice and actionable strategies for those considering a career change—a common contemplation of budding entrepreneurs. 

Written by Carla Harris, senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley, it details how to define your goals, attract the opportunities you want, and build relationships within the corporate world. 

While Strategize to Win is aimed at corporate employees, small business owners will still find this valuable, especially the advice on building professional networks and relationships, which is important to both jobholders and entrepreneurs.

Noteworthy quotes

  • The decision to change jobs, companies, or careers is among the most important you will ever make in your career.
  • Telling and selling your story is one of the most important components to successfully interviewing for any position.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Rich Dad, Poor Dad book cover

No doubt you’ve heard of this classic book, praised by many as their introduction into the world of finance and wealth-building. 

Rich Dad, Poor Dad offers a peek into how the rich stay rich and the mindsets and habits to adopt if you want to build wealth. 

He also goes into the basics of assets and liabilities, teaching key financial concepts he learned watching his two “dads” growing up—Poor Dad, Robert’s father, struggling to make ends meet and often in debt, and Rich Dad, his friend’s father, a wealthy man who mentored Kiyosaki on his path to wealth. 

This book is full of “aha” moments and great lessons for anyone wanting to further their knowledge of money.

Noteworthy quotes

  • The poor and the middle-class work for money. The rich have money work for them.
  • There is a difference between being poor and being broke. Broke is temporary. Poor is eternal.

Mindset by Carol S. Dweck

Mindset book cover

Within the pages of Mindset, author Carol S. Dweck explains what we intuitively understand: Your mindset affects how you see everything in life and how you act (and react) in all situations. 

She introduces the concept of a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. 

The fixed mindset believes that skills and abilities are set at birth and cannot change—thoughts such as “I’m hopeless at math” or “I’m just not good at networking” are common among those with fixed mindsets. 

Dweck offers an alternative way of seeing things—a growth mindset that sees roadblocks as learning opportunities and would never subscribe to limiting beliefs such as “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” 

As a small business owner, you’ll likely encounter rocky situations of discomfort and challenges that have you questioning whether you’re truly up to the task. 

In Mindset, you’ll learn where you may be applying rigid mindsets and how to become more growth-oriented in your life and in your business.

Noteworthy quotes

  • Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.
  • Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz

Profit First book cover

In the spirit of growth, this last book offers a paradigm-shifting money management solution for business owners who want to turn their businesses profitable as quickly as possible. 

The systems in Profit First teach the reader principles of simplifying accounting and attaining early and sustained profitability, a dream for new business owners. 

Full of practical tips and case studies, this system is lauded by successful entrepreneurs all over. 

Noteworthy quotes

  • When less money is available to run your business, you will find ways to get the same or better results with less. By taking your profit first, you will be forced to think smarter and innovate more.
  • Eliminating unnecessary expenses will bring more health to your business than you can ever imagine.

Reading is just the beginning 

Will any book on this list of best books for small business owners make it to your must-read list? 

Perhaps there are some you’ve read already and need to revisit. Remember, knowledge is only as useful as how you use it. These books weren’t meant to be read and then put aside—they require practice and application to see success in your small business. 

It’s never too late to start a reading habit, and it’s never too early to get ahead of your lead management with a great CRM.

Effective lead and sales pipeline management becomes increasingly important as your small business grows, especially in B2B. 
That’s why Nutshell is here to automate your sales pipeline management and help you close more sales with software. Learn more about how Nutshell helps SMBs drive leads and conversions. Sign up to try Nutshell free for 14 days.

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