| SCORE certified mentor
Question: Now that we are into the new year, any thoughts on the best business books for small-business owners and managers?
Answer: Here are nine books that focus on a variety of skills needed to manage and lead a small business. They are a good start to achieve the lifelong-learning goals that separate good owner/managers from great ones.
“The E-Myth Revisited,” by Michael E. Gerber: Over five years, 80% of small businesses fail. One big reason is that they don’t move beyond being incredibly proficient in their core competencies, which is not the same as running a business. Originally published in 1988, “The E-Myth Revisited” is an updated entrepreneurial guidebook written by Michael Gerber that explores why so many small businesses fail, and gives entrepreneurs tips on how they can avoid suffering a similar fate.
“E-myth” is shorthand for “entrepreneurial myth,” which basically says all you need to succeed is some skill and a lot of hard work. Not so, says Gerber. He defines three stages of small-business life — technician (expertise), manager (focused on systems) and entrepreneurism (big-picture thinker about the future).
“Conquer the Chaos,” by Clate Mask and Scott Martineau: Business is most often described as going from Point A to Point B and creating strategies and tactics to overcome the obstacles in the path of achieving the goal of Point B. This book focuses on achieving your goals and objectives without going crazy.
If you find yourself as the chief in charge of putting out fires rather than managing the forward movement of your business, then “Conquer the Chaos” might be the prescription for you. This book, like “The E-Myth Revisited,” is great for those just beginning the small-business journey, because it offers advice on creating a mindset to overcome day-to-day chaos.
“Start With Why,” by Simon Sinek: This is the most important business book of the decade, in my opinion). We often start with what we are doing and how we are doing it, but fail to answer one question for ourselves and our customers — why are we doing it? The full title of this book says it all: “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” Sinek postulates that you can either manipulate or inspire people, including employees, to get on board your vision train. When starting with why, you allow them to focus on the core of your vision. Why are you doing it? “Start With Why” allows you to create pathways to creativity to help you and others achieve your ultimate goals.
“Built to Last,” by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras: If 80% of small businesses fail over time, then what makes those that are good become great? The answer is a foundation built to last. Collins and Porras summarized a six-year Stanford Business School study into a usable text for every small-business owner. This book, like Sinek’s, looks at why. Why did these companies become successful and last? It poses the question for the reader: What can you adopt from their successes to make your enterprise last?
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey: This 1990 publication is a timeless tome to guide us in life and in business. Small-business owners find their business and personal lives melding into one another. Covey’s book helps entrepreneurs focus on what is important to attain and maintain balance. The focus is on beginning a business and navigating those early days when there are often more questions than answers, and the questions can be scary. He suggests beginning “with the end in mind.” One of the most important chapter is on effective listening — listen with the intention to understand, not just reply.
“The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu: Sun Tzu found great wisdom on the battlefield for small-business owners. Written around 500 B.C., Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” is a timeless book on military strategy that remains surprisingly relevant today — not just on the battlefield, but also in the business world. Divided into 13 sections, Tzu explores the various elements of warfare and how to apply those strategies to launching, operating and growing a business. His wisdom guides small-business owners to conduct thorough and continual competitive analysis — know your enemy as well as yourself. The author also recommends building a team of talented people and training and treating them well, advice you can apply to your small business right now.
“The Effective Executive,” by Peter F. Drucker: Drucker is “the” teacher of business management. Becoming an effective manager is the objective of this timeless book. Written in 1967, Drucker focuses his lesson of “effectiveness” on figuring out how to do the “right” things right. For example, he teaches that the most effective skill for operational professionals is time management. When working productively, managers are working effectively. The most enlightening part of Drucker’s teaching is that effective management style is learnable. This is a classic, but well worth the time to read.
“How to Win Friends & Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie: 30 million copies of Carnegie’s 1936 classic have been sold. A successful salesman, Carnegie turned to public speaking, and the advice from his seminars was compiled into this book. Getting people to like and respect you, and getting them to do what you want them to do — by reasoning, not just telling — is the key lesson in this book. One important takeaway is that if you want to change someone, avoid criticizing them. Criticism is often met with force; criticize someone and they’re likely to think worse of you and listen to you less.
“Guerrilla Marketing,” by Jay Conrad Levinson: Tips and tricks small businesses can employ in marketing their business, their brand, their products and services is the theme of this 1983 book. Levinson guides the reader in using different approaches to get to the next level in marketing without breaking the bank. His guidance focuses on the experience each and every buyer has when they interact with the enterprise, making it a marketing moment. He guides the reader to deputize everyone in the organization as a marketer to make the buying experience memorable. Levinson’s approach is to substitute guile and cunningly innovative and creative marketing for traditional, expensive marketing tools that may not reach the intended target.
Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, certified mentor. Sources: 9 Best Small Business Books, Beverly Bird; 12 Must Read Books for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs, Fundbox.com; 10 Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read, bigtimesmallbusiness.com. Business Insider. For free and confidential mentoring or creation of an advisory team, contact SCORE Cape Cod and the Islands at capecod.score.org, [email protected] or 508-775-4884. Check out our website for local and national webinars.