5 of the best books for small business

5 Best Books for Small Business Owners in 2023: Recommended Reads

rieva leonsky headshot
By Rieva Lesonsky
Award Winning Journalist on Small Business

Books, to me, like the iconic best-selling author Stephen King wrote, “are a uniquely portable magic.” 

For small business owners, they can be comforting and reinforce our beliefs and actions. Or they can be disruptive and lead us down the road less traveled.

So let me share some of that magic with you. Here are a few of my favorite books for entrepreneurs that will make you think, act, and learn.  Many of these are available in audiobook format, so you can listen at various times during the day. Read on…

1. “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It”

by Michael E. Gerber

Why it matters: For business owners who wonder if they’re spending enough time on the right things or missing the bigger picture, this is an essential read (or listen).

Format: Print, e–book and audiobook
Buy: Amazon

Overview: “The E-Myth Revisited” is presented as a conversation between the author and Sarah, his mentee. By “listening in,” we learn that often what we believe to be true about entrepreneurship is not. And Gerber explains that many of these beliefs are barriers to success.

The E-Myth is that businesses are started by entrepreneurs who are skilled and knowledgeable about building a small business. Instead, Gerber argues, businesses are started by “technicians” who are good at what they do but have no idea how to run a business. 

To better run their businesses, the book suggests business owners take a lesson from franchises and develop turn-key processes and systems so their businesses can run more efficiently. 

Gerber’s core idea is that business owners need to take the broader view. You should be working on the vision for your business—concentrating on developing strategies and not just handling the day to day.

2. “Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.”

By Brené Brown

Why it matters: This is a great book for someone ready for introspection and looking to build a positive work culture.

Format: Print, e–book and audiobook
Buy: Amazon

Overview: Brené Brown has written several books that resonate with entrepreneurs, emphasizing the need to be brave and show up—even when we might be unsure of the outcome. 

In “Dare to Lead,” Brown continues her assertion that business leaders need to be themselves and urges us to reconsider what it means to be a leader. Being the boss is not about wielding power. Instead, she writes, “A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.

To create a positive work culture, “Dare to Lead” encourages business owners to stop micromanaging. It’s not about abdicating responsibility, Brown says. Business owners should still “stay curious and ask the right questions,” but it’s critical we trust employees to do their jobs.

Brown says we need to create a work culture where employees are encouraged to explore and try new things but know that it’s okay to fail.

3. “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business”

By Charles Duhigg

Why it matters: Are you looking to build a new business or personal habit—or drop some bad ones? This is a great place to start.

Format: Print, e–book and audiobook
Buy: Amazon

Overview: Habits, whether they’re good or bad, are inescapable. We all have them, and “The Power of Habit” explains why they exist. Scientists say our brains create habits because they’re “constantly looking for ways to save effort.” 

Essentially, our habits are hardwired into our brains, and when triggered, we don’t think—we behave instinctively.

So, while that’s positive news for our good habits, what are we to do about the bad habits we’ve developed? Duhigg says all habits consist of three steps—cue, routine, and reward. To change our bad habits, we need to recognize the cue and substitute the routine with a better one. The key is willpower. It’s not easy to change bad habits, but it’s possible if we work toward that every day.

4. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

By Stephen R. Covey

Why it matters: Habits can make or break a person or a business. This book has sold more than 40 million copies because it offers alternative actions and ways of thinking to change our habits. You can read the whole book or tackle the chapters that address your current challenges.

Format: Print, e–book and audiobook
Buy: Amazon

Overview: Speaking of habits, as I just said, one of the ways to get rid of your bad ones is to pick up better behaviors. But unfortunately, while most of us know we should change a habit, we don’t know what to do about it.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the Think Win/Win chapter, which stresses that there is more than one way to solve a problem. The advice is to listen to what others have to say and then decide whether they know what they’re talking about. 

The book also reminds us that we can succeed by being fair, honest, and authentic and by treating people the way we want to be treated. The “Golden Rule” never gets outdated.

5. “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone”

By Simon Sinek

Why it matters: Truly successful people focus first on their purpose, cause, and belief. This book presents a proven framework for defining a purpose from which great businesses can be built and people can be inspired.

Format: Print, e–book and audiobook
Buy: Amazon

Overview: Simon Sinek believes that successful companies are founded with a sense of purpose and that business owners always need to remember their “why.” 

 If you’re planning to start a business, you need to know why you are doing it. When you understand that, Sinek says you’ll know what products to launch with and which services to offer. If you’re already in business, you should remind yourself why you started: What was your purpose—and are you still living it? 

Once you know (or remember) your purpose, you can inspire and lead others more easily. This is particularly sound advice today as a growing number of millennials and Gen Z workers are seeking employers who have a clear purpose and are both community- and socially-minded.

Like E-Myth author Michael Gerber, Sinek believes that if you focus on why you started your company rather than worrying about the day-to-day operations, you will be better prepared to inspire and lead, and your business will grow.

Rieva Lesonsky is an award-winning business journalist who has covered small businesses and entrepreneurship for over 30 years. She was the long-time editorial director at Entrepreneur magazine. Get more insights about business trends through her free Currents newsletter.

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