10 Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read

6 min read • Jul 09, 2021 • Katherine O'Malley

Entrepreneurship requires constant learning, but what small business owner has time to read all the books? None that we know, so we’ve put together the top 10 books every small business owner should read.

Address Your Biases

Like it or not, every business owner has blind spots that can hinder their ability to create and manage a diverse workforce. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to understand and address your unconscious biases.

1. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People

by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald

Some of the key takeaways from the book:

  • Includes a variety of Implicit Association Tests (IATs) to help uncover your “mindbugs” (unconscious biases)
  • Explains how even the absence of helping others can continue to perpetuate discrimination (this in and of itself demonstrates the value of mentorship programs)
  • Description of how “group membership” in a “negatively stereotyped group” can cause a person to underperform (e.g., reminding a female of the “women aren’t good at math” stereotype just before she takes a job knowledge test can cause her to underperform on the math section)

Improve Your Communication Skills

Communication skills impact so many parts of a small business—from workplace inclusivity to remote employees’ performance to the effectiveness of your email marketing strategy. These books can help take your communication skills to the next level.

2. Radical Candor

by Kim Scott

This book will help you implement the practice of “Caring Personally While Challenging Directly.” That means giving (and receiving) effective, honest feedback that triggers actual change. In other words, you’ll learn how to provide feedback that motivates rather than angers or manipulates the recipient. At the end of the day, don’t we all want genuine evaluations that enable us to improve ourselves?

3. How To Win Friends and Influence People

by Dale Carnegie

First published in 1937, this book’s advice stands the test of time. Indeed many other successful authors have repackaged some of these fundamentals into new best sellers.

Is any of its advice akin to rocket science? Nope. But it’s worth a read to remind you of:

  • the art of persuasion
  • the effectiveness of honest communication (radical candor, anyone?)
  • how to inspire others via your leadership role

4. Everybody Writes

by Ann Handley

The book’s tagline, “Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content,” sums it up perfectly.

Remember when you were learning to drive, and you studied your state’s driver manual to learn the rules of operating a car? Think of this book as the writing equivalent—it outlines writing rules, including grammar, storytelling, and publishing standards. Additionally, it guides you on how to write effective marketing-related content, including emails, social media, and blog posts.

Get Things Done

In a world that glorifies a hustle culture, it’s critical to find a way to get things done without suffering from burnout or other mental health issues.

5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

by Stephen R. Covey

Another oldie but goodie, this book gives the framework to help you choose the right goals to focus on.

Perhaps that means some small tweaks to your life, or it may be a complete paradigm shift of both your personal and professional goals. At the very least, you’ll better understand how to apply the Pareto Principle to maximize your efficiencies.

6. Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life

By Jim Kwik

As a small business owner, you’re constantly learning—everything from using the latest social media tools to exploring new target markets for your product.

The author overcame a childhood brain injury and made it his business to learn how to learn. As a result, we can all benefit from his advice on real learning in this age of instant digital answers.

Support Your Employees

Employees need assistance more than ever as they grieve pandemic-related losses, including a reversal of gender equality and an increase in mental illnesses. These 2 books can help guide you on how to support your workforce.

7. Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons

 by Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Inequality in the business world still exists—even among leaders such as female founders. The authors, both political leaders, explore the experiences of female leaders while creating a handbook of how to put more women into positions of leadership.

8. Life is a Four-Letter Word: A Mental Health Survival Guide for Professionals

by Andy Salkeld

Mental health issues, yours or your employees, can significantly influence your business’s success. The author’s insights on living with depression can help you address the disease’s potential impact on your business.

Marketing Strategy

Marketing’s #1 rule? You aren’t selling a product or service; you’re solving a problem. A focus on your customers’ priorities may move them from being merely loyal customers to them outright marketing your business for you.

9. Fanocracy

by David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott

The book’s goal is to teach a method of “turning fans into customers and customers into fans.” People are the core of your business. Thus a focus on people-first connections can create a community of people marketing your business for you.

Appreciate the Journey

Dreaming big is important, but so is embracing the here and now.

10. The Wonders That I Find

by Meghan J. Ward

Full disclosure—this is actually a children’s book. But it’s a great reminder to “savor the journey,” especially since your business is a journey, not a destination. And really, who can resist the reminder to stop and view the ants along the way?

Many other books deserve a shout-out, too, but these will get you started. And don’t forget—your locally-owned bookstore appreciates and deserves your support.

Katherine O'Malley

Katherine O'Malley is a contributor to the Lendio blog. A technology geek at heart, she splits her time between traveling, freelance writing, database administration work, and implementing SEO on her travel blog. In her free time, she loves to research the challenges small-to-midsize tourist suppliers face and find ways that technology can help them out.