Reading Really Is Fundamental: 5 Essential Books Offering Help for Small Businesses

Successfully operating your own small business can be very complex. Perhaps you started out with a dream of turning a hobby or passion into a lucrative and viable income stream.

If you were lucky enough to have the motivation and get off to a good start, you discovered a new world. Unfortunately, you also discovered that there is a great deal more to “being in business” than just doing “business,” and a great deal of it can be intimidating.

Being a business owner does not have to be a nightmare or continuously uphill battle. You can meet the challenge without being left too haggard to get to the actual work of your craft that led you to start your own business. The secret is to learn from the lessons of others and arm yourself to handle the challenges of being in business. One of the best ways for a busy businessperson to learn these lessons is to have a good reference library.

You do have a reference library, don’t you?

Don’t fret! Even if you are just getting started and do not own a single book, this is not a problem. Or perhaps you have a long business history and a well-stocked room, filled with volumes of information. Either way, you will benefit from our list of five essential books providing help for small businesses.

1. Linchpin, by Seth Godin. Who are the people that begin their own successful small businesses? What is it that sets them apart from the rest of the rank and file? The answer is that small-business entrepreneurs are indispensable, motivated, and well aware of their own value. In short, they are linchpins. Seth Godin is the modern master of business concepts, and in this book he helps the would-be linchpins of the world recognize their value. Whether your journey leads you to increasing your value with your current job, or you emerge as a nascent small-business entrepreneur, Linchpin will change your creative and productive space.

Who Should Read It: Anyone who is working too hard for someone else and wants to improve their current employment situation or decide if it is time to start their own small business.

2. Getting Things Done, by David Allen. In a modern world that is far more complicated and busy than ever before, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Making sense of it all and processing it into a productive system can be your greatest weapon on the war to begin your own successful small business. David Allen’s revolutionary ideas on the topic of productivity will topple a lifetime’s worth of indoctrination on the topic of “to-do” lists and inboxes. The information in this single book can help you better meet deadlines, manage long-term goals, and build a bridge of productivity to the land of small-business success!

Who Should Read It: Anyone who isn’t sleeping well knowing that everything in their life is not exactly in the place it should be and they are not achieving all they are capable of.

3. Drive, by Daniel Pink. “Motivation”—it is the sort of thing that we hear about over and over. Whether it is at work or in the news, it seems like there are people telling us what to be motivated by all over the place. Daniel Pink’s concise examination and interpretation of more than 40 years of psychological study is an eye-opening revelation for small businesses looking for help determining what motivates their clients and employees. Spoiler alert: The truth about motivation is not at all what you expect.

Who Should Read It: Anyone who needs to better understand human nature to a greater degree in order to get the most from employees and deliver the most for clients.

help for small businesses

4. The Cluetrain Manifesto, by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger. This seminal work is a must-read text for anyone in business. The message is simple: “Markets are conversations.” Regardless of what market you’re in, you can be sure there are conversations going on. The Cluetrain Manifesto will help you understand that you can, and must, become part of these conversations. “Business-speak” is dead in a world that communicates faster and easier than ever before. Learn more about the new language that surrounds your small business.

Who Should Read It: Anyone who represents a business and has ever read a press release, spoken to customer support, or been made to toe the corporate line and is tired of business speak.

5. Liars and Outliers, by Bruce Schneier. Given Bruce Schneier’s industry reputation as a legendary network-security analyst, you might think that Liars and Outliers is a book about technology. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a book about security and human nature. While security is important to protect your company’s rights and assets, foolish security measures can be more far more dangerous. This book can help you better understand and determine an appropriate security response.

Who Should Read It: Anyone who has anything they feel they should protect, whether in their business or personal lives.

help for small businesses

The information contained in this collection of books is invaluable to not only the motivated would-be businessperson, but also to the hardened business veteran. Each one contains a wealth of information and ingredients that you can learn from and use to build your own recipe for success as you enter the world of small business for the self-employed. After all, we are all self-employed in some manner.

Even if you are not the type of person you wants to be self-employed, there is a school of thought that you can, and do, work for yourself. Even in the employ of another, you should view your career as the “smallest of small businesses.” As a bonus for the “intrapreneur,” here is one more book that is essential. This one could even convert you from intrapreneur to entrepreneur!

Bonus Book: So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport. Our society has raised generations of children who we nurture, educate, and send into the world with the worst professional advice possible: “Follow your passion.” Cal Newport structures an argument that explains why so many young people flounder and just “sort of fall into” a job, rather than excel in a profession. With a variety of examples and situational studies, Newport helps us better understand the surtitle and why it applies to us all: Why Skill Trumps Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.

Who Should Read It: Anyone who feels stalled in his or her current job or is thinking, “This is just the job I have until I get a real job.”

Having a useful and well-stocked collection of business books does not have to bankrupt you or fill rooms in your home. We’re sure you’ll find that both your time and money will have been well invested!

Have you already read any of the books on our list? Or do you have a title that you feel was formative and fundamental to your small-business success? Leave us a comment and so we can all build our reading lists together!