10 Best Books for Small Business Owners

There are lots of great books for small business owners but these 10 books are what I consider to be the best books for small business owners.

Since starting my small business I’ve spent years reading every book I could find that would help me gain an advantage.

It’s only after having read hundreds of books over many years that I’ve narrowed it down to this list of the 10 best books for small business owners and I hope you find them as useful and valuable as I have.

Each of these books are easy to read, filled with practical advice and can profoundly change how you run your life and your business. After all, that’s why they’re the best books for small business owners!

Positioning – The Battle For Your Mind

Positioning is one of the most fundamental elements of business strategy, especially for a small business, so I’m starting the list with this book by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

Res and Trout are two legends of marketing and advertising and lots of stuff you might have read in the marketing realm is a derivation from this old, but still relevant, book.

What differentiates your small business and sets it apart from your competitors?

How can you get into the mind of your customers and become known as the #1 choice in your industry?

By positioning your small business in the mind of the customer.

With careful positioning, your small business can rise above all of the competition and become the customer’s first and only choice.

This book deals with the psychological aspect of marketing and branding – the mind of the customer.

By understanding how customers think and reverse engineering their thinking, you can understand how your small business can begin to enter the mind of your customers.

This is an older book and many of the examples are dated but the usefulness of the positioning strategy is even more relevant today, which earns it’s spot as one of the best books for small business owners.

If you study this book carefully and apply the positioning strategy to your business, you will see a tremendous difference in how customers engage with your small business.

Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind on Amazon

Brand Gap / Zag

These two books are hands-down the best books about business branding and marketing.

If you want to understand what a brand really is – and how to create one for your small business, these books will help you do so quickly and easily.

Zag is also a great companion or alternative to Positioning. The concepts are similar but are discussed using different terminology and examples which make the strategy of positioning easier to comprehend and apply in your business.

Plus, these books are two of the easiest books for small business owners to read because they’re short, illustrated, and do a great job at explaining branding and positioning in simple terms by using lots of examples and analogies.

I’ve put these two books together because as a small business owner you can’t read one without also reading the other. They each compliment one another and they’re just so much fun to read.

Brand Gap on Amazon

Zag on Amazon

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization

This book covers just five questions – the five most important questions for your small business.

If you want to think deeply about your business, gain clarity and insight, and come out the other side with a renewed sense of purpose, vision and direction – this is the book for you.

Peter Drucker is the father of modern management and a prolific thinker about business strategy and management. I highly recommend reading everything he’s written but the five most important questions is a really practical place to start.

This is an essential book for small business owners to read if they want to truly understand their business and where they are (and should be) headed.

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization on Amazon

The E-Myth Revisited

This is the first book for small business owners to read when they start their business. And if you haven’t read it yet, you should read it immediately!

Most people who start a small business are Technicians (that’s Gerber’s term from the book), someone who has a skill and decides to turn it into a business.

The problem, which is illustrated by the story of a woman starting a bakery that sells pies, is that there are two other fundamental roles needed in small business: the Manager and the Entrepreneur.

Now, you might be an Entrepreneur and not a Technician. Or perhaps you’re a Manager. The point is, it’s incredibly rare for someone to be all three – and all three are necessary.

In the book, Gerber explains the three roles, why each are fundamental to a successful business, and what to do depending on what role(s) you already have.

Most small businesses struggle for many years before either failing or eventually becoming successful. This book is the antidote to that failure and the roadmap to success.

That’s why this book is one of the best books for small business owners, especially those just starting out, to absolutely have read.

The E-Myth Revisited on Amazon

Do It Tomorrow

This book changed my life. It’s that good.

Before reading this book I struggled to get anything done and was constantly frustrated at my lack of focus, wandering direction and inability to make progress on anything.

There’s a great quote on page 1 of the book:

“To complain about a shortage of time is like a fish in the sea complaining that it has a shortage of water.”

Time is the most valuable resource we have and we can never get more of it.

That’s how incredibly important mastering our use of time is and why this book had such an impact on my life.

In this book, Mark Forster speaks to how simple taking control of your time is and why we’re often unable to do so. He breaks it down and explains why the common practices (like “to-do” lists) are wrong and what to do instead to gain control of your time once and for all.

The strategies and lessons in this book are absolutely priceless and it’s one of the few books I’ve read over a dozen times, making it easily one of the best books for small business owners.

If you want to take control of your time and be more productive I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Do It Tomorrow on Amazon

Personal Kanban

if you’re constantly trying to juggle too much or frequently stressed out about how much you have to get done, Kanban is the solution!

Kanban is a process flow used to organize and manage tasks and in this book you’ll learn how to setup and apply Kanban in your personal life. While the focus is on your personal life, everything you learn can also be used in your business to great effect.

In fact, I use Kanban to manage my projects – personal and professional – and also have implemented it in many of my client’s organizations.

Kanban is intuitive, visual, helpful and an enjoyable process for managing just about anything. I highly encourage you to pick up this book, learn the process, and see how it can benefit your business. The book has lots of clear examples and helpful analogies which make understanding and applying the process straight forward.

When you’re getting started it’s easiest to use a whiteboard (or a blank wall) with post-it notes. After that, I recommend using the free web-based tool Trello which lets you create different boards and collaborate with others.

Personal Kanban on Amazon

The Dip

As a small business owner you know that running a business is hard and sometimes it feels like you should quit.

In this wonderful book Seth Godin makes that case that we should quit more things, more often. He outlines what, and when, to quit in order to be successful at life and in business.

This book is super motivating and it’s filled with some great stories that really drive home the point in a clearly.

Quitting is perfectly acceptable – and required – as long as you quit the right things and at the right time. If you’re having a rough season or if long-term thinking isn’t a strength of yours, pick up this book for some encouragement and direction.

The Dip on Amazon

How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success In Selling

This is a book about selling, but it’s really about far more than just that.

In this book, Frank Bettger tells the story of his journey in sales from wanting to quit due to failure and his journey to becoming successful.

The story is incredibly believable and inspiring, mostly because the principles he learns and applies are universally applicable regardless of your industry or what you’re selling. It’s more about attitude, ingenuity and effort rather than a cheesy sales script or a few magic words.

Lots of business books these days are written in story format using fictionalized stories to illustrate a point. This book is different, and better, because it’s a true story (almost a memoir) that takes you on an adventure. And along the adventure you learn some incredibly valuable lessons, techniques, and applications for life.

Whether you’re responsible for selling anything or not this is one of the best books for small business owners no matter what business you’re in.

How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success In Selling on Amazon

Secrets of Closing the Sale

There’s no question that Zig Ziglar is a legend and an icon. Everything he’s written is worth reading and there’s no wrong place to start.

Secrets of Closing the Sale is a great book about sales but, as you will come to know with everything Ziglar every wrote, it’s not so much about sales as it is about building connections and relationships.

That’s the secret Ziglar knew and shared so passionately – success in life is achieved by helping others. In fact, it’s one of his most famous quotes:

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

There are so many principles and lessons to be learned from Ziglar’s writing and speeches. Your business can benefit tremendously by buying and reading all of his books, but I’d also recommend searching YouTube for “Zig Ziglar” and enjoying the treasures there as well.

Secrets of Closing the Sale on Amazon

Business Model Generation

This is really fun book and one of the most beautifully designed business books.

It’s definitely one of the best books for small business owners for it’s content, but it’s also delightful to look at and flip through the pages.

This book demonstrates the Business Model Canvas, one of the most practical tools for understanding and analyzing your small business. Then the book walks you through different business models as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

The book also shows you how to use the Business Model Canvas to map out your current business model as well as experiment with building an entirely new business model.

If you’re rethinking the business model or the strategy of your small business, this is a great place to start. No matter what, I highly recommend picking up a physical copy of Business Model Generation; it’s a beautiful book and lots of fun to read.

(When you get your copy, check out the back cover. It’s a funny twist on the front cover of the book)

Business Model Generation on Amazon

What Are Your Best Books for Small Business Owners?

I hope you’ve found this list of books for small business owners helpful for you and your business.

There are tons of great books out there but these are the best books for small business owners because they’re practical, easy to read and can dramatically improve your business.

If you have other recommendations, I’d love to hear about them. What books would you add to this list of the best books for small business owners?

  • Amir Fleminger

    Tim, congrats for launching your blog. Thanks for the book suggestions. I haven’t read most of these.
    I’d like to add some of my favorites:
    Rework / Jason Fried & David H Hansson
    Startup Playbook /Sam Altman
    Founders at Work / Jessica Livingston
    The Millionaire Fastlane (aside from the cheesy title, I think it’s a great book) / DJ DeMarco

    Looking forward to read your next post!

    • Tim Parkin

      Thanks Amir, these are some great recommendations. I’ve flipped through Rework but will have to check out the others for sure!

  • Drew Sheahan

    Great read! Some of these descriptions made me actually eager to read for the first time in a while. I don’t think I have ever read a business book truthfully, but after seeing this, I might be missing some great content and focus! I guess if you are counting VERY short books, which line up with my attention span, the two that I have loved are “Who moved my cheese” and another entitled “212 degrees”… that one is more of an idea than a full book, but a wonderful one for sure!! So, if you have literally an hour or two those are my picks!

    • Tim Parkin

      Thanks Drew!

      I know what you mean – it can be hard for me to stick with one and finish it. It’s only a handful that are fascinating and powerful enough to keep me reading to the end.

      Love the recommendation for 212 degrees, such a great movement!

  • Len Hardison

    I have read a number of those books and have enjoyed them (The Dip and E-Myth Revisited to name two). I would say my favorite book is Change or Die by Alan Deutschman and I recently read The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz and found it very encouraging and helpful as well.

    • Tim Parkin

      Thanks Len! I’ve had The Power of Full Engagement on my list for a while. I’ll have to pick it up based on your recommendation.

  • Jim

    Thanks, just ordered ‘Do It Tomorrow’. Looking forward to the read…if I can find the time 🙂

    • Tim Parkin

      Ha! You’ll enjoy it, Jim. I hope you find it as impactful as I have.

  • Mark Hall

    Awesome post Tim! I’ve never read any of these (embarrassing), so I’ll definitely take a look at a few of these. One more I would add for business ideation and strategy is Zero to One.

    • Tim Parkin

      Thanks Mark! I think you’d really like Brand Gap and Zag from this list.

      I bought Zero to One and started it but have yet to make much progress. I need to get on that!

  • Kory Gellinger

    I’ve recommend The E-Myth to a number of people. Amazing insight.

    • Tim Parkin

      Such a great book! Thanks for your comment, Kory.

  • Edwin

    Great post Tim! Thanks for sharing. I’m going to test a few of these books. I particularly like to read self-motivation and improvement books. This is because when you own a small business/start-up, there is LOTS of ambiguity, so staying movitated is more important than anything. Recently, I read a book called Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. I enjoyed this book because it explains in detail why perseverance is more important than being a genius in order to be successful at anything in life. This was special to me because I’m not that smart 🙂 best of luck with the blog!

    • Tim Parkin

      Thanks Edwin! I agree with you about maintaining motivation – it’s so critical. It’s funny that you mention Grit because a friend bought me a copy for my birthday recently. After your recommendation, I’ll be starting it soon!

  • Deborah Starling

    A must read is: “Rhythm: How to Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate Growth” by CEO and author Patrick Thean. I like it because it not only gives valuable advice but the author does it in a simple way and gives easy to execute strategies that any business owner can utilize whether in a big or small company. The skills, methods and philosophies that Thean shares so generously are a proven combination to ensure wildly successful results; look no further than the author himself, a living legend that still makes time for his own family and gives back in a big way. His website is great too: http://www.patrickthean.com/ Would love to hear what you think if you end up checking it out!