5 Must-Read Books for Business Owners

December 2015

The end of the year is a good time to look back on the progress you have made and lay out goals for the coming year (or five). It’s a time for big picture thinking and considerations on what about your business is working, and what might be worth changing.

Few things can help in this effort as effectively (and inexpensively) as a good business book. With this in mind, here are a few titles from 2015 that are worth dipping into, whatever your business concerns.


How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery by Kevin Ashton

The high-tech entrepreneur who coined the term “the Internet of Things” and has pioneered the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) knows a thing or two about innovating. In this book, he makes the case that such ingenuity is not just dumb luck, and that “creation is not magic but work”—useful insight for any small business owner. Ashton drives home this point and offers advice through a series of real-life stories of major moments of creative thinking in action (the title comes from when the Wright brothers set out to “fly a horse”). Readers are likely to come away from this book feeling inspired to create change in their own organization, if not the world at large.


Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry

If anyone understands pressure, it’s small business owners. Weisinger,a psychologist who has taught at Wharton business school, and Pawliw-Fry, a performance coach who has worked with leaders from top companies like Unilever and Marriott, offer scientifically sound ways for you to manage  work stress. Drawing on research of more than 12,000 subjects, with studies on everyone from Navy SEALs to Olympians to Fortune 500 executives, the book lays out the most effective ways to respond to pressure—whether in an important client meeting or facing a difficult sales season. One of the book’s key lessons is that pressure rarely makes someone perform better (despite what sports movies might tell us), but that learning the right habits can help business leaders mitigate pressure’s negative impact.


The Membership Economy: Find Your Superusers, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue by Robbie Kellman Baxter

If your business is having trouble holding on to customers, this may be the book for you. It explores the shifting approach to customer service and loyalty, as cutting-edge companies (both small and large) are embracing subscription-based models and “freemium” pricing formats that attract customers and get them committed to brands over the long run. Baxter has seen the value of this approach first-hand as a consultant for companies like Netflix, SurveyMonkey and Yahoo!, and small business owners reading this book will come away with at least a few ideas of how to apply this “membership model” to their own operations.


Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

Speaking of learning from the big guys, this title provides strategies for building a pleasant workplace cribbed straight from the original Most Fun Place to Work, Google. The book’s author is the search giant’s head of People Operations, and he offers ways employers can build an engaging, productive and enjoyable workplace environment, with tips such as “conduct performance reviews twice a year,” “only hire people who are better than you” and “make all goals public.” Any small business owner looking to hire and develop talent at a higher level will find plenty of food for thought here.


The Miracle Morning for Salespeople: The Fastest Way to Take Your SELF and Your SALES to the Next Level by Hal Elrod and Ryan Snow

This title gives a sales-focused twist to the hit The Miracle Morning, taking a holistic look at how a salesperson can improve his or her performance by making changes in daily behavior, particularly what they do before eight o’clock in the morning. The book asserts that this approach will turn the average salesperson (who may have mastered lead generation, prospecting and referrals but has hit a plateau) into a top-performing seller. Among the insight readers will glean from the book is the “Life S.A.V.E.R.S.” acronym, representing the six things every salesperson should do first thing in the morning: Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribe (or journaling). To understand what these things are and how to integrate them into your day, you’ll have to pick up the book.

Picking up any one of these business books can provide a good read as well as some good ideas you can take back to your business.



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