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20 Best Small Business Books to Help Expand Your Skill Sets

Starting a small business, no matter how small, is a huge undertaking and these best small business books can help you get started out on the right foot.

Even if you’re just setting up a web-based business, it is still something you’d invest your money, time and effort into.

If you’re looking for guidance and don’t know where to start, need some push from success stories, a road-map to guide you through your small business plan, there’s nowhere better to go than straight into the minds of those who have successfully done it before you.

Check out my list of the best small business books, before you begin plotting your small business, or even if you’re right smack in the middle of busy day-to-day operations:

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Best Books for New Small Business Owners

If you’re just starting out, these books could definitely serve as your guide:

1. Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months by Melinda F. Emerson

Ideal for people with absolutely zero experience in business.

This guide will lead you through everything from a start-up checklist to creating a business and financial plan, from setting up marketing campaigns to hiring employees, and everything else in between.

2. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

There isn’t an entrepreneur out there who hasn’t read the 4-Hour Workweek early in their journey.

This is another blueprint for starting your own small business, but its focus is working smart.

Great for beginner entrepreneurs who are getting overwhelmed with the thought of working non-stop to build a new company.

Tim details how he went from $40,000/year with 80 weekly work hours to $40,000/month with only 4 weekly work hours spent.

3. The E-Myth Revisted by Michael Gerber

This book is an update to Gerber’s 1998 bestseller.

It helps new business owners in separating the myths and assumptions of entrepreneurship, so you can get the ball running with a proper business structure.

4. The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki

The title says it all.

Written by Silicon Valley venture capitalist and marketing specialist (known for campaigns of the original Mac computers in the 80s), Guy Kawasaki knows what he’s talking about.

What I like best about this book is Kawasaki’s advice to focus on the beginning phases, so these issues won’t pop up as your business grows.

5. Will It Fly? by Thomas K. McKnight

The author compared over 200 business launches to pinpoint 44 key elements of success, which you can use to determine if a small business idea has the potential “to fly” or not.

6. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Talk about a classic book.

Released in 1998, this book remains a best-seller because it teaches you how to win people over and changing people without them knowing.

It’s a good resource, if you’re starting your small business with employees right off the bat.

7. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

The author is a co-founder of PayPal, a venture capitalist and early investor of Facebook, so expect a lot of insider knowledge shared within the book.

However, instead of just a roadmap to launch your small business, Thiel focuses on the idea that you have to create something that nobody else has created to succeed no matter the industry or niche you’re in.

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If you’re just discovering that you lack expertise in areas like leadership or public speaking, you at least know what you need to fix. Here are the most common themes and solutions:

8. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership for Leading

The author is an internationally-renowned leadership expert and speaker who has trained millions of leaders around the world.

In the book, he shares what he learned (along with mistakes made) throughout his 30 years of leadership experience in categories as varied as sports, military, religion, politics, and business.

9. Setting the Table for Customer Service

Shake Shack founder shares effective customer service techniques he has used at his restaurants.

You don’t have to be in the food business to appreciate his tips, as long as your small business involves customers, this book can help you maneuver your own customer support department.

10. The Ultimate Sales Machine for Time Management

This book will help you identify which tasks you want to prioritize since saying “yes” to one thing means it would take your time away from another thing.

As a small business owner, you will be your own boss and learning how to keep on track is one of your biggest challenges.

11. Deep Work for Time Management

“Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” is exactly what the title says.

This book gives you four rules to follow that will help you hit your stride when you sit down to work and it will help you stay focused with your goals.

12. Speak and Get Results for Public Speaking

Some people are born with impressive public speaking and communication skills.

Others aren’t.

If you’re part of the second group and you’re starting a small business, don’t fret.

You can still bag deals, get funding, or win your people’s trust by working on your presentations and following a formula for public speaking success.

13. Influence for Marketing

Fortune Magazine lists this book in their “75 Smartest Business Books” and for good reason.

It is an impressive book about persuasion, sales and influencing your would-be customers to buying your product or service.

Robert Cialdini is a renowned behavioral scientist and you can read his experience through his books. The case studies, which show why a product sells poorly or well, are golden.

14. Virtual Freedom for Scaling Your Business

This is specific to small business owners who built their businesses online.

Ideal for affiliate marketers and online entrepreneurs who brought their business up from scratch and now need to bring in people to help scale the business.

This book helps those who have been used to doing everything themselves (as the boss, customer representative, IT guy, and so on) and letting go by hiring someone else (like a virtual assistant) to perform tasks on your behalf and free your time for more important stuff.

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15. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business for Scaling

If you have big dreams for your company, make sure you’re in control.

This book will help you re-focus your goals with its 3-method “Entrepreneurial Operating System” in avoiding business burnout and strengthening the six key components of your business.

Best Business Books to Get Inspired

If you need inspiration, or want to read success stories of people who had an idea just like you and turned those ideas into a successful business, check these books out:

16. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Who doesn’t love Elon Musk?

Written by veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance, this book has insider conversations from the man himself, as well as his family, friends and colleagues from his PayPal days to his ambitious SpaceX.

Doesn’t matter what niche you’re in.

You’ll definitely learn a thing or two from  Silicon Valley’s most daring entrepreneur.

17. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

Originally published in 2002, this book has since been a New York Times #1 best seller with over 35 million copies sold.

Christian pastor Rick Warren can help you find your purpose in life and help you focus to reach that goal.

This is a spiritual road map, so be warned if you’re not a fan of Bible verses mixed into your non-fiction reading.

18. 32 Ways to Be a Champion in Business by Earvin Johnson

If you only knew Magic Johnson as the famous basketball player, you’ll be surprised that he’s also a successful entrepreneur who now owns Magic Johnson Enterprises, a conglomerate company with a net worth of $700 million.

This book isn’t just about Johnson’s successes, but he also shares where he failed and gives real-world tips in navigating your own business.

19. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Good to Great)

This book is a compilation of several successful companies, which Collins and Porras studied in a span of 6 years at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

This book has real-world examples of companies, comparing their developments as start-ups, to midsize companies, and up to large corporations status.

You’ll learn what some of these companies did right (and did wrong), so you can apply to your own small business.

20. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

The author is the founder of Nike himself.

Serving as CEO for the multibillion company from 1964 to 2004, and as board chairman until 2016, Phil Knight is definitely an interesting figure not only in the world of sports, but also in business.

If this is one of Bill Gates’ favorite books, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something to love here as well.

The Bottom Line

These 20 best books for small business owners are enough to get you inspired and started.

They’re ideal for anyone launching a small business, regardless if it’s a brick-and-mortar, pop-up store or a completely online FBA Amazon store.

Just make sure you handpick and keep tips from all these best small business books that would be perfect for your small business, situation and personality.

While there are “step-by-step” guides listed here, know that you can customize them to fit your current business standing.

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