I love reading business books; it’s one of the fastest ways an entrepreneur can level up.
I try to read at least two business books a month in order to better navigate my business and make sounder decisions.
There’s one problem, though — hundreds of great business books come out every year and it isn’t possible to read them all.
So how do you ensure you make the best use of your time and choose quality books that can make a positive impact on you and your business?
Out of the hundreds of business books I’ve read during my entrepreneurial journey, the 7 below stand out and can help entrepreneurs at all stages of their career. Don’t let their release date fool you, these books have stood the test of time and the lessons laid out are as relevant today as they were when they were originally published.
Plus, if you’re struggling to find time to read these books, many of them are now available on Audible. I alternate between reading on Kindle and listening while working out or driving.
Let’s get to it.
1. Profit First: A Simple System to Transform Any Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz
Profitable business owners are sometimes surprised to find money leaves the business almost as quickly as it arrives. This book provides a system for small business owners who want to take charge of their cash and grow a business.
I interviewed Michalowicz in 2019. He told me, “I say, ‘How do I get the same results I’ve always had, if not better, with less money?’ And I start thinking outside the box.” I think of this quote and the lesson Michalowicz laid out in his book often and they have been a godsend when it comes to both managing my money and making more of it.
2. The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It (1995) by Michael E. Gerber
Before Tim Ferriss’s The4-Hour Workweek was The E Myth (1986). The title fooled me at first. Gerber’s book isn’t about running an online business.
Instead, Gerber explains how business owners or entrepreneurs of all types can set up a business that runs without their intervention.
It also helped me figure out how to write standard operating procedures that I can use for outsourcing.
He writes, “If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business — you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!”
3. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (1966) by Peter F. Drucker
Published way back in 1966, Drucker’s advice for executives holds true today. It’ll help a busy person accomplish more at work either as an executive or manager. The book also covers how to manage upward and master effective delegation.
I love Drucker’s writing as it’s clear and concise.
Expect gems like, “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans,” and, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
This classic business book also pairs nicely with Drucker’s much shorter book published by Harvard Business Review Classics in 2008, titled Managing Oneself.
4. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (2016) by Cal Newport
Knowledge work is tough. It lacks hard edges and can feel endless. What’s more, many of the tools and services clamor for our attention through instant messaging, notifications and endless feeds.
This book explains what to do about distractions and how to focus on long-term projects. Unlike a lot of other business books, it contains practical advice for creative people too.
This advice struck a chord with me, “If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive — no matter how skilled or talented you are.”
5. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (2001) by David Allen
This is one of the most famous productivity books in recent years. Allen’s work was also a hit in Silicon Valley. Getting Things Done details how to build a system for capturing ideas and working on the right things at the right time. As Allen writes, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
This title was one of the first productivity books I read a few years ago and it changed how I manage multiple projects.
Allen also recommends overloaded executives and entrepreneurs review their priorities and workload once a week. This practice, known as a weekly review, will help you focus on what matters during the week ahead.
6. Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All (2011) by Jim Collins
To be honest, any Jim Collins title belongs in an entrepreneur’s reading list. He excels at profiling large companies and the decision-makers behind them. Those insights are invaluable if you want to start a business.
Some of the companies profiled in his older book From Good to Great (2001) have since disappeared, making this title more relevant today. If you’re serious about running a larger business, Collins’s books are required reading.
Expect advice like, “When you marry operating excellence with innovation, you multiply the value of your creativity.”
This book also pairs nicely with Collins’s more recent written study of about 30 pages titled Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great (2019), which also applies to creative work.
7. The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals (2012) by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling
I put off reading this book for a few years, as I thought it was a derivative of The 7 Habits of the Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Sean’s father, Stephen R. Covey.
In fact, this book is a gem of its own.
Read it to discover why most executives and entrepreneurs set lag measures for their goals they’ve no real control over. The author also explains why it’s far better to set lead measures you can influence rather than lag measures that come after the fact.
The author writes, “If you’re not keeping score, you’re just practicing.”
How I Put Lessons From a Great Business Book Into Practice
After I finish reading a business book, I find it helpful to write a short summary of the book.
That way, I can review the lessons from the book and assess how useful it is. Mind maps and short articles about the ideas inside of a book work too.
I also ask myself how I can apply lessons from the book when reviewing my business goals and where I’m stuck. Reading is useful, but so is taking action.
What business books have you enjoyed reading during your entrepreneurial journey? Let me know below.