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3 Must-Read Books for Small Business Owners

September 15th, 2023 | 3 min. read

By Matt Patrick

You’re a new business owner. It’s thrilling and a bit overwhelming, I imagine. This is my 20th year in business and I still remember those early days like it was yesterday. There was so much I didn’t know, but I was ready to work hard and learn from others in order to be successful. I still am.

One of my favorite ways to learn and stay inspired over the years has been through reading. I am an avid reader and narrowing down a list of the best books for a small business owner to read was no easy task. After all, small business owners need to be passionate about learning in order to succeed. Still to this day, I am learning from books, networks, peers, friends… even TikTok from time to time. It is a strength to approach owning a business humbly, and fostering a learning mindset in yourself from Day 1 will only help you improve.

So let’s take a look at a few books that have been particularly impactful for me as a small business owner over the years.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

The first book I highly recommend is Start with Why by Simon Sinek. Your “why” is so important in owning a business. Why you are in business and why everyone on your new team will follow you comes down to realizing your purpose is greater than yourself. As the leader of your business, you are galvanizing everyone around the purpose of your business and why they need to be working with you to achieve this goal. Everyone wants to feel like their life and impact matters, and their work is a huge part of that. This book helps you narrow down your “why” and outline a strategy for getting your team on board with it too.

Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni.

This book is essential if you are anything other than a team of one. As soon as you have a need for a team, read this book. It has impacted my business philosophy more than anything else I’ve ever read, particularly regarding making decisions about who is right for our team. The general principal from this book si that you’re look for your ideal “teammates.” These team members must have three unwavering characteristics to be a good fit for your team: HUNGRY, HUMBLE, and SMART (meaning people smarts, not High IQs). If any of these characteristics are missing, that person will likely not be a good fit for your team because training or coaching to improve these is personality traits is quite difficult. It can be coached on and nurtured, and some could be stronger than others, but the teammate has to know and understand their deficiency, and they have to want to change it to be effective. 

Once our team read this book, it helped us frame our hiring processes, training & development, and performance reviews. It became apparent very quickly which of our team members were missing which qualities, and it required us to make some difficult decisions for the team’s betterment. If I could go back and have used this book’s frame work from the beginning, I would do it in a second. Creating a clear framework from the get-go will set you up for the highest probability of success in growing the best team possible. 

Built to Sell by John Warrilow

This book is similar in concept to the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, but it’s concepts are laid out more clearly and practically in Built To Sell. Essentially, it teaches you how to build up your business in such a way that it can run smoothly without you. I like the allegory style of this book as it helps in applying it to a real situation. For my own business, it gave me the framework to think of a service provider as a product-based business.

Additionally, it outlines the common pitfalls many business owners face when selling their businesses, such as emotional attachment, unrealistic expectations, and poor timing.  Most business owners need help finding the right balance between working in and working on your business. Through the book, you hear eight key steps to creating a sellable business and it dives deep into specializing your offering, creating a positive cash flow cycle, and hiring a management team. If you want your business to be profitable, scalable, and independent of your personal involvement, reading this book is a great first step.

Done with those? Here are some more books for small business that might resonate

These three books have been truly foundational in my business, but many other books have influenced me at different times during my journey as a business owner. I highly recommend E-Myth Revisited, Think and Grow Rich, and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. They are all business book staples that every small business owner should read.

If you have a learning mindset, there are a TON of great books out there for different areas of your business on leadership, management, marketing, sales, coaching, coding… you name it. My advice is always to learn and look for improvements in yourself, your team, and your business. The thirst to keep improving in all areas of your life is a never-ending journey. Good luck, and keep reading! 

Bonus Book: This one is a bit obscure, but Six Steps to Small Business Success is a great read for all things small business. Several times, I’ve found that it has spoken to me at precisely the right time or inspired me to think about a situation differently than I had anticipated.  

If you’re looking for more resources as you start your business, check out How You Should Pay Yourself as an Owner or 10 Ideas to Implement When Starting a New Business.


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