I’ve been known for some time as a voracious reader and I’m often asked for recommendations of good books for specific situations.  I promised in an entry earlier this month that I would list some of my favourites, so that’s what today is all about.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will introduce you to some new titles or authors that you might not have otherwise picked up that may be able to help you in some aspect like for example with the complete guide to payroll for your small business.  This isn’t about navigating the corporate heirarchy or mastering MBA level statistics or theories, it is a list designed to address the specific needs and challenges faced by small businesss and Entrepreneurs.  The list is in no particular order (I’m not big on rankings) so the last book on the list might be just as helpful for your specific needs as book number one.  I hope you enjoy!

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Never Eat Alone
And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time
by: Keith FerrazziKey Topic:  Networking

This was by far the best book on the topic of networking that I have ever read.  Keith Ferrazzi is a master networker who spends most of his life (literally) connecting the people around him, creating opportunities for his friends and associates, and in the process creating success in his own businesses.  A marketing genius who invented the ‘advergaming’ segment (think Wendy’s Kick for a Million), Ferrazzi gives you some great tips on what works, what matters, and why you too should focus on the art of networking if you want to be successful in your business.

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True Measures of Money, Business and Life
by: John C. Bogle
Key Topic:  Balance, Ethics

This book starts out as a pretty harsh criticism of the mutual fund industry by one of its early participants but it turns out to be a great look at what is ‘enough’ in life.  Bogle uses money, fame, and power as the three measuring sticks of a life, but he uses unique definitions for these three sticks that would (if adopted around the world) would drive more ethical behaviour, more social responsibility in business, and most certainly a better world to live in for all of us.

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The Power of Small
Why Little Things Make All the Difference
by: Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval
Key Topic:  Balance, Customer Service

This is a great light read that reminds us all how important the little things are in business and life and how staying aware of the little things can impact our relationships with everyone and everything around us.  While not all of us will have the lives of our family saved by a simple hello every morning, overlooking little details and ignoring the small things in life may limit your career growth, the quantity and quality of your friendships, and your ability to take advantage of life changing opportunities.

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Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive
Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate, and Outnegotiate Your Competition
by: Harvey Mackay
Key Topic:  Sales, Business Development, Customer Service

A long time subscriber of the Harvey Mackay weekly email, I figured it was about time I read his critically acclaimed book. Written in a similar voice as his emails, this book definitely doesn’t disappoint. As the owner of his own envelope company since his early 20’s, Mackay has some terrific advice and systems to help you connect better with your customers, your staff, and even your competition so that you can tread water with the big sharks and come out on top in even the most competitive industries. Highly recommended (and while you’re at it subscribe to his weekly email too).

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Rubies in the Orchard
How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business
by: Lynda Resnick
Key Topic:  Marketing

With companies like Teleflora, The Franklin Mint, and POM to her credit, Lynda Resnick gives us a history of her involvement in these companies and offers up a framework for her marketing genius. Resnick focuses on thinking INSIDE the box, putting yourself into the product to generate a passion for its unique value to the market. By staying true to the unique value, being an authentic and honest company, and a steward to the environment, Resnick has built a legacy of strong companies that anyone in a leadership or marketing role can learn from.

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The Dip
A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit and When to Stick!
by: Seth Godin
Key Topic:  Strategy, Marketing

This is an excellent short read that examines the value of quitting. Seth Godin uses the Jack Welch philosophy of being #1 or #2 to support quitting those things that you can’t be the best in the world at so that you can focus your energies on the activities that you can. This doesn’t mean dropping entire markets with potential, or quitting things that have positive long term expectations, it’s about recognizing when you are on a road to nowhere and quitting so that you can push through ‘The Dip’ on those things that will ultimately pay off. Persistence, commitment, and dedication are one side of the coin… knowing when to quit is the other.

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Little Red Book of Selling
12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness:  How to Make Sales Forever
by: Seth Godin
Key Topic:  Sales, Business Development

This is a great book for anyone starting out in sales or who runs their own business. I grabbed it after seeing it listed on a 100 best business books of all time list. Not sure that it qualifies with that high a standing, but Jeffrey Gitomer definitely captures the key success factors for any salesperson who wants to make a splash and beat the competition. Presented as ‘Principles of Sales Greatness’ this is a practical little guide that I think a lot of sales people and business owners would find helpful to have in the side of their bag for daily review.

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The Innovator’s Dilemma
The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business
by: Clayton M. Christensen
Key Topic:  Product Development

This is a great study of the effects of disruptive technology and innovations in a market using the disk drive industry as a compelling example. Christensen uses great real world examples to illustrate the differences between sustaining and disruptive innovations and as evidence that it is in fact good management that limits a company’s ability to compete in disruptive innovations and their new marketplaces. An excellent read for anyone who is involved in product development or with an interest in innovation in general.

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Getting Things Done
The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
by: David Allen
Key Topic:  Productivity

For anyone who stuggles with interruptions throughout the day or is finding it hard to gain traction in clearing their to-do list, David Allen has a system that works. It is the simplicity of collecting, categorizing, and actioning everything in your life (personal and business) that makes it work so well. This is definitely one you want to buy and reference back to every 3-6 months to make sure you’re still on the right track. I have his ‘stuff’ flowchart posted in my work area to continually remind me to collect, categorize, and action rather than deal with every interruption like a fire I need to fight right now.

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What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
How Successful People Become Even More Successful
by: Marshall Goldsmith
Key Topic:  Personal Improvement

This is a must read for people who are looking to make personal improvements, but this one is directed straight at those people who have already experienced some level of business success. High potentials, senior executives, and even the CEO can take some of the tips and strategies outlined in this book and make immediate changes to drive them towards even more success in the future.  Particularly if you are moving from employee to Entrepreneur you need to believe and understand that what got you here won’t get you there!

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The Relationship Edge in Business
Connecting with Customers and Colleagues When It Counts
by: Jerry Acuff
Key Topic:  Networking, Customer Service

This is a great primer on business relationship development for business owners who struggle in this area.  My key takeaways from this one are two things: 1. The relationship pyramid is a good concept to teach new salespeople or people who haven’t had relationship management experience. 2. 20 Questions to ask to move up the relationship pyramid is a helpful (if not new) set of questions. These questions can be summarized for easy memory with the FORM acronym outlined in the book. Overall… a quick, light, informative read with just enough meat to make it worth picking up.

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How to Win Friends & Influence People
by: Dale CarnegieKey Topic:  Networking, Customer Service

This is the original classic and timeless bible of networking and relationships.  Dale Carnegie wrote the book that sets the standard for networking and relationship building that applies as much today as when it was written.  If you struggle with business development, networking, sales, or customer service you will definitely be able to use the steps and tips in this book as an action plan to improving your weaknesses in this very important area.  As a business owner, relationships are key.  This book gives you the tools you need to be successful.

I’ll leave this list at this point even though I could probably add another half dozen or so in the great category and numerous others that are well worth the read.

I’d love to hear what your top books would be for small busines owners and new Entrepreneurs.  Keep in mind the specific needs of this segment if you’re making a recommendation… as much as I love many of the principles of big business management that were pioneered by Jack Welch they don’t apply as well in a 10 person organization.  Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below!

About Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.

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