Looking for inspiration or ways to build your business skills? You can’t beat a great book! These must-read books for entrepreneurs will help you discover more about the psychology of marketing, tweak your mindset and enhance your leadership skills. These are the business books I love, recommend and buy for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

My goal is to introduce you to books that may not be the ones that everyone else raves about. These books are the lesser known gems amongst all the blockbusting bestsellers. Often these are the books that have the greatest meat to them, and not just the greatest marketing razzmatazz. They have been carefully selected to be full of tangible actions, clear insights and more than a dash of humour.

Of course, not all authors write books. So here’s a list of my favourite small business online authors and blogs.

The Psychology of Marketing

The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour by Adam Ferrier & Jennifer Fleming

5 Second Summary:

This is a fascinating book based on the premise that all advertising is designed to change behaviour. The more the behaviour is changed, the more effective the advertising is.

It looks at 10 different psychological strategies and tactics that advertisers use to trigger a response. It goes on to explore how advertising can be a force for good rather than mindless consumption.

This book is a wealth of information and is one of the best books on advertising on the market today.

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink

5 Second Summary:

Not just another sales book – this book explores the latest psychological research into the future of sales and selling.

It suggests that every single person on the planet sells. Even if they are not selling widgets or services, they are selling ideas or trying to motivate others to take action.

By learning the skills of how to effectively and ethically sell, you increase your influence and achieve greater success not only in business, but as a parent and citizen.

Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing by Roger Dooley

5 Second Summary:

This is a great introduction to Neuromarketing as it summarises a whole pile of research in easy to digest snippets.  Neuromarketing is all about understanding how the brain works and applying this knowledge to marketing and selling.

This is not a mind-numbingly boring academic text. Each chapter is only a few pages long at most, and highlights a unique point or idea that is easy to apply to a business setting.

If you want to understand the psychology behind marketing, this is a brilliant place to start.

Business Growth

The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field by Mike Michalowicz

5 Second Summary:

The Pumpkin Plan is one of those books that you read and promptly recommend to your friends, simply so you can spend a few hours debating and exploring what you have read and what it means.

This book looks at how giant pumpkins are grown, and how the lessons from growing pumpkins can be applied to business. It sounds simplistic, and yet it is one of the most profound books on entrepreneurialism, finding your niche and building your business that you can find on the market.

The Pumpkin Plan covers huge swathes of territory, from helping you recapture the dreams of why you started your business, through to identifying your sweet spot for your business, customer identification and service, business growth and decision making.

It is very easy reading, not academic or dry, but written in an engaging and humorous way.

Value-Based Fees: How to Charge – and Get – What You’re Worth by Alan Weiss

5 Second Summary:

This is the book I have referred more small business owners and consultants to than any other over the past decade. It takes a deep dive into the world of pricing models, and why billing by the hour is seriously bad for business.

It explores the concept of the perception of value rather than value as an absolute or fixed thing. It then converts this into tangible strategies to set your pricing for your clients.

While there is a fair whack of pomposity in the book, don’t let that put you off. The kernels of wisdom in this book are absolute gold.

The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences by Matt Watkinson

5 Second Summary:

Customer experience is much more than simply great customer service – it is a whole new way of thinking and operating in your business to achieve better customer outcomes.

What is customer experience? “The qualitative aspect of any interaction that an individual has with a business, its product or services, at any point in time.”

This book simply and clearly gives guidance on ways every business can enhance their customer experience process. It is well researched, brilliantly written and easy to action.

 

Mindset

The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins

5 Second Summary:

Once every five years or so, I read a book that is so profound that as soon as I finish reading it I close the book and start immediately reading it again from page one.

This book is designed to help you discover your life’s work, and the interaction of your calling with your job. If you feel even slightly off path, this is the book to help you work through the confusion.

I have lost track of how many times I have read and reread this book – returning over and over to my favourite quotes and passages. If I had this book in paper version rather than on my Kindle, the pages would be deeply creased, and the spine broken from too much use. It is one of those books that seep into your soul.

The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits, and World Dominators by Chris Brogan

5 Second Summary:

Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. There’s the long days, general confusion and muddling through. There’s the fear that if you are fully yourself, that your clients will leave in droves.

If you have ever felt that you don’t fit in (without a lot of personal compromising) then this book is for you.  It is not just for avocado eating millennials, but for entrepreneurs of all ages who choose to do business on their own terms.

This book helps you celebrate your difference and to build your business on what makes you unique. This is not mindless platitudes, but practical wisdom on succeeding on your terms.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Dan & Chip Heath

5 Second Summary:

Change is one of the hardest things to deal with and accept. We all start with good intentions, and then somewhere along the line we derail.

Switch is a great book that draws from psychological studies to help overcome inertia and ensure good intentions turn into actions, and then into permanent habits.

This book is relevant not just to business, but to our personal lives and relationships.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

5 Second Summary:

I am always intrigued by groupthink, and how leaders gain power and status. When I read this book, I read it through the lens of politics.

This book shines a bright light on influence, power, status, respect and status. It explains why people speak up and others remain silent.

It explores how to bring your unique gifts to the world, and what it takes to make a difference.

The book is filled with intriguing research and stories that will challenge your view of the world.

Leadership

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Chris Hadfield

5 Second Summary:

Chris Hadfield made space eternally fascinating for thousands of people while he was in the International Space Station.

His book goes deeper than what you saw on YouTube and during his broadcasts, and explores the essence of leadership, building competence, dealing with fear and the unknown. It covers his life philosophy of “prepare for the worst – and enjoy every moment of it.”

This book is essential reading for any leader.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull.

5 Second Summary:

Ed Catmull  is one of the founders of a little animation studio called Pixar. In this book he explores how to build a creative and positive work culture.

This is not a polished fluff piece, but one rooted in tangible, warts and all advice. He is not afraid to explore the mess, the unknowing, the mistakes and the culture that goes into building creativity.

But while the book focusses on creativity, the lessons about how to embrace failure, encourage openness and foster collaboration across work silos are valid no matter your business.

Trends & History

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

5 Second Summary:

How We Got to Now is a fun, light, romp through the ages that makes you appreciate how many little tiny inventions go together to create our modern life.

This book is filled with quirky stories that draw links between apparently random facts. In this book, you will learn how Gutenberg’s printing press ultimately led to the discovery that the body is made up of cells … along with many other gems.

It makes you realise that small things can lead to massive consequences.

Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible by Daniel Burrus

5 Second Summary:

If you have ever wondered how to see the future for your business without a crystal ball, then this the book to read. Flash Foresight by Daniel Burrus helps you with seven ways to spot and take advantage of swelling business trends before you get swamped by them.

It looks at hard trends – a projection based on tangible facts, events and objects. These are future facts and will definitely happen. It also looks at soft trends – things that may happen based on statistical analysis.

By knowing the difference between hard and soft trends, you are more likely to ride the right trend for your business.

Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends by Martin Lindstrom

5 Second Summary:

Martin Lindstrom is one of my favourite futurists. He is one those unique people that can spot emerging trends and advise businesses on when to pivot and when to run like hell.

He does this not by analysing reams and reams of data, but by noticing the tiny minutiae that make up people’s lives.

One of my favourite stories of his relates to noticing fridge magnets in Siberia and how that linked to the creation of a powerful online community and e-commerce site for Russian mums.

This book takes you through his thinking process and opens your eyes to details we simply take for granted in our lives and the lives of our clients.

Surge: Time the Marketplace, Ride the Wave of Consumer Demand, and Become Your Industry’s Big Kahuna by Mike Michalowicz

5 Second Summary:

This book takes a simple concept of catching a wave, riding it in and knowing when to jump off, as an analogy to explore business trends and market positioning.

The book helps you find your wave, identify your target market and match your skills to their needs, create your “rally cry” and then stay at the front of the wave.

In exploring the concepts, you take a detour through the world of UGG boots and Cronuts as well as many other fascinating companies. Each point is clearly illustrated, and you leave with tangible ideas to help you to look at your business with fresh eyes.

Writing

Accidental Genius: Revolutionize Your Thinking Through Private Writing by Mark Levy

5 Second Summary:

Have you ever had thoughts go round and round in your head, but can’t work out which way to turn? Do you ever surprise yourself with random gems of wisdom that pop out of your mouth? This book helps you tap into your own wisdom and find amazing clarity, using a technique called freewriting.

“Freewriting is deceptively simple: start writing as fast as you can, for as long as you can, about a subject you care deeply about, while ignoring the standard rules of grammar and spelling. Your internal editor won’t be able to keep up with your output—you’ll generate breakthrough ideas and solutions that you couldn’t have created any other way.”

If your job requires even an ounce of creativity, innovation or communication, then you need this book.  It is hands down the most useful book on the market to get you out of writer’s block, or confusion. It is chock full of strategies I wish they taught in every school and on every leadership program.

Want more?

Each year I publish my books of the year. Many of the books on this list came from my annual round book round up. Enjoy dipping into still more fabulous books.

 

Ingrid Moyle

Ingrid Moyle is the Chief Web Wizard at Heart Harmony Communications. A self-confessed multipotentialite, Ingrid shamelessly blends her passions of human resources, psychology, web design and copywriting. When not hardwired to her computer, she quests for the perfect coffee while chasing virtual reality creatures across the backstreets of Brisbane.
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General Must Read Books for Entrepreneurs