I often get asked what I’m reading and what books I would recommend to entrepreneurs – so here it is! I created a list of my all-time favorite books for business owners.
These books have all had a significant impact on how I started my companies and how I continue to run them. If you don’t already have these books you should seriously consider adding them to your library!
1 – The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
If I could keep only one book in my collection, this would be it! I loved the original book and the expanded and updated version is even better – I’m currently on my third time through the book. It’s a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller and once you pick it up you’ll understand why!
The main theme of the book is help you make more money, work fewer hours, and enjoy more freedom. In The 4-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss gives you the exact steps, templates, and tools that you need to live that lifestyle.
As entrepreneurs we don’t often get much of a work-life balance – we’re usually burning the candle at both ends to get our businesses off the ground but this book shows you how to be more productive and have more time to enjoy your life.
Tim also writes in a language that’s not only very convincing but also extremely easy to relate to – it’s like you’re having coffee with a long-time friend and he’s giving you some advice.
My favorite section:
Tim’s time management advice. He starts with Pareto’s Principle, a.k.a. the 80/20 rule.
I was spending a lot of time being busy, trying to develop new channels, and I wasn’t really nurturing and expanding what was already working.
80% (or more) of your income comes from 20% of your marketing channels. Focus on what’s making you the most money, expand those opportunities, and forget the rest. Likewise, 80% (or more) of your problems come from 20% of your customers. Fire them and focus on the ones that are more profitable ones.
After reading this section I did an analysis of where my revenue was coming from and realized that I was spending a lot of time being busy, trying to develop new channels, and I wasn’t really nurturing and expanding what was already working.
It might be more boring to continue doing what you’re already doing but it can be far more profitable! I do a monthly gut-check on the 80/20 to see if any new revenue generating strategies have worked and making sure that most of my time is spent on the highest value tasks.
If you give yourself short deadlines to complete a task you’ll be more focused and get it done quickly.
Tim then discusses Parkinson’s Law which says that a task will swell in perceived importance and complexity in relation to the time alloted for its completion. The more time you give a task, the more time it takes. However, if you give yourself short deadlines to complete a task you’ll be more focused and get it done quickly.
The 80/20 rule eliminates the tasks that aren’t high value and Parkinson’s Law helps you accomplish those high value tasks more quickly. When used together they are a highly effective super-entrepreneur time management duo! In my business I now limit my tasks to 90 minutes per week.
I now break down my day into 90 minute chunks. If I’m working on my blog then I have 90 minutes to create my post, respond to comments, promote the new post, and create marketing partnerships. I only have 90 minutes so I have to be very focused – and it works! Parkinson’s Law lets you take back control of your day instead of letting your to-do list pile up and run your life.
2 - Radicals & Visionaries by Thaddeus Wawro
I love reading inspirational entrepreneur stories – I find that I can learn as much, if not more, from someone’s experiences as I can by reading a “how to” book. Seeing how others failed repeatedly and eventually succeeded is also motivating and helps you keep going.
Radicals and Visionaries looks as some of the most famous entrepreneurs in recent history (Richard Branson, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, etc.) and explains at how they got started, what struggles they had to overcome, and what eventually led to their success.
Each profile is only a few pages long and includes information about the entrepreneur, a motivational quote by them, and a true story about them that is usually pretty inspirational. If you’re having a hard day and are looking for something to pick you up, this is the book for you.
Almost all of the entrepreneurs profiled struggled through early failures before reaching success and reading their profiles is very motivating – it helps you focus on the bigger picture and keep going until you break through.
My favorite section:
I love the story about A.P. Giannini, founder of Bank of America.
He helped fund unknown entrepreneurs like Walt Disney when nobody would give them a chance.
I actually didn’t know Giannini’s story before reading the book. He truly was a banker who cared about the little guy – imagine that! He helped fund unknown entrepreneurs like Walt Disney when nobody would give them a chance.
In the days after the 1906 disaster fire in San Francisco, when people needed money to purchase supplies and rebuild their lives, all the banks closed down to assess their damage. Giannini sifted through his ruined building, set up a desk made out of a wooden plank and two barrels, and gave loans based “on a man’s face and a signature.”
Could you imagine any banker doing that today? He’s become one of my favorite entrepreneurs and we subsequently did a profile on him on EvanCarmichael.com.
3 - Keep ANY Promise by Karim Ismail
Do find that you set goals but don’t follow through on them? Is your business getting in the way of the personal time you spend with friends and family? Are you frustrated and ready for a change?
Keep Any Promise is an amazing book that gives you the tools to help you identify important life and business goals for yourself. It then gives you the steps you need to take to follow through so that you actually accomplish what you say you’re going to do.
If The 4 Hour Work Week gives you the motivation and ideas to live the ultimate entrepreneurial lifestyle, Keep Any Promise provides you with the means to get there.
Each chapter is divided into two sections: a story of someone trying to keep a promise they made and then the tools they used to complete it. I didn’t find the stories that motivating but the tools are invaluable!
My favorite section:
By far the most valuable part of the book for me is the downloadable workbook that comes with it.
If you actually do the exercises in the workbook it will change your life!
The workbook walks you through exercises to help you identify goals that will make a difference to your life and then gives you daily worksheets to fill out and track your goals.
If you actually do the exercises in the workbook it will change your life! I still use a modified version of the daily worksheet to track my progress on my current goals and I’m forever grateful to Karim for introducing me to his book.
4 – Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
You can’t create a list of top business books without including this classic by Napoleon Hill. It’s been over 70 years since it was first published and it’s still a bestselling paperback book.
Originally written in 1937, Think and Grow Rich contains timeless business advice from Andrew Carnegie who is considered to be the second richest man in history, behind only John D. Rockefeller. Carnegie’s fortune in today’s dollars would be worth $300 billion.
Think and Grow Rich studied Andrew Carnegie’s habits and developed 15 laws of success which anybody can use to achieve success. The book is also very easy to read and is motivating as well as being instructional.
I know some people who make it an annual ritual to read this book and each time they do, they take something new away from it.
My favorite section:
In chapter 10, Napoleon Hill introduces the concept of a Mastermind Group. He calls it the “driving force” and an opportunity to “multiply your brain power.”
The Mastermind concept is simple enough: Get together with like-minded individuals on a regular basis to exchange thoughts, share resources, and help each other succeed.
The Mastermind concept is simple enough: Get together with like-minded individuals on a regular basis to exchange thoughts, share resources, and help each other succeed. Hill mentions a group that Henry Ford started with Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and others and how it helped all of them become more successful in their careers.
I’ve since started my own Mastermind Groups for entrepreneurs in my city and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Not only do we share problems, ideas, and contacts, it’s also great to be around other entrepreneurs who are serious about their businesses and are taking action to make their companies grow. You can’t help but get excited after a meeting and want to pour more energy into your business to make it a bigger success.
5 – How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Also written in 1937, this book is another timeless classic. It has sold over 15 million copies globally and the advice it gives is still highly relevant today.
Whether you are dealing with customers, suppliers, investors, employees, the media, bankers, or board members, you are dealing with people. How To Win Friends And Influence People is the ultimate guide to help you improve your people skills.
The book has six major sections and the author breaks each section down with core principles that are simple to digest. To help bring his point home he tells a number of stories that are easy to relate to and make you think.
Some of the sections include: Fundamental techniques in handling people, Six ways to make people like you, Be a leader: how to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment, and Seven rules for making your home life happier.
My favorite section:
There are many personal lessons you can learn from this book but if you’re reading it to help your business then you’ll want to pull out the highlighter for the section on the Twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking. There are so many business applications of this section – from sales to human resources – that it’s a must read for every entrepreneur.
Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
The twelve ways Carnegie suggests and breaks down into more detail are:
- Avoid arguments.
- Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never tell someone that he or she is wrong.
- If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
- Begin in a friendly way.
- Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
- Let the other person do the talking.
- Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.
- Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
- Sympathize with the other person.
- Appeal to noble motives.
- Dramatize your ideas.
- Throw down a challenge; don’t talk negatively when a person is absent; talk only about the positive.
6 – Trump: The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump
This book holds a sentimental spot in my heart because it was the first business book that I picked up. When I was a teenager I was on a family trip to New York City and decided to read it to learn about one of New York’s most famous entrepreneurs.
The Art Of The Deal is an inside look at Donald Trump’s business career and shares information on how he got started as well as his 11 “Trump Cards” on the art of winning in a negotiation.
If you’re looking for a little motivation and help in focusing on the big picture then this book will do the trick!
It breaks down his first deals, gives background information behind some of his more famous investments, and also gives you a look at a typical week inside the life of Donald Trump.
My favorite section:
Donald Trump is known for “thinking big” and he gives advice as well as personal examples of how to think big.
“I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big. Most people think small, because most people are afraid of success, afraid of making decisions, afraid of winning.”
Favorite quote: “I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big. Most people think small, because most people are afraid of success, afraid of making decisions, afraid of winning. And that gives people like me a great advantage.”
Favorite example: Building a 80 foot waterfall inside Trump Tower – “The last key element in the atrium was the waterfall that runs along the eastern wall. It’s nearly eighty feet high, and it cost almost $2 million to build. Most of my people at first favored putting paintings on the walls. To me that was old-fashioned, unoriginal, and just not very exciting. As it tuned out, the waterfall proved to be an art form in itself, almost a sculptured wall. Also, it attracts far more attention than we’d have gotten if we’d put up even some very wonderful art.”
7 – Built to Last by Jim Collins
This is a great book that takes a look at what it takes to run a successful company that can stand the test of time.
You might not be thinking about what your business will look like in 10 years, let alone 50 years but I’m a big believer in modeling success and Built to Last can give you the foundations of how to build a great company, even if you want to stay small.
It analyzes the success factors of companies who: are the premier institution in its industry, are widely admired by knowledgeable businesspeople, made an indelible imprint on the world in which we live, had multiple generations of chief executives, been through multiple product (or service) life cycles, and was founded before 1950.
Some of the common characteristics of the successful companies include:
- Be about more than just profits
- Preserve your core offerings while stimulating progress with new products
- Go after Big Hairy Audacious Goals to rally the company
- Try a lot of stuff and keep what works
- Hire from within
- Believe that good enough never is
My favorite section:
I actually have two favorite sections. The first is No “Tyranny of the OR” – many companies will believe that they have to make choices between two good options. They either focus on speed or quality, they can either be highly profitable or give back to the community, they can either be on the cutting edge of innovation or they can focus on increase the sales from their current products.
The next time you face a question of if you should do one thing or another, see if there is a creative way to do both and not be forced to sacrifice.
Built to Last companies embrace the “genius of the and” – they don’t do one or the other, they do both! The next time you face a question of if you should do one thing or another, see if there is a creative way to do both and not be forced to sacrifice.
My second favorite section is having a cult-like culture. Built to Last companies believe in something – they all have visions that their employees really believe in. There is no one “correct” vision as long as it means something to you and to everyone who works with you.
If you’re looking at expanding and bringing on people to work for you think about what you want your company to stand for and the type of people who you want to work for you – what do they have to believe in for you to hire them?
8 - The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn
If you believe that providing great customer service wins you repeat business and tons of referrals then you need to read this book. It’s only 114 pages and you can get through it in one sitting – and then it’s time to implement the lessons learned!
The Fred Factor tells a true story about a mailman named Fred who loves his job so much that he consistently goes the extra mile to make his homeowner clients happy.
Fred is loved by his customers because he is constantly looking for opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives.
The author then goes on to share the main principles that we can all follow to help us bring passion, energy, and creativity to our life and work.
My favorite section:
The opening pages tell stories of what Fred does for his homeowners and it’s inspiring to see that this mailman loves his job so much that he always goes out of his way to please them. What’s our excuse for not loving our work?
This book is a must read for anyone who wants to get more referrals. It should be required reading for all of your salespeople.
Here are three examples:
1) When the author first moved into his home, Fred knocked on the door to introduce himself and welcome him to the neighborhood.
2) When Fred found out the author over 160 days per year Fred asked for a copy of his schedule and said he would only deliver mail on the days that he was in town.
3) Fred noticed that a UPS package for the author was on the doorstep of a neighbor so he took it over to the author’s house for him.
Little actions can go a long way, especially when your customer isn’t expecting it. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to get more referrals. It should be required reading for all of your salespeople. Are you a Fred? Do you have Freds on your team?
9 - Hire the American Dream by Dave Melton and Tim McInTyre
If you’ve taken the step to build your business beyond yourself you’ll realize how important it is to get the right staff in place. Your people will have the biggest impact on your ability to grow and if you’re looking at building a winning team I highly recommend this book.
Hire the American Dream looks one of Domino Pizza’s most successful franchisees and how he set sales records in America’s toughest market: New York City.
He did it by hiring the right people, giving them responsibilities, allowing them to prove themselves, and helping them see that there was a career path laid out for them.
They had to start out on minimum-wage but could build a future for themselves if they worked hard.
My favorite section:
I’ve copied out Chapter 5 which is: “Next, Teach Customer Service” and use it as a training manual for how employees should interact with customers.
Look for warm people, not just warm bodies.
He gives you a “make it personal” checklist to follow, focuses on service, encourages his staff to look at the issues from the customer’s point of view, trains them to think of complains as opportunities to improve, and teaches that you can never “win” an argument with a customer.
I also love his section on how you should look for warm people, not just warm bodies. It’s so true. You don’t want to hire someone just because you need someone – you want an employee who cares about the job and the business. The author’s tips to finding warm people include looking for people who:
- Aspire to succeed
- Want to learn
- Care about our customers
- Care about their coworkers
- Don’t lower their standards or expect me to lower mine
- Have a passion for what they do
- Are not afraid of hard work
- See the opportunities that lie before them – and are inspired by them
10 – The Entrepreneurial Journey by Norm Trainor
This book is unfortunately not available on Amazon (sorry, no picture!) but you can buy it from the Covenant Group website. The Entrepreneur Journey helps guide business owners through the process of setting up a successful company. Some of the topics include: Business management, Marketing, Relationships management, and Resource management.
Most of the information is geared towards financial advisors. The author, Norm Trainor, has worked with thousands of financial advisors helping them find out how to grow and differentiate yourself in a saturated market where service and relationships are everything.
On the surface this might not sound like a very interesting book if you’re not a financial advisor… but there was one section that really struck a chord with me and has stuck with me ever since I read it.
My favorite section:
Deep within the chapter on Resource Management was the section that changed my business career:
Delegate functions, not tasks.
Delegate functions, not tasks. It’s so simple, yet so true. If you want to start to free up your time to focus on higher value projects then you need to delegate some of what you’re doing to other people.
Makes sense right?
The problem is that most people delegate tasks. You tell people exactly what they need to do and they do it. The challenge with this approach is that you’ll constantly be bogged down by the details of your business. You have to manage each employee so much and give them new tasks when they finish their existing ones.
Instead entrepreneurs should delegate functions. Give them a goal and whatever resources you have and let them attack it. Let them deal with the details and focus on hitting the main target you set out for them.
Delegating functions not only frees up your time to focus on the bigger picture, you’ll also unleash the inner creativity of your staff and create a much better work environment for everyone.
Those are my top 10 favorite books – I hope you enjoyed the list and will take the time to explore some of these books to see if they are right for you.
All of these books have had a tremendous impact on my business and personal life and I’m forever grateful to the authors for taking the time to produce such quality material.
Have you read any of these books? If yes, what did you think? If not, what are your favorite books? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you leave a comment below!