Ten Must-Read Books About Business

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ready, steady, read! Some of the best advice for your business.

When it comes to learning about the basics of business or even expanding your already extensive knowledge of all things business-related, there’s no shortage of sage advice to be found online.

From listening to podcasts from the lauded Stanford and Wharton business schools to perusing blogs from some of the world’s best business minds, if you want to learn about business there’s more information available than you could ever digest in a single lifetime.

However, sometimes you just want to sit down with a good book and soak in wise words from those who’ve gone before you.

If that’s the case, here’s my list of 10 business books, in no particular order, that have left an indelible mark on the way we do business.

It’s hardly a definitive or exhaustive list, but you’ll see it’s full of classics, many of which appear on similar Top 10 business book lists the world over:

To keep things clear and unbiased, I've included a link to the Google Shopping listing for each the books reviewed below. Google Shopping (and this isn't a plug for them either, promise) simply aggregates prices from a series of local online shops. Good way to find the best deal - and potentially the cheapest shipping - without having to hunt around. - Ed.


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen R. Covey (1989)

One of the best-selling business book of all time, the title gives the plot away!

Covey's book deals with the seven key habits he believes every wannabe business guru must employ in order to maximise their abilities and potential. It's a simply written self-help book that addresses these crucial habits and provides practical examples that you can immediately implement to improve your life and your relationships with others, especially in business.

One of the key learnings I took from from this book is the need to seek a 'Win-Win scenario'. Since, Covey says, there is enough of everything for everyone to enjoy, success is easier to attain through co-operation than by the often ruthless win-at-all-costs methodology employed by many modern business people.


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Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Roger Fisher and William Ury (1981)

You simply cannot do business without some ability to negotiate - and you’ll find you need to do it most every day.

Be it haggling with a contractor for the cost of a service or attempting to convince your landlord not to increase your agreed-upon rent, you need to be able to thrash out a problem and come to a solution and, according to Fisher and Ury, the best solution to come to is one that is principled and mutually beneficial.

Even if you don’t become a silver-tongued master negotiator, this book’s key lessons, including the need to separate the people from the problem, are guaranteed to equip you with some excellent negotiation skills that will help you negotiating in business – and in life.


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The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing 

Al Ries and Jack Trout (1994)

The Internet has revolutionised the way businesses market themselves, yet this practical little handbook, which is almost 30 years old, is as relevant today as it was when it was first published.

Its focus is marketing rather than general business principles, and it breaks down this rather complex field into 22 basic ‘laws’ all business owners should adhere to when marketing their wares.

Of course, in an ever-changing landscape, it’s impossible to come up with ‘immutable’ laws, and you will occasionally find yourself scratching your head wondering how relevant some laws are in today’s fast-paced and culturally diverse marketplace, but the general guidance offered by the authors is invaluable for those wanting to understand marketing and maintain, as they say, ‘winning brands.’


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Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny

Anthony Robbins (1992)
There is some debate as to who first uttered the words, “what lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us,’’ but this oft-quoted sentence perfectly describes the essence of peak performance coach Tony Robbins’ now classic business tome.
In it, he shares powerful methods and techniques for mastering your inner self and your mind-set. After all, he asks, how can you run a successful business if you yourself aren’t in the best mental, emotional and physical condition? His step-by-step instructions will help you learn to master your thoughts, feelings and actions, enabling you to take control of all those parts of your life which, ultimately, affect your business life and dealings.


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Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Chidlren

John Wood (2007)

A tale of adventure and passion, soul-searching and courage, this book is the inspiring story of a high-flying Microsoft executive who chucks it all in to build libraries for the world’s poorest children.

You may wonder what his tale has to do with business, but as you read about Wood’s amazing journey, you’ll quickly realise that it was his drive, business skills, and entrepreneurial zeal that helped him build Room to Read into a not-for-profit ‘empire’.

You’ll be awed and inspired and learn lessons from his not-for-profit organisation that you can easily and successfully implement in your for-profit business.


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Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High

Kerry Patterson (2011)

There are moments and conversations in life that can literally change lives, and when these high-stakes conversations are upon you, you must act and speak judiciously to attain your desired outcome.

This book prepares you for such moments and conversations, be they with a partner, an employee, a supplier, or a customer.

Patterson's is a powerful offering that walks readers through strategies gleaned from years of research on effective leaders and is guaranteed to help business owners improve their communication and conversational skills in a way that is truly meaningful rather than just merely efficient.


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Patrick Lencioni (2002)

A small business relies on teamwork far more than a big business and, as such, it’s important that those teams work together seamlessly.

Lencioni weaves a (we think, fictitious) parable around a troubled Silicon Valley firm whose teamwork leaves, shall we say, a lot to be desired. Along the way, he deals with the various factors that can hamper teamwork, things like trust, fear, commitment, responsibility and selfishness.

The book offers meaningful suggestions for overcoming team dysfunctions and, eventually, building successful and cohesive groups of people who work together serenely and happily, be they in business, sport, or even with friends and relatives.


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Small Message Big Impact (Elevator Speech)

Terri L. Sjodin (2012)

Today, nobody seems to have a lot of time, and attention spans are even shorter, which is proving disastrous for anyone working in sales.

While this book has received mixed reviews, I think it provides a useful introduction to something we all probably think we will do quite well when the moment arrives: give a great elevator pitch.

Elevator pitches are those brief, often unexpected opportunities to convince someone of something important in a very short amount of time.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact, the short time-frame often means that people become confused, forget key facts or just stumble and mumble their way through the moment. And, once it’s gone it’s likely gone for good and your opportunity is wasted.

A quick read of this (fittingly) short book will introduce you to a range of methods you can use to get your message across concisely and with and a laser-like  focus. So much so, you may find yourself giving elevator pitches in your head long after!


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The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It.

Michael E. Gerber (1995)

The "E Myth" stands for the "Entrepreneur myth", an age-old assumption that only certain types of people and personalities run businesses better than others, and one which this book focusses on debunking.

In this, the revisited version of the original book, Gerber argues that it is in fact the systems put in place that largely determine how well a business runs, and that when the right systems are put in place, a business can just run itself.

A real small business guru, Gerber observes that too many small business owners are ‘technicians’ or masters of one area, but not of other fundamental aspects of running a business, and without the proper systems to run these other areas, they’re almost doomed to fail.

Of course, not everyone agrees with the main concept of the book (and most of us would in fact argue that some personalities are better suited to running a business), but nonetheless, The E Myth Revisited remains highly recommended reading, especially for those thinking about starting their own business.


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Epic Content Marketing

Joe Pulizzi (2013)

In this day and age of online marketing you need to do more than just throw content onto the Internet.This book teaches you in great detail how to start and manage a successful content marketing strategy. One of the key instructions in this book focusses on just how how social media ties in with content marketing, which I found particularly edifying.


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