Many business books follow the same formula. The author offers some idea about how the professional world is changing—something that is often explained in a few pages—and then they fixate on that idea for the rest of the book. Even when the idea is great, you’re left feeling like you have no clue how to apply the principles to your own business. On my quest to find the best books for entrepreneurs and small business owners, I’ve discovered seven business books that actually help. From tactical to inspirational, these are the ones worth reading:
1. Understanding and applying social media
The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk
Social media. It’s something people are always telling us to incorporate into our businesses, but hard to figure out how to leverage. In The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk explains that there’s huge ROI to social media, but attaining that ROI isn’t a cut and dry process. In a world where people are sharing thoughts on brands more than ever, it’s essential to understand how you fit in. This book provides tons of examples of companies that have been successful with social media, explaining why it’s important for large and small businesses alike.
2. For pushing through when times get tough
The Dip by Seth Godin
Seth Godin explains that when people are learning a skill, they go through a “dip,” where not much progress is made. If business owners are able to make it through this dip, they’re bound to be successful. When the economy is tough and money is tight, it might be tempting to throw in the towel and give up. In this book, Godin explains why you should keep at it, and how to move forward through frustration.
3. For building a business that makes money
Profit First by Mike Michalowicz
It’s obvious that a business is meant to make money, but it can be hard to get there. In Profit First, Mike Michalowicz explains how to use a simple system to transform your business from one that eats cash into one that makes it. Michalowicz casts traditional accounting principles aside; teaching you how to build a business that gets you out of the cycle of living check-to-check.
4. For learning how to differentiate yourself from competitors
Good to Great by Jim Collins
How can your “pretty good” company become a “great” company? How does a company with a mediocre culture transform into a stellar one? In Good to Great, Jim Collins explains how companies that aren’t born with perfect DNA can learn greatness…and leave their competition in the dust. This book uses real research to explain how companies were able to become great—and stay great—for periods of 15 years or more.
5. When business is taking over your life
Off Balance by Matthew Kelley
Entrepreneurs talk a lot about “work/life balance”—but that term can be confusing. What does it really mean? In Off Balance, Matthew Kelly says that it’s not really equilibrium we want, but satisfaction. Kelly explains how to cultivate deep feelings of satisfaction and contentment with our work lives, so that we don’t feel the need to strive for the ever-elusive “work/life balance.”
6. For tactical information about getting more customers
Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares
You have a great product or service, so the customers are bound to come calling, right? Well, not exactly. Despite all the advice out there that says being nice is enough to hook customers, you really need tangible and tactical advice on how to get paying customers. Traction provides this advice. According to Traction, there are only 19 channels for customer acquisition, things like video, social ads and unconventional PR. The book not only outlines these channels, but helps you figure out which ones will work for your business.
7. For creating the perfect customer experience
The Customer Support Handbook by Sarah Hatter
Customer service isn’t just for call centers. It has blossomed into a huge industry—one that you need to pay attention to as a business owner. In an era where companies create entire websites just for service and bend over backwards to make their customers happy, you need to understand the basic tenets of how to create a great customer experience. This book will help you reach the gold standard of customer service, going beyond simple transactions to customer loyalty.
As 2014 draws to a close, pick up a book. It’s the perfect time to get a headstart on all you wish to accomplish in the New Year. No more fluffy business books for you—these ones are winners!
More great ideas to grow your business
Check out why I stopped compromising with clients.
Learn more about inbound marketing: 10 ways to get clients to come to you.