12 Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read

You all know that I believe You Must Grow Yourself to Grow Your Businessâ„¢.  Reading books is a great way to sharpen your own knife and learn new things than can help your business. I often find that books help me see my business from different perspectives. The following is a list of new and old favorite books that I think are essential reading for every entrepreneur.  Enjoy.

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber  In the E-Myth Revised, Michael E. Gerber explains a different approach to developing small businesses to not just survive, but with a plan to thrive.  One of the best things about this book is Gerber’s message around using the franchise model. He is not saying to buy a franchise. Instead, he wants us to develop processes and systems in our businesses so that we are not personally driving all the business revenue.

I found the ideas in this book incredibly useful for my own business.  He taught me how to systematize my business so that it could run without me.  If you’re a small business owner whose business is stagnant or going in the wrong direction, this book can be enormously valuable. 

Small Business Cash Flow by Denise O’Berry  Without cash flow you don’t have a business.  Cash is king and Denise O’Berry gives straight-forward advice on how to make your business a financial success. This book clearly provides strategies about how to manage and control your cash and also does a good job of pointing out how a small business owner can stay on top of cash flow issues.  Remember, if your business in not making money you may have just an expensive hobby. 

The Plan As You Go Business Plan by Tim Berry  You all know that I believe you must plan for success in business, so you knew a business plan book had to be on the list. Tim Berry is one of the foremost experts on writing a business plan, but what I like best about Tim Berry’s book is that it turns the process of business planning from this torturous “do I have to do this” event into a “I know I can do this and I and in fact I love to do this” process. 

I especially like that he stresses that business plans are not a one time deal and that he gives the reader options for designing their own method of pulling together the business plan. Tim also gives plenty of resources and practical advice to make your business plan a success. 

If you have NEVER finished or have written a business plan, The Plan As You Go Business Plan is a must read.

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith  This book is an excellent resource to learn about marketing professional service businesses.  Selling an intangible service is a very different process than product marketing. Harry Beckworth writes, Quality, speed, and price are *not* in competition, they must be offered simultaneously and at full value.  If you want to know how to sell the invisible, the intangible, and most importantly value propositions, this is the best book you could read.

Flawless Consulting by Peter Block  This is the essential book for the one-person consultant or a veteran consulting firm. In these days and times, you really need to have a process as a consultant to manage yourself and your clients. No matter how well you know your expertise, this book will keep you focused on the consulting essentials. Using the ideas in this book will lead to excellent project plans, successfully implemented projects – and most importantly clients who will want you again and again.  

Guerrilla Publicity by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, and Jill Lublin  Of all the books in the Guerilla series, this is one of my favorites.  Publicity as a marketing tool is probably one of the hardest things for a small business owner to master. Guerrilla Publicity makes it plain, and the suggestions are easy to implement.  Even if you do not fashion yourself a PR machine, this book will help you learn this important skill needed for a successful business. This book will help you master the art of using free publicity as a key marketing tool. No small business can avoid this tool on the path to success.

Inbox Detox by Marsha Egan  In Inbox Detox, Marsha Egan offers the cure for the “Email Blues” (which we all have as small business owners).  She asks readers to cast a critical eye on their own email habits, provides a model, 12-Step Program Style, for dealing with those habits, and then details newer, more productive ones. Egan breaks down the email issue into its most basic problem: email misuse is a constant drain on productivity, and therefore a constant drain on the bank account.  If you need to tame you email inbox this book is the answer.

The Wealthy Freelancer; 12 Secrets to a Great Income and an Enviable Lifestyle by Pete Savage, Steve Slaunwhite and Ed Gandia  Many people start out in business as freelancers or 1099 employees, so I thought it was important to highlight this terrific book on building a freelancing business. These three authors are pros at what they do. You need to have been in business at least five years or so to glean the knowledge you’ll find in this book.  You’ll learn everything from the “practical tactical” such as how to prospect for clients to the more “woo woo” things such as why keeping a positive mental attitude is so important. I highly recommend this book to small business owner who are just starting a freelance business or who have been in business a while and need to make more money.

Your Idea, Inc. 12 Steps to Building a Million Dollar Business – Starting Today! by Sandy Abrams  Your Idea, Inc. by Sandy Abrams is written for anyone with a product idea who wants to start a business. Sandy creatively combines her expertise, realistic, step by step details and motivational stories to deliver an excellent book.

Using her model you will know how to go from the inner rumblings of idea to seeing your product on store shelves or QVC. Her inspirational drive paired with book’s concrete examples make for the perfect combination and set anyone up for success. Her million dollar tips and biz brainstorms are user friendly and add to the depth this book as well.

Wealth Creation for Small Business Owners; 75 Strategies for Financial Success in Any Economy by James E. Cheeks, Esq.  What is the point of starting a business –if it’s not to build wealth.  In Wealth Creation for Small Business Owners, lawyer and professor James E. Cheeks outlines a system that with some careful planning you can ensure that you can actually retire from your small business.

Cheeks reveals little-known small business laws that allow entrepreneurs to build retirement funds, maintain good health care and insurance, and most importantly hold on to family assets. Now, using easy-to-grasp strategies, Cheeks demonstrates how to legally shelter business profits from tax, withdraw business profits when needed, and protect assets from creditor claims.

What this book does best is teach entrepreneurs how to create and preserve family wealth. I can not recommend this book more highly.

Built to Sell; Turn Your Business into One You Can Sell by John Warrillow  I love books where people teach you how they learned from their own mistakes.  Not every business can be sold, but if you grow a business to the point where it is generating real revenue with a signature product, process or service, you will want to have things in place so that it can be sold.  The kinds of things you need to have in place are laid out in excellent detail in this short book by John Warrillow.  He uses a fictional character in the book to illustrate his points. Doing the right things up front will make your business built to sell. Follow the simple, practical steps in Built to Sell, so that you can get the most when it’s time to move on, pass it down or retire. 

Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works  by Melinda F. Emerson  This is not a book about writing a business plan, this is book designed to help you plan a success business.   This is also MY book.

Here’s what reviewers say my book.  “Melinda breaks down the process of starting a business into very manageable pieces, with illustrative examples, tools and common sense advice. If you are afraid you might forget something, this book doesn’t. The book is quite inspiring and it’s formatted like a map – showing you how to properly navigate the curves, speed bumps, and detours along the way as you start your business venture.”

“…if you’re serious about entrepreneurship, Become Your Own Boss could well be the first book in a steady regimen of self-education and continuous learning common to all outstanding entrepreneurs.”

“What Emerson does best is to give aspiring business owners constant reality checks along the way, avoiding the rah-rah, inspirational tone of many books which champion entrepreneurship. Instead, Emerson blends enthusiasm for business ownership and an encouraging demeanor, while unflinchingly addressing the price entrepreneurs must anticipate, plan for, and be prepared to pay to achieve their objectives, including potential strain on marriages and other relationships, as well as the inevitable impact on their finances and their lifestyles as a whole. The fact that Emerson leads off by emphasizing that would be entrepreneurs must establish a life plan before creating a business plan–and that the two must line-up and be compatible, if not integrated, with each other–may be the best thing about the book.”

Tell me about a great need that a book that you have read has filled, which you can recommend to the small business owner.

Melinda F. Emerson, also known as Twitter’s SmallBizLady is a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach whose areas of expertise include small business start-up, business development and social media. She hosts #SmallBizChat weekly on Twitter for emerging entrepreneurs.  She is the founder and CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, an award-winning strategic communications firm. She has created productions for such companies as Johnson & Johnson, Verizon, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Comcast. Her first book Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works!” was released in March 2010 by Adams Media.


  1. says

    Good list–I’ve read several of these. Interesting that you picked Guerrilla Publicity among all the Guerrilla books. I’m friends with both Jill and Rick, who did that book with Jay.

    Melinda, I’d like to acquaint you with my own book in the Guerrilla series, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet. If you DM your e-address to @shelhorowitz (I’ve been following you for a while), I’ll comp you a PDF.
    .-= Shel Horowitz´s last blog ..Green Book Festival Honorable Mention =-.

  2. says

    I love several of your choices above. But I would add 2 on the impact of social media. Valuable for all size businesses:

    Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust — Chris Brogan


    The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business — Tara Hunt


  3. says

    Good list–I’ve read several of these. Interesting that you picked Guerrilla Publicity among all the Guerrilla books. I’m friends with both Jill and Rick, who did that book with Jay.

  4. says

    You have provided great list. I have read some of your above mentioned books, but would definitely love to invest on Guerrilla Publicity by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, and Jill Lublin. Since you have read all the mentioned books, its quite helpful for people like me who can get a snippet of each very book out there.

  5. says

    Nice picks. I would recommend this book as a nice overview with points from several different sources – The Management Gurus: Lessons from the Best Management Books of All Time
    by Chris Lauer
    Chris has another book about starting your own biz as well.
    If you have limited time for business reading – this is a great choice.

  6. says

    I would have to add some of the classics…

    The Go Getter by Peter B Kyne

    How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success Through Selling by Frank Bettger

    anything written by Og Mandino

    and a more recent publication…

    The Referral of a Lifetime by Tim Templeton

  7. says

    Great list, Melinda! I need to catch up on some of my reading. :-)

    I’d like to add another that has helped me tremendously as a SBO: Make Your Contacts Count by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon.

  8. says

    Hello Melinda, thanks for pulling together such a useful list.

    You might want to add another book to your collection – Tickover or Takeoff: How to build a multi million pound business, by Caroline Hampson. (www.tickoverortakeoff.co.uk). Published last year, it includes inspiring details of how 40 entrepreneurs built their businesses, and looks at key ways that readers can help their own businesses flourish.


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