16 Books Every Solopreneur Must Read

by Dawn Fotopulos on April 1, 2013

The best SMB advice can be found in the following books I’ve loved reading.

1. The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell

This is Gladwell’s most famous work that talks about that moment when something goes viral. He traces back how these products and companies build the momentum to get that breakthrough. It’s must reading for every SMB owner. It’s also very inspiring!

2. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is the godfather on internet marketing. Any book written by him is usually worth reading. Purple Cow refers to finding those characteristics that make you stand out in a crowded marketplace. This book will help you think creatively about how to find your niche so you don’t have to compete on price.  Godin also has a fantastic sense of humor so the pages fly by.

3. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

This is Guillebeau’s latest contribution to encouraging new business start ups. He gives all kinds of examples of people who saw a need and went out on a limb without millions of dollars and just tested their ideas. They refined their ideas until they got traction. I like this book because it shows you all the ways people have conducted market tests on a dime. It’s something we all need to learn.

4. Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis

If you want to get an on-the-ground glimpse of what’s REALLY going on in world markets and not just the scrubbed version from the evening news, read this book. Lewis is funny and knows how to break down complicated global finance so all of use can understand how Iceland and Greece went bankrupt. He also provides some visibility on what the future might hold for the likes of Italy, France, Portugal, Ireland and yes, the U.S. of A.

5. The Highest Calling by Lawrence Janesky

Here’s a guy who started a business at 17 years old and built it to a $100 million a year powerhouse in twenty odd years. This book is an allegory of a turnaround. It’ll make you think, smile and cry. I give a copy to every one of my workshop students to read. They always come away with knowledge and inspiration on what you should be doing to make your business successful.

6. How to Work a Room: Your Essential Guide to Savvy Socializing by Susan RoAne

This lady is hysterical. She also banished my fear of working a room and meeting people at conferences, meetups and gatherings. Her savvy advice and concrete steps will give you confidence to build the relationships that will be instrumental in driving revenues. She’s truly brilliant.

7. The Classic Drucker by Peter F. Drucker

If you’re managing anything, you must read Peter Drucker. I love this guy. He’s my hero. He’s no nonsense and cuts to the heart of what we need to do as business managers to call out the best in the people who work with and for us. You cannot die without reading this book!

8. How the Might Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins

I’ve taught the content of this book for over ten years and it never gets old. Some of the companies he talks about have fallen on tough times but his thesis on Level 5 leadership, hedgehog concepts and reaching breakthrough are universal. Every SMB should read this book. If you want to build a great, profitable company, Collins shows you how.

9. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller

Tim Keller is an amazing teacher of Truth. He helps people understand life is not just a balance sheet of gains and losses, but that there’s a bigger story you and I are a part of. He talks about the most important and the most intangible parts of our lives. If you read this book, you’ll wake up ten years from now knowing what it’s all about.  A must read.

10. Crafting A Customer Experience for People Not Like You by Kelly McDonald

“like-me” bias. We’re all guilty of it. Kelly McDonald is the antidote to help us think beyond our personal preferences and context to build a customer experience that is unforgettable. It’s wonderful for opening up your thinking to think of the world from someone else’s perspective and how to profit from that.

11. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson

If you’re like most people, managing conflict or handling crisis doesn’t come naturally. It didn’t for me. This book was recommended to me by students who found it very valuable. Patterson is a great coach and this book is worth your time.

12. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Sandberg has a very unconventional career path and this book has served as inspiration for many to reach for the brass ring. Don’t assume your path is the same; take from the book what is relevant for you and your goals. You have your own destiny. Her path might shed some light on your own.

13. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley & William Danko

This is an oldie but a goodie. Danko did research to see how millionaires thought and prioritized the most important decisions in life. He interviewed thousands of self-made millionaires and the common threads he found were surprising and enlightening. If you don’t want to work for twenty years and have nothing to show for it, read this book for inspiration.

14. 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris

Ferris’s famous treatise on how to retire on a beach. Some of his assumptions have changed, but his basic premise on how to manage time are priceless. That alone is worth the read. We waste a lot of time and Ferris calls us on it.  He’s also very creative on finding cost effective ways for solopreneurs to get the support we need.

15. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencionoi

This is a classic. When you’re running your own business, you’re managing virtual teams which can be more difficult than teams that report directly to you. If you know what can go wrong, then you’ll know instinctively the right way to draw the best out of them.

16. When Money Dies: The Nightmare of Deficit Spending, Devaluation and Hyperinflation in Weimar Germany by Adam Fergusson

Monetizing debt, quantitative easing and bond bubbles have been around since Caesar ran the Roman Empire.  The 20th Century also has a lot to teach us about the blessings of honest money and the dangers of inflating the money supply to pay down debt. This book is must reading for anyone who cares about the future of their business, their families and their country.

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