I often remember the time when we had just immigrated to Canada almost a decade ago and were faced with the decision between spending a few years in school (again) to improve our chances of getting a good job in a country where our credentials weren’t worth much or, putting our entire life’s savings into becoming small business owners.
As many immigrants do, we too chose the small business route even though we had no entrepreneurial experience or practical skills, no network of family, friends, and schoolmates that could help me at the beginning of this new life and career path. The only things we had were the need for this business to succeed (because “life savings” – remember?) and the will to make it happen.
Without having gone to business school and no money to hire experts, we constantly saw ourselves looking for insight in business books. We read piles and piles of books for small businesses, biographies and technical books that we’d get from the public library. We’d spend hours trying to make sense of all the nuggets of wisdom we’d read in all those books and trying to apply them into our business. To this day, almost a decade later, we still head to the public library and bookstores every so often and browse the immense variety of new publications in the field.
A study by Steve Siebold of over a thousand wealthy people found that they all have something in common – a passion for reading. But they don’t just read any books, they self-educate by reading. In fact, “while the rich don't necessarily put much stock in furthering wealth through formal education — many of the most successful people have little formal education — they appreciate the power of learning long after college is over (…)”.
Not many people are as avid as Warren Buffet, who’s said to spend 80% of his working hours reading books, or Bill Gates who reads about 50 books per year. If you’re a small business person like us it probably means you are a master of multi-tasking, a busy bee that doesn’t that much time to devote to reading. However, there are many engaging books that have accessible language and are packed with practical knowledge that can help you elevate your business and your life!
We’ve selected a few of our favorite books that we think entrepreneurs should add to their TO-READ list. Check them out:
1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
First published in the nineties, this book brings timeless advice for small business owners that have a difficult time balancing their businesses and personal lives. When we were learning to navigate life in a new country, building a business without knowledge and taking care of a little one, one of the most important takeaways from the book was the idea of a beginning “with the end in mind”. The book’s holistic approach for facing life’s challenges in all spheres was and still is, crucial in keeping us focused and resilient to face the adversities we encounter along the way (hello pandemic).
2. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
Having a small business requires owners to have a strong will to carry on the many and oftentimes taxing activities necessary to make the business succeed, which in turn, may result in them becoming unsatisfied, unmotivated and unsure of the future of their business. The most important takeaway from this book is Pink’s explanation that human motivation is intrinsic to each individual and extrinsic motivators (any kind of reward - salary, bonus, etc) may have the adverse effect of harming motivation. He proposes that motivation can be fostered with autonomy, mastery, and purpose and those lessons can be applied not only in our small businesses but in all aspects of our lives.
3. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Micheal E. Gerber
It can be scary to start your own business and this book does a great work in making sure the commonplace myths about doing so aren’t the ones to keep you from greatness. E-myth is short for the “entrepreneurial myth” that all one needs in order to succeed is some skill and hard work. Gerber was able to create a step-by-step in the life of a small business, going from the entrepreneurial infancy stage, through the growing pains of adolescence and culminates in a mature entrepreneurial perspective. The most important takeaway from this book for us was the notion that it’s easy to spend a lot of time IN our businesses (which is the day to day stuff) but, to grow and mature into a successful business you need to be able to work ON our businesses (which involves planning and steps towards reaching the next level).
4. The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
Small business owners are frequently risk-takers, resilient people that decide to take chances and believe in their own potential to create something for themselves. That being said, it’s not a secret that many businesses fail. Eric Ries makes the case for a new approach to how businesses are built and new products are launched. The Lean Startup approach advocates for the adoption of lean processes, agility in responding to customer feedback, collection and use of data as a way to shift directions when needed and adapting before it’s too late. Even though the book is slightly biased towards tech companies, any business can benefit from the processes and insights offered by Ries.
5. Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business by Chris Ducker
Small business owners usually wear many hats and oftentimes suffer from a superhero complex - they believe they must know how to do everything in regards to their business in order to be successful. While this kind of behavior may be partially necessary in the early stages of a business, it may hinder the owners' capacity to achieve better results - it’s just too much for one person to handle. This gem of a book presents the reader with a step-by-step guide on how to work on their business while hiring knowledgeable virtual assistants to work in their business for an affordable price. These life-changing strategies are not only eye-opening but also potentially life-altering for any small business.
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