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10 Books that Transformed My Small Business

What would your business look like if you could hire ten leading experts on business management to reveal blindspots that are keeping your small business from growing?

Author: Jeremy Harrison

February 1, 2019

What would your business look like if you could hire ten leading experts on business management to reveal blindspots that are keeping your small business from growing? That kind of outside perspective would be invaluable, but who could afford it?

Fortunately for us, the leading experts on business management keep publishing books, granting anyone access to their minds, strategies, and inspiration. Here are 10 books that have transformed my business, in three categories: 

Books to Help You Lead & Plan for Growth

The Emyth Revisited - Gerber

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
You can’t work ON your business if you’re buried with details working IN your business. That’s the big idea of The E-Myth, and it has shaped the way I lead Spire more than any other book. A dear friend gave me this book my first month in business. I’ve read it multiple times and have probably purchased 25 copies of it over the years to share with others who are starting businesses.

EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey

EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey, the highly successful author, teacher and TV personality offers practical, common sense, easy-to-read wisdom about running a business, with sage advice on topics like setting vision, hiring/firing, communication and compensation plans. Ramsey anchors his book on biblical principles, which align with my worldview. It’s great to learn from someone who has spent 20 more years than me making mistakes and learning from them.

Beyond Entrepreneurship - Jim Collins

Beyond Entrepreneurship by Jim Collins
Written long before his bestsellers Good to Great and Built to Last, Jim Collins’ book Beyond Entrepreneurship is a little academic, but so valuable. Chapter 2 alone has the power to transform your business. It talks about how to create a workable vision for a company, which consists of a Purpose, Mission and Values.

Scaling Up - Verne Harnish

Scaling Up by Verne Harnish
Once you’ve established your vision with the help of Jim Collins, Verne Harnish will help you turn your vision into prioritized action. Because of Scaling Up, Spire now has a focused planning rhythm to help us stay pointed toward our purpose, mission, values, and annual priorities. Scaling Up is like a workbook that goes deep into this process.

Books to Improve Productivity & Help Us Simplify

Getting Things Done - David Allen

Getting Things Done by David Allen
David Allen’s 2002 book outlines a simple productivity framework that ignited a movement. Google “GTD” and you’ll see what I mean. I use tenets of the GTD framework to keep my inbox empty and to process all those ideas that tend to swirl in my head at inconvenient times. Best of all, you aren’t forced to use any technology to apply his system. He describes it with pieces of paper and inboxes… it’s more of a system for your brain than your smartphone.


Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson
Rework is written by the creators of the popular Basecamp project management app. This book helped Spire simplify the websites we create and the processes we use to create them. It champions the idea of building something simple and making it great. My favorite line? “You’re better off with a kick-ass half, than a half-assed whole.” Yep.

The Lean Startup - Eric Reis

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Most businesses agonize for years about getting their product and marketing perfect before they ship it. Too often, they find a fundamental flaw in what they shipped. Ries argues that a startup needs to ship something quickly with minimal time and expense, learn from its flaws, revise it, and then ship again. The more rapidly you can cycle through this “Build-Measure-Learn” process, according to Ries, the more successful you will be. Ries’ methodology has shaped the way we advise small businesses, especially startups.

Books About Advertising, Sales & Marketing

Tested Advertising Methods - John Caples

Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples
Using the right words is underrated. In 2004, I got paid each week on how many sales were produced from a weekly email I wrote and sent. This book helped me pay my mortgage during those years! Caples wrote ad copy in the 1920s — long before the “Mad Men” era — and his book includes 35 headline formulas that are still in use by direct-response copywriters today.

80/20 Sales & Marketing - Perry Marshall

80/20 Sales & Marketing by Perry Marshall
Perry Marshall is known as the authority on Google AdWords, but I believe this book is Perry’s most important contribution to small business marketing. He takes the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 principle) to shape the way you organize your time, view your customers, price your products, and much more.

The Ultimate Marketing Plan - Dan Kennedy

The Ultimate Marketing Plan by Dan Kennedy
I read this book 15 years ago, right out of college, and then forgot about it. It sat on my bookshelf collecting dust until just recently, when I picked it up as an option to share with a new hire. So many ideas in this book shaped the way I think about marketing today. This is a highly practical book with high-impact, low-cost ideas to promote any small business.

If you’re leading a small business, you can’t go wrong with any of these authors. Have you invited any leading experts on marketing or business management into your small business by reading their books? Who has transformed the way you manage and lead your business? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.

Unsure where to begin?

As a small business owner, I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way that have taught me valuable lessons about business leadership and marketing. I’d love to help you learn from my mistakes the same way I’ve learned from some of these great teachers. Through Spire’s Marketing Plan and Strategy Sessions, you can work closely with a team of local experts in small business marketing to help your business grow.

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