21 of the Best Business Books to Help Small Business Owners [UPDATED for 2020] 2020-03-18T17:23:48-06:00

The Best Business Books for Sales, Inspiration, Education and more…

Below you’ll find a list of what I have found to be the best  business books for small business; books that I really love. I have found each of these to be very helpful, and a few of them to be life-changing.

Each Author is, or should be, a recognized expert in the field of small business, linked to profiles at their sites or or Wikipedia, so click there if you’d like to learn more about each one.

First, if you want more reading on the best business books (as voted on by some heavy hitters in the small business world), here are a few helpful links:

Other Lists of Great Small Business Books:

Best Sales Books, list by Inc.com

Best Mangement Books, list by Wall Street Mojo

Best Books on Entrepreneurship, list by Fundera

Best Marketing Books for Small Business Owners, list by Creative Boom

Best Small Business Strategy Books, also by Inc.com 

If you’re looking for a book to change perspective, improve your sales, open your mind or just give you a little extra push, then I hope you find some of what you’re looking for on this list.

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Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

This is a great overall business book for small business owners. It is pointed a bit more at corporate employees, but any small business owner will find nuggets of great value in there. Its longevity makes it one of the best books for small business growth out there.

Harvey B. Mackay

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Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion

This is truly a game-changing book for small business owners writing copy for advertising, online marketing, social media marketing or any other online marketing purpose. The insights are incredible, and you should take about a year reading it. Each chapter will most likely change the way you write copy.

Robert B. Cialdini

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The Adweek Copywriting Handbook

This is another game changing book for small business owners. Joe Sugarman is a legend in the copywriting business and has written some amazing and historical ads.

These principles will inform your content marketing work, whether it’s SEO, Sales, Social Media or anything else in Digital Marketing.

In this book, you get to look over his shoulder as he breaks down how and why he wrote each ad or copywriting piece. Much of this thinking goes into my own Conversion Edit Service.

This is an exhaustive work, and will change your copywriting life. I’ve read this one cover to cover several times, and I’m not alone in believing it to be one of the best small business growth books, just because of its direct effect on your messaging.

Joseph Sugarman

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Hardball: Are Playing to Play or Playing to Win?

UPDATE: This is truly, officially, the most under-rated small business book on this list, and perhaps the most under-rated business book of all time.

Wonderful, short book that, while it rarely makes the lists of the best books for small business, chronicles mistakes made by big companies, yet the lessons learned can be applied by just about any small business owner. Branding, marketing deployment and more, it’s all covered between the covers of this well-written, entertaining little book.

George Stalk and Rob Lachenauer

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Good to Great

Jim Collins has written two groundbreaking books; this one and “Built to Last”, and you should waste no time reading each. These are higher level books, and have a more organizational bent to them, so if your needs are more on the strictly marketing and messaging side, I would put them a little lower on the list. But make no mistake, these two books are indispensable.

Jim Collins

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The One Thing, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

If you haven’t read “The One Thing”, you’ll notice a distinct difference in the way you think about what is necessary and what isn’t once you HAVE read it.

It’s a powerful refocusing tool that helps you understand just how much of life is not as urgent as it feels, and then how to pick that one thing that will make the biggest difference for your life right now.

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Built to Last

Same as above, amazing book that will further open your mind to new ways of thinking about setting up and running your business. Read them!

Jim Collins

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Great book for changing the way you think about numbers and how they affect your business. Not so much a direct business book, but it really helps to think about numbers differently, and that can change your business.

Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

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Guerilla Marketing

I have not read this book in a while, and the original is quite outdated. There are lots of great lessons, and I’m sure there are updated versions, but this still has valuable lessons and is still considered one of the best small business growth books, ever.

I know that Jay Levinson has written a book on Social Media Marketing as well. I’m sure that one has much more up to date advice in it. I would still read this one, because the underlying principles in it are sound. The reason I’m going to all these lengths is because I did read it, and it’s a good book, it’s just one of the early innovators in the space, so you should definitely make sure and read a later, revised version.

Jay Levinson

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Scientific Advertising, the Best Small Business Growth Book ever?

Claude Hopkins is THE father of modern advertising. Most tactics you know about, and many of them that you don’t, are founded by him. He is one of the main reasons you use toothpaste, fyi. He’s also the reason you know the name Schlitz Beer. He started all this over 100 years ago, so there are many tactics he recommends in the book that you can’t use directly any more. Like the other books I’ve said this about, but FAR more so, the underlying principles are very sound.

Claude Hopkins

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The Ultimate Sales Letter

Dan Kennedy is a legend in the copywriting field, and has great stuff out there. This is one of his core pieces on sales for small businesses, and one he’s most known for. He has launched an entirely new line now, but this book still has great content marketing lessons to be learned. All of his books are based around the same principles. So start with this one and work outward.

Dan Kennedy

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The Ultimate Marketing Plan

Same as above, amazing book that will further open your mind to new ways of thinking about setting up and running your sales and marketing. Dan Kennedy is a copywriting rock star. Read them!

Dan Kennedy

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The E Myth Revisited

This is another early book that carries tons of great lessons, but is a bit dated, especially if you have read lots of other organizational books. If not, great place to start. Read it and you have a great platform to move on to more recent books.

Michael Gerber

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The One Minute Manager

Ken Blanchard’s and Spencer Johnson’s book is one of those short books that carries a ton of weight. It really changes the way you think about time, time management, and managing people, which just happens to be 3 of the most critical areas in business for any small business owner. Great read and handy resource.

Spencer Johnson & Ken Blanchard

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Who Moved My Cheese?

Great book by Spencer Johnson, and another that has great concepts that have been covered in many books since. I read it anyway, and still got good lessons from it.

Spencer Johnson

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Steven Covey’s classic yields lesson after lesson, but is a bit of a heavy read. I know tons of people who have started it but never finished. Still, any of it you get through will help you.

Stephen J. Covey

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Rich Dad Poor Dad

Robert Kyosaki’s classic book on habits, values and life is conversational and a great read. Great values, and a great read.

Robert Kiyosaki

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The Art of War Sun Tzu

One of the top 5 best small business growth books of all time. The concepts in “The Art of War” translate to all walks of life, and will definitely help you in your business. The ideas in this book are far more indirect than you might be used to, but I highly recommend pressing through.

Sun Tzu

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The Sales Bible

Jeffrey Gitomer wrote one of the best books I’ve ever read on sales. Exhaustive and endlessly informative, it should be considered critical reading for anyone in sales. I’ve never picked it up and opened it where I didn’t learn a powerful lesson.

Jeffrey Gitomer

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The Copywriters Handbook

Robert Bly’s classic on copywriting should be sitting on your desk if you are a copywriter or content marketing professional. Simply indispensable. You will not regret reading this book, I promise.

Robert W. Bly