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3 Books Small Business Owners Should Read

Rieva Lesonsky
books small business owners should read

There is so much small business owners need to know to operate at peak performance. Luckily we live in the Information Age with plentiful resources. To help you sift through some of the data, every week we’re going to look at three business books small business owners should read and the lessons you can learn from reading them.

Draw Your Big Idea: The Ultimate Creativity Tool for Turning Thoughts Into Action and Dreams into Reality ($19.95)

By Nora Herting and Heather Williams

I love this book. The authors, both artists, are the founders of ImageThink, a company that uses visual learning to help businesses grow, helps companies visualize their futures and provides a visual record of a company’s ideas. The book is full of fun illustrations and exercises designed specifically to help you and your staff think more creatively.

The idea is that being visual helps trigger creative thinking. The book shows you how to translate ideas into pictures, helping you understand them in a different way, gives you tweetable ideas, and helps you translate complex ideas and messages into simple images.

But the book digs deeper. It helps you define your credo, create your mission statement and define your values. You might think about buying key staffers their own copies of Draw Your Big Idea to truly jumpstart creative thinking at your small business.

The Five Hour Workday: Live Differently, Unlock Productivity, and Find Happiness ($5.99/Kindle edition)

By Stephan Aarstol

Author Stephan Aarstol is an entrepreneur—he’s the CEO and founder of Tower Paddle Boards. But his claim to fame is that he got funding from Mark Cuban on an episode of Shark Tank and was featured in People Magazine as one of Shark Tank’s “Biggest Winners.”

In this book Aarstol argues that the eight-hour workday is an outdated concept, and that in reality American workers are only putting in two to three hours of “real work” every day. He partly blames that on not taking advantage of the productivity tools that are currently available. Aarstol advocates for switching to a five-hour workday, which he believes will incentivize employees to use those tools and “work at a more intense pace.”

Aarstol isn’t just talking theory. He implanted a five-hour workday at Tower Paddle Boards, having his employees work from 8 am to 1 pm. He says his employees are happier and more productive. Working five hours a day, he says, “improves work/life balance…ten-fold. Imagine eight to 10 hours of free time every weekday.”

The book explains how you can and why you should switch to a five-hour workday—not just to get more out of your employees, but also to get more out of your life.

Scaling Lean: Mastering the Key Metrics for Startup Growth ($30)

By Ash Maurya

This book is a follow-up to Ash Maurya’s first book Running Lean. Maurya, a serial entrepreneur, tackles how startups can grow without falling apart in the process. He believes even the best business models can fall apart “under the pressures of expanding into new markets and managing...expectations.”

Based on his own experience of scaling startups and that of other successful entrepreneurs, Maurya says you can’t measure success by traditional accounting metrics (revenues and profits). Instead he contends it’s more important to focus on specific values, such as market size and margins, to create a winning business model.

The book is filled with exercises, charts, illustrations and key takeaways, so you can more easily grasp and implement Maurya’s lessons.

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Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.