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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.

Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways! ($27)

By William C. Taylor

I confess part of my love for this book is because the author, the cofounder of Fast Company, believes, as I do that the term “innovation” is wrongly and “typically reserved for technology and [fast-growth] startups.” But there are so many other less-glamourous businesses where, Taylor says, “ordinary people are unleashing extraordinary advances that amaze customers, energize employees and create huge economic value.”

This book is filled with examples of everyday entrepreneurs, people just like you and me, who are doing “ordinary things in extraordinary ways.” Taylor’s interviews will inspire and educate you, and you’ll discover brilliant ideas like the parking garage that was transformed into a public space that hosts all sorts of events, such as weddings, yoga classes and photo shoots, or the manufacturing company that hasn’t laid off any staff since 1958.

One of my favorite pieces of Taylor’s advice is the name of Part 2—“Don’t Let What You Know Limit What You Can Imagine.” He warns that expertise can get in the way of innovation. There’s so much to learn here—it’s definitely worth the read.

The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need ($27)

By Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is a sales expert and author who believes that sales success is not situational. It’s not about the product or service being sold, the company offering it, the market or the competition. Rather, he says, it’s about the salesperson and his or her ability to “manage themselves and exert self-discipline.”

This is a practical guide. Iannarino shows you how the establish the skill- and mind-set to succeed at sales, whether you’re a business owner, a sales manager or new to the sales game.

Storytelling has become an important component of sales, and Iannarino tells you how to be a better storyteller. He also discusses how to have relatable (and more authentic) conversations, how to remain optimistic and how to set yourself apart from your competitors.

212: The Extra Degree: Extraordinary Results Begin With One Small Change ($14.99)

By San Parker and Mac Anderson

The premise of this book is simple. At 211 degrees, water is very hot, but it’s still water. Add just one degree and that same water boils. So adding that extra degree brings steam—and steam is powerful enough to power a locomotive. That’s the potential impact adding one degree of effort can have on your business—and your life.

It sounds simplistic, and in a sense it is. The authors maintain that “there are no real secrets to success.” Instead the key to succeeding is “effort.” They write, “To achieve exponential results requires additional effort.”

As the authors themselves say, you could leave it there; that is the essential lesson of the book. But they also offer real-life anecdotes, plenty of stats (updated from the first edition) and great quotes, all focused on inspiring you to make that extra effort and add one degree to whatever you undertake. As one of my favorite “sages,” New York Yankees hall-of-fame catcher Yogi Berra once said, “You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn’t enough, in the second half, you give what’s left.”

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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.