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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.

Business for Punks: Break All the Rules—The BrewDog Way ($26)

By James Watt

Want to start a revolutionary business? James Watt, the cofounder of BrewDog, a U.K.-based craft beer company that has become one of the world’s fastest-growing beverage brands, explains how in this book.

Since so many startups fail, Watt says you need to be “focused, ruthless, driven and motivated from day one” in order to survive. One way to stand out, says Watt, is to “start a revolution, not a business.” As an example he cites Apple, which didn’t start a computer business, but instead set out to “change the world through technology.”

But this book is not just a cry for revolution. There’s a lot of solid advice, real-life examples and how-to information here—information all entrepreneurs, not just startups, can benefit from. (Warning: Watt uses some language you don’t normally find in business books, so if that offends you, be aware.)

I love Watt’s advice—and I’ll leave you with one of my favorites: “Comfort zones are places where average people do mediocre things.”

Future Strong: How to Work Unleashed, Lead Boldly, and Live Life Your Way ($19.95)

By Bill Jensen

Author Bill Jensen is an organizational expert and in this book he uses research and his decades of experience to build the case that in order to be successful you need to make the “right” choices.

Not just any choices, of course. Jensen says it’s about examining your life and looking at how you react to the five “future strong” choices, which include: Who will you choose to become, Will you allow yourself to be vulnerable, Who will you decide has your back?

Jensen believes most businesses are mired in 20th-century mindsets and we need to move ahead if we want to succeed. The research reveals the number-one change we need to embrace is “freeing people to succeed.” This book tells us how we can empower people (including ourselves) the right way.

Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You’re Told to Do is Wrong ($18.95)

By Ira Chaleff

The premise of this book is grounded in current times. Why, asks author Ira Chaleff, is it so difficult for people to say “no” to orders they know to be wrong? Chaleff says, “People like to believe they would have the courage to resist an order that would cause harm,” but history suggests most people would obey the orders.

According to the author, “intelligent disobedience” is when people have the courage to deliberately disobey orders they know would cause harm. He likens this to guide dog training, when the dogs must be able to recognize a command that would put them or the people they’re guarding at risk.

Chaleff explains how to recognize “bad” orders and “how to disobey them, how to reduce unacceptable risk and find better, more appropriate ways to achieve legitimate goals.”

This book is quite thought-provoking—How would you react to bad orders? Would you take a stand? Read this book, and you may think differently.

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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.