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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.

A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life ($25.99)

By Brian Grazer with Charles Fishman

As children, we’re naturally curious, always asking, “Why?” As we get older, most of us lose that curious spark—but keeping it aflame can help us become more creative, more effective bosses and better innovators, Brian Grazer contends in this slim, easy-to-read book.

Academy Award–winning producer of movies and TV shows including Splash, 24, A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13, Grazer is perhaps best-known for his unusual spiky hairdo—which, he explains, he adopted permanently after noticing it made him more memorable to others.

Curiosity not only got Grazer his first job in Hollywood (he learned about a job in a studio mailroom by overhearing a conversation), but it also helped him rise as his curiosity inspired him to talk to higher-ups and learn how they do what they do.

For decades, Grazer has scheduled a weekly “curiosity conversation” in which he talks to strangers ranging from scientists and inventors to artists and political leaders. In A Curious Mind, he shares bits of what he learned in talks with everyone from Robert Heinlein to Fidel Castro. More important, he explains how seeing the world from other people’s perspectives helps us become better at just about everything, from management to negotiating and even personal relationships. This fun-to-read book will leave you feeling inspired by Grazer’s open-minded approach to life.

Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business ($26.95)

By Paul Downs

Author Paul Downs is both an entrepreneur (he owns a small custom furniture business, specializing in building conference tables) and a contributor to the “You’re the Boss” column in The New York Times.

Downs himself proclaims this is not your “standard business book.” He says, “I’m no business genius and I’m not rich...This is real life. The triumph and tragedy of small business. The uncertainty and challenges of being the boss.”

Part memoir, part business lessons, Boss Life highlights one year in the business life of Downs. Every chapter focuses on one month in 2012, which turned out to be a challenging year for Downs’ business. We relive Down’s decision to stop taking a salary for several months; the month the cash balance fell so low, he could only stay open for one more week;= if payments didn’t start flowing; and his relief (and concern) when his son announced he was putting off going to college for a year.

This is an enjoyable read—you’re eager to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

When Digital Becomes Human: The Transformation of Customer Relationships ($27.95)

By Steven Van Belleghem

In this digital world we now all live in, author Steven Van Belleghem argues that if we really want to succeed we need to add a human touch to our interactions with customers. In fact, he contends, today customer relationships are more important than ever and in order to truly engage with customers, you need to have a “digital-first attitude with a human touch.”

Van Belleghem packs the book with lots of real-life case studies of companies that were able to transform their customer relationships, so there’s plenty entrepreneurs can relate to.

Part of the issue, says Van Belleghem, is that consumers today have easy access to “vast amounts of data” about your (and everyone else’s) business, so they’re more in control of purchasing decisions than in the past. This means businesses have to develop a consumer-led strategy and add an emotional layer to the existing digital relationships they have with their customers.

This book tells us how to effectively transform our businesses to satisfy today’s “I want everything. And I want it now!” consumers.

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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.