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3 Books Small Business Owners Should Read

Rieva Lesonsky
books small business owners

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.

Customer, LLC: The Small Business Guide to Customer Engagement & Marketing ($16.99)

By Hillary Berman

First, let me say, I know author Hillary Berman and have worked with her on some projects. She is a customer engagement maven and an entrepreneur (her marketing company is called Popcorn & Ice Cream—who can resist that?).

Berman believes that in order to thrive, small businesses must engage in customer-centric marketing. No matter what type of business you’re running or the size of your company, Berman says all businesses must embrace their customers. Love your customers, she says, and they’ll love you back.

The book is thorough, offering sage advice, numerous anecdotes and case studies. Berman’s goal with the book is to get small businesses “to move from ‘customer engagement’ and ‘customer experience’ as buzzwords and strategies to an integral way of doing business.” Reading Customer, LLC and implementing Berman’s advice will help you do just that.

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life ($27)

By Susan David, PhD

Susan David is a psychologist who has studied, among other things, the effects emotions have on our abilities to achieve. She’s found that emotionally agile people (more on that in a moment) don’t have it easier and in fact, suffer the same setbacks and stresses as anyone else. The difference, she says, is that emotionally agile people “know how to gain critical insights about their situations...and use this knowledge to adapt, align their values and actions, and make changes to bring the best of themselves forward.”

But what is emotional agility? David says it’s a “process that enables us to navigate life’s twists and turns with self-acceptance, clear-sightedness and an open mind.” David has created a “manifesto” which includes accepting your “full self,” which includes your good and bad emotions, letting go of unrealistic “dead people’s goals,” and remembering to “dance if you can.”

My favorite part of the manifesto is about the concept of fearlessness. I have long disagreed with people telling entrepreneurs to be fearless. David says, “Abandon the idea of being fearless. Instead walk directly into your fears, with your values as your guide, toward what matters to you. Courage is not an absence of fear; courage is fear walking.”

Nimble, Focused, Feisty: Organizational Cultures That Win in the New Era and How to Create Them ($26.95)

By Sara Roberts

Corporate culture is a much buzzed about topic. Sara Roberts, a former CEO and entrepreneur and current executive consultant to Fortune 500 companies, believes that in today’s volatile and uncertain marketplace businesses need a “new kind of emphasis around culture” to survive, one that is proactive and “purposely deliver value and drive growth.”

She says successful companies (whether established or “upstarts,” as she puts it) share three attributes—they’re nimble, focused and feisty.

There are plenty of examples here about companies that have adapted these attributes, but Roberts also shows you how your business can create a new cultural strategy. Roberts has packed the book with exercises, key questions you need to consider and much more to help you become a more nimble, focused and feisty entrepreneur.

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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.