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3 Books Small Business Owners Should Read

Rieva Lesonsky
books small business

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.

Under the Hood: Fire UP and Fine-Tune Your Employee Culture ($27.95)

By Stan Slap

I love this book because its premise is something I’ve long believed in: The secret to maximum business performance is not going to be found in a quarterly report. Instead best-selling author Stan Slap, the president of SLAP, an international consulting company, says, “The secret is a finely-tuned employee culture.”

Of course you need to figure out how that culture operates—and Slap’s book explains it to you. He explains why employee cultures tend to resist change, how to motivate your employees (and no, the answer isn’t money) and why they respond “more to leadership than management.”

The book is filled with resources, relevant quotes from musical geniuses like Neil Young and Johnny Cash (yes, they’re relevant), case histories and more. The book is worth buying, if just to read the four pages on “The Often Boneheaded History of Management.”

A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations into Advantages and Why It’s Everyone’s Business ($28)

By Adam Morgan and Mark Barden

A Beautiful Constraint is an easy-to-read, yet transformative book. The authors, Adam Morgan and Mark Barden, who run eatbigfish, a brand consultancy, want to redefine the word “constraint” from a limitation...that affects our ability to do something to “a limitation…[which is] often the stimulus to find a better way of doing something.”

As business owners, we encounter constraints every day. The authors say the four major ones are constraints of foundation, resources, time and method. Then they show you, using real-world examples, how to transform these constraints from negatives into positives.

They’re also on a bit of a crusade to stop focusing on innovation (“Innovation has become an annoying buzzword with useless associations; it’s either about whiz kids in Silicon Valley...or about big initiatives in big companies.”). Instead, they say, it’s about “inventiveness,” which they explain is “something anyone can do with just a little more awareness and understanding.”

Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered ($11.95)

By Austin Kleon

This is a little gem of a book. Author Austin Kleon, whose previous book was a New York Times bestseller, sets out to answer several of his most frequently asked questions, including “How do I get my stuff out there? How do I get noticed?”

The answer, says Kleon, is you have “to be findable.” That means no more lone wolf/lone genius mentality (often a hard trait for entrepreneurs to overcome), but focusing on sharing—and showing your work.

The book is filled with illustrations, quotes and really useful information. Do you have vampires in your life? In a few (very few) short words, Kleon tells you how to know if a person is sucking all the life out of you.

Kleon even shares some of his work process—the “outtakes” from the book. It’s a quick but worthwhile read.

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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.