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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 them.

Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top ($27.95)

By Bo Burlingham

In Finish Big, longtime business journalist Bo Burlingham sets out to discover why some entrepreneurs make good exits from the businesses they built, while for others the experience is nothing but a nightmare.

It’s important, insists Burlingham, to start planning for your exit long before you actually want (or have) to leave. Early planning helps strengthen your business while you’re still running it.

Burlingham says there are four stages to a successful exit, and he explains how to carefully navigate each one. To find out what distinguishes a good exit from a bad one, Burlingham interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs. One of the most fascinating discoveries: The business owners who were happy about leaving the companies they founded already had new projects ready to go.

Whatever stage your business is at right now, you will benefit from reading Finish Big.

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think ($16)

By Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler

I was recently given this book at Dell World, where Peter Diamandis, the serial entrepreneur and Chairman and CEO of XPRIZE, which “leads the world in designing and launching large incentive prizes to drive radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity,” was a keynote speaker. Abundance is on Michael Dell’s list of recommended business books.

The book (a New York Times bestseller) was originally published in 2012, but was updated and re-released this fall. As a longtime Pollyanna myself, I appreciate the hopeful and optimistic nature of Abundance.

The authors say evolution shaped our brains to be “acutely aware of all potential dangers,” which is why “news media and politicians focus on the grim.” But they maintain “a quick look at history shows that progress continues through the good times and the bad.”

Nothing “drives abundance,” they note, “more than connectivity (global access to the Internet), better health and increased literacy.” And despite concerns that innovation is slowing or stopping, reading Abundance will assure you that won’t happen. Instead, the authors say, “Technology has been how humans dream into the future...Innovation is woven into the fabric of who we are.”

Of course, technology alone isn’t enough. The authors ask us to embrace their positive view of tomorrow and become “part of the largest cooperative effort in history” to make the world better for all of us.

The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry ($27.95)

By John Warrillow

Buying a subscription used to mean getting a year’s worth of magazines or newspapers delivered to your mailbox. But John Warrillow says we’re in the midst of the “new subscription economy” where consumers are willing to subscribe to numerous products, such as razors, cosmetics and movies. (I wrote about this phenomenon not too long ago.)

The Automatic Customer won’t be available until February, but it’s well worth pre-ordering. Warrillow has been preaching this subscription model for several years now, ever since he had to transform his business model to a subscription one to successfully sell it.

The book delves into the nine different subscription models and explains how you can apply them to your business. Essentially, subscription businesses bring you recurring revenues, which is a boon to every 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.