There’s nothing like curling up with a good book — especially if that book will help you conquer the art of running your own business. Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart, and there are plenty of twists and turns throughout the small business journey that can make it hard to steer your business in the right direction. Luckily, there are also plenty of insightful small business books that can act as something of a roadmap during the different stages of business ownership.
Why should small business owners read?
Business owners should read for the same reason we learn history in school: By studying the triumphs and failures of the past, we can use that knowledge to put ourselves in a better position for the future. Reading insights and stories from successful entrepreneurs can teach you strategies and tips for how to effectively build and run your business. Plus, regardless of how long you’ve been in business, there’s always something new to learn—whether it’s branding tricks, diversity and inclusion programs, or SEO and social media best practices.
What books should I read to better understand business?
Below, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of essential books for small business owners and entrepreneurs. There are plenty of books for owners who are just starting to build their business. You’ll also find a number of books about how to grow your team, as well as how to scale your business.
Best small business books for: Getting ready to dive in
Sometimes the best advice is the advice you get before you even get started. If you’re still in the business ideation or planning phase, this is the time to tap into inspiration from other founders and entrepreneurs. Learn from their journeys and get a sense of how they got their businesses to where they are today. This will help you take informed steps to start your own business off on the right foot.
- How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs
- In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from Over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs
- The Practice: Shipping Creative Work
Best small business books for: Creating a brand that sticks
There are plenty of things that set your business up for long-term success, but building brand loyalty can be one of the strongest. Understanding how to translate a good idea into a successful business that generates customer satisfaction, retention, and advocacy takes work and innovation. With the right approach, you can ensure that your business is built to last and keep people wanting more.
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
- Irrational Loyalty: Building a Brand That Thrives in Turbulent Times
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On
- Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans
Best small business books for: Running a successful business
It would be great if starting a business was a set-it-and-forget-it undertaking, but that’s not how it goes. Building a successful business requires consistent attention, effort, and time to keep everything running smoothly. Whether it’s figuring out the financial basics of starting a business or learning how to get your business in front of prospects, there will always be a learning curve for first-time entrepreneurs in the beginning. But even as you get the hang of being a business owner, it’s crucial to be proactive about keeping your business on the right track so you don’t lose momentum or succumb to common entrepreneurial pitfalls.
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
- 90 Days to C.E.O: A Guide to Avoid Business Pitfalls and Unlock the Secrets of Entrepreneurship
- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
- The Entrepreneur’s Playbook: More than 100 Proven Strategies, Tips, and Techniques to Build a Radically Successful Business
- The Entrepreneur’s Paradox: How to Overcome the 16 Pitfalls Along the Startup Journey
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Best small business books for: Marketing your business
Whether your goal is to raise brand awareness, generate engagement, attract new leads, or drive repeat business, a thoughtful marketing strategy will be the secret to getting there. In today’s world, mastering digital marketing is critical since most people discover or engage with brands online. Meanwhile, humanizing your brand can attract customers who crave businesses that feel transparent and more genuine. It’s marketing skills like these that will give you an edge and help you grow your business.
- Levers: The Framework for Building Repeatability into Your Business
- Quantum Marketing: Mastering the New Marketing Mindset for Tomorrow’s Consumers
- Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins
- See You on the Internet: Building Your Small Business with Digital Marketing
- Unfair Marketing: Drive Marketing Success by Leveraging Your Company’s Unique Strengths
Best small business books for: Winning the content game
Differentiating your business and standing out in a crowded market is never easy, but that’s where a strong content strategy comes into play. Content—blog posts, social media, YouTube videos, etc.—provide value beyond your product or services by offering entertainment and education to existing and prospective customers alike. Thoughtful, in-depth content also establishes your business as an authority in your industry and humanizes your brand.
- Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
- One Million Followers, Updated Edition: How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days
- The End of Marketing: Humanizing Your Brand in the Age of Social Media and AI
- Brand Storytelling: Put Customers at the Heart of Your Brand Story
Best small business books for: Becoming a better leader
Building out a team to help you grow your business can be an essential milestone for any small business owner, whether you’re taking on employee #2 or just onboarded your 50th hire. It also comes with a great deal of responsibility. Understanding the tenets of impactful leadership—especially for first-time leaders—is critical to getting the most out of your team day in and day out. This means learning how to provide better feedback to drive growth, as well as learning how to inspire your team and lead with empathy.
- Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
- Let’s Talk: Make Effective Feedback Your Superpower
- The Power of Giving Away Power: How the Best Leaders Learn to Let Go
- The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures
Best small business books for: Making it as a solopreneur
Of course, some small business owners operate as a party of one for longer than others, and that’s okay too. Making it as a solopreneur requires unique skills and a more targeted approach. From running a small business as a side hustle to taking the plunge into full-time solopreneur, learning how to manage your time, set realistic expectations, and ask for help along the way are just a few of the tricks for building a winning business on your own.
- Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business
- Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days
- The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, Revised: Make Great Money. Work the Way You Like. Have the Life You Want.
Best small business books for: Scaling your business
Once you’ve got your business running like a well-oiled machine and are in a position to meet greater demand for your products and services, that’s when it’s time to ramp things up. Scaling your business and profits for long-term growth requires thoughtful processes geared toward sustainability. Learning how to employ techniques (e.g., SEO) that offer a high return and allow you to optimize for efficiency can take your business to the next level.
- If You’re in a Dogfight, Become a Cat!: Strategies for Long-Term Growth
- Product-Led SEO: The Why Behind Building Your Organic Growth Strategy
- Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth
- SYSTEMology: Create Time, Reduce Errors and Scale Your Profits with Proven Business Systems
Best small business books for: Building diverse teams
Your team is a reflection of your business values. Prioritizing diversity and inclusion and fostering an environment of understanding benefits your business by demonstrating a commitment to social equality and elevating the level of innovation behind your business. Different perspectives and experiences allow for fresh ideas, and that can go a long way in building a one-of-a-kind brand that resonates with customers.
- Diversity in the Workplace: Eye-Opening Interviews to Jumpstart Conversations about Identity, Privilege, and Bias
- The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias: How To Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection, and Create High-Performing Teams
- Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity
Best small business books for: Achieving personal growth
As a small business owner, your business is an extension of you. For this reason, investing in yourself, taking care of your mental wellness, and prioritizing your personal growth is a critical component of building a successful small business. Whether it’s learning how to listen to your gut or understanding the profound power of acknowledging what you don’t know, the right mindset can make all the difference in helping you overcome obstacles, embrace new ideas, and build a thriving business that lasts.
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
- How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
- Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know
- Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It
NOTE: Where available, the books on our list have been linked through Bookshop.org, an online bookshop that supports local, independent bookstores. Every purchase made through Bookshop.org benefits a local bookstore of your choice or goes toward a community earnings pool that is distributed evenly among all independent bookstores.