7 Great Books To Read As A Small Business Owner

Brandon Rodriguez
19 min readMar 3, 2024
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In today’s world there is so much information out there. So much so that just saying we’re overloaded with it is an understatement. There are a countless number of books out there and even niching them down to just business-related books leaves you with an overwhelming number of options. There’s even an insane number of articles like this written about the countless number of books and the one’s you should read. Pair this up with all the other advice we hear about how to do x, why we need to do y, how z is the new trend, etc. It can be exhausting trying to figure out where to go for information that you can learn from and what you should invest your time in.

Tuning out the wrong and irrelevant information and absorbing the right is extremely valuable as an entrepreneur, and a lot of great information can be found in great books. The right book can serve as a mentor, a guide, and a catalyst for change. This is why I’ve compiled a list of seven great reads for small business owners. Each book I’ve mentioned here contains information that can help with immediate actionable advice, spark new ideas, and widen your perspective for the better. They can help you actually think outside of the box and build the understanding of when you may want to stay in it and play it safe or jump out of it and take a risk.

As someone who’s read 50–100 of these kinds of books, I picked the one’s I felt had the biggest impact on myself and my way of thinking. I also picked books that focus on different areas of growth and not just multiple books that are basically about the same thing. Instead of just telling you what they are about, I am also going to tell you a bit of what I took from them and what they meant to me personally. I think this will offer a better review and background of the purpose the book actually serves. It’s like how customers don’t normally care about the specs of a product, they want to know about the problem it solves for them. Same with this here. I will give you information on the words that are in the book, but I also want to give you information on how those words helped me in very impactful ways so it can give you an idea of how it may help you. I want you to be able to see what I’m saying and say, “That’s exactly what I’m interested in right now, let me order this one.” Or “I already have a good understanding of that, let me move on to the next.” Take a look at the list, and let these books be your helpers on your entrepreneurial path, each one teaching you something new and nudging you in the direction you want to go.

1. Mastery by Robert Greene

mastery book cover

In a lot of these “top business book” lists, people often like to recommend The 48 Laws of Power which is Robert Greene’s first book and also his most popular and most controversial. Most people have at least heard of it and while it is a great book with lots to learn from and could very well be on this list, I prefer to recommend Mastery over it and found it more practical myself when I read it.

Mastery is a great book with so much depth and I think one of the things that makes it so great is the single purpose of such a robust book. Mastery is all about the process of attaining great levels of skill and knowledge in one’s field. It’s about getting to the highest level. It’s about going from one end of the bell curve to the other. It’s about attaining mastery.

In this book, Robert Greene distills the experiences and practices of historical figures and contemporary masters (lots of popular ones you will know), offering quite the comprehensive guide to achieving mastery in any domain. There is so much good information on the steps one needs to take and the kind of perspectives one needs to have. Robert Greene does not hold back in any area or cut any corners. The book is packed with so much great advice and history that it captures and keeps your attention in multiple ways, and it constantly inspires you to keep moving along in your path while telling you how you can best do it.

To be more specific, it emphasizes the importance of deep focus, apprenticeship, and the creative application of knowledge. For business owners, this book is a roadmap to personal and professional excellence. Greene’s narratives demonstrate that mastery is not about innate talent but the result of persistence, strategy, and the relentless pursuit of learning. By following the principles outlined in Mastery, entrepreneurs can cultivate a mindset geared towards continuous improvement and innovation, essential traits for navigating the complexities of the business world. I mentioned The 48 Laws of Power and while that book is great for teaching you how to deal with outside games with other people, Mastery helps you deal with the inside game with yourself. This book taught me lessons that changed the trajectory of my life and how I live it. A lot of books do that to some degree, but I mean this book just gave me lessons to where I will still notice well into my later years the impact it had on me and how it led me to certain decisions and down certain roads. It helped me approach my work more seriously and more importantly it helped me see that my journey, no matter where I was in it, was a process to be grateful for and a process to be enjoyed. This book helped me understand what “The process IS the result” means. Overall, this book is my #1 recommendation.

2. The 50th Law by Robert Greene

50th law book cover

While we’re on the topic of Robert Greene, why not throw in this other one? Can you tell I’m a fan? There’s a reason for it. <i>The 50th Law</i> is another book that has one central theme in the book and it’s another one that when you really read and internalize it, it helps change your perspective for the much much better.

The 50th Law combines the street-smart insights of Curtis Jackson (rapper & businessman 50 Cent) with Robert Greene’s deep understanding of historical power dynamics to offer a bold manual on fearlessness. The book being totally about fearlessness is what makes it so great. This book doesn’t rank very high compared to Greene’s other work amongst readers and in terms of a robust work of literature, it is definitely his worst. But that’s not what this list is for. This list is for the top book recommendations I have for small business owners and this book without a doubt belongs on this list.

When it comes to running a business, there’s so much doubt, fear, uncertainty, etc. It’s a constant mental game you’re playing with yourself while also having to figure out ways to be the best at what you do and keep your customers satisfied. This book helps making winning that game against yourself much easier freeing up your mind and energy to focus on what’s important and what can move you forward. While the book isn’t going to be a therapist for you, it just puts a lot of things into perspective and serves as a great reminder to continue moving forward. The book is a testament to how embracing fearlessness can lead to success in both business and life. It provides a narrative of 50 Cent’s rise from poverty to fame and wealth, showcasing how a fearless approach to challenges can transform obstacles into opportunities. For business owners, this book is a powerful reminder that fear often holds us back from reaching our full potential. It encourages taking calculated risks, being strategic in adversity, and the importance of self-reliance. The 50th Law is not just about overcoming fear but using it as a tool to achieve greatness.

While reading this book, I just always felt affirmed in the direction I was going. I felt like things were not as bad or as difficult as I was making them out to be. I felt like I didn’t really have much to fear. Like even if things worked out poorly, I could take those results and turn them into a more positive outcome than I was even aiming for before. It really lowered my fear for walking the path I was on and as an entrepreneur, and that was invaluable and saved me SO much time and energy. A lot of entrepreneurs and just people in general who are trying to achieve things are defeated by fear. They don’t even know this because they’ll think they are being held back by whatever that fear is manifesting itself as in their reality. But, for lots of people, the root cause of their poor experiences with trying to advance is their fear. This book helped me deal with that very well and like I said, fear is a very underrated enemy that people forget to deal with. Check this one out.

3. Start With Why by Simon Sinek

start with why book cover

Moving on from Robert Greene, the next book on the list is Start With Why by Simon Sinek. Simon Sinek is a very intelligent guy, and you can check out his books as well as videos of him speaking on places like YouTube. Start with why. You don’t need to go further than the title. You know what that means, and you know it’s the right answer. Start. With. Why.

This book explores the fundamental question behind every successful business and leader: Why do they do what they do? Answering this question is what “Start With Why” means. Sinek argues that understanding and communicating the purpose or belief that drives your business is the key to its success. Is he correct? He introduces the concept of the Golden Circle, a framework for building organizations, making decisions, and inspiring action based on this core belief.

For entrepreneurs, this book is a guide to helping you build a brand that resonates deeply with customers and employees alike. It’s about differentiating your business in a meaningful way and fostering loyalty. Standing out from the competition. Instead of just being looked at as a business in whatever industry you’re in, you’re seen as your brand. You don’t think “company that sells phones and computers” when you think of Apple. You don’t think of “Hamburger place” when you think of McDonald’s. No. Those kinds of descriptions are reserved for the companies that haven’t built a brand on top of what they do. When you think of companies like Apple and McDonald’s you think of the feelings and experiences you have/had with these companies. You think of what they stand for. You think of how they present themselves and how that made you feel. You think of what made you want to be customer or not. Start With Why inspires you, as a business owner, to lead with your vision and establish these things for your company.

What’s happening on the inside will always manifest itself on the outside. Start with why and let the effects of this way of thinking expand outwards into a strong brand around your business. When you know why you do what you do, a lot of questions get answered quickly. Your company and your brand instantly have a stronger backbone and it takes a lot more to move it this way or that way.

I don’t have a very personal connection to this book like I do with some of the others. I think Start With Why was one of the things that came kind of naturally to me and like I said, you don’t need to go beyond the title to get the point. The book is still a great read and provides lots of material that will give you a better understanding of what it means, but the most important thing is to have this understanding. I put this on the list because I think understanding what Start With Why means and implementing it in your business ventures can not only save you lots of time down the road, but it will also help you build a better, more consistent, and more memorable business. Understanding the point of this book is an invaluable understanding to have.

4. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

the war of art book cover

The next book we have is another book that really helped me reframe things in my mind and made a huge difference for the better when it came to the way I approached my work. Steven Pressfield’s <i>The War of Art</i> takes on the internal resistance everyone faces when trying to create something meaningful, whether it’s art, a new business, or personal change. Pressfield personifies this resistance as the enemy of creativity and achievement, offering insight into how to overcome it. For business owners, this book is a call to action to confront their fears, procrastination, and self-doubt.

Something I’ve always struggled with is procrastination. I’ve always had a hard time with just getting to the work when there wasn’t a set deadline. As an entrepreneur, this can be a BIG problem. Especially early on when you don’t have lots of people relying on you to get the work done. It’s easy to just put things off and push things back. If your procrastination isn’t going to make leave you homeless, why not give in to it?

This book helped me see procrastination in a whole new light and provided me with lots of practical advice on how to overcome it. When you see procrastination as just some trait or habit like anything else you do, it’s easy to just say “yeah I’m a bit of a procrastinator.” But when someone points out to you that procrastination is actually fear manifesting itself and making you resist doing what you know you need to do, it’s not so easy to just brush it off anymore. I started to see procrastination as something that needed to be taken more seriously and something that needed to be dealt with.

The thoughts I had surrounding what I do before working, while working, and when I’m not working all changed. The author brings up the word “resistance” a lot as this is what he refers to as the energy that’s causing the procrastination habit. I became conscious of this “resistance” and the battle that we were constantly having and one that I was not paying enough attention to.

If you procrastinate a lot and are struggling to get work done, especially as a creative, I highly recommend this book. There’s lots of good information in it and some great practical advice. Like <i>Mastery</i>, it helped me with approaching my work in a more serious way while ironically making it less stressful with me feeling less anxious. You would think taking something more serious would lead to more feelings of stress and anxiety, but it had the opposite effect. This was of course a double win so I really enjoyed what I learned and the results that came with it. If you’re interested in the same, I highly recommend this one. Especially for creative people like writers, designers, photographers, videographers, directors, etc.

5. Zero To One by Peter Theil

zero to one book cover

Zero To One is one of my favorite books ever. It was the first business book I read where I felt like I was being exposed to such new ideas and unconventional ways of viewing things as they relate to business. In a lot of business & personal development books, including the great ones, I feel like a lot of what the author is saying makes sense. There’s not much thinking I have to do. A lot of it instinctually makes sense and it’s more about absorbing the content and trying to make a habit out of what I’m reading and learning. This book wasn’t like that. It challenged my ways of thinking multiple times and provided some thoughts and stances I wasn’t familiar with.

I guess there should be no surprise there. It was written by billionaire Peter Theil. Reading into the mind of a billionaire was something I had never done before. Sure, I saw quotes and excerpts from people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but never a whole book from someone who seemed so smart in this way. To give a bit of a background on him, Peter Theil was a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook. In his book Zero To One, he challenges the status quo of the business world by advocating for the creation of new, unique solutions rather than iterating on existing ones. He emphasizes the value of building monopolies in new markets and the importance of thinking critically about the future. This book offers insightful advice on the significance of vision in entrepreneurship, the role of technology in creating value, and strategies for building a company that shapes the future.

Instead of giving advice on how to become company D by copying what company A, B, and C did and trying to get some of the market share, he speaks more about how to create a company A in a new lane. I think that’s why I liked this book so much. It was just different. While the more surface level business books serve their purpose and are definitely needed in the marketplace, it was refreshing to read something different that challenged my way of thinking and helped me see things in different ways. This book encourages leaders to ask the hard questions about their business and industry, pushing them towards groundbreaking innovations.

I run a web design & development business, not the most groundbreaking or original business by any means. But this book helped me see things to where I am always open to doing things differently. I started a web company because that is where my skillset, demand, and desire all lined up. I didn’t do it to be a clone of any other business of this type. I didn’t see one and think “I’m going to model my business off of this one and be like it.” I always entertain new ideas, new processes & workflows, new products, new technologies, etc. I want to be able to make my business different in any way that serves a positive purpose, and not just follow what the industry is doing. I’m currently company Z version 2783 in the web design & development industry, but I’m hoping as we continue to grow that it eventually becomes company A in a new lane. And if this one doesn’t, then I will eventually start a new one that does.

I think this way of thinking will benefit myself and my companies long-term and I’m so glad I read this book. I can’t really describe more about how it changed my way of thinking and I think even what I just said above was not the best explanation, but I know this isn’t a book I would easily choose to be erased from my memory. It’s on my list of 7 for a reason. Like I said, there’s lots of conventional business books out there. Instead of reading all of them and reading through different versions of the same book, check this one out since it’s different. See what you think. See what you agree with and what you don’t and how it affects your way of thinking towards your businesses and your next moves for them. Peter Theil is a billionaire and founded PayPal along with Elon Musk and the rest of their team. It can’t hurt to gain some insights from him.

6. Deep Work by Cal Newport

deep work book cover

The next book we have on the list is Deep Work by Cal Newport. In Deep Work, Cal Newport introduces this concept of what he calls “deep work”, which is the ability to focus without distraction on cognitively demanding tasks. Newport argues that this skill is increasingly rare and valuable in today’s economy and provides practical advice for cultivating it.

Not only do I agree that this skill is rare and valuable, but I also think it’s just straight up important. There are so many things out there trying to get our attention, and I’m not just talking about the things we know are unproductive. Sure, we can talk about social media, tv, friends, alcohol, etc. and how all that can be a potential distraction. But we already all know that. What everyone doesn’t know though, is sometimes we may not be being that productive even when we think we are. In our workday we may find ourselves spending a lot of time managing email, managing task lists, attending non-critical meetings, etc. Pair this up with the things we do we know are wastes of time and we come to question of how productive are we really being?

In this book, Newport brings these issues to light and proposes solutions on how to deal with them. From the title, I’m sure you can imagine what they entail. “Deep Work” is essentially a way of working where you’re totally focused on the task and do not get interrupted by texts, email, calls, etc. You dedicate a period of time to strictly focusing on what you need to get done and with that focus, you should be able to get more done in less time because focused work allows you to not only do better work, but it allows you to do it faster as well. Double win. One of the things this book gets into is how bouncing from one task to another doesn’t really allow you to get focused enough in order to do what you need to do at the highest level you can do it. If you’re doing something creative and constantly checking email every 10–15 minutes, you aren’t allowing your mind to go deep enough into the project to get your best ideas. Because of this, your work will not be your best and it will also take longer to complete because every time you check email and then return to the project, you have to wrap your mind around what you’re working on again.

There’s of course a whole lot more to this, but that’s the general gist of what the book is about. In our hyper distracted world, a resource like this is more important than ever. This book can help save you tons of time and help increase the quality of your work and over a lifetime, it could payoff to be a VERY large benefit for you. So, I wanted to make sure it ended up on this list because just like <i>Mastery</i>, I think the lifetime value and what the knowledge you gain from this book can potentially compound into is BIG. I know it’s already saved me hours upon hours, and it also helped me become more comfortable with saying no to others for things when I need to focus on something for a project. It’s really good. Check this one out.

7. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

daily stoic book cover

Last but not least, The Daily Stoic is another great book for small business owners. There were lots of other books I could’ve put above this one like a great sales book, or a book focused on more of the x’s and o’s side of business, or even another Robert Greene book. There’s plenty of options. But I chose this book because reading it over time can really have an effect on the way you view things.

Stoicism has become very popular in recent years and for good reason. There’s lots of good wisdom to be taken from it. Before you dismiss it, always remember, just because you read it and learn from it doesn’t mean you need to identify with it and follow it completely. Take what works for you and discard the rest. And I think we all can take a lot from the stoic wisdom in this book, especially as business owners.

This book offers 366 meditations on wisdom, perseverance, and the art of living, drawn from the teachings of Stoic philosophy. Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman have curated a collection of insights that encourage reflection and improvement. This book serves as a daily source of inspiration and a tool for managing challenges, stress, and setbacks with grace and resilience. It emphasizes the importance of focus, discipline, and an ethical approach to business and life.

Every reader knows that what you read will begin to become a part of your mind. No matter how much you think you know something or believe something, exposing yourself to it over and over will make it become a part of you in ways that just “knowing it” can’t. That’s what I like about The Daily Stoic. I read it a few years ago and internalized it and even in times after I could explain a lot of the teachings and ways of thinking. I thought I was still living by the parts I liked and wanted to live by. But it took me picking the book back up again and reading it every day for a few days to realize how far removed it was from my way of thinking and way of living. Once I was reading it again consistently, it had a much greater effect on me.

I say all that to say that even when you know the right answer, it still helps to reinforce it. Let it sink deeper into your mind. Let it become more of a part of who you are. Stoicism has lots of answers that can help you as a small business owner, so I really encourage you to check it out and make it a part of your daily reading for a year. With one page a day, it helps you stay sharp and grounded. There’s been so many times where I’ve been feeling irritable or lazy and without reading the page in the book for the day, I would’ve spent my whole day like that. But reading the page snapped me out of it and reminded me of the kind of mindset I needed to have and do my best to maintain. This book almost serves as a medicine for me to where it’s really helped me maintain my composure and saved me from countless dumb reactionary decisions simply by just giving me a simple lesson for the day. But, that one single lesson reminds me of the entire philosophy and the parts of it I want to live by in my life so in just a minute or two, I’m able to put myself in a mindset that affects my whole day in a positive way. Here’s a tip, take a few extra minutes to take notes and write about what you think of the lesson and how you are/aren’t going to implement it and why. Watch the big effect this begins to have on you in a positive way. It’s great.

Summary

In this crazy world of entrepreneurship, the pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement is never-ending. Like I stated at the beginning, there’s so many resources out there to learn from and we will continue to use them. This article provided 7 GREAT ones and I hope all of you small business owners and even big business owners can benefit from them. If any of these book’s land in your hands at the right time and you have an open mind, I believe you’ll see them not as a typical book but as like a mentor in print, helping guide you through different complexities and problems when it comes to business. Wherever you are in your journey, I believe you’ll be able to find at least 1–2 books in this list that will be able to help you at this moment. Best of luck to you. Never stop learning!

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