Business & Leadership Books That Made a Difference

By Eric Newell | December 22, 2015

I'm not an avid reader. I like to joke with my daughters, the only book I ever read was Larry Bird's, Drive. I was a big Larry Bird fan as a kid, and of course, they have no idea who he is. My girls have probably done more leisure reading in the last two years than I have in my life.

Besides sports autobiographies, the books I do gravitate towards are those where I can learn something. I'm a big fan of non-fiction and history. I appreciate stories about different countries and business books that help me get better at my job.  My attention span for a book is almost nil. It's really got to capture my attention quickly to keep me interested. This being the case, I've read quite a few books on business and leadership, but there are a select few that not only interested me but have made a difference in my entrepreneurial journey. I'm a pretty harsh critic, but these three books I'd recommend to anyone interested in the topic. I hope they can impact you the way they have me.

1. The e-Myth Revisited

Managing Your Business as an Entrepreneur

e-myth revisitedThis was a great book illustrating the story of a lady who started a cupcake shop. She was living her dream of starting a business. But, in order to make money, she had to work really long hours and tackle everything. Being an entrepreneur didn't free her, it made her miserable. Through guidance, She finally learned how to hire people and expand her business so it wasn't totally dependent on her. One big takeaway from this book that I cite often is "Spend time working ON the business; not IN the business."

2. Traction

Outlining the Entrepreneurial Operating System

TractionThis is the book that sets the foundation for how we run our business at Stoneridge Software. It's the guidebook on how a small to medium business can leverage a system which gives you all the tools you need to run your business better than your competition.

3. Necessary Endings

How to Decide It's Time for Change

Necessary EndingsI read this book on the advice of a friend when I had to let go of an employee for the first time. That was very difficult for me and this book taught me that just because something is ending doesn't mean it's bad. If something's ending, it probably wasn't working well in the first place. That's when it's time to make a necessary ending.

These three titles are the "must-reads" for business and leadership books in my world. They give you core tools you need to be able to run a business.  For additional reading, check out the books below. These recommendations have also helped me quite a bit, but I'd put them behind the top three in terms of impactfulness.

Other books I liked:

  • Getting Things Done - as soon as my friend told me he had no emails in his Inbox, I had to ask how he did it.  He told me about this system called Getting Things Done.  I picked the book up immediately and I've been working towards managing my emails and tasks.
  • The Advantage - this books stresses the importance of company culture and how creating a culture of accountability is critical to maintaining the trust in the organization you need to have a great culture
  • Million Dollar Consulting - this book is really focused on one-man operations, but it was helpful for me when I started on my own just to get all the ingredients together for a consulting organization - contracts, marketing, etc.
  • Speed of Trust - it's really the concept here that's compelling; the book itself was fairly repetitive, but the first chapter where it outlines the importance of the speed of trust is a critical concept any leader needs to understand to create an efficient business.
  • The Hard Thing about Hard Things - this is a book telling the story of Ben Horowitz who led a startup to high growth; through many crises and an eventual sale.  He outlines a lot of the learnings in the book that are good tidbits for running a company
  • Thinking Fast and Slow - this isn't a business book, and it's quite long, but the book is a compilation of years of studying how people think.  As a business leader, it's important to understand how people's brains work; this book is the most authoritative book on that subject.

Next on my reading list - I've been meaning to read The Challenger Sale as that's the definitive book on how to sell in the modern world, so I'm looking forward to diving into that.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one other title. None of the books in this list are as important to the literary world as the personally authored tome: Minnesota Whist. If you have an interest in trick-taking card games, look into this one as well!

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