I was browsing the small business section at my local library recently when I was struck by a depressing pair of shelves dedicated entirely to books about starting a home business. It’s not the most well-funded library in the world, and there was something about the broken spines and dog-eared pages of the very dated collection that struck me as supremely disheartening.
Maybe it’s just a sign of the times, or maybe I was just in a bit of mood at the time. Still, with more people than ever trying to start their own businesses, the thought of a new entrepreneur checking out a copy of Starting a Home Business for Dummies that predated the internet was just too much.
There’s a wealth of useful information out there for novices, but the problem is that you usually don’t know where to find it until you’ve been at it for a while. In that spirit, here are four books written by and for entrepreneurs that I think small business owners from every walk of life can learn something from.
Book Yourself Solid – Michael Port
It’s funny how much your perspective on things can change in a relatively short period of time. When a friend lent me Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid a while back, I tried to mine it for tips that I could I apply to my own business. Having majored in Literature with a capital “L,” however, I could barely get through his folksy writing style and struggled with entrepreneurial advice that sounded just a little too pat.
Jump ahead two years later with some successes and failures under my belt, and Book Yourself Solid reads like the new testament. Port’s small business coaching system cuts to the heart of discovering the market you were born to serve and creating a business that clients will love showing off. If his style and advice sounds a little simple at first, it’s because most of us make the process way more complicated than it needs to be.
Getting Things Done – David Alan
When I went through a time management kick a few years ago, I read, watched and listened to just about everything I could find on the subject. I probably burned up a lot of unnecessary time in the process and found that most of the advice was the same: figure out what’s really important, schedule that stuff first and learn how to say no to people that are standing in the way.
It wasn’t until I read David Alan’s Getting Things Done that it finally clicked for me that being productive doesn’t have much to do with time or other people at all. It’s a matter of cleaning and organizing your physical and psychological space so that there’s nothing standing between you and, well, getting things done. This is essential when you’re out there working on your own, and I highly recommend this one for solopreneurs who struggle to find enough hours in the day for doing what matters most.
Losing My Virginity – Richard Branson
While there’s something about his air of supreme confidence that can be supremely nauseating when you’re not in the mood for it, it’s hard to deny that Richard Branson has become one of the most iconic and respected entrepreneurs of our time. A self-described master of delegation, Branson discusses how he used his “Oh, screw it, let’s do it” philosophy to build his Virgin empire by having the confidence to fail in his international bestseller Losing My Virginity.
Purple Cow – Seth Godin
Seth Godin’s got a lot of great short books out there about marketing in the modern age, and they’re all worth reading. Purple Cow is probably his best known, and with good reason. His advice about learning how to stand out from the crowd is particularly apt for newly minted entrepreneurs who are still trying to figure out how to fit in. If you haven’t read it, pick yourself up a copy. If you have, you might check out his Meatball Sundae or Permission Marketing.