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The Best Small Business Books
Reading Recommendations for Small Business Owners and Students
Whether you are a small business owner, student or a reader interested in learning more about running a successful company, I want you to have high expectations about The Best Small Business Books. When a writer, editor or advisor refers to something as "The Best," there should be a healthy amount of responsibility assumed by the person making that statement. I am a small business and finance expert with over 30 years of experience helping business owners, and I am always willing to provide my personal recommendations about profitability, dealing with banks, commercial financing, business debt reduction, planning and negotiating strategies for companies everywhere. Clients, friends and business colleagues have frequently asked me to publish a "Best of the Best" compilation of business books that have "earned their stripes" by consistently providing practical, candid and effective techniques and advice needed for successfully operating a business enterprise. So, here it is.
Many, if not all, of these superb business, communications and finance books should be included in any academic setting that is committed to providing students with the most effective and practical training for succeeding in the business world. At the same time, the high standards for including any book on my list also requires that 100 percent of them can be immediately helpful to anyone already involved in any stage of running a company.
The Five Primary Audiences for These Book Recommendations
This article will feature a number of personal reviews. Taken together, these book reviews represent my "Best of the Best" recommended reading list about running a successful business. While each and every business book reviewed here does certainly deserve a "must read" label, more importantly they each have also earned a "must use" label from me. In other words, if you want to have a successful business, my candid recommendation is that you "must use" these business books to help guide what will still be a challenging journey. Interspersed with the book reviews you will find additional commentary about business and finance.
The five primary groups of potential readers for the recommended books are shown below.
- Small business owners
- Current or aspiring business students
- Anyone thinking about buying a business or starting a small business
- Someone trying to help a friend who owns a business
- Anyone who enjoys reading and learning about business and finance
Adding or improving business communication strategies should be among the Top Five priorities for any small business owner. I believe that Karen Friedman's explanations represent the best business communication book available anywhere. She persuasively conveys the reasons for effective communicating in a very understandable fashion and simultaneously translates her candid views into a practical "how to" about communications. This is a living and breathing example of what I mean by a "must read and must use" book. The communication skills to be learned from this superb business book will be easily transferable to everything that you do, both in the business world and beyond.
Business Communication: Don't Overlook Business Writing
When you focus on the value of business communication, remember that it's not all about talking and listening. The power of the written word is overlooked far too often. The following video highlights some of the biggest business writing mistakes to avoid.
Tips for Avoiding Business Writing Mistakes
Frank Gallinelli has written what he calls a sequel to the book shown here — "Mastering Real Estate Investment: Examples, Metrics and Case Studies." While you could easily choose to buy both books, I recommend the more cost-effective option of buying only "What Every Investor Needs to Know about Cash Flow."
Real estate has ups and downs, and anyone with a working goal of having more ups than downs should read and use this book. Any small business owner has a real estate investment by default if they own the real property in addition to the business itself. It is absolutely critical to obtain a better understanding of real estate because it will impact almost everything related to small business financing. This book is going to make you much more comfortable with using and understanding the most important financial measures for real estate.
Any individual must become adept at making good decisions, and this is a superb book to guide you in making sound choices both inside and outside of a business context. Because decision-making is a "must have" skill, this is clearly a "must use" business book.
It should be viewed as having universal appeal for individuals making decisions at all levels of a business. This guide also follows through with a detailed explanation of how to apply this decision-making information. This book has a long and esteemed track record of excellence and practical help.
Additional Choices When You Are Seeking Help and Information
I love reading! But it is not the only thing that I do with my time. I am constantly looking for new ideas and sources of information. Part of this comes from reading a variety of written media (some of which are certainly books like those recommended above). I have spent a significant portion of my career solving a wide variety of problems. Managing risks and problem-solving generally requires entertaining ideas from multiple sources. Reading encompasses an important strategy, but it is not (and should not be) the only alternative.
Internet Video Presentations
During the past ten years or so, video information has become more popular because of increasing availability on the internet. While some of the ideas and strategies presented in these videos are not totally new, the viewership potential has elevated the information to a critical mass level. The increasing pace of life also means that many of us feel that there is simply not enough time to read the long version of anything. Some of the best video presentations require less than ten minutes to absorb, and time management issues alone can make video sources compelling. I regularly view videos to obtain information and new ideas, and I also produce video presentations covering topics such as negotiating, proposal writing and career training.
It is our choices ... that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.— J.K. Rowling
Which of the following most closely describes your interest in The Best Small Business Books?
The Most Overlooked Business Strategies and Solutions
Several books on my "Best of the Best List" address business solutions and strategies that are often overlooked by commercial borrowers due to lack of time or a perceived lack of importance. The four specific areas that usually fall into this category are business finance communication, risk management, planning and negotiating.
Asking the Right Questions Is an Essential Skill
This is the best available business book for coaching and guiding you to ask the right questions. No matter what you do in or out of business, this is a must read and must use book.
One More Thing — Must Read and Must Use
In my reviews, I intentionally included the "must use" phrase along with "must read." Each of the books I have included on my highly-selective Best of the Best List can be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone simply searching for a refreshing and unique business book to read. But if at least part of your goal in reading these books is to improve both yourself and your business, then the "must use" label should serve as a gentle reminder to keep these books front and center (at least in your mind) when making decisions about both life and business.
Zombie Banks and Problem Banks
The growing numbers of "Zombie Banks" and Problem Banks being monitored by the FDIC mean that companies of all sizes will need to learn more about the impact of bank problems on commercial real estate loans and working capital financing for their business.
Do You Know About Zombie Banks?
Very few businesses can survive without dealing with banks and bankers, and this book deftly illustrates why "Zombie Banks" should be understood before small businesses try to arrange commercial financing. This book was written with the active support of Sheila Bair, the former chief of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
For many of the most serious business finance mistakes made by lending institutions, greed is a common theme. Unsurprising negative results were produced by the attempt to produce quick profits and higher-than-normal returns. The only people seemingly surprised by the devastating losses are the bankers themselves. After two years of trying unsuccessfully to get someone else to pay for their errors, the largest small business lender in the United States (CIT Group) eventually declared bankruptcy. We are already seeing a record level of bank failures, and by most accounts many of the largest banks should have been allowed to fail but were instead supported by artificial government funding.
When making loans or buying securities such as those now referred to as toxic assets, there were many instances in which banks failed to look at cash flow. An underwriting process known as stated income in which commercial borrower tax returns were not required was used for some small business finance programs. Lehman Brothers was one of the most aggressive commercial lenders using this approach, and they also filed for bankruptcy due to this as well as other questionable financial practices.
Negotiating in Difficult Situations
I constantly emphasize the importance and value of effective business negotiating strategies in my small business consulting practice. The benefits of doing a better job at business negotiations usually include quick improvements to the bottom line, and this book provides practical and candid help for a misunderstood business process. Negotiating is a key example of a business skill that does not get enough respect for what it can accomplish for a small business owner. After all, the other guys (bankers, suppliers, utilities, etc.) will make maximum use of their negotiator. Here's a book to help level the playing field!
William Ury has written a trilogy of books about the critical use of "Yes" and "No" (this was the second). The first was "Getting to Yes" and the third was "The Power of a Positive No."
All three are exceptional. Each book stands on its own and can be read independently.
Training for a Small Business Consulting Career?
You cannot open a book without learning something.— Confucius
© 2012 Stephen Bush