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The Best Small Business Books

Updated on March 20, 2016
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Stephen Bush is the founder and CEO of AEX Commercial Financing Group. Steve obtained his MBA from UCLA and is a U.S. Navy veteran.

The Best Business Books
The Best 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.

Best Business Books for Students
Best Business Books for Students

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.

  1. Small business owners
  2. Current or aspiring business students
  3. Anyone thinking about buying a business or starting a small business
  4. Someone trying to help a friend who owns a business
  5. Anyone who enjoys reading and learning about business and finance

Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners
Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners

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

What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow... And 36 Other Key Financial Measures
What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow... And 36 Other Key Financial Measures

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.

The Best Small Business Books
The Best Small Business Books
Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions
Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions

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?

See results

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

Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others
Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others

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.

The Importance of Asking Questions
The Importance of Asking Questions

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?

Zombie Banks: How Broken Banks and Debtor Nations Are Crippling the Global Economy
Zombie Banks: How Broken Banks and Debtor Nations Are Crippling the Global Economy

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.

The Best Books for Small Businesses
The Best Books for Small Businesses

Negotiating in Difficult Situations

Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations
Getting Past No: 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?

When You're Through Learning
When You're Through Learning

You cannot open a book without learning something.

— Confucius
Thanks for Visiting the Best Small Business Books -- All images provided under End User License Agreement to Stephen Bush
Thanks for Visiting the Best Small Business Books -- All images provided under End User License Agreement to Stephen Bush

© 2012 Stephen Bush

And now, your thoughts on the subject...

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    • AstroGremlin profile image

      AstroGremlin 3 years ago

      @jayavi: I disagree. It is better to start business and then read like a maniac.

    • AstroGremlin profile image

      AstroGremlin 3 years ago

      I have one of your picks already. You are clearly smart and now I am tempted to read others. I enjoy your material.

    • John Huf profile image

      John Huf 4 years ago

      Good list guys. I am a small business owner myself and I write a blog about web tools for small businesses. So I constantly like to deepen my knowledge about various aspects of small business.

    • LauraCarExpert profile image

      LauraCarExpert 4 years ago

      I personally think 4 hour work week revolutionized how we want small businesses' to look and run. Good list here.

    • profile image

      MissMalaprop 4 years ago

      The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber is one of my personal favorites! A must read for any small business owner!

    • profile image

      Bartukas 4 years ago

      Very helpful lens thanks for sharing

    • jayavi profile image

      jayavi 4 years ago

      Its better to improve your knowledge before you start business.

    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 4 years ago from Orange County, California

      These are great books for small businesses!

    • profile image

      chickie99 4 years ago

      good lens! ~~ good suggestions

      small business is the core of america!

    • TopReviews2u profile image

      TopReviews2u 4 years ago

      Great selection of small business books. I'm always looking on how to take my business to the next level.

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 4 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      I'm a visionary that probably misses a good deal of details when it comes to managing my online business. I get caught up in creating.

    • strategylab profile image

      Jeph Maystruck 4 years ago from Regina, SK

      Awesome lens! Love these book themes my friend. Keep em going!


    • profile image

      northoftheburgh 4 years ago

      Power Questions seems like a very informative book. I really want to learn how to ask questions and which ones matter! Thanks for the insight!

    • profile image

      breaststrokeswimming 4 years ago

      secrets of power negotiating is one of my favs. you have a great list here. some that I didn't know about but look great. thanks for the info

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very insightfully. Thanks!

    • Mawkjump profile image

      Mawkjump 5 years ago

      Very helpful. Thanks.

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 5 years ago from Ohio

      @CruiseReady: I have not read that yet. So many books and so little time! Thanks for the question and comment.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      Some good selections here. Have you read 'Leadership Secrets of Atilla the Hun?'

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago


    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very good day, this is the really Great links.

    • CoolFool83 profile image

      CoolFool83 5 years ago

      This is a really good lense! Thanks for sharing.

    • radkoaleks profile image

      radkoaleks 5 years ago

      Very nice writing. I like this lens. I work from home last two years and I feel much better than any other job been holding before.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Small home biz are the right kind of income for many people who want to stay home and help the family too. An independent income that is not directly dependent on inflation and recession, in addition to its capability of independence is welcome for many enthusiasts who want to open their own small business.

    • CleaningGreenBu profile image

      CleaningGreenBu 5 years ago

      Really great lense with great links!

    • sunny saib profile image

      sunny saib 5 years ago

      Great links..

    • SailingPassion LM profile image

      SailingPassion LM 5 years ago

      Great lens

    • profile image

      MyBabyBoo 5 years ago

      Awesome lens, nicely done!

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 5 years ago

      Very useful lens, especially these days when more and more people are turning to a small business option instead of looking for a job.

    • sentanta lm profile image

      sentanta lm 5 years ago

      I just took the lead to opening my own shop five weeks ago, and I am happy to say I have read a few of these already. But there are definitely a few that I am going to check out!

    • spikeyflower profile image

      spikeyflower 5 years ago

      Lots of great suggestions! I wish I took more courses on running a small business in school. I am lucky that a lot of it comes pretty naturally for me, but it is obviously always best to learn from other people's experiences and advice by reading books like these. I try to get the ones that are available on book on tape, so I can listen to them when I take care of basic tasks.

    • Ardyn25 profile image

      Ardyn25 5 years ago

      A very well done lens, I was looking for some info on this...thanks.

    • ae dc profile image

      ae dc 5 years ago

      nice book suggestions, and great info. you're really an expert in your niche. thanks and congrats!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Looks like a great library, and I love the theme. ~ Blessed :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is great lens. The book recommendations are no doubt very solid. But what I really like is the way you laid your Wordpress blog in the Commercial Financing and Business Planning. That's neat!!! I'm following your blog now.

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 5 years ago

      This lens has shown great resources of business books :)

    • myprecious lm profile image

      myprecious lm 5 years ago

      Thanks for the information!!Great len!