“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”Abraham Lincoln
I started brainstorming and tinkering with starting my own business in 2005. I eventually went full-time with my online business in 2011. I slowly grew it into a multi-million dollar publishing company that was acquired by a media company on the NASDAQ in 2018.
I didn’t do this alone.
I was helped along the way by a lot of great people. I sifted through hundreds of books and resources over the years, but these were the absolute 7 best practical books I discovered.
I’m listing these in the order that I read them through the years. I’ve included links to Amazon for each book. These aren’t trackable links and I receive no incentive for promoting them other than sharing what has helped me.
1. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
Just because you’re good at baking pies, doesn’t mean you should start a pie shop.
I read this book in the late 2000’s while I was trying to start different businesses to see what would stick. This book will help you evaluate what type of business you should start, and it breaks down the 3 key areas you’ll need to focus on. I’m so glad I started with this book because it completely changed my understanding about how businesses actually work.
2. Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
I was a big Seth Godin fan back in the day. This was one of the books he published. I read this book in 2011. Reading Derek Sivers’ story about starting and running CDBaby served as the foundation for how I would run my small company. I adopted his approaches to customer service, email marketing, training employees, and business management. All he cared about was helping fellow musicians and he had fun doing it. This book was the foundation upon which I built my business.
3. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Tim Ferriss, one of my entrepreneurial heroes, recommended this book.
It got me thinking in terms of positioning and categories. How you position yourself in a crowded marketplace is the difference between success and failure. The story about AVIS will really get your gears turning. I felt like I could see The Matrix after I truly started to understand the laws of marketing they explain. I read this book at the perfect time in 2011 as I was beginning to brand my business.
4. The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes
I asked my uncle, who grew his plumbing business to over 50 employees, if he could recommend any good books for a business owner. He told me “there is only one.”
He was right. This is a million dollar book for anyone in sales. This is mandatory reading for anyone who sells anything. This is real nuts and bolts stuff…not fluff. I read this book in 2013, when I was two years into running my business. Everything changed after I implemented the strategies outlined in this book. Our sales doubled almost immediately.
5. The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene
In my 20’s I struggled with understanding how the world worked. And, then I read Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power. That book helped me see the invisible world of power and how it works. I saw he had partnered with 50 Cent (the famous rapper) for a follow-up book and I was curious. This book helped me understand how to be fearless and bold in building a company. It inspired me to really take things to the next level and to be smart about doing it. It was filled with surprisingly insightful wisdom for entrepreneurs. I read this book in late 2013.
6. Entreleadership Podcast Episode: How to Double Your Revenue by Donald Miller
This 80 minute video WILL double your revenue. Stop what you’re doing and listen to it if you have a website. He does real-time exercises with updating people’s websites and it’s sooooo good.
This was a 2017 episode from Dave Ramsey’s Entreleadership podcast with Donald Miller. This really helped me see my website through other people’s eyes. It helped me simplify my message and update my website so that it communicated with laser focus. I was able to use the exercise he does on the podcast on my own website with amazing results. Donald Miller’s book Building a Story Brand picks up where the podcast leaves off, and is one of the most important books you will read if you have an online business.
7. The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey
I listened to this book on Audible while I was driving through Kansas. I had to pull over to take notes it was so good.
The reality of running a business is that you are constantly distracted in what’s called ‘the whirlwind.’ It’s easy to make goals, but the real secret to success is in the execution of your goals. But how do you execute? I had no blueprint for how to actually get things done in an organization. This book was the answer to my problem. This book was 100% practical. Where The Ultimate Sales Machine left off, this book picked up and really helped me take my sales to the next level. It’s not surprise that so many leading businesses and organizations are using this book right now.