My 7 Favorite Business Books of 2011

Look, I love to read. I’m basically a book-addict. For the last year, I’ve averaged a book each week and the the vast majority of those books have been about business.

My goal is to understand how to grow a profitable business as deeply as possible. And relentlessly consuming every business classic I can get my hands on has helped me tremendously.

But more importantly, these books will also help you.

Just about every business problem you or I will endure has already been solved by somebody else. The trick is finding that somebody else.

Out of the dozens of books I’ve read, here are the most useful, enlightening, and pratical books every business owner should read. I’ve narrowed it down to the essential 7.

If you want to fully understand how to grow a business, they’re the perfect place to start.

These books are the best of the best. I promise that they won’t waste your time with tangents, go off-topic, or endlessly repeat themselves.

The Personal MBA - Josh KaufmanThe Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business

Looking for a book that will give you a practical overview of business? Josh Kaufman covers every major business concept in short, concise segments. If you don’t have a background in business, you desperately need this book.

Kaufman spent years reading every notable business book out there. He then condensed everything he learned into a single volume. You won’t find any MBA mumbo jumbo here, every concept is as practical as it gets. There is simply no better place to start.

Unlike the other books on this list that merge theory with stories to make them more digestible, The Personal MBA is a little dense. You won’t be enthralled as you read it. But it’s structured to give you quick overviews on nearly every major business concept out there. Get yourself a copy and take a few minutes each day to go over a new concept. By the end of the book, you’ll have a better grounding in business that most business school graduates do.

Made to Stick - Chip and Dan HeathMade To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

What makes ideas spread? After all, we’d love for our customers to share our ideas and spread the word. How can we increase the chance that our messages will be remembered and then shared?

This book breaks it down completely. After reading Made to Stick, you’ll have a framework for making your ideas and products go as viral as possible.

Here’s the 6 principles of any sticky idea:

  • Simplicity
  • Unexpectedness
  • Concreteness
  • Credibility
  • Emotions
  • Stories

When you apply these concepts to you own messages, people will easily remember and act on them.

Influence - Robert CialdiniInfluence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Wouldn’t you like to know how people respond to your maketing at a deep psychological level? Most marketers consider this a classic and I wholeheartedly agree.

For starters, you’ll learn how to tap into people’s need to reciprocate.

You’ll also learn how to obtain large commitments by getting small ones first.

But that’s just the beginning. You’ll learn how to use social proof that builds people’s trust in you, increase your likability so people buy from you more frequently, speak from a position of authority, and use scarcity to encourage immediate action.

These strategies are used repeatedly in marketing and provide the fastest way for you to grow your business.

The Lean Startup - Eric RiesThe Lean Startup

Every business plan is built on assumptions. We assume our customers will like our product. We assume we can even reach them in the first place. The primary goal of any business plan should be to test those assumptions. Instead of building intricate business plans that take months or years to perfect in isolation, we need to launch products as soon as possible, get market feedback, then change course as necessary (and we will be changing course frequently).

Your strategic process should follow this formula:

  1. Brainstorm ideas for improving your business and only build what’s absolutely essential for that idea
  2. Measure the impact of what you’ve built
  3. Learn from the results
  4. Repeat with new ideas

Successful businesses are those that go run through this cycle more frequently than their competitors.

I’ve already put together a post on the three engines of growth covered in The Lean Startup.

The 80/20 Principle - Richard KochThe 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More With Less

A minority of your effort gets you the majority of your results. What does this mean? It means you’re wasting a great deal of time and energy on stuff that doesn’t improve your business or your life. you’ll learn how to focus on what matters.

Because if you figure out what gives you the majority of your results, you can get rid of the waste, replace it with the best, and easily increase your productivity without increasing your workload. After you read this book, you’ll know how to get better results in less time.

To get you started, I’ve already written a post on how to use the 80/20 principles to get better customers.

SPIN Selling - Neil RackhamSPIN Selling

If you’re going to read one book on sales, it needs to be this book. It breaks down the fundamental structure of any sale. Then it shows you how large sales are different from small impulse sales.

Here’s the kicker: the best sales techniques are the complete opposite of the sales dogma we’re familiar with. This isn’t snake oil/used care salesmen tricks that alienate your customers, this book shows you how to close sales while building long term relationships. If you have ever wanted your customers to find you irresistible, become exceptionally pleased with the result, and come back for more, this is the book for you.

On Writing Well - William ZinsserOn Writing Well

Just about every writing rule we’ve learned since the 7th grade makes our writing worse, not better. This book will give you a great overview of what great writing looks like.

It won’t help you win any literary awards but it will help you connect with everyone around you.

But why would you need to learn how to write? Well, do you send emails to customers? What about business plans or proposals? Have you put together any marketing material? Learning to communicate effectively will help you close deals, get people interested in your product or service, and make you more persuasive in everything you do. And since everything you learned about writing in school has done you more harm than good, learning how to do it right is probably a good idea.

I’ll show you how to build an unstoppable growth machine. Don’t miss any of my new essays.

I don’t share emails. Ever. And your trust means a great deal to me.

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