It's that time of year again.  Below you'll find our list of favorite reads (and listens) of 2017. Some were published this year, some many moons ago. Some are business-focused, others flagrant fiction. So, without further achoo, here's our list of Essential Reading (and Listening) for the Small Business Owner. Most of these are my rec's, but Seth, David and Corey snuck in a few as well.

Must Read Books for Small Business Owners - 2017 Edition


Books Good for Your Business

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (Mark Manson) ... Business. Life. Love. And all those gnarly in between bits. I actually drops a whopping $4 / month for the premium content on Mark's blog as well.

The Lost Art of Closing (S. Anthony Iannarino) ... Changed the way we think about taking clients from strangers to trusted partners. Breaks the sales process into a distinct chain of commitments. Required reading for B2B hustlers.

Be Obsessed or Be Average (Grant Cardone) ... everyone's favorite Scientologist. Kidding. Sort of. Seriously though, Grant's narration in the Audible version is off the hook, guidance spot-on and energy off the charts. Shattering the hustle paradigm.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (Cal Newport) ... this critical perspective on productivity separates shallow work from deep work (with its flow state) has transformed our busy work days into a lifestyle of massive impact.

Re-reading: The Obstacle is the Way (Ryan Holiday) - best crash course in Stoicism out there.

 

Books Good for Your Sanity

The Bobiverse Series (Dennis E. Taylor) ... What happens when the brain of a dead, snarky software engineer is uploaded into a robot and becomes sentient and saves the universe? The Bobiverse is what happens.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself (Michael A. Singer) ... 2017 was an awe inspiring and fear inciting year for me. One of my clients, Chris Mahne, insisted I listen to this audio book. A bit woo woo, but the best translation of eastern philosophies into something digestible by former Western bible thumpers like me.
Norse Mythology (Neil Gaiman) ... A master class in storytelling. On their own, the Norse myths are fantastical tales of Odin, Thor, Loki and a myriad of strange creatures. Retold by Neil Gaiman (the audio book is also narrated by him) the are elevated to a whole new level. My favorite story involves the human boy who challenges a giant to a footrace.

The Gone Away World (Nick Harkaway) ... Nick made my list for two of his books last year, so I figured I should read his first novel. Holy. Effing. Shite. On its own, the story of two best friends plunged into a messy war is perfectly told. Then it gets weird - mystical, surrealistic, post apocalyptic, crazy.

Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior (Richard O'Connor) ... a perfect companion to the untethered soul, this dense, compact self-help book will reveal why you keep f---ing up your life ... on a scientific level. And bonus - it covers why the people you love piss you off so much.
My Struggle (Karl Ove Knausgaard) ... This series has dominated Seth's reading list for the bulk of 2017. Here's his blurb about it: It is hard to imagine a series of books more rich in detail and unapologetic human-ness than this. In a refreshing turn in the digital age, the author offers no apologies or rationalizations for his own behavior, even/especially when he must paint himself as a villain. The result is a human life, with all the failures, mistakes, and occasional triumphs however small captured on the page. How does a book that spares no detail, even when the author is not doing anything more than cleaning a bathroom or cooking dinner, become something magical? I don't know. Maybe ask Karl Ove. Props to the translator Don Bartlett for bringing this magic into the English Language with finesse.
 

Podcasts

Welcome to Night Vale ... This podcast and its sibling members of the Night Vale Presents family are consistently weird, creepy, and entertaining. If you like dark humor, or you just want to hear Charlie Day's version of Macbeth, you'll find a lot to love.

Hello from the Magic Tavern ... Seth turned me onto this whimsical podcast hosted by a smattering of improv comedy veterans from Chicago playing Arnie and overweight nerd, Chunt a shapeshifting talking badger, and Usidore a wizard with a really long name.
Small Biz Happy Hour ... yeah, we are *that* narcissistic. That being said, it's a good listen. Insightful, Delightful and Uncensored (we even had to add the E for Explicit to the podcast feed to stay out trouble with the media).
 

Finger Tappin' Beats

NOTE: David represents the segment of our family that's allergic to books apparently. Here's his tuneful addition:?
If you work a sedentary gig and are a self-proclaimed "Jimmy Legger" like me, then you know all too well that you've gotta keep something moving. Usually, it's my right foot, jumping up and down and tapping my heal against the floor like a never-ending drum solo. The beat moves through my leg, up my torso and inevitably into one of my hands to continue the rhythm and mix up the sound, usually tapping my desk or the plastic on my laptop.
"But David, why don't you just try sitting still?". "Oh, I guess I could give that a shot" - he said with heavy sarcasm. Fact is if you're like me, sometimes the mannequin challenge is just not possible.
Luckily I've found myself a workaround wit music. If I'm gonna be working my fingers anyway (say, typing up this newsletter), I might as well focus my efforts. That leads us to my music choice of the...uh... year I guess. When I've got copy to write or anything that requires some form of thought, I prefer the Chill Step Playlist on Spotify. It's a mix of light drum and bass mixed with the occasional soft vocals. If I'm looking to power through a more monotonous task, I'll be cranking up the ALT Rock, ranging anywhere from Silversun Pickups to Queens Of The Stone Age.
Whatever gets you moving, just be sure you're going the right way.
 

Blogs, Newsletters, Shorts

These are the only newsletters we subscribe to anymore:

 

See 2016, 2015 and 2013 Versions of Small Business Owner Reading Lists

*** NOTE: Yes, we've got some juicy affiliate links buried on this post. Who knows, maybe we'll get a check for $5.66 from Amazon again.***

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It's that time of year again.  Below you'll find our list of favorite reads of 2016. Some were published this year, some many moons ago. Some are business-focused, others flagrant fiction. So, without further achoo, here's our list of Essential Reading for the Small Business Owner.

Must Read Books for Small Business Owners - 2016 Edition


Books Good for Your Business

decisive-book-cover*** Our Top Pick ***

Decisive
by Chip & Dan Heath
Willpower is a muscle that must be fed, exercised and rested. "Decision Fatigue" has inserted my regular lexicon of business vocabulary.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Charles Duhigg) ... hat tip to James Clear for recommending this gem. More than any other advice I've received this year, The Power of Habit transformed how I plan and execute my days and my life. It's even affected my parenting, helping build structure into my autistic daughter's life using habit stacking.

The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King (Rich Cohen)... Sam Zemmurri was willing to start actual WARS to grow his business. The best biography I've ever read, hands-down. From poor man, to businessman, to kingpin, this guy's story includes all of the do's (and don'ts) for true entrepreneurs.

Re-read: Pitch Anything (Oren Klaff) ... had a chance to work with Oren last month. A master class in presentation and negotiating.

Re-read: The 10X Rule (Grant Cardone) ... loudmouth, aggressive AND a Scientologist. What's NOT to love about this guy? For serious though, weed through the bombastic ego rambles, and there's some mega-valuable stuff in here for anyone who wants to really GROW their business.

Re-read: The Art of War (Sun Tzu) ... I find myself regurgitating his advice to clients almost weekly. Specifically, the importance of not engaging in 'fair fights' with your competition and the critical role of agility in business models.

Re-read: The Obstacle is the Way (Ryan Holiday) ... well, big surprise - I am (now) an unapologetic Stoic.

 

Books Good for Your Sanity

something-more-than-night-coverSomething More Than Night (Ian Tregillis) ... an angel posing as a noir gumshoe in modern 'merica. Need I say more.

How to live safely in a science fictional universe (Charles Yu) thought I was getting a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy spin-off. Instead a tribute from a son to his father seen through the lens of a world where time traveling machines spurred an entire new class of blue-collar repairmen with daddy issues.

The Searcher (Simon Toyne) ... this guy writes like I wish I could. A classic story of a small town that turned to drugs to survive, that needed a mystical something to save them. Reminiscent of that 90's TV Show the Pretender, just way better and set in a scary beautiful desert.

Dark Matter (Blake Crouch) - didn't think it was possible to write a love story about multi-dimensional travel. This one got me thinking about love, life and quantum physics.

Angelmaker (Nick Harkaway)... about a clockmaker who saves the world. I think.

Tigerman (Nick Harkaway) ... Nick Harkaway is the only writer to show up twice in my list. And for good reason - he is GOOD. I found this gem on the recommended shelf at the semi-ghetto Butte County Library here in Chico. Semi-retired military man semi-stranded on a semi-populated island surrounded by semi-sane residents and a local volcano that spurs the semi-hero into action.

The Aeronaut's Windlass (Jim Butcher)... I've been a lover of steampunk ever since Billy Gold introduced me to it via one of my first product launches (Otaku Tea) many moons ago. Air pirates, giant spiders, romance, c'mon!

Welcome to Nightvale (Nightvale Presents) This podcast and its sibling members of the Nightvale Presents family are consistently weird, creepy, and entertaining. If you like dark humor, or you just want to hear Charlie Day's version of Macbeth, you'll find a lot to love. Not actually a book, though there are some Welcome to Nightvale books available.

 

level-up-your-lifeBlogs, Newsletters, Shorts

These are the only newsletters we subscribe to anymore:

Honorable Mentions

The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need - Iannarino, Anthony
The man behind one of my favorite newsletters has assembled his body of knowledge into a little red book. A bit on the dense, academic side, however, it is essential reading for anyone that finds themselves thrust into a sales role (which happens to EVERY small business owner at one point or another). The "chain of commitments" chapter is absolute gold.


... here's the 2015 version

Must Read Books for Small Business Owners

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers. Essential reading for those struggling with merging their business and their lifestyle with minimal mental, emotional and/or fiscal injury. Calling this book life-changing would be an understatement. Here's a great piece by Derek to give you a taste of his refreshing approach to business. And while you are at it, read Kevin Kelly's frequently stolen quoted philosophy on 1,000 True FansNotably this book is the only one that has made an appearance in all of our reading lists.
Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff. Frame control, the psychology of decision making and the importance of sequence in sales ... boom!
Sell or Be Sold by Grant Cardone.  He's an unapologetic hustler, sales phenom and Scientologist. But don't let that scare you away. The advice Grant drops in this book is CRITICAL to anyone with a product or service to sell - I learned (and now teach) his core tenet of prioritizing activities with massive impact. The audio version is entertaining as f*** too.
The Fish That Ate the Whale by Rich Cohen. This biography of Sam Zemurray (the 'banana king') can easily be THE playbook for dominating an entire industry. His hustle and persistence is as inspiring. His moral flexibility (financing multiple wars to sell more bananas) horrifying. A good companion piece to the Obstacle is the Way, highlighting the upsides and downsides of Stoic business practices.
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. I've been sharing Simon's "Golden Circle" TED talk with damn near everyone I know. He takes that same approach and tackles the subject of leadership. His explanations of the happiness chemicals blew me away.
The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday. A primer on the Stoics dressed up for modern readers by marketing badass Ryan Holiday (Trust Me I'm Lying).  The idea of framing obstacles as opportunities complements Warren Buffet's 'moat' concept beautifully.
BONUS: this article by Robert Bruce helped pull me out a serious bout of small biz owner depression, and helped me learn to love my job again - Why Everyone Hopes You'll be The Hero.
DOUBLE BONUS: Seth prefers more fictional and, um, weirder books than what you'll typically find me reading. Here's his short list, fiction and non-fiction, and why:
The Maddaddam Trilogy  by Margaret Atwood. I needed a bit of listening material for our 4000+ mile road trip this summer, and Seth insisted the audio books for this series would be worth the asking price. Let's just say that between the spooky near future apocalypse and fictional hymns sung by the narrator, these kept me wide eyed, alert, and my driving companion David mildly alarmed for a majority of our summer mileage.
Reality Hunger  by David Shields. Haven't read this one yet, but Seth swears by this manifesto as a benchmark for great writing and great appropriation of the writing of others. Has the experience of this odd gem drastically affected his copy writing? If you're familiar with the book and follow our newsletter, you will easily identify the growing influence this book has had on his writing over time. Not every business owner needs to invest time in developing their writing skills, but for those that do or wish to, Seth really wants you to read this one.

Must Read Blogs & Newsletters for Small Business Owners

CodeinWP - Transparency Reports - it is so rare to see a company reveal the epic fails (and associated fixes) in their business. CodeinWP's Transparency reports have helped us (and by proxy our clients) to shift towards more data-driven business, versus just winging it.

The Sales Blog - "boring gets results" "move the big rock" "sales is a series of commitments" ... These phrases have become part of my daily vocabulary because of S. Anthony Iannarino's daily blog. Some of his stuff is focused a bit on corporate sales, but the vast majority of the content applies perfectly to small business owners.
James Clear - "incremental gains" is my favorite takeaways from this writer / productivity expert's weekly essay. His essay on Sisu (a.k.a. grit) is incredible.
Nerd Fitness - I'm not even a nerd (more of a geek), but this newsletter is just so damn enjoyable to read. The benchmark for building a human community via digital channels.
Uncensored Advice for the Small Biz Owner - Seth has transformed our boring little newsletter into a sweeping epic of hard earned advice punctuated by epic (and sometimes public) fails. "Happiness is a Warm Bun" is my current bookmarked fave.
BONUS: New Poems on The Page, various authors. According to Seth, poetry is the study of words in their most memorable combinations. That's not the definition of poetry I've heard so he probably made it up. Want your product name, slogan, website copy or label copy to be memorable? According to Seth, you should read some poetry sometime. The Page is a blog where you can find links to new poems by today's modern masters of the craft.


... here's the 2013 version

I'm a flagrant plagiarizer.

Violently pulling other people's witty quotes into conversations, sales pitches, training calls, emails, job posts and articles, my filthy habit has been catching up to me:

"Nate, I loved that bit about not leaving any interaction on the table."

"Oh really?"

"Yah, it really helped me pull it all together. You know, like glue"

<awkward pause ............ guilt sets in and I start sobbing uncontrollably ... on the inside>

"IT'S NOT MINE. I totally stole it from Gary Vaynerchuk. I know, I know. I'm a FRAUD!"

Then a few weeks later I resume my thieving habits until guilt once again gets the better of me. So I'm gonna do something about it - publish my reading list, my fountain of inspiration. I'm sure I'll slip up a bit, but I can always salve my conscience by letting folks know,

"Yah, I wrote about my unknowing mentors on my blog" and sleep well that night.

Anyways, enough rambling. Here 'tis (disclaimer: none of the links are affiliate - an unwillingness to drop a few bucks for a few centuries of collective knowledge is ridiculous. If you are really hard-up I can use the Amazon Kindle Loan program to let you read my e-copy. Just shoot me an email and ask nicely. I'll certainly give you shit for being a cheapskate, but I'll still hook you up):


Gary Vaynerchuk's Keynote @ the Inc 500 conference - it's long but worth watching all the way through - twice. And if you are hungry for more, snag a copy of his book The Thank You Economy, which directly inspired my oft-used  (and proudly un-plagiarized) principle - INJECT HUMANITY BACK INTO YOUR BUSINESS.

Anything You Want ($5.99 Kindle) by Derek Sivers. Essential reading for those struggling with merging their business and their lifestyle with minimal mental, emotional and/or fiscal injury. Calling this book life-changing would be an understatement. Here's a great piece by Derek to give you a taste of his refreshing approach to business. And while you are at it, read Kevin Kelly's frequently stolen quoted philosophy on 1,000 True Fans.

Rework ($11.99 Kindle) by Jason Fried. Written by the founders of 37 Signals - the company that makes Basecamp (which we are super-fans of here at Small Biz Triage), this business book pulls no punches and takes no prisoners.

I Will Teach You to Be Rich ($9.39 Kindle) by Ramit Senthi. The king of the side-hustle and a magician with money. A good place to start if you are considering starting a business. And while I'm at it, Here's a some cool guides I've collected over the years on bootstrapping your business. And speaking of bootstrapping, check out this hilariously raw piece on Parasite Enterpreuneurism by Po Bronson - he's the Bear Grylls of bootstrapping.

Everything I need to know about startups, I learned from a crime boss
Sebastian Marshall's Blog (free) - epic stuff on productivity. Can be a bit heavy for beginners, so consider starting with Leo Babauta's Zen Habits as a warm-up. Or you can just skip to the ninja-level stuff with Sebastian by reading his philosophy shattering article: The Million Dollar Question.

Chuck Blakeman's Blog (free) - read ALL of his blogs. Seriously. If you are pressed for time start here to learn what nearly all of my clients get wrong (until they get it right - with a little nudge)

And saving the best for last - this article by Robert Bruce helped pull me out a serious bout of small biz owner depression, and helped me learn to love my job again - Why Everyone Hopes You'll be The Hero.


*** NOTE: Yes, we've got some affiliate links buried on this post. Who knows, maybe we'll get a check for $5.64 from Amazon again.***

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 (There is a Difference)

pix bay 1
Small businesses are everywhere. These micro corporations form the very backbone of the entire nation’s economy. 

They create jobs, employ millions and keep money flowing in the local community. The scale of the economic crisis would be unimaginable without these small enterprises.

However, the word “Entrepreneur” has been gaining a lot of attention in the media recently. It turns up everywhere you look.

This may have created a bit of confusion as to what exactly a small business is and how its owner is a different breed of business person than an entrepreneur. The difference is widely unknown and essential to understand if you fall into either one of the two categories.

Here’s a look at how the two differ.

The Scale of Ideas

A lot of business start off with just a simple idea. There’s a gap in the market, a glaring problem that needs to be resolved. There’s an opportunity to serve and the small business owner embraces this opportunity wholeheartedly. They set out to form a company that serves the local community and makes their customers happy. It is a business that is traditional and well targeted to a certain audience.

An entrepreneur, on the other hand, is set apart by the sheer scale of his or her idea. They think big, very big. The ideas they have come up with have never been explored before. They cannot be tested, referenced or diagnosed. Often there is no set historical data for what is being attempted, so an entrepreneur is basically setting sail on uncharted territory. The fact that the ideas may seem crazy and impossible at times does nothing to discourage an entrepreneur. Instead, it drives them.

The Attitude towards Risk

Small business owners are not exactly averse to risk. They like taking risks, but calculate them thoroughly before taking the plunge. They hold steady for the most part and like to know what's coming next. The outcome needs to be clearly visible for anyone looking to take risks as a small business owner. As a consequence, the small business owner may get good results, but not necessarily extraordinary ones. But extraordinary may not be the small business owner’s aim in the first place. Consistently moving forward in a disciplined way is the small business owner’s overall goal.

The entrepreneur, on the other hand, is a risk taker like no other. They step out onto ledges more often than not and sometimes fail or succeed spectacularly. The attitude to risk is completely different for an entrepreneur. They understand that more often than not the size of the potential success is worth the risk, and they take the plunge knowing they’ve put in as much effort as they possibly could.

The Time Horizon

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The weekly and daily to-do lists are what small business owners live by. The lifestyle involved with running a business on this scale requires near constant hands-on work for managing employees, communicating with customers, networking with suppliers and just keeping the ship on course. The time and effort required to manage just the mundane tasks becomes so overwhelming the small business owner adopts a myopic view and it’s common not look more than a few weeks or months ahead into the future.

The primary difference with an entrepreneur is that they think about the big picture stuff much more often. Their mind is constantly working on new ideas for growth and expansion of their brainchild. The entrepreneur understands that the day-to-day work at the business needs to be properly managed but that is not where their passion lies. They often find a way to delegate this daily management to someone else so that they can focus on the bigger moves and the creative thinking that drives them.  Whereas a small business owner might be happy to have a successful stable company, the entrepreneur is always thinking of what more can be done. 

The Emotional Attachment

Small business owners can be a little sentimental when it comes to their businesses. Only on the very worst days will they even casually think about selling or giving the business to someone else to run, but that thought always passes.  They enjoy making the day-to-day decisions and running the whole operation so much that they don’t even consider retirement most of the time.

Entrepreneurs are just as emotionally attached to their business but the focus here is on the growth rather than ownership. Relentlessly expanding the business is the thing that drives entrepreneurs the most. To achieve this growth the business needs to grow beyond what a single individual, the owner for example, can handle by themselves.

The business ends up growing to such a scale a team of managers and experts is needed to make the whole thing work. At this stage the entrepreneur has created a business that can run and sustain itself without him or her. And once that happens, they wouldn’t think twice about selling it if it was a smart deal that allowed them to pursue another passion project.

The nation needs everyone to participate to the best of their abilities for the economy to run smoothly. Whether you’ve realized that you are a small business owner or entrepreneur depends entirely on your mindset and your future goals.

Both forms of business and both types of business owners are needed equally, but it helps to know which type you are so that you can work towards achieving what you really want.

 

3rd photoAbout the Author:  Andrew May is a longtime business and finance attorney who specializes in FINRA arbitration.  As the founding member of his own boutique firm, May Law, he’s passionate about helping small business owners and entrepreneurs alike with whatever legal issues come their way. Andrew also enjoys guest blogging on a variety of industry publications. Click here to learn more.

 

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