The 100

best business books

you MUST read

I’m John Lamerton, and this is my definitive top 100 best business books for ambitious, lifestyle business owners.

I’ve read more than 1,000 business books (and written three bestsellers myself), so I know what makes a really good business book. I’ve also been involved in more than 60 small businesses over two decades, so I understand that the best books for business owners aren’t theoretical – they’re full of actionable takeaways and frameworks that you can deploy on the front lines of running your own small business.

How I chose the Top 100 best business books:
1. I have deliberately excluded my own books from the Top 100. This isn’t a vanity project!
2. I have organised the books into ten categories, and selected a top 10 for each category.
3. All rankings are my own choice, based on my opinion (which changes on a daily basis!).

I’ve no doubt you will disagree with my rankings – my opinion changes every time I look at the top 100. But that’s exactly what this project is – it’s MY top 100 best business books for ambitious, lifestyle business owners.

I hope it inspires you to think about your own favourite business books, as well as discover some new titles.

I’ve read more than 1,000 business books over 20+ years – and these are my top 10 business books of all time.

The TEN most read, most thumbed, most recommended, most highlighted, most implemented business books on my bookshelf. I’ve read every one of these books multiple times, and they’ve become an essential part of my small business toolkit. I couldn’t run my businesses anywhere near as well without them.

While I rarely prescribe “one-size-fits-all” book recommendations, I truly believe that every small business owner will have a significantly better business if they have these ten books on their shelves too.

Here’s my all-time Top 10 Books for Business Owners…

100 best business books
Poor Charlie’s Almanac
Charles T. Munger

The most expensive book I’ve ever bought – and one of the greatest return on investments. This is a proper “coffee-table” book that you’ll refer to again and again – it’s the centrepiece of my “outward-facing books” on my bookshelf, as a reminder to revisit the lessons contained within.

Billed as “the wit and wisdom of” Charlie Munger, Poor Charlie’s Almanack is a collection of thoughts, articles and keynote speeches from Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner-in-crime at Berkshire Hathaway – and it provides a great insight into “the abominable no-man” (Munger has a fierce reputation for saying no to just about everything – a trait you’ll find is common amongst many of the authors in the top ten), and his penchant for “taking a simple idea, and taking it seriously”

At 532 pages, it’s a beast of a book – but it’s beautifully curated, with stand out quotes, photographs and illustrations to highlight key points. A central theme running through the pages is that of what Munger calls the “Lollapalooza Effect” – what happens when you combine Charlie’s multidisciplinary approach and multiple mental models of how the world actually works.

Like a world-class engineer, Munger is able to visualise how each part of “the machine” that is the world works – and what happens when you combine fifteen new parts with each other. And like a world-class teacher, he can explain those concepts in words that a ten-year-old child (or a forty-four-year-old business owner from Plymouth) can understand.

Poor Charlie’s Almanack is like the Encyclopedia Britannica for business owners, investors, and those who want to make better decisions. As Peter Kaufman says in the introduction: “Where else would you find today’s investment managers set against Nietzsche, Galileo, and a ‘one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest’?”

Favourite Quotes:
“I am a biography nut myself… If you go through life making friends with the eminent dead who had the right ideas, I think it will work better for you… than just giving the basic concepts”

“Find out what you’re best at, and keep pounding away at it.”

“All that is required is a willingness to bet heavily when the odds are extremely favourable.”

“Most people are trained in one model – economics for example, and try to solve all problems in one way. You know the old saying: ‘To the man with a hammer, the world looks like a nail.’ This is a dumb way of handling problems.”

“Warren and I are very good at destroying our own best-loved ideas. Any year that you don’t destroy one of your best-loved ideas is probably a wasted year.

“The big money is not in the buying and selling… but in the waiting… Charlie calls it ‘sit on your ass investing’.”

“I didn’t get to where I am by going after mediocre opportunities.”

100 best business books
Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got
Jay Abraham

My copy is well-thumbed, covered in notes and scribbles, massive sections highlighted, and entire chapters copied and sent to my team to implement – which is always a good sign.

I didn’t have an inkling that I was reading a twenty-plus-year-old book until I reached page 287, and Jay’s chapter about the internet, which is laughingly outdated (including a list of the top eight search engines which doesn’t even feature Google).

That only reinforces the timeless content from the rest of the book – strategies and tactics that have worked for decades, in any sector, and using any medium. I’ve found myself coming back to many of the chapters again and again – embracing the “Trusted Advisor” role that Jay preaches, and putting your clients at the centre of everything you do.

As someone who has written extensively about optimising the machine that is your business, and has a coaching platform centred around making hundreds of tiny, incremental improvements to every aspect of your machine, this is one of the “how-to” manuals for the machine that I’ll refer to on a monthly, if not weekly basis.

After all – before you go ramping up your ad spend, and throwing more money at the problem, why wouldn’t you want to get everything you can out of all you’ve got, first?

Favourite Quotes:

“Your goal is to eliminate as much, if not all, of the risk in the transaction for your client. When you take away the risk, you lower the barrier to action, and eliminate the primary obstacle to buying.”

“Breakthroughs increase in direct proportion to the amount of networking, brainstorming, and masterminding you do with like-minded, success-driven people outside your industry.”

“Think about what your clients want most (results-wise) from purchasing your product or service. Then guarantee them that outcome – or they can have their money back… It will be no contest for you against your competition if you incorporate strong risk reversal into your business operation.”

“Find every process in your business or career that could be improved and focus on making small incremental or large exponential improvements in each process. If you do that, the combined effect will be dramatic and geometric

100 best business books
Anything You Want
Derek Sivers

“Too many people spend their life pursuing things that don’t actually make them happy. When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you create all the laws.”

This line alone is worthy of my top ten best business books. It sings to my desire to design a business around the lifestyle that I truly want and dream of – rather than be controlled by my business and living the lifestyle that it allows me to – the tail wagging the dog.

This is a lovely short read (the audiobook version is a mere 90 minutes long, and the chapters are short and sweet. That doesn’t make them any less hard-hitting though – Derek has a knack for saying in a few lines something that makes you stop and think and I mean really think about what YOU want.

Derek Sivers is a modern-day stoic – a beach-bum musician, who built a multi-million-dollar company, sold it, gave away almost all the money, and now spends his days doing “anything he wants” – whatever makes him happy.

Favourite Quotes:
“The best way to grow your business is to thrill your existing customers. If you speak to your customers and ask them what they want, no one’s going to answer “we want you to grow” – they want THEIR problems solved!”

“People assume that you want to be big big big – as big as can be! But do you really? Big means lots of meetings, investors, bankers, media, and answering to others – quite far from the real core of the business. Happiness is the real reason you’re doing it all, right? Even if you say it’s for the money, the money is just a means to happiness, right? You may be much happier as a million-dollar business than a 10 million dollar business.”

“Whatever you make, it’s your creation. Make it your dream come true.”

best business books
The E-Myth Revisited
Michael E. Gerber

“Are you working on your business, or in your business?”

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard business owners utter those words over the last twenty years…This is one of those cliches, that everyone loves to quote, but no one seems to actually live by.

This book truly does have the power to be a game-changer, but in order to do so, YOU have to change your game! You can’t just quote passages from the book whilst doing your own bookkeeping.

The E-Myth opened my eyes to one of the biggest mistakes that most novice business owners make (and I certainly did!) – moving from being “Jack of all trades” to being a CEO of a business.

From “self-employed” to “business owner”.

One of my favourite tasks from the E Myth (that we’ve asked several One Percenters to do) is to complete an organisational chart – even if you’re the only person in the company.

Seeing how a real business operates – with customer support, HR, finance, sales, marketing, operations, fulfilment, etc.. and then YOUR name next to each role is very eye-opening. It’ll set you on a mission to get someone else’s name in every one of those roles that don’t best serve you, or your business.

Freeing you up to work on your business, of course…

Favourite Quotes:
“If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business – you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!”

“The system isn’t something you bring to the business. It’s something you derive from the process of building the business.”

“To The Manager, then, The Technician becomes a problem to be managed. To The Technician, The Manager becomes a meddler to be avoided. To both of them, The Entrepreneur is the one who got them into trouble in the first place!”

best business books of all time
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Robert Kiyosaki

This was THE first self help business book that I read after starting my business, and I’ve found myself coming back to it time and time again.

Crucially, every time I do re-read it (and I’ve read it eight or nine times over the last two decades), I get something different from it – a new perspective, or a new idea that I “missed” in previous reads, probably because I have matured and developed as an entrepreneur and business owner.

The book blurs the lines between fiction and non-fiction, with an exaggerated tale of Robert Kiyosaki’s “two Dads” – one, his real dad, was poor. And his best friend’s dad, who was rich. The two father figures are compared and contrasted throughout, and the life lessons that Kiyosaki wishes to make are made all the more obvious by having the two polar opposite characters.

For me, what sets Rich Dad, Poor Dad apart from other personal development books is how Kiyosaki is able to focus the reader on their financial mindset, without the book being either fluffy, woolly woo-woo nonsense, or scientific mumbo-jumbo.

It’s not a how-to, colour-by-numbers strategy book.

But nor is it a vague, theory-only “thought leader” book.

There’s plenty to learn in these pages, but for me, the biggest lesson, that has served me well for two decades now, is knowing the difference between an asset and a liability.

Whilst all my fellow business owners are splashing their newfound riches on sports cars, boats, and holiday homes, I’m maxing out my ISA. I’m squirrelling away into a pension and buying silver bullion. I buy watches that not only look good, but that hold their value.

Everything else is doodads.

I’m currently listening to the audiobook version of Rich Dad, Poor Dad with my kids (aged ten and seven).

By the time they start secondary school, they’ll know the difference between an asset and a liability. They’ll know how to read financial statements. They’ll know never to work for money. They’ll know what financial freedom truly is, and what they need to do to achieve it.

Favourite Quotes:
“The single most powerful asset we all have is our mind. If it is trained well, it can create enormous wealth in what seems to be an instant.”

“I am concerned that too many people are focused too much on money and not on their greatest wealth, which is their education. If people are prepared to be flexible, keep an open mind and learn, they will grow richer and richer through the changes. If they think money will solve the problems, I am afraid those people will have a rough ride. Intelligence solves problems and produces money. Money without financial intelligence is money soon gone.”

“Most people fail to realize that in life, it’s not how much money you make, it’s how much money you keep.”

“If you realize that you’re the problem, then you can change yourself, learn something and grow wiser. Don’t blame other people for your problems.”

best business books
Life in Half a Second
Matthew Michalewicz

For a good few months, Life in Half a Second ruined all other self-help books for me.

I’d read close to a hundred of the best business books before this one, and the “five doors” framework that Matthew Michalewicz uses to explain success is so simple that you almost immediately dismiss it.

These “5 doors” had such a profound effect on me, that I adopted (and adapted!) them for my own personal blueprint to success – both the success I’d already had (enabling me to reverse engineer what had worked in the past), and the success I was going to have (working out what I was lacking, and what I needed to work on.)

These became my “5 magic ingredients”:


I had them printed in one-foot-high letters on my office wall, where they still sit today.

And they formed the structure for my very first best-selling book Big Ideas… for Small Businesses.

Matthew Michalewicz doesn’t just lay out the logical, methodical “how-to” stuff that you’ll need to succeed. He’s also a bloody good motivator, which is where the “half a second” analogy comes into play.

It’s where Michalewicz opens the first chapter, in fact – explaining that Planet Earth is four and a half billion years old, with us humans having evolved a mere 200,000 years ago. You’ve got a mere 80 years (on average) to live, and you may have lived half of that already. Michalewicz uses some back-of-a-fag-packet maths to explain that if the entire lifespan of the planet Earth was one calendar year, then human beings have existed for about a day and a half.

And you – your life… Everything you’ve ever done, and everything you will ever do, amounts to half of one second.

Gone in the blink of an eye.

Favourite Quotes:
“What are we waiting for? If we only had one year to live, our desire to start living, to use what’s left of our half-second to the fullest would become unstoppable. And we would finally, finally take action – but is that what it takes? Must we be confronted with death to finally do the things we want? Is that what we’re waiting for?”

“Success is not defined by thinking big or small, or aiming high or low. Success is defined by what you aim for, by what goals you set. If you think big, aim high and set large goals, then your success will be large. If you think small, aim low and set small goals, then your success will be small. But in either case it’s still success. People fail in life, not because they aim high or low, but because they don’t aim at all.”

“If you want to achieve your goals, surround yourself with people who have similar goals or better yet who have already achieved them.”

“Fear equals progress”

“My life turned out the way it did because I designed it that way. It wasn’t accidental and didn’t happen by chance.”

top 100 best business books
The Answer is Yes, Now What Is The Question?
Neville Wright

This is by FAR my favourite business-based autobiography.

I’d not heard of Neville before and was only vaguely aware of his company, Kiddicare.com, which sold prams and pushchairs out of their Peterborough HQ.

Boy, was I in for a treat…

The Answer is Yes Now What is the Question is (quite literally) a rags to riches story, detailing how Neville bought a piece of cloth for 37p, borrowed his Dad’s ladder, and set up a window cleaning company, then detailing exactly how he turned that 37p into a £100 million+ empire over the next five decades.

What sets Neville’s book apart from most rags to riches stories is its relatability. He spends an awful lot of time telling you exactly how he turned 37p into a regular income of a few hundred pounds, then how he turned hundreds into thousands, thousands into tens of thousands, tens of thousands into hundreds of thousands, and so on.

With most autobiographies, they skim over the early years far too quickly: “I was skint.. and then I made it” before going on to talk about the more interesting times when they made their big breaks, negotiated those key deals, and launched the products and brands that we all now know.

But that doesn’t help you move from where you are now, to the next step up. If you read Richard Branson’s latest autobiography, he’s already a billionaire with his own private island, planning to launch a space travel company – at the START of the book!

“The Answer is Yes…” is relatable. You can see the blueprint a mile off. And if you can’t, then Neville spells it out for you – telling you exactly why each element of his journey worked (or didn’t), and how you can apply that to your life, or your career.

If you want to read the blueprint of someone who started with nothing, and who grew it to a £100m+ empire, by doing things that every single person is capable of doing – then “The Answer is Yes, Now What Is The Question?” is the best business book for you.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Neville for the ALB podcast – you can listen to that here.

Favourite quotes:
“In 1974, I told the man in the Dole office that had verbally gripped my balls and my life, that I would look after my family myself. There was no way on this earth that I would go cap in hand to him or anyone like him ever again.”

“It’s only after we became millionaires in the eighties, but the only way we did it was because we got off our backsides and did something, anything that we were capable of, then some more, every hour of every day.”

“At the end of every day, I would ask myself: has what I have done today increased the value of the business?”

“You are where you are because of what you have done in your past.”

best business books
Company of One
Paul Jarvis

There are so many parallels between this book and Big Ideas.. For Small Businesses (my first book) – Paul’s “company of one” is my “ambitious, lifestyle business”. The title isn’t to be taken literally – it’s not just for one-man-bands.

It’s about questioning the need for growth. It’s about knowing how much is “enough” for you – and deliberately designing your business to be the optimum size to deliver that result – with the minimum of stress. It’s about not working harder than you need to, collecting more things you don’t need, to impress people you don’t like.

It’s about remembering why you started your business in the first place – to escape the day job from hell; to have a flexible schedule; to spend quality time with the kids; to work from anywhere.

The Company of One focuses on stability, simplicity, independence, and long-term resilience, starting small and becoming profitable as quickly as possible without the need for outside investment. Once your company of one reaches your initial desired level, any future growth is aggressively questioned.

Favourite quotes:
“Enough is all we need, since “more” all too often equates to more stress, more problems, and more responsibilities in both life and business.”

“More isn’t better. Better is better.”

“In saying no to anything that doesn’t fit, you leave room to say yes to those rare opportunities that do fit—opportunities that align with the values and ideas of your business.”

“There’s nothing wrong with finding the right size and then focusing on being better. Small can be a long-term plan, not just a stepping-stone.”

best business books of all time
Tools of Titans
Tim Ferriss

Tools of Titans is a 700-page behemoth, and it’s not a book that covers a single topic from a single author. Rather it’s a collection of life lessons, advice, and tactics from some of the world’s most successful people.

It’s “Think and Grow Rich” for the 21st century.

Whereas Napoleon Hill’s masterpiece (whose failure to make the top 100 best business books is no doubt going to lead to many angry emails!) interviewed early 20th century titans of business such as Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Edison, Tim Ferriss interviews modern-day equivalents such as Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel and Brene Brown – with the same basic premise: if you can think and act the way successful people do, you significantly increase your odds of replicating their success.

As Ferriss is keen to point out in the introduction, “success, however you define it, is achievable if you collect the right field-tested beliefs and habits. The superheroes you have in your mind (idols, icons, titans, millionaires etc) are nearly all walking flaws who’ve maximised 1 or 2 strengths”

Despite being only a few years old, my copy of Tools of Titans is well-thumbed, dog-eared, and covered in highlights, notes, scribbles, and post-it notes acting as bookmarks. For me, that’s an indicator that it’s been really useful.

Why learn from one successful person, when you could learn from hundreds? You can learn about the importance of “reps, reps, reps” from Arnold Schwarzeneggar; the high expectations that Heston Blumenthal has in his kitchen; or why Scott Adams’ career advice is to be “better than most” at three things, rather than world-class at one.

Whenever I’ve got a problem, in my business, with my health, with my mindset, I’ll usually find the answers in this book. (You can hear my 14 key takeaways from the book in this podcast)

Favourite quotes:
“If you let your learning lead to knowledge, you become a fool. If you let your learning lead to action, you become wealthy.”

“Losers have goals. Winners have systems.”

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training”

“You’re not responsible for the hand of cards you were dealt. You’re responsible for maxing out what you were given.”


The ONE Thing
Gary Keller & Jay Papasan

“To do two things at once is to do neither.” – Publilius Syrus

All the super-successful people that I’ve studied find one area that they’re really good at, and they go all-in on that area.

For me, the routine of being able to identify, focus and work exclusively on the ONE most important task on a daily basis has been instrumental in so much of my own success – and I can only wonder how much more successful I’d now be if only I’d discovered this a decade earlier!

I used to run 12 different businesses – selling everything from private villa rentals to mobile phone insurance, live football streaming to car breakdown cover, online bingo to affiliate software tools – until one day Google gave me a kick in the balls, taking away all my SEO traffic overnight.

Only ONE of these businesses had a mailing list, and that business continued to earn money at a pre-Google-kicking rate. They could take away my traffic, but they couldn’t take away my mailing list.

Over the next six months, I put everything I had into ONE goal – to grow that mailing list. I created a “daily marketing planner” – a single sheet of A4 to remind me that the ONE thing I could do to reach my goal of getting more customers was to create marketing assets every single day.

From doing a dozen things for a dozen businesses to doing ONE thing for ONE business.

What’s your priority? What’s the ONE thing that you need to do more than anything else?

I ask myself that question every single day. It’s the “focusing question” from The ONE Thing:

“What’s the ONE thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will become easier or unnecessary?”

You’re looking for the ONE thing that can act as the lead domino, knocking all those other dominoes over, creating momentum and actually driving your business forward and taking you towards your goals. Then, make DAMN sure you get that ONE thing done – to the detriment of everything else. Does it matter if you don’t answer emails for a day or two if the trade-off is writing a killer piece of sales copy that could bring in hundreds of new customers?

If I ONLY achieve my ONE THING, and nothing else – I’ve beaten the week. I’ve embraced The ONE Thing principles for almost a decade now, and can honestly say that this ONE thing has led to more success in all aspects of my life than any other – so much so, that I was invited onto the ONE Thing Podcast to share my story with others.

The ONE Thing is my number ONE book for business owners.

Favourite quotes:

“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls– family, health, friends, integrity– are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered”

“Make sure every day you do what matters most. When you know what matters most, everything makes sense. When you don’t know what matters most, anything makes sense.”

“It is not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it is that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.”

“Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.”

best business book

Top 10 Self Help Books

If you want to grow your business, the best place to start is by growing the business owner.

Self Help books do just that – they develop and grow the everyday talent and abilities of the small business owner, improving every aspect of their day to day life. Imagine replacing yourself with a superstar CEO who will run your business for you – with the right self help books, you can become that superstar CEO.

Here are my top 10 self help books:

best business books
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
Scott Adams

Dilbert creator Scott Adams tells us why “goals are for losers”, how your brain is a “moist computer you can program”, and why “every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success”.

best business books
The Family Virtues Guide
Linda Kavelin Popov

I used this book as part of homeschooling my two children – because I want them to be happy, confident, polite, well-rounded adults.

By focusing on a “virtue of the week”, we all became more compassionate, generous, and kind – even me!

best business books
Winners: and how they succeed
Alistair Campbell

Want a shortcut to success? Find someone successful, and model them. Don’t like their model? Copy someone else.

Alastair Campbell breaks down the world’s most successful people – from Barack Obama and Bill Gates to Nelson Mandela and Ariana Huffington.

best business books
Anything is Possible
Gareth Southgate

How has Gareth Southgate turned the England football team from a bunch of overpaid primadonnas who can’t seem to work together, into a proper team unit?

How has he united the country behind them? How has he redeemed his own demons – from “that” penalty miss, to being sacked by Middlesbrough, and being labelled as a failure?

And most importantly, how can you apply the same techniques in your life?

As Gareth will show you – anything is possible.

best business books
The Decision
Kevin Hart

Only currently available as an audiobook, this is narrated.. nay – performed… by Kevin Hart himself.

I listened with my eleven-year son. He enjoyed the swearing and Kevin Hart’s OTT rants as he “drops golden nuggets of wisdom out of his butt”.

I enjoyed the personal development strategies which will help with self-image, confidence, responsibility, and leadership.

best business books
The Art of Being Brilliant
Andy Cope

I went on an NLP binge-fest many years ago – spending several hundred pounds to hear some airy-fairy cliche soundbites from an NLP course, reading those same tired old cliches in several books too.

And then I read The Art of Being Brilliant – which accurately portrays all the benefits of NLP, without using the word NLP once – or trotting out the same old tired cliches.

This book will make you a better human, simple as.

The Ultimate Jim Rohn Library
Jim Rohn

If you trace the origins of any of the best business books, self-help seminars or personal development gurus, then eventually you’re going to end up back at either Zig Ziglar or Jim Rohn.

In that case, why not hear straight from the horse’s mouth – Jim Rohn, in his own words? After all, this is classic Rohn, recorded live at one of his self-help seminars. If you listen carefully, you can almost pick out a young Tony Robbins, sat at the back of the hall, making notes.

best business books
Tribe of Mentors
Tim Ferriss

Every period of growth in my business, and in my personal development has come when I’ve been working with mentors. Conversely, every period where I wasn’t learning from others, I stagnated and plateaued.

In Tribe of Mentors, Tim Ferriss promises “short life advice from the best in the world” – and he doesn’t disappoint – want to know what books Gary Vaynerchuk reads? What does Maria Sharapova’s workout routine look like? Ray Dalio’s favourite failure? Ben Stiller’s career advice? Jimmy Fallon’s best investment?

What Bear Grills does when he feels overwhelmed? Why Brene Brown thinks that sleep is the single greatest habit that’s improved her life.

It’s a beast at almost 600 pages, and much like Tools of Titans (which is even better – and makes my overall top 10), it’s more of a manual to be dipped into to solve a specific problem, rather than to be read sequentially – there’s no overarching narrative. I also found the audiobook version hard to listen to – although I know others actually preferred the audiobook because each chapter feels like a mini-podcast episode.

My copy is full of notes, scribbles and highlights. My favourite is from the summary at the end of the book – “Based on everything I’ve seen, a simple recipe can work: focus on what’s in front of you, design great days to create a great life, and try not to make the same mistake twice. That’s it. Stop hitting net balls, and try something else, perhaps even the opposite. If you really want extra credit, try not to be a dick, and you’ll be a Voltron-level superstar. The secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard.”

best business books
Number 2
The Slight Edge
Jeff Olson

I’ve been called the King of Routine, a routine freak (by my wife!), and wrote a bestselling self-help book called Routine Machine.

It’s fair to say that I’m a big believer in the power of daily habits and routines. As far as I’m concerned, consistency is a superpower. What you do today, or tomorrow doesn’t matter – what you do every day is what matters. It’s what will either deliver the life of your dreams or the stuff of nightmares.

The Slight Edge shows you how to leverage those small daily actions, to get them working for you – rather than against you. Olson states that the power of the Slight Edge comes from a few “simple daily disciplines – little productive actions, repeated consistently over time – add up to the difference between failure and success.”

How to Win Friends and Influence People
Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie was born in 1888. He was born into poverty on a farm in Missouri and found success selling bacon and soap as a young man. Carnegie was so successful at sales, that his territory of South Omaha, Nebraska became the company’s best performing area, by some margin.

Naturally, people wanted to know how he was getting better results than anyone else. So Carnegie started telling people the secret to his success. 

In 1936, Dale Carnegie released “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. By the time of Carnegie’s death in 1955, the book had been translated into 31 languages and sold more than five million copies worldwide. At the time of writing, it’s now estimated that more than 30 million copies have been sold, and it’s constantly amongst the most recommended business books in the world of sales.

So what’s the big secret to winning friends and influencing people?

It’s listening. It’s building real connections and empathy with a fellow human. It’s thinking about them as a person, not a vanity metric. It’s talking with them (not to them) – about them. Despite being written almost a century ago, most of what Carnegie wrote in 1936 remains relevant today – and in some cases (waves to social media!) is even more pertinent. How to Win Friends and Influence People should be a required personal development book for anyone who deals with other humans, or who wants to be a better, more likeable human themself.

best self help book

Top 10 Motivational Books

Without motivation, you have no motive to take action.

The books in this section have been chosen to light a fire under you – to get you amped up and ready to kick arse. I’ve gone heavy on biographies and autobiographies here because there’s nothing more motivating than a true story about someone overcoming the odds, and achieving super-success despite their starting point.

Here are my top 10 motivational books:


best business books
The Snowball
Alice Shroeder

This is one of the best biographies of the world’s most successful investor and my personal business hero Warren E Buffett.

The Snowball is a unique look into the private world (and in particular his unique mindset towards the way the world works) of the Oracle of Omaha. Using Buffett’s famous “snowball” analogy to explain compound interest, you’ll be rolling your own snowball down the hill of time, in no time!

best business books
The Rise and fall.. and rise again
Gerald Ratner

Gerald Ratner absolutely dominated the High Street in the ’70s and ’80s, owning the Ratners chain of jewellery stores, and then acquiring H Samuel, Ernest Jones, Watches of Switzerland, and more than 1,000 stores in the US.

He took a struggling family business, turned it into a £1bn empire in less than ten years, and then made “that” speech – losing £500m in a matter of days.

Gerald’s rise will have you spellbound, his fall was jaw-dropping, and the rise again is where the real lessons are learned…

best business books
Can’t Hurt Me
David Goggins

“David Goggins isn’t human” ; “Goggins is a machine” – these are normal people’s reactions to Can’t Hurt Me – a biography that can’t fail to motivate.

I’m not a big fan of the book myself, because I prefer to work smarter than harder. I’d rather not run on broken legs, smash through brick walls, or go through hell week five times.

But Can’t Hurt Me shows us all what’s possible – how far the human body (and mind) can be pushed. If you can see through the “just push harder” rah-rah, there’s a great motivational lesson for all small business owners here.

best business books
Living with a SEAL
Jesse Itzler

Jesse Itzler decides to get in shape by having a Navy SEAL live with him for a month – and we get to see how far the human body can be pushed, Jesse discovers what he’s truly capable of, and we have plenty of belly laughs along the way.

For small business owners looking for motivational books to push them further than they believe they’re capable of, both Living with a SEAL and Can’t Hurt Me deliver a fantastic one-two combo.

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi became the number one tennis player in the world – despite hating tennis.

I’m not a tennis fan, but I LOVED this book. It’s a fantastic biography of Andre Agassi’s tennis career, a career which was forced upon him as a child prodigy, and which he first endured, then rebelled against, and ultimately embraced.

If you’re struggling to “do what you love, and love what you do”, then Open should be your next read. 

Shoe Dog
Phil Knight

Everyone’s favourite business biography (except mine).

Don’t get wrong – it’s a fantastic story, incredibly well-written, and if the missing ingredient in your small business is perserverance, then this is the motivational book for you.

My biggest problem with Shoe Dog is that by Phil Knight’s own admission, he got just about everything wrong – from his business partners, suppliers, legal advice, pricing, branding, product development.

But he perservered – and eventually became the massive worldwide brand that we know and love today. But perserverance aside, there’s very little “blueprint” that small business owners would want to model in their business.

best business books
Life without limits
Nick Vujicic

“Why me?” Nick Vujicic asked himself every day. “Why do I have to suffer?”

Nick Vujicic was born with no arms and no legs. Mercilessly teased and bullied as a child, and unable to perform basic tasks for himself, Nick attempted suicide – but failed. Eventually, Nick discovered “why” he had been born this way. He’d discovered “why him”. And he realised that he didn’t need to suffer.

Nick found purpose – fulfilment, happiness and love. Everything he thought he’d never have – and now he helps others find their “why” too.

Trust me on this one – listen to the audiobook. You won’t find a more motivating listen (though you may get “something in your eye” at a few points!)

Losing My Virginity
Richard Branson

One of the very first business biographies I picked up when I first started working for myself – Richard Branson was the maverick entrepreneur I aspired to be – no pinstripe suits or stuffy offices.

Branson has written a sequel since (Finding My Virginity), but trust me – this original autobiography is where the real gold is: because most of us can relate to Richard at some point in his journey in the original book – from dyslexic schoolboy to broke start-up, to winging-it-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, to nearly losing the lot, to the big breakthroughs, and the massive growth.

In the second book, Sir Richard (as he is by now) starts page 1 as a billionaire, looking to make intergalactic space tourism a reality.

In this first book, however, we join plain old Richard as he bluffs his way to securing sponsorship for a student magazine, opens his first shop, and wonders how he’s going to pay the VAT man.

Total Recall
Arnold Schwarzenegger

You don’t need to be a fan of Arnie’s movies, bodybuilding or politics to benefit from listening to Total Recall.

All you need to know is this: Arnold Schwarzeneggar should not have been successful at anything we now know him for.

Arnie was a scrawny, poor farm boy from Austria, who didn’t speak any English. He was weak, but wanted to be strong – so he became the strongest man on the planet, winning Mr Olympia. He wanted to speak English, so he moved to America. Once in the land of the free, Schwarzeneggar wanted to become rich, so he made a million dollars with a mail-order business – and another million dollars with real estate investments.

After all that, Arnold wanted to be the leading man in Hollywood movies – so he became the highest-paid movie star in the world. He was passionate about politics, and wanted to have an impact – so he rose to the highest political office possible. Given everything he had achieved, Arnold wanted to write a book – so he wrote a New York Times bestseller. And it’s one of my best business books.

What Arnold wants, Arnold gets – and in this motivational biography, he shows you how you can model him.

Rational Optimist
Matt Ridley

“It’s not like it was in the good old days” Nope – it’s better than it ever was. And things are only getting better. Yes, really – that’s what the evidence actually shows us.

No matter how much we like to moan and whine about “the way things are”, the truth paints a very different picture. In the Rational Optimist, economist Matt Ridley lays bare the evidence – and shows us that things have been getting better and better – and that they always have.

He makes the case that the greatest barrier to this progress is actually our own limiting beliefs – and that if we can get out of our own way, we can enjoy exponential growth.

Ridley proclaims that self-sufficiency (doing everything yourself) is a leading indicator of poverty, whilst specialisation and exchange (outsourcing to others better than you, allowing you to specialise in your area of expertise) is the leading indicator of wealth – which is why small business owners who still cut their own grass, clean their own house, do their own books – are stuck earning a pittance, whilst those who outsource to specialists (and then specialise themselves doing a higher value task) thrive.

We’re lousy at predicting the future – when asked what the greatest innovations of the 20th century would be, no one even thought of cars and telephones – which were commonplace a decade later.

The one thing we can optimistically predict? Things will continue to get better, as they always have.

best motivational book

Top 10 Marketing Books

Possibly the hardest category for me – because I’m a marketer at heart, most of the business books I read tend to focus on marketing.

Narrowing all those marketing books down to just ten was almost impossible. Every time I looked at my “final” list, I wondered how I could possibly exclude this book.. or that one… But here we are – ten simply amazing books on marketing – covering all aspects from copywriting and marketing plan creation, to Direct Response frameworks and storytelling.

Here are my top 10 Marketing books:

Outrageous Advertising That's Outrageously Successful

Outrageous Advertising That’s Outrageously Successful

Bill Glazer

How do you make your marketing stand out from the crowd? By being outrageous!

Bill Glazer ran an average menswear store, running average middle-of-the-road safe advertising, and getting average results. Who wants average results? Bill embraced being outrageous in his marketing, sending hand-scribbled letters on the back of napkins, postcards to his clients (all 10,146 of them) whilst on holiday, and sending prospects a million-dollar bill.

Even the front cover of the book features Bill in a straightjacket, screaming at the camera – telling you straight away: this isn’t your average marketing book!

best business books
Dotcom Secrets

Russell Brunson

I hated this book when I first started reading it.

It was full of “I’m a multi-millionaire; I don’t get out of bed for less than $50,000; I made $2m at my last consultancy gig” – as my dear old Nan used to say: “No-one likes show-off, dear.”

But once you get past the bragging and the bravado, there’s actually plenty of substance here.

Russell Brunson learned from old school direct response marketer Dan Kennedy (see below), and applied Dan’s tried-and-tested methods to the “new-fangled” online, digital marketing world. This stuff works.

Compound Marketing
Dan Norris

One of the inspirations for me writing Evergreen Assets. Dan Norris has built huge businesses without a single dollar in ad spend.

His primary marketing method is content marketing – and in Compound Marketing, Dan shows you how to leverage two of my favourite things in the world – evergreen assets, and compounding, to create a residual after-effect to the content you create.

best marketing books
Rise of the Youpreneur
Chris Ducker

Another cracking content marketing book – this time written from a UK perspective.

Chris especially focuses on creating a content marketing ecosystem, where you are the star – you’re the expert, and your content marketing is all designed around demonstrating your knowledge and expertise.

1 page marketing plan
Allan Dib

I’ve talked about my own “one-page marketing plan” in several of my books – whilst my one-pager wasn’t based on Allan’s book, having read the book, I can now connect the dots looking back and see why it worked so well – keeping it simple and applying 80/20 thinking to the plan (so that you take 80/20 action) is key.

This is a great marketing book for beginners – as well as those who have made their marketing plan more complicated than it needs to be!

The 16 word sales letter
Evaldo Albuqueue

One of the most expensive books I’ve ever bought – especially when you consider it’s a mere 87 pages (with large fonts, and plenty of white space!).

Having said that, the return on investment I’ve seen from implementing Evaldo’s copywriting formula in my own business is off the charts. I’ve tested the 16 Word Sales Letter copy against professional copywriters as well as my own “unbeatable” copy – and the 16 Word Sales Letter copy wins every single time. It’s fully earned its place as one of my best business books.

The Ultimate Marketing Plan
Dan Kennedy

I can’t talk about the best marketing books for business owners without mentioning the King of marketing books – Dan Kennedy.

Author of no fewer than 13 business marketing books, including his famous “No B.S. guide to _______” series.

Picking ONE Dan Kennedy book for our top 10 is tough. Real tough – but I’ve plumped for The Ultimate Marketing Plan because I believe it gives the best high-level overview of Dan’s direct response methodology.

Jeff Walker

I refer to this book at least once a week – either when planning a launch within my own business, or when I’m coaching other small business owners.

Jeff Walker says that Launch is a “secret formula” – and I can honestly say that every time I’ve followed the formula, it’s paid dividends for me.

In my opinion, there’s no better way to generate rapport with your audience, and follow my own simple three-step guide to business success (find out what they want > give them what they want > make damn sure they’ve got what they want) than to work through the Launch formula.

It’s hard work – especially because you need to lay the foundations of the formula well before you need the money (what Jeff calls the pre-pre-launch stage!), but as one of my mentors used to say, this is the hard work that makes the selling easy.

best business books
Building a Storybrand
Donald Miller

Once upon a time, your clients all lived happily ever after. 

In Building a Storybrand, Donald Miller shows you how to leverage storytelling in your marketing strategy. Miller shares the 7-step proven storytelling framework, as used by bestselling novelists and Hollywood movie studios.

Yes, you’ll be able to tell stories every bit as well as Stephen King, JK Rowling or Stephen Spielberg. You won’t be the star of the show though – your clients are the hero, not you. They’re Luke Skywalker – and you’re Yoda. You’re just the guide who can show them the way – help them to solve their problem and achieve their goal.

Listen to any episode of the ALB podcast, and you’ll see this model in action – we make heroes of our best clients – putting them on a pedestal, and telling the world how amazing they are. Jason and I are merely the guides, showing the way. They’re the real heroes.

They Ask, You Answer
Marcus Sheridan

My best business book of the year in 2017, and still THE best marketing book in my opinion.

Swimming pool salesman Marcus Sheridan noticed that lots of people were landing on his website for search terms such as “how much is a swimming pool?” or “what’s the best swimming pool for a small garden?”. And in a lightbulb moment that seems painfully obvious in hindsight, Sheridan realised that he wasn’t giving them what they wanted.

How much is a swimming pool? Well, it depends on a number of factors. A small, standard-size, above-ground fibreglass pool will cost a lot less than a custom-made Olympic-sized pool in the shape of your favourite Teletubby. Most swimming pool companies answered the “how much is it?” question with a short: “it depends. Give us a call.”

Every single one of them. Not one company actually answered the question.

So Marcus did.

How much is a __________?

What are the common problems with a __________?

Should I choose a __________ or a __________?

What are the __________ reviews like?

What’s the best __________ to buy?

Guess what? Your potential customers are asking these questions right now. Start typing these questions into Google, and you’ll see the autosuggest kick in – meaning lots of other Google users search for that term. Google also helpfully includes a “People also ask” section, as well as displaying related searches, so you can find these questions that actual prospects are typing into Google right now. Finding out what they want is a piece of cake.

And all you need to do now is give them what they want. And what they want is their question answered – fully, comprehensively, honestly, and without marketing spin.

That’s what Marcus Sheridan did, turning his humble, three-man company River Pool and Spas into one of the largest manufacturers and installers in the United States – and the most visited pool website in the world, attracting more than 750,000 visitors a month – mostly free of charge, courtesy of SEO.

best marketing book

Top 10 Sales Books

“Nothing happens until someone sells something” – Thomas Watson Sr, Chairman of IBM 1914-1956

There’s no sweeter sound to a small business owner than the till ringing – and these sales books will all help that become a regular occurrence. Proven sales frameworks from the best in the business – nothing slimy or underhand (with one notable exception from a reformed character!), these books will help you, to help more people.

Here are my top 10 sales books:

best business books
Words that Sell
Richard Bayan

This isn’t a sales book. It’s a sales thesaurus. As a copywriter, I’ve always got a copy of this book within arm’s reach.

Words That Sell will help you avoid using the same old tired cliches again and again. How many different ways can you say that your product is “useful?” Words That Sell give you more than 100 .

Why say your service is superior to your rivals when you could say that it is unsurpassed, incomparable, unparalleled, second-to-none, often imitated (but never equalled), as good as it gets, or in a class of its own?

The Challenger Sale
Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson

More than 500,000 copies sold, and (at the time of writing) 2,713 five star reviews can’t be wrong – The Challenger Sale makes the case that the classic relationship-building model is the wrong approach to sales.

Instead of drowning customers in facts and features, Challengers approach customers with insights about how they can save or make money. (Marketers all around the world are now chanting: benefits, not features!)

The Ultimate Sales Letter
Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy is the OG of old school direct response selling – especially via the written word. The Ultimate Sales Letter is his best business book on writing copy that sells.

Whether you’re writing a sales letter, preparing a presentation, or writing a script for your sales reps – this is the Dan Kennedy book for you.

The 10x rule
Grant Cardone

One of the best sales books for beginners – Grant Cardone is Mr Marmite. You’ll either love him or hate him.

The 10X rule is Cardone at his inspiring, motivational best – without too much preaching and belittling (though there’s plenty of that too – especially if you dare to think smaller than you’re capable of!)

Exactly what to say
Phil M Jones

If you’re already having sales conversations with prospects, then this short sales book will help you know.. exactly what to say.

Jones walks the reader through several key phrases at key points of the sales discussion that help guide the customer towards the decision point, and away from the dreaded “I need to think about it” impasse.

You’ll discover why you should NEVER ask “what do you think?”, the immense power of asking prospects to “just imagine…”, and why most people want to do what “most people” do.

Way of the Wolf
Jordan Belfort

Sell me this pen! The Wolf of Wall Street is about so much more than the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, dwarf-throwing or crashing a helicopter into a yacht.

Way of the Wolf is a walkthrough of Jordan Belfort’s infamous “straight line” system for selling.

The idea is that you should be able to draw a straight line between the start of the sales conversation, and the sale – and notice when you’re deviating above the line (trying to sell too hard) or below the line (trying to build rapport too much). Staying on track to the end goal = more sales.

Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale
Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar wrote some of the best business books of all time – his Secrets of Closing the Sale is my favourite.

This book is more than forty years old, but still stands the test of time.

Sure, there are lots of references to selling door-to-door and over the phone, but 21st-century salespeople cna still use the overarching principles that Zig teaches. Most sales books emulate the mighty Zig – so read the original source first!

Robert Cialdini

Technically, this isn’t a sales book. It’s a psychology book.

But understanding how people think; why they behave the way they do – and how to influence their subliminal consciousness – all can be helpful to the sales person.

As with Jordan Belfort’s straight line system, this book comes with a caveat – you should only use the techniques within Influence for good – sure, you could use the strategies and techniques to persuade someone to buy something they shouldn’t. But that’s only going to work in the short term – and if you want to long term sales success, you need to be able to deliver on your promises.

In this book, you’ll understand how to use reciprocation; scarcity; consistency; social proof; likability; and authority as leverage to influence all those around you. Just remember to use that power wisely!

Never Split the Difference
Chris Voss & Tahl Raz

Eventually, most sales discussions (especially b2b sales conversations) turn to negotiation.

When it comes to negotiation of any kind, I’m yet to read a better book than this – former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss walks you through exactly how he kept his calm, and negotiated well, when lives depended on it.

Voss shows you how active listening is the most important start to good negotiation. He’ll show you how to use tonality (and certain phrases) to control emotions, and signal what is (and isn’t) up for discussion. He’ll show you how to use labelling and mirroring to get your negotiating partner to the desired outcome.

An outcome that (as the book title suggests) is NOT about meeting in the middle. Chris explains why you shouldn’t “split the difference” brilliantly, using the analogy of a husband wanting to wear his black shoes for a night out, whilst his wife wishes he wore the brown ones. Meeting in the middle would result in him wearing one black, and one brown shoe – and no-one’s going to be happy with that solution!

You’ll discover the power of calibrated questions – especially how/what questions – “how could I accept that and face my board?”; “what would you need to make this work?”, understand why sometimes “no” is the answer you want to hear, and why odd numbers (and a clock radio) can help keep your costs down.

Never Split The Difference is a brilliant sales book, but isn’t just for those in sales – if you negotiate with your kids over bedtime (or eating their vegetables), your friends about where to eat tonight, or your work colleagues about which project to devote our time to – this book will help you reach a better end result for all concerned.

Just don’t split the difference.

The Ultimate Sales Machine
Chet Holmes

The Ultimate Sales Machine is the ultimate sales book.

As Michael E Gerber (who features prominently in my top 10 books for business owners!) writes in the foreword: “Chet is a barn burner when it comes to sales. Chet knows stuff about the selling cycle; the selling system; the positioning of products, services and companies; and the people who build them and sell them that very few of us in the business of business have ever learned.”

I couldn’t agree more. I listened to the audiobook and started making so many clips that I bought the kindle version too – just to easily highlight and export my notes. There was then a gap on my bookshelf, which could only be filled by the best sales book I’ve ever read.

Chet succeeded in selling me three copies of the same book – and I’m now using the strategies and tactics contained within those pages to reap the rewards.

best sales book

Top 10 Leadership Books

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” – John C Maxwell

Being a good leader doesn’t mean giving Churchillian-style speeches, or inspiring the masses like Steve Jobs. It means helping your team to think like you, and act the way you would. It’s showing them the way. These books offer vastly contrasting viewpoints from the worlds of football management, Navy SEALs, hedge-fund managers and even dog trainers!

Here are my top 10 leadership books:

Start with Why
Simon Sinek

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

If you’re going to lead a team, you need to give them something to rally behind, something to rail against, and something to believe in. They need to know what you stand for, and they need to know why.

Once they know why everything else falls into place.

best business books
No BS Ruthless Management of People and Profits
Dan Kennedy

As business leaderships books go, this is the only one I can think of with the word “ruthless” in the title – and rightly so.

Dan Kennedy admits that his dream number of employees would be zero – and demonstrates how expensive, unproductive and draining each person is – and then tells you what you can do about it.

This won’t make you a better, more popular leader – but it may well increase your ROI.

Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio is one of the world’s most successful investors, with a current portfolio of $138bn, more than 1,500 employees, and a well-established three-decades-plus track record of market-annihilating returns.

In Principles, Dalio lays bare how he’s achieved those results – how he thinks. How he acts. Why he does what he does, and exactly how to replicate his thoughts and decision-making process.

Small Giants
Bo Burlingham

Want to build the perfect small business? Why not become a small giant? Small giants are proudly independent, valuing happiness and “doing the right thing” as opposed to growth at all costs.

Working for a small giant doesn’t feel like a cog in a machine. You’re not just a number. Small giants genuinely make a difference – which gives employees a sense of purpose and pride in their work.

This is a great leadership management book for anyone looking to build a great business, rather than a great big business!

It doesn’t have to be crazy at work
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson reveal how they created their ideal company culture, transforming from crazy to calm.

From overflowing inboxes, unrealistic deadlines and endless meetings, to comfortably paced days, ample autonomy, and the ability to work from anywhere – plus a great night’s sleep.


Extreme Ownership

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

If you’re the business owner, then the buck stops with you.

It doesn’t matter who didn’t listen, who messed up, and who stole from you. It doesn’t matter who forgot to call the customer, who didn’t do their job properly, or who turns up late every single morning.

Its. All. Your. Fault. In this book, former Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin show you how to take extreme ownership of your company – and how that leadership leads to your team doing anything for you.

Developing the leader within you 2.0
John C Maxwell

John C Maxwell is one of the world’s best business leadership trainers. He’s written dozens of leadership and management books – and this one is so good, that John’s updated it with a version 2.0.

You’ll discover how to be a coach, not a king. You’ll know when to he hard with your team, and when to be soft.

And best of all (as the title suggests), you’ll change – and you’ll become a better leader.

Don’t Shoot the Dog

Karen Pryor

Do not adjust your sets – this is indeed a dog training book. It’s still one of my best business books, though.

You see, the underlying principles of positive reinforcement work just as well on humans, as they do on dogs. As the blurb on the back of the book says: “this book is for anyone who wants to understand or change the behaviour of an animal – whether the animal in question is a barking dog, a nosy neighbour, a hostile cat, or you and your own bad habits.”

In other words, if you’re looking to become a better leader, then positive reinforcement should be in your toolkit – and certainly ahead of traditional methods such as lecturing, admonishing, and yelling.

Sir Alex Ferguson

49 trophies in 38 years.

Sir Alex Ferguson got the best out of players – whether those players were the best superstars in the world such as David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Peter Schmeichel, or underrated “barely-household-names-in-their-own-household” players such as Denis Irwin, Gary Pallister or Darren Fletcher.

He managed people who were easy to manage, and people who were impossible to manage. He never once lost the dressing room. Players feared him – and respected him. They wanted to earn his admiration and respect.

In Leading, Sir Alex showcases how he led an ever-evolving team at Manchester United for almost four decades.

You’ll discover what 100% looks like – and what happens when you don’t give 100%. You’ll learn who needs an arm around the shoulder, and who responds to the “hairdryer treatment”.

And (my favourite tale from the book), you’ll learn that you can’t please Sir Alex by scoring a last-minute equaliser from 30-yards out – because “that’s not the way we play.”

You don’t need to be a football fan to learn leadership lessons from one of the best leaders this country has ever seen – and this is one of the best leadership books.

Trillion Dollar Coach
Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle

Who would reject a call from Steve Jobs, because he was coaching a team of eighth-grade girls how to play football?

Bill Campbell, that’s who.

You’ve probably never heard of Bill Campbell. I hadn’t before I read this book. But I’ll bet you’ve heard of some of the people Bill’s coached – Steve Jobs (Apple and Pixar), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Eric Schmidt (Google).

Bill was an old school American Football coach, who had mediocre success at best, but found his calling working with tech startups – despite (or maybe because) he knew nothing about the technology, but focused instead on creating amazing teams.

Bill’s ethos was that your job as a leader is to be there to answer questions, and to help with decision making – it’s NOT to tell them what to do!

Bill inspired leaders to “coach the person, not the problem”, and to help every member of the team to grow, by listening, understanding, and encouraging – and to make them feel like the most important person in the room.

Unlike Sir Alex, Bill did lose the dressing room once – the only time he shouted at his team, blaming them for a loss, and yelling at them for their mistakes.

He only made that mistake once, before taking extreme ownership (see #5 above!) and realising the buck stopped with him.

Bill died in April 2016, and this book was written by his mentees Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle as a homage to the man who helped to create more than a trillion dollars in market value for their companies.

“How do you bring people around and help them flourish in your environment? It’s not by being a dictator. It’s not by telling them what the hell to do. It’s making sure that they feel valued by being in the room with you. Listen. Pay attention. This is what great managers do.” – Bill Campbell”

best leadership book

Top 10 positive thinking Books

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right.” – Henry Ford.

How you think affects how you act, how you react, and how you plan. What you believe to be true, or believe to be possible for you – becomes your reality. For many of the business owners that I coach, I need to work on their mindset before working on their business.

Here are my top 10 Positive Thinking books

best business books
Susan Cain

I used to think that the biggest barrier to my success was my introverted nature. I wasn’t outgoing and confident like “all the successful people are”.

I was quiet. I prefer my own company. I spent many years trying to change my nature – to become more extroverted, and more outgoing. And whilst I definitely succeeded in developing my own self-confidence, I still felt like an introvert who was faking it. Pretending to be an extrovert when I clearly wasn’t.

Then I read Quiet, by Susan Cain, and realised I had it all wrong – she showed me that my introversion was actually an advantage, not a problem to be overcome. She showed me how to lean into it, and benefit from my natural temperament.

Ego is the Enemy
Ryan Holiday

The top 10 positive thinking books could very easily contain ten books on stoicism – and many of the books covered in this section (as well as the top 100 overall) have elements of stoicism contained within them.

Ryan Holiday is a modern day stoicist, having written several books putting a modern day slant on stoicism – and several of Ryan’s books could easily make it onto the list. I’ve plumped for Ego is the Enemy as my pick, because it’s the one that’s helped me the most – and contrasts nicely with Quiet. Whilst I may be an introvert, I’m also wildly ambitious and very goal (and success) orientated.

Ego is the Enemy keeps me grounded, and reminds me why I’m really doing this in the first place!

Awaken the Giant Within
Tony Robbins

It’s impossible to list my top positive thinking and positive mindset books with mentioning Tony Robbins, who’s made a career out of figuring out how the human brain works, and then manipulating our in-built chemistry and programming the brain to better serve us.

This is a beast of a book (500+ pages of quite small print), but well worth the investment.

Think of Awaken the Giant Within as the instruction manual for your brain. Without it, you’re not using all the features and processing power available to you.

What I learned losing a million dollars
Jim Paul

What’s a stock market investment book doing in the top 10 positive thinking books?

Well, it’s not REALLY an investment book. Sure, the topic is how Jim Paul made (and lost) a million dollars in the stock market – but this book isn’t about investing.

It’s about separating good (and bad) decisions from good (and bad) outcomes. Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and get a good outcome from a bad decision (which is how Jim made his first million). But keep making those bad decisions, and your luck will run out (how he lost that million – and a load more!).

Sometimes you’ll have bad luck, and get a bad outcome from a good decision – but keep making good decisions, and eventually, you’ll get the outcome you deserve.

Derren Brown

Who knows more about mindset and brain manipulation than Derren Brown?

In Happy, Derren explains how our brains actually work, when it’s safe to ignore them, and how to get them to actually listen to the rational human within.

What I particuarly liked about this book compared to others in the top 10 was the overarching goal – whilst other positive mindset books focus on financial, career or monetary success, Derren’s only goal is clear from the title of the book – we all want to be happy.

We may think that more money, a promotion, a better partner, a new house will make us happy – but Derren shows us why this might not be the case – as well as what WILL make us happy.

Angela Duckworth

If you’ve been running a small business for longer than a few weeks, you’ve probably considering quitting at some point.

If you’re anything like me, you might crave the safety and security of a regular paycheque, and a “normal job” on a regular basis (only to remember that you’re now unemployable, and that’s why you quit the rat race in the first place!).

As Angela Duckworth explains in Grit, what often separates the successful from the also-rans is simple perserverance. Or rather what Angela calls focused perserverance – grit.

This is a book that started off as theory, but has since been lab-tested. I read this book because I wanted to instill more resiliance and perservance in my kids, but I learned as much about myself and my own traits to “stick to the plan, Stan” no matter what.

Think and Grow Rich
Napoleon Hill

Many will be amazed that Think and Grow Rich isn’t in the overall top 10, and it doesn’t even make the top 3 positive thinking books? Yes, I’m expecting a lot of angry emails over this one.

There’s no doubt that this IS a classic book – and one that I would advise every small business owner to read at some point. Where else can you learn how the titans of business from almost a hundred years ago, such as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Theodore Roosevelt thought?

“Whatever Your Mind Can Conceive and Believe, It Can Achieve.”

The Mastermind concept was my biggest takeaway from this book – having been part of Mastermind groups myself for many years, I know first hand how powerful they can be. My greatest problem with the book (and the reason it doesn’t rank higher) is that it’s not aged well – some of the ideas and opinions are incredibly outdated, and Hill loses several points for appearing to be unable to follow his own advice.

Despite this, it’ll still deliver a healthy ROI for your mindset – and deserves to be a staple read for any small business owner.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset” had been recommended to me several times.

I’d read a few summaries of the book, heard others talk about it, saw a quick TED talk, and thought I “got the gist”:
Fixed Mindset = bad.
Growth Mindset = good.
But, I finally relented and started listening to the audiobook version, expecting to hear nothing groundbreaking and to merely confirm my status as a bona fide Growth Mindset individual.

Oh dear.

The first few minutes made for uncomfortable listening, as Dweck asks the reader question after question:

“Are you more like this.. or this?”
“When this happens, do you x.. or y?”
“Would you rather… or…”

And as I answered each question truthfully in my head, I knew what was coming, yet was powerless to stop it.

Sometimes.. hell.. even often…

I have a fixed mindset! We ALL have fixed mindsets and growth mindsets at times.

Rather than thinking in terms of “growth mindset people” or “fixed mindset people”, we should remember that we’re all somewhere on the fixed/growth spectrum – and that place on the spectrum changes all the time!

The Chimp Paradox
Dr Steve Peters

In his 2012 book “The Chimp Paradox”, Professor Steve Peters, a psychiatrist who works with elite athletes, including most famously the British Cycling team, explains in plain English (that even I could understand!) how the human brain works.

There are three psychological parts of the brain, known as the frontal lobe, the limbic system, and the parietal. To make it easy for us non-scientists to keep up, Dr Peters gives these three parts easy-to-recall nicknames: the human; the chimp; and the computer.

He then demonstrates how these three parts team up and work together (or in many cases, don’t!) to determine your thoughts, emotions and feelings.

Once you’ve read this book, you’ll become more aware of your chimp – springing to life when you’ve been cut up in traffic, short-changed at a restaurant, or made a mistake. And over time, you can stop the chimp in his (or her) tracks, and allow the human to respond before the chimp shrieks and screams!

Hell Yeah or No
Derek Sivers

A former book of the year on the ALB podcast, this is a really short read, but so impactful.

It’s only available directly from the author, Derek Sivers’ website – but there’s plenty of options to digest it. There’s ebook, digital and audiobook (narrated by Derek himself) formats, as well as a beautiful yellow hardback book – which I display cover-out on my bookshelves.

You can even read the whole thing, chapter-by-chapter for free on Derek’s website if you wish – but believe me: that little yellow book is worth it’s weight in gold.

Any time I have a decision to make, I glance at that little yellow book, and ask myself: “hell yeah? or no?” That’s just one of the mindset shifts that you’ll get from this book – the idea that if your initial reaction to an opportunity is anything other than “hell yeah!!”, then your answer should automatically be no.

The subtitle of the book is “what’s worth doing”, and that’s been my greatest use for the book – to help create the space and freedom for those “hell yeah!!” opportunities by saying no to everything else.

But there’s so much more in those pages that will help you create a positive mindset, and challenge your current thinking.

You’ll discover the disconnect between the words you say, and the action you take. You’ll learn how think slowly, and why you should quit something you love. There’s a chapter on getting out of a bad state of mind, and one on hacking procrastination.

Derek encourages you to think like a bronze medalist (rather than silver), to love being wrong and how to fix faulty thinking.

Each chapter is a page or two long, so can be dipped into when you need a specific positive thinking boost, or you can digest the entire book in an hour or so (although I guarantee you’ll spend more time thinking and pondering what you’ve just read, than actually reading!) – My number one book for positive thinking is one that really makes you think.

best positive thinking book

Top 10 Productivity Books

“Who doesn’t want to get more done in less time?”

Productivity is my superpower (See how I get more done in less time here) – and much of my productivity is a result of reading these books. They’re not about cramming more and more into an already busy day, but rather working out what really matters most, and focusing your time, attention, headspace, energy and other finite resources there – and the expense of what matters least.

Here are my top 10 Productivity books:

The Miracle Morning
Hal Elrod

I know a thing or two about morning routines. So it’s little surprise that a morning routine book pops up amongst my top 10 productivity books.

Whilst I actually struggled with the prescriptive nature of the Miracle Morning (I wrote about the calamity that happened when I tried to join the 5am club in my book Routine Machine), I know dozens of people who swear by it – and I believe that if you embrace the idea that having A morning routine (that works for YOU) is better than THE morning routine from someone else, then you can create your own miracle morning.

best business books
Scott Young

Who doesn’t want to learn more – and quicker, too?

In this book, Scott Young details the nine principles that he used to complete a four-year computer science degree in one year, learn four languages in a year, and be able to draw top-notch portraits in less than a month.

Work Less Make More
James Schramko

So much of this book resonated with me, and chimed with some of my writing (especially Big Ideas… for Small Businesses) – whilst this is a great book on marketing and business strategy, I’ve included it here for its focus on time management – particularly what Schramko calls “the metric that matters” – your “Effective Hourly Rate”.

If you make a $5,000 a month profit and work 250 hours to earn that money, your EHR is $20 an hour. Earn $6,000 in 200 hours, and your EHR soars to $30.

Work Less, Make More focuses on BOTH increasing your income AND reducing your hours – thereby increasing your EHR productivity.


How to save an hour every day – guaranteed

Michael Heppell

What would you do if there were 25 hours in a day?

How much more productive would you be? How much more would you get done? What could you “find the time” for, that you currently can’t?

This is one of the best time management books I’ve read, full of simple, practical “hacks” that you can deploy right now to “save” time – and make yourself more productive.

Atomic Habits
James Clear

It pains me to say it – but this is THE go-to book on habits and routines (yes, even better than Routine Machine!).

Easy to read, and full of the very latest data science to explain why habits are so powerful. It’s sold more than a million copies, and at the time of writing has more than 45,000 five star reviews.

Yes, it really is that good.

The 12 week year
Brian P Moran

Since 2015, I’ve been following 90-day plans. I’ve found 90 days is the goldilocks for time management and productivity.

It’s a short enough period of time not to overwhelm you with the huge task ahead, but long enough that you can tackle something quite meaty.

Brian Moran has found similar success breaking his year up into 12-week periods (which is pretty much the same as 90 days!) – and this book goes deep into how to copy us both.

The four hour work week
Tim Ferriss

I used to work 100+ hour weeks and was burned out, stressed, and making myself ill with the amount of work I was doing (and I was still in my twenties at the time!).

Working four hours a week sounded idyllic. Don’t be confused by the clickbaity title though – this isn’t REALLY about working four hours a week – it’s about working a LOT fewer hours than you currently do – and being more effective (and knowing the difference between effectiveness and efficiency) during the hours you do work.

You’ll discover the joys of mini-retirements, how to outsource and automate, the importance of processes, systems and rules – and the crucial skill of allowing small, bad things to happen – so that you can enjoy big, good things!

Getting Things Done
David Allen

Successful people get things done. Really successful people get lots of things done.

How do they do it? In this book, David Allen lays out his system for getting things done. The subtitle of the book is “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”, but for me, it’s not an art – it’s a science.

There is a process, and when the process is followed, stress-free productivity is the end result. When the process isn’t followed, stress, guilt and overwhelm is the end product!

My one criticism of the book is that is far too long. The audiobook is ten and a half hours, and I was shouting at the narrator after a few hours to “get on with it!” – I would suggest the print version, where you can skip ahead through the waffle and irrelevant details, and get to the gold.

Several One Percenters use the GSD system – and absolutely swear by it. I use my own butchered version of it – and that works gangbusters for me too. That’s how I get things done!

Deep Work
Cal Newport

Deep Work was recommended to me several years ago by someone in one of my Mastermind groups. I immediately bought it, but never got around to reading it, because I’m already really productive – I get shit done.

I didn’t need another book on productivity and focus. Turns out I did.

Having (finally) read the book, I made pages and pages of notes, implemented many of the strategies, and saw immediate results – I increased the amount of high quality writing by 50%, and at the same time reduced the number of errors and typos within that work – and also reduced stress and anxiety over “fitting everything in”.

Essentially, Deep Work is about the following formula: High quality work produced = time spent, multiplied by intensity of focus.

By maximizing your intensity when you work, you maximize the results you produce per unit of time spent working.

Deep Work is why I write books and blogs, not tweets and posts. By maximising the intensity of focus, I increase the output per hour – and that in turn increases my Actual Hourly Rate.

The 80/20 principle
Richard Koch

Another book that I “didn’t need to read”! I knew all about the Pareto Principle, the law of 80/20 – that 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input.

I’ve used the 80/20 principle every single day for more than fifteen years – ever since my first child was born – and I was robbed of my ability (and willingness!) to work 100+ hour weeks.

Faced with the prospect of only having 20-25 hours per week available to work, I embraced the 80/20, and decided to focus entirely on the 20% of tasks that brought in 80% of my revenue – I was earning good money, so could happily live on 80% of what I’d got used to, especially if I was only doing 20% of the work.

What actually happened was my income went UP, not down (because I was doing deep work on the 20% of tasks rather than shallow work on 100%), and I actually increased my earnings by 50% – despite working a fraction of the hours. My Actual Hourly Rate went through the roof!

I only bought this book to sit on my new bookshelf and remind me of the key framework that has served me so well for all these years. It kept calling to me though, and so I read it over a weekend. Wow. My mind was blown. I must have highlighted 20% of the book (which of course conveyed 80% of the value to me!)

The key takeaway for me from the 80/20 principle (and this is something that you’ll see repeated from many of the other books in the top 10 productivity books list) is that most activity is a waste of time.

Most of the things you do, don’t actually matter. Everything is disproportionate – you don’t get what you give. A few things are important. Most are not. Effort and reward are only loosely linked. Find the 80/20, and go deep on the 20%.

best productivity book

Top 10 Strategy Books

Theoretical business books are great – in theory.

But what should you actually do? What’s the step-by-step plan to achieve your goals? If you’re looking for a proven framework, these business strategy books will hand you the blueprint that’s worked for many others – whether you want to increase profits, sell your business, scale-up, reduce your stress levels or change the world.

Here are my top 10 Business Strategy books:

best business books
Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

When you think of business strategy books, you probably picture dry, dusty textbooks – full of hard-to-read, hard-to-digest prose, written by people who love a good theory but haven’t been near a real-life business. That ain’t ReWork.

ReWork is a really easy-to-read short book (it’s a few hundred pages, but mostly filled with illustrations!) that delivers short, sharp punches to your critical thinking – encouraging you to ignore the details, underdo your competition, go to sleep, and accept “good enough”.

Conventional business strategy goes out the window – and none of this is theoretical – it’s all based on lessons from running a $100 billion company.

Breeding Gazelles
Dan Bradbury

Breeding Gazelles are fast-growing companies. Companies that are aiming for £10m+ turnover, and really scaling up, with a large team.

I read this book at a key fork in the road when I had to decide to “go big or go home” – and I chose to go home (or at least, to remain an ambitious, lifestyle business – a decision helped by also reading Small Giants and Company of One).

Whilst I have no desire to be a gazelle, I found this book really useful for creating more standardised processes – especially scorecards, metrics and finances.

Black Box Thinking
Matthew Syed

I’m a big fan of Matthew Syed’s work, and could easily have listed four or five of his books in this section. I’ve plumped for Black Box Thinking, which is summed up perfectly by its subtitle – “why most people never learn from their mistakes – but some do”.

Syed compares the airline industry’s procedure for reporting and sharing all mistakes, errors and near-misses with rival airlines (making air travel as safe as humanly possible for everyone), to the health sector – where mistakes are hidden, covered-up or kept quiet in order to save face, avoid embarrassment (or legal action), and protect share prices.

Every small business owner on the planet will make mistakes – but very few truly learn from those mistakes – and even fewer still learn from other people’s mistakes.

Daniel Priestley

As small business strategies go, this is one of my favourites.

We’re all aware of the law of supply and demand. Oversubscribed leans heavily into that law, tipping the supply/demand scales heavily in your favour. Limited editions, only 100 tickets available, first 50 places only, grab your Earlybird discount now.

We’re all programmed to want things we can’t have. The more things are restricted (supply), the more we want them (demand) – Any GCSE business studies student will tell you when demand outstrips supply – prices go up.

So if you want to charge more money, and work with fewer (but higher quality) clients, the oversubscribed strategy could be perfect for you.

Built to Sell
John Warrillow

Do you want to sell your business? Whether you’ve just answered yes or no shouldn’t actually impact whether you read this book or not.

If you want to sell at some point, you absolutely should read it. And if you don’t plan to sell, then you should still read it – because it’s about designing a business that you could sell.

Even if you never exit, you’ll have the option (and possibly people approaching you wanting to buy it) – which is better than most people’s exit strategy, which is to exit their business feet first (in a coffin).

Built to Sell reads like a fiction book, telling the story of a graphic designer who’s burned out and wanting to exit – but full of critical thinking points, and plenty to learn. I was lucky enough to interview the author John Warrilow about Built to Sell for the Ambitious Lifestyle Business podcast.

Profit First
Mike Michalowicz

Sales – Expenses = Profit. That’s the standard accounting formula – and it’s completely logical. The problem is, most small businesses aren’t run by logical machines – they’re run by flawed, emotional human beings. And that’s why so many small business owners have too much month left at the end of the money.

Profit First flips that accounting formula on its head: Sales – Profit = Expenses. As the title suggests, you take your profit first (deciding what your profit margin will be), and then spend whatever’s left – whereas most people spend what they want, and accept whatever’s left (if anything!) as their profit.

If you’re “not a numbers person”, then you REALLY should read this book, (and set up the Profit First systems!).

Gino Wickman

This is probably the hardest read of all the critical thinking books, but well worth persevering with.

This book will give you a complete business strategy. It’ll help you get everyone in your team focused on the same page, and getting everything done consistently will help you find the “diamonds on your own land”.

It will show you why you should hire (and fire!) based on your Core Values. It’ll encourage tough conversations with those members who aren’t acting congruently with your core values.

You’ll learn that every member of your team should get it, want it, and be capable of it! If they don’t get It, they don’t know what’s expected. If they don’t want It, they’ll sabotage or undermine it – mediocrity ahoy! And if they’re not capable of it, then they physically can’t achieve it.

The Infinite Game
Simon Sinek

“The responsibility of business is to use its will and resources to advance a cause greater than itself, protect the people and places in which it operates and generate more resources so that it can continue doing all those things for as long as possible.” – Simon Sinek

The game of Business is infinite. Businesses come and go, but the game of business continues.

A finite mindset is short term, and focused on the near goal (Fitting into that dress, or looking good on the beach this summer), whereas an infinite mindset looks at how to succeed (not win!) in the infinite game (healthy eating and regular exercise) – This is a bit like Scott Adams Goals vs Systems. Goals are finite thinking, Systems are infinite thinking.

Infinite thinkers find it easier to “do the right thing”, and stay true to their values.

With this book, you’ll discover your just cause. You’ll build a trusting team around you (and behind that cause). You’ll study your worthy rivals (rather than focusing on beating them). You’ll prepare for “existential flexibility”, and you’ll develop the courage to lead.

Start with Why is the more popular Simon Sinek book, however, this one really sang to me – as someone who lives by the principles of constant, never-ending improvement, and who also takes the long-term approach. As my business (and investment) hero Warren Buffett says: “my favourite holding period is forever.”

Your Next Five Moves
Patrick Bet-David

Don’t be fooled by the illustration of a chessboard on the front cover – you don’t need to be a Grand Master to deploy the critical thinking from this book.

As with The Infinite Game, Your Next Five Moves is about thinking and planning for the long term (thinking five moves ahead), rather than the short term – and knowing the difference between “profit thinking” (which is short term in nature) and long term “value thinking.”

Profit is about working in the business to make money. Value is working on the business to increase shareholder value. Profit is about instant gratification. Value is about delayed gratification. Profit is about sales mentality. Value is about CEO mentality.

Your Next Five Moves is a must-read business strategy book for anyone with a team – Patrick Bet-David’s strategies for coaching a team, defining (and living by) core values, and building a culture that endures will serve you well beyond your next five moves.

Whilst Bet-David has built an estimated $150 million empire, I particularly liked his emphasis on being crystal clear on what YOU want – highlighting “Sean”, who was driving himself into the ground trying to keep up with others, rather than designing his own ambitious, lifestyle business: “The key for Sean was to stop comparing himself to others. Being home for dinner every night was important to him and for the life he wanted, he could coast his way to making $150,000 a year and devote his heart and soul to his kids. Why try to act like Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson when you were wired differently and have different goals?”

Good to Great
Jim Collins

Good to Great is the end result of a five-year research project, evaluating the stock market performance of 1,435 companies over a 40-year period, to find businesses that made a sustained breakthrough – from “good” to “great”.

The project found just 11 companies who made the breakthrough from “good” (on a par with the market average) to “great” (beating the market by a minimum of 3x and sustaining that performance for fifteen years).

Once the eleven companies (Abbott Laboratories, Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Gillette Co., Kimberly-Clark Corp., the Kroger Co., Nucor Corp., Philip Morris Cos. Inc., Pitney Bowes Inc., Walgreens, and Wells Fargo) had been identified, the team then asked one simple question: What did these 11 companies ALL have in common, that the other 1,424 did not?

Every single one of the eleven “good to great” companies (and not ONE of the “unsustained companies) ticked every single box from the following criteria:

1. Disciplined People. Level 5 Leaders (which are rare – especially in publicly traded companies, because they’re quiet and shy the limelight), making sure the right people are on the bus, the wrong people are off the bus, and the right people are in the right seats. “The right people” is the critical part – Collins insists “the right people don’t need managing”, and every single one of the G2G companies got the right people on the bus first, before deciding where to drive it – “first who, then what”.

2. Disciplined Thought. The Hedgehog Concept – the venn diagram of where the following three comcepts overlap: what you could be the best in the world at; what drives your economic engine; and what you’re deeply passionate about. The Good to Great companies identified their hedgehog and did NOTHING ELSE.

3. Disciplined Action. The Flywheel. Taking the right action again and again and again, constantly pushing the flywheel in the right direction, appearing to get no traction whatsoever for months or even years – until one day you pass the tipping point, and the momentum of the flywheel is unstoppable.

4. Building to Last. Productive Paranoia. Striking a balance between preserving the core (not deviating from the hedgehog), and stimulating progress (innovating) – This is why Blockbuster, Toys ‘R’ Us and Kodak didn’t make the list – they were so afraid of change, they failed to innovate. Compare that with Apple, who killed the iPod by innovating and creating the iPhone.

The Good to Great companies weren’t luckier. They didn’t work harder. They didn’t have greater market share, monopolies, or superior cash reserves. They simply followed the Good to Great principles of disciplined people, applying disciplined thought, and taking disciplined action – and were built to last.

It’s no coincidence that my top three business strategy books all focus on long term critical thinking – because almost anyone could build a good company in the short term just by striking it lucky or working harder than everyone else – but building a GREAT company requires long term thinking.

best strategic thinking book

Top 10 Customer Service Books

Winning customers is easy. Keeping them is hard.

These books turn customer service from an art form into an actionable to-do list. You’ll see how Sam Walton became the richest man on the planet by putting customers first, how Disney replicate the world’s best customer service for hundreds of millions of customers – and how you can never lose a customer again.

Here are my top 10 Customer Service books:

best business books
Pat Flynn

To be successful, you need satisfied customers, right? Wrong! You need deliriously happy superfans!

One of my favourite short articles is 1,000 True Fans, by Kevin Kelly. In Superfans, Pat Flynn goes deep on how to create those true fans – who would immediately buy anything you sold – and tell all their friends to buy it too.

Satisfied customers are one thing. Superfans are another.

best business books
Don’t Make Me Think
Steve Krug

What is a web design book doing in a list of the best customer service books?

It’s here because your website is your busiest customer service agent – everyone you’ve ever dealt with (and ever will) has more than likely used (or tried to use!) your website at some point.

Don’t Make Me Think will show you how to make your website actually usable for real people, not just web designers!

Roger Dooley

Since I acquired my “friction goggles” by reading this book, I now can’t help but see friction everywhere – it seems that every single company I interact with (including my own!) are making things harder for customers than they need to be.

Eliminating friction is one of the easiest ways to increase conversion rates. Especially when it’s so damn easy to find, and (in most cases) pretty easy to fix. But as Roger Dooley warns us: “Everyone may know about friction, but in too many cases they aren’t doing anything about it.”

best business books
Made in America
Sam Walton

An inspirational autobiography from a man who, at the time he wrote it was a) the richest man on Earth, and b) on his deathbed.

Sam tells it like it is, in plain English – how he built up Wal-mart to become the largest retailer in the world, from a single store in a backwater town, with the customer always at the centre of every decision he made.

“There is only one boss – the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money elsewhere.” – Sam Walton

Nir Eyal

Much more advanced than simply “looking after your customers” – Nir Eyal’s book shows you how to design the entire customer journey with one aim – getting them “hooked” on using it, so that “users must come to depend on the product as a reliable solution to their problem – the salve for the itch they came to scratch”

Brian Kurtz

Brian Kurtz sent more than 1.3bn pieces of direct mail, and sold $150m of information products – and says the key to over-delivering on their promises was always putting the relationship with the customer first, building a customer lifetime value in terms of years, not weeks.

“Everything is a relationship event. Lifetime Value increases, the longer someone loves you – and wants to buy from you in the future, as they have in the past. But this requires you to treat them like family – even without any exchange of funds.”

The Experience Business
James Sinclair

James Sinclair has built several businesses, from day nurseries and soft play centres to farm parks.

He understands that keeping customers and getting them coming back is paramount – and this book is chock-full of small 1% gains that you can very easily swipe and deploy into your business.

Delivering Happiness
Tony Hsieh

Zappos disrupted the online shoe sector, by making sure that every single decision they took had the customer experience at the front of it.

Want to order 7 pairs of shoes, and send 6 of them back at our expense? Not a problem! There’s an amusing story about their call centre staff being told to help callers “no matter what”, which involves ordering pizza and taxis.

Again, if you’re looking to create a customer-first culture within your team, this book is a must-read. Sadly, Tony Hsieh passed away in 2020, aged just 46 – but thanks to this book, his legacy lives on – not just at Zappos (acquired by Sam Walton-inspired Amazon in 2009), but by millions of small businesses all over the world.


Be Our Guest

Disney Institute

Walt Disney was a stickler for outstanding customer experience.

Walt wanted everyone who came to Disneyland to have a “magical experience” every time. Be Our Guest breaks down how Disney continue to achieve that six decades later, magnified by tens of millions of visitors, and hundreds of thousands of employees.

If you’re looking to create strong company values within a larger company, and deliver the world’s best customer service at scale, then this book should be top of your reading list.

Never Lose a Customer Again
Joey Coleman

How many customers have you served in total? All-time? How much money would you have made if they’d ALL kept buying, again and again?

If no one defected to a different company, changed suppliers, cancelled their membership, or simply fell out of the habit of buying from you? In other words, if you NEVER lost a customer?

Customer Experience expert Joey Coleman, author of Never Lose A Customer Again says that losing customers is the biggest threat facing businesses today, and estimates that most companies lose 20 to 70 per cent of new customers within the first 100 days.

“I like to emphasize the first 100 days after the sale as a critical window for securing customer loyalty,” says Coleman. “Not because it is an exact time limit, but because it is easy to remember, short enough to maintain focus, and long enough to deliver value. This hundred-day time period gives you the opportunity to form a relationship, impress the customer several times, and deliver consistently so they trust and like you… If you get these first 100 days of the relationship right, you can keep a customer for life.

I’ve chosen Never Lose a Customer Again at my best customer service book – and I’m following Joey’s framework for onboarding and customer retention myself. Because I’ve definitely been one of the businesses losing 20 to 70 per cent of their customers in the first 100 days – but no more. I’m fed up with constantly filling a leaky bucket – I want to never lose a customer again!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my definitive top 100 best business books – I’d love to hear from you, whether you’ve just read a book that you think I’d enjoy – or just want to tell me how wrong I am for not including your favourite book in the top 100! Additionally, I’d love to hear from you if my favourite books have inspired you to read more. Remember though, to read the books AND follow the instructions!

Until next time,

John Lamerton's best business booksJohn Lamerton's 100 best business books

John Lamerton, Bestselling Author of Big Ideas… for Small Businesses, Routine Machine, and Evergreen Assets.



best customer service book

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