“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Harry Truman
“The world’s highest achievers have one thing in common: an appreciation for reading. Books were their most profitable investment.” Sandra Wu, Binkist Magazine
I have to admit until about four years ago, I’d never read a book with the intention of improving my work. Starting reading on a regular basis is without a doubt the best thing I’ve done for Everyday People, as well as my own personal self-development.
The first book I read was ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey, which isn’t as contrived and the title suggests.
“Covey reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, honesty and human dignity. Principles that give us the security to adapt to change, and the wisdom to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.”
What I love about this book is despite being written 30 years ago, it’s still as relevant today. Unlike disruptive marketing strategies and parenting fads, living with fairness, integrity, honesty and human dignity will never go out of trend. Read my summary of the book.
In the 7 habits, Covey refers to a book that I have to say is the most influential book I have read to date, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor. E. Frankl. I’ve always been positive person, able to find pleasure in the simple things, but reading Man’s Search for Meaning heightened this, as well as improving my ability to draw on my inner strength when faced with the challenges life has a habit of throwing us.
My passion is to help local businesses grow, so I’m fortunate that I get to meet many inspirational business owners. I think you can sense who are avid readers by how they run their business. Intrigued to find out the books that have inspired them, I asked business owners whom I admire to share to books that have influenced their work.
Martyn Gould, Founder and CEO of yboo
yboo matches you to the right mobile deal based on price and signal strength – a World first.
‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ by Ben Horowiz
‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things‘ reminded me that whatever you’re experiencing now, someone has been through it before. I now practice detaching myself from a situation and working out ‘what good looks like’ before I take any action. Reading this has been a reminder that the ‘hard things’ can be tackled quickly and effectively with the right strategy.
Lyndon Nicholson, Founder and Lead Consultant at F5 Presentations
F5 is an innovative agency that creates amazing presentations that “Wow!” your audience and portray you, your company and your products in the best possible light.
‘It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work’ by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
I’d definitely go for ‘It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work‘. It’s the 3rd book I’ve read from the same authors. Their first 2 books (Rework and Remote) focus on how to create a big business without having to build a big office. This 3rd book looks more at the notion of entrepreneurs working their fingers to the bone unnecessarily. It really helped me see that it’s not the number of hours you work – it’s what you do with those hours that matter.
Michael Rippon, Co-founder and Director of Raindrop Digital
Raindrop Digital uses data to discover what your users are doing online. Then, show you what needs to be done to increase website sales, grow your audience, and raise your revenue.
‘Don’t Make Me Think’ by Steve Krug
The book I would always recommend is ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ by Steve Krug
I wouldn’t say it was one that inspired me but it is a book that I believe anyone who works with websites should read.
I always revert back to this and signpost clients and people looking to get into the industry as it covers all of the basic usability principles that we all need to understand and practical examples of how to make a website with a good level of usability.
Deborah O’Grady, Brand Coach
Deborah works with creative agencies and ambitious female entrepreneurs to create brands that sell.
‘Dare to Lead’ by Brene Brown
Without a doubt Brene brown – ‘Dare to Lead’.
I love everything that Brene brown stands for. In this book, she presents a powerful guide to leadership, based on a 7-year study looking at the future of leadership. In her book, she shares her four skill sets to change leadership in a culture of scarcity, fear and uncertainty.
Richard Michie, Managing Director of The Marketing Optimist.
The Marketing Optimist helps businesses gain focus on their marketing. They take a strategic approach which helps clients focus on areas that will create meaningful results for their business, rather than vanity metrics.
‘Purple Cow’ by Seth Godin
The book that’s had the biggest influence on my career is ‘Purple Cow‘ by Seth Godin. It’s a bit old now, not much of a mention of the web, but the truths about marketing and how to make it stand out and make a difference in a noisy world are as true now as they were when it was written. I’ve read it loads of times and pass it on to new members of my team as an initiation into the business.
Richard Eaton, Managing Director of Ten Minute Marketing
Ten Minute Marketing small business owners successfully market their business in just ten minutes a day.
‘The 7 Day Startup’ by Dan Norris
There are a couple but one that has had a huge impact on me is ‘The 7 Day Startup‘ by Dan Norris. I’ve used the process successfully in the past and even started my new company and hit my targets for paying customers in just 7 days using this book! Here’s a blog I wrote about it at the time.
Owen Turner, Creative Director and Founder of United by Design
United by Design is an award-winning agency connects brands and their audiences through careful strategy, thoughtful design and effective collaboration.
‘End of Print’ by David Carson
‘End of Print‘ was the first book that really engaged and connected me to the creativity, craft and commercialism of Graphic Design. Back in 1995 I was on my art foundation course and was looking for what my next steps for my career would be. This incredible book about a man and his work really resonated with me. Doing something that you love whilst also being original, surprising and truly authentic. The End of Print is the definitive statement of the work of the great iconoclast designer, David Carson. It features work from the magazines where Carson first made his mark including Transworld Skateboarding, Surfer, Beach Culture and Ray Gun. This type of work magnified itself for me as I had been surfing and snowboarding for a couple of years and not realised David Carson’s work was already woven into my life. This infiltration into my popular culture at the time coupled with his instantly recognisable advertisements for clients such as Nike, Pepsi, MTV and Sony grabbed my attention to both ends of the spectrum of what graphic design can be – craft and commercial!
‘Let My People Go Surfing’ by Yvon Chouinard
This book was given to me by a friend who thought it was right up my street! About a legendary climber, businessman, environmentalist, and founder of Patagonia, Inc. It is a captivating book that shares the persistence and courage that have gone into being head of one of the most respected and environmentally responsible companies on earth. From his youth as the son of a French Canadian handyman to the thrilling, ambitious climbing expeditions that inspired his innovative designs for the sport’s equipment, ‘Let My People Go Surfing‘ is the story of a man who brought doing good and having grand adventures into the heart of his business life-a book that will deeply affect entrepreneurs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The book explores that people are at the heart of any business or organisation and you can truly change things in the world, however small! It also highlights you do not need to be scared of doing things differently. It demonstrates that even the biggest brands in the world can do amazing things, create quality products and keep their values and mission connected to where they began!
‘Legacy’ by James Kerr
This is a wonderful book that is so easy to read. It goes deep into the heart of the world’s most successful sporting team, the legendary All Blacks of New Zealand, to reveal 15 powerful and practical lessons for leadership and business. This resonated so incredibly as I have always had sport in my life and benefited so much from playing it – specifically rugby! And the fact it focusses on such a great story about turning around one of the most inspiring teams in sporting history. I would say this book is almost for anyone but ‘Legacy‘ is a unique, inspiring handbook for people in all fields, and asks: What are the secrets of success – sustained success? How do you achieve world-class standards, day after day, week after week, year after year? How do you handle pressure? How do you train to win at the highest level? What do you leave behind you after you’re gone? It really makes you think about how you lead your life!
I know you ask for one but how difficult is that! There are more but these really stand out as having left a real impression on me to date!
Rachel Priestley, Owner of Streamline VA Services
Rachel is an award-winning Virtual Assistant who provides business administration solutions to small businesses and sole professionals
‘Eat That Frog!’ by Brian Tracy
‘Eat That Frog!’ Is an engaging and concise guide on how to improve productivity with some great, easy to follow tips and techniques. It might seem really simplistic to plan your day ahead and to start with those tasks that make you want to roll into a ball and hide in a cupboard but it WORKS. I’ve managed to complete things that I would procrastinate about and over analyse for days, sometimes weeks because I grit my teeth and decided to just eat the frog! It has worked wonders. A word of caution: the book is clearly aimed at achieving MAXIMUM productivity and I did find the work, work, work push a little extreme – we’re not robots after all.
Kurt Edwald Lindley, Owner of Be More Learning and Development.
Be More Learning and Development works with organisations to create lasting change within individuals and teams.
‘How Much Is Enough?: Money and the Good Life’ by Robert and Edward Skidelsky
As a dyslexic, I seem to find it extremely difficult to read a whole book for some reason. So I often buy books of relevance but only read the stuff that matters to me right now. One such book is ‘How Much Is Enough’ by Robert and Edward Skidelsky. Why this book? I have always wondered in this modern world ‘how much is enough’. How do we define this and who gets to tell us? This is especially important now as a freelancer. I am the earning power and how much I earn is directly related to the contracts I win/get offered. It is all down to me.
From the beginning of my venture into being a business owner, I didn’t want to be chasing the money. Striving to always grow and earn more. I wanted to earn enough. Enough to pay the bills and live the good life (as defined by me – not the system or my peers). This book really helps you put that in context. How much is enough for you and your family do what you need to do, to be who you need to be, to experience what you desire? The book helps you separate from ‘earning more than the next person’ and focus on YOU.
Gemma Walton, Yorkshire VA of the Year 2018 and Owner at Portfolio PA
Portfolio PA provides Virtual Assistant support to entrepreneurs, business owners and consultants.
‘The Four-Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferriss
A brilliant book for busy entrepreneurs and business owners, ‘The Four-Hour Work Week‘ by Tim Ferriss is a great read.
The author has changed his life by outsourcing tasks to a Virtual Assistant, thereby freeing up his own time to develop his business and enjoy his personal life to the full.
This resonated with me as my team and I help our clients by taking a variety of tasks off their hands, and Tim Ferriss really articulates the value that a VA can bring. Highly recommended to anyone who feels they don’t have enough hours in the day and wants to know how to get more!
Bethan Vincent, Founder of York Guild of Entrepreneurs and Host of ‘The Brave’ Podcast
York Guild of Entrepreneurs is an association of entrepreneurs that strive to unite and promote business users across York. The Brave Podcast features stories of resilience, overcoming challenges and dealing with the overwhelming complexity of the modern world.
‘The Life of Elizabeth I’ by Alison Weir
It’s a bit of a left-field answer but ‘The Life of Elizabeth I‘ by Alison Weir influenced me from about the age of 18. The book sheds life on the private life of Elizabeth I and how she constructed her identity/managed her reputation throughout a life of war, intrigue and scandal. Alongside igniting my love of History before university, the book also contains a number of lessons on brand/reputation management. Elizabeth was a skilled marketeer who was able to construct an enduring brand that fused together the feminine image of the virgin queen alongside portraying masculine traits that ensured her subjects accepted her rule. She was also an extremely good (if not infuriating) negotiator who managed to keep princes on tenterhooks for her hand in marriage for decades, all in order to secure stability for a protestant nation potentially vulnerable to attack by nearby Catholic states. Even today, with all our tech and digital infrastructure, we can learn a lot from Elizabeth’s story on how to thrive in uncertain times, build brands that last for centuries and negotiate complex political/social waters.
I really appreciate everyone taking the time to share their recommendations. Compiling this post has certainly inspired me on a day when I needed some, and has added more books to my reading list. As a huge fan of climbing documentaries, adventure and entrepreneurs, I can’t wait to read ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ by Yvon Chouinard, who actually features in one of my favourite documentary’s ‘Valley Uprising’.
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