Regardless of whether a company is in its startup stage or just hired its thousandth employee, every business owner or aspiring leader should have one thing in common. The constant pursuit of learning. Beyond keeping things fresh to sustain your professional creativity and passion, learning keeps you relevant in our ever-changing world. At Paymentsmith, we find continuously learning and developing our own education important. One of our favorite ways to learn is by a good, ol’-fashioned self help book. However, with thousands of self-help books out there, it can be overwhelming trying to find one that is the right fit for you. That’s why today, we have compiled a list of our favorite best self-help books for business owners and aspiring leaders. We’ve also laid out why they’re the best, who they’re the best for and our favorite quotes. Ready to get your read on? 

For All Around Professional Development:  How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People written by Dale Carnegie is an important piece of literature all entrepreneurs should have in their pocket. This book has been a roaring success (selling a whopping 15 million copies sold all over the world) since its first publication in 1936. Carnegie covers three main concepts. How to make people like you, how to win people to your way of thinking and how to change people without creating resentment. 

In short, it’s a book about personal and professional development. It’s about becoming a better person and practical tips you can apply immediately. So if you want to become a better person AND business person — we suggest you read it.

“Everybody in the world is seeking happiness — and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts. Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions. It depends on inner conditions.”

For the Entrepreneur: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The Hard Thing About Hard Things comes highly recommended on the best self-help books for business owners list. Written by respected entrepreneur Ben Horowitz, this book details exactly what it’s like to run a startup company. Unlike most self-help business books that talk about the positive parts of running a business, this book is brutally honest in addressing the crazy highs and terrible lows of entrepreneurship. It provides a true and invaluable understanding of what you can face in the CEO role. They say your success is defined by how many hard conversations you’re willing to have, and this book gives you the mindfulness to recognize the situations you need to step up and some of the tools to do it.

If you’re an entrepreneur, considering entrepreneurship or are a CEO of a company, this book is for you.

“It’s like the fight club of management: the first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown is don’t talk about the psychological meltdown. At risk of violating the sacred rule, I will attempt to describe the condition and prescribe some techniques that helped me. In the end, this is the most personal and important battle that any CEO will face.”

For Big Organizational Shifts: The Tipping Point

Written by Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference is a book that explores how ideas spread and why some messages are more contagious than others. Filled with scores of examples, Gladwell focuses on the inflexion point of where an idea translates into a mass epidemic. By addressing the ‘law of few,’ ‘the stickiness factor’ and ‘the power of context’… you learn to deliberately start and control positive trends of our own.

If you’re looking to create a big organizational movement or to increase your marketing efforts, this book will get you in the right mindset to do so.

“Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not, just with the slightest push – in just the right place – it can be tipped.”

For More Productivity and Organization:  Getting Things Done

For a business owner, there truly is never enough time in the day. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity written by David Allen explains simply just that… how to be productive while staying stress free. Within the pages of this novel, Allen provides a tried and true system to uncluttering the mind, determining what tasks are actionable and focusing on the now rather than worrying about everything that isn’t done.

The pace of demand for your time is continuing to increase. People are keeping up with the pace but are more than often losing their mind along the way. Organization is more than just a productivity technique, it is a sanity technique that you need as a business owner. 

So, if you haven’t nailed down time-management or organization, now is the time to start with this book.

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.” 

For Figuring Out Your Company’s Purpose:  Built to Last

Written around a research project conducted by Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Built to Last by Jim Collins is a rigorous analysis of visionary companies and industry leaders that have maintained dominance for 100+ years, across multiple generations and product cycles. This book details what exactly makes a company exceptional: The purpose. Alongside this, it refutes the myth that you need a brilliant idea to start a brilliant company. 

If you want an engaging, reader-friendly diagnosis of the fundamentals upon which visionary companies are based, this is the book for you. This book is great for all business owners, but especially small businesses looking to scale.

“To be built to last you must be built to change. Built to last is at its core about relentless, creative drive. Visionary companies make some of their best moves by experimentation, trial and error, opportunism, and–quite literally–accident.”

For The Female CEO: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Lean In, written by Sheryl Sandberg, makes a fantastic effort in uncovering issues and concerns of the modern day working woman – backed with anecdotes, and some compelling research. Through this book, she recollects her own struggles, mistakes and choices that have made her in every way the woman that she is. The book also provides practical guidance to negotiation techniques and mentorship. 

It’s both a witty and informative read for aspiring women and female leaders of all ages. 

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

For the Newly Minted Manager: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership illustrates the many elements that make a great leader. In this book, he uses historical, business-oriented examples and personal anecdotes from his decades as a leadership consultant. Maxwell provides a detailed list of the ‘21 laws’ of leadership, which can be summarized into three major categories: investing in oneself, investing in others, and investing in the future.

This is a best self-help books for business owners classic. It’s a great read for startup founders creating a company and newly minted managers. It makes you think about how you interact with others and what kind of person you want to be, which is always worth reflecting on.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” 

For Persuasion Skills:  Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion 

In the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion author Robert Cialdini explains the cognitive biases humans use to make decisions, and learn how to use that knowledge to lead a business. Cialdini shares six psychological principles and explains how to use them to become a skilled persuader. Based upon Cialdini’s 35 years of research, this book on human psychology gives business owners insight into giving an edge in the marketplace and effectively reaching consumers.

If your marketing and sales efforts keep falling flat, this is a great book to help determine if you are effectively talking to potential consumers. 

“People seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.” 

For Better Customer Service: Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service

At Paymentsmith, we are huge on customer service. That’s (one reason of many) why Ari Weinzweig, writer of Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service, makes the list. In this book about his beloved Michigan-based Zingerman’s Deli, he speaks about the secret sauce that has made his business. This the focus of several named publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, Fast Company, Men’s Journal, Inc. Magazine, Esquire, and USA Today.

This book teaches all there is to know about customer service, for any business vertical. The main idea is that the customer is your business. Once you accept, embrace, and get ecstatic about that — everything about your company will skyrocket. 

“You’ll get more complaints if people believe you care enough to listen to them. And that’s a good thing.”

For Streamlining More and Working Less: The 4-Hour Work Week

The 4-Hour Work Week, written by Timothy Ferris, outlines the way that you too can live the life you have always dreamed of now, instead of waiting for retirement. It calls people to escape the 9–5, live anywhere, and join the ‘New Rich.’ Utilizing the step by step program outlined by Tim Ferriss, you can learn to work less while simultaneously earning more money. 

If you’re not looking to work a 9-5 in an office for the next 40 years, this novel is a wonderful fit for you. 

“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.”

You can cultivate the success of your business by submerging yourself in the advice of others that have made an impact before you. By constantly learning and adapting, your business is more likely to flourish. We’ve experienced it ourselves here at Paymentsmith. Empower yourself with these best self help books for business owners to make the best decisions for yourself as well as your business and be on your way to a better business future.