Business self-help books line the shelves of bookstores, but picking the right one that will actually change an entrepreneur’s working strategy can be tough.
In a special report Monday on small business, The Wall Street Journal asked seven entrepreneurs and business academics about which self-help books were truly helpful either in getting a business off the ground or helping it to running smoothly.
Here’s what they had to say—and none of these successful business owners mentioned anything about cheese or who might have moved it:
1) “The E-Myth”
By Michael E. Gerber
This bestseller explains the importance of entrepreneurs working on their businesses rather than in them, according to J. Richard Braun, owner of Virginia Beach, Va.-based insurance firm Braun Agency Inc.
While people may have the technical skills their new businesses require, they need to focus more on building “replicable systems that can and will operate in an owner’s absence,” Braun told The Journal.
Creating systems that allow others to operate his business has allowed Braun to pursue new ventures, including other start-ups and real estate investments.
2) “Who: The A Method for Hiring”
By Geoff Smart and Randy Street
Based on more than 1,300 hours of interviews with more than 20 billionaires and 300 CEOs, “Who” is the book “that has had the most influence on my business,” according to Craig Zoberis, president of Fusion Systems Inc., a contract manufacturer in Burr Ridge, Ill.
Half of all managers have a 50% failure rate in picking new employees, and hiring mistakes cost companies millions of dollars not to mention wasted hours. The authors of this large research study offer a four-step process for better hiring practices, including the use of professional networks.
“Mr. Zoberis adopted this approach at his 40-employee company in 2009 and now doesn’t have a lot of mishires,” The Journal reported.
3) “Start With Why”
By Simon Sinek
This book was a life-changer for David Hassell, CEO of San Francisco software start-up 15Five, who said Sinek’s message “had me understand why it’s important to know why you’re in a particular business, both for your own fulfillment and for attracting the right customers and employees.’
Those who know why they do what they do are the ones who inspire others, meaning employees who work for more than a paycheck and customers who have a cause to align themselves with, according to Sinek, who shared his ideas about starting with why in a TED Talk.
Spelling out the whys of 15Five showed that the start-up was committed to improving to such a high degree that some customers paid for the company’s software while it was still in a rough state. “In fact one of our beta customers even approached us and offered to pay well before I’d even considered asking them to pay,” The Journal quotes Hassell as saying.
4) “The Art of the Start”
By Guy Kawasaki
This book, which bills itself as “The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything” is the favorite pick of Steven Kaplan, faculty director for the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.