Business books to help grow your company.

By Rieva Lesonsky

Hopefully this summer you’ll be able to strike some type of balance between relaxing and working. One activity that can encompass both is reading. You can pick up a business book, read and learn, all while lying in a hammock in your yard or on the beach.

Here are some great books (some written by my friends of mine) I recommend you add to your summer reading list. (Books are listed in alphabetical order.)

Burn the Business Plan: What Great Entrepreneurs Really Do, by Carl J. Schramm ($28)

There’s a lot of myth-busting going on in this book by Carl J. Schramm, a university professor and former president of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which is dedicated to entrepreneurship. In his trademark tell it like it is style Schramm maintains you don’t need a business plan (hmm…not sure I agree with that advice).

He also busts the “all entrepreneurs are software prodigies” myth. In reality, the average entrepreneur is 39 years old and has about 10 years of experience working in corporate America. This work experience, says Schramm, actually can help you succeed, since you come to business ownership with an established business network.

The book also features a diverse array of successful entrepreneurs and their success stories. Schramm believes certain traits (knowledge, passion determination and the willingness to innovate and experiment) are more important than financial skills when it comes to helping you business succeed.

Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself, by Mike Michalowicz ($27—available August 21)

Do you want your business to be more efficient? Mike Michalowicz, a serial entrepreneur and business author, offers entrepreneurs “a blueprint” for running an uber-efficient business that “runs so well, it’s like clockwork.”

Michalowicz shows you how to empower your employees so they act like owners (that means no more micromanaging), identify the one function that is most crucial to your business and know what needs fixing now. If you try to fix all that ails your business at once, says Michalowicz, you’ll end up fixing nothing.

The Crisis of Disengagement: How Apathy, Complacency and Selfishness are Destroying Today’s Workplace, by Andrew J. Sherman

Is your business in danger of dying from disengagement? Don’t dismiss the idea too quickly. Andrew Sherman, an in-demand attorney, prolific author, adjunct professor in the MBA and MBA Executive programs at the University of Maryland and Georgetown Law School, more than makes his case here that many businesses are at death’s door because their employees are either not engaged and feel disconnected (51%) or are actively disengaged (17%).

Obviously you can’t grow a business when your staff simply doesn’t care. But the worst part is you might not even be aware how disconnected your employees are. Sherman says on the surface, everything may appear fine, but internally “everything is wilting.”

The solution is to change your corporate culture so your staff feels engaged again—and that starts with you. Sherman examines how damaging disengagement can be to your business, and shares ways for you to instill “joy, pride and passion” in your employees—and your business.

eBay Business: All-in-One for Dummies, by Marsha Collier ($39.99)

This opus is nine books in one and tells you everything you need to know about starting and growing an eBay business. Marsha Collier wrote the first eBay for Dummies book nearly 20 years ago, so she’s the perfect Sherpa to guide you through what you need to get started (including equipment), how to sell , present and ship your merchandise, where to find products and more. She also explains the office and legal side of the business, including taxes, finances and cybersecurity.

Collier is not just an eBay (and e-commerce) expert; she’s been selling on the platform for more than 20 years, and was a “charter member of the PowerSeller  program,” so this book offers you the inside scoop on how to navigate online selling in the world of eBay.

The book is filled with illustrations, making it really easy to follow what she’s saying, and applying it to your business.

The One Percent Edge: Small Changes that Guarantee Relevance and Build Sustainable Success, by Susan Solovic, with Ray Manley ($24.95)

This book tackles the age-old small business problem of maintaining the status quo. I have long believed one of the secrets of entrepreneurial success is to upend the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” maxim. Instead, if you want to grow your business, I believe in the “If it ain’t broke—break it!”  school of thought.

Serial entrepreneur and small business author, Susan Solovic says if you keep on doing the same thing (even if it’s working for you at this moment), you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to new competitors and technologies. Rather than breaking your business, Solovic recommends instituting small, incremental changes in these seven areas of your small business: adjusting products; customers; people; processes; marketing; finances and leadership.

Using real-life examples, Solovic shows you how the “five-year plan is dead,” and how making these incremental adjustments will help you “avoid the pain of radical overhaul,” in the future, when it may be too late to do anything.

The Self-Employment Survival Guide: Proven Strategies to Succeed as Your Own Boss, by Jeanne Yocum ($18.95)

Are you ready to start down the path of business ownership? Or are you already self-employed? Whatever your answer, this book will help you get started or get growing. (Disclosure—I wrote the book’s foreword.)

Although self-employment may appeal to you as a less complex way of becoming a business owner, there are still challenges to be faced and obstacles to be cleared. This book is filled with the solutions to help you do both. Author Jeanne Yocum, who has written several other  books, has been self-employed for nearly 30 years—so her insight is especially on target and realistic.

Yocum takes a thorough look at self-employment, taking from pre-startup needs to operational advice. As I wrote in the foreword, “This book tell you what to expect, identifies the potential pitfalls and helps keep you on the right path.”

6-Week Startup, a Step-by-Step program for Starting Your Business, Making Money, and Achieving Your Goals, by Rhonda Abrams ($29.99)

Business ownership is not a spectator sport—but luckily for you, this is not the kind of book you read passively. Rhonda Abrams, an entrepreneur, author and columnist for USA Today, offers you a week-by-week startup plan, complete with checklists, worksheets, resources and smart advice.

One of the most valuable features in the book is “Questions to Ask,” which lists the issues you might need to bring up when you meet with investors, lawyers, accountants, or other key contacts.

The book begins with a worksheet for determining your goals, and leads you through the process so you are better equipped to achieve them.

Start a Successful Business: Expert Advice to Take Your Startup From Idea to Empire, by Colleen DeBaise from Inc. Magazine

Since 1979, Inc. Magazine has been the go-to source for aspiring and current entrepreneurs and SMB owners. Colleen DeBaise has tapped her own expertise as an Inc. contributing editor, entrepreneur author and long-time SMB journalist, and the collected wisdom that’s been published in Inc., to give startup business owners advice, information and inspiration.

The book guides you through seven crucial stages of startup: coming up with a killer idea; selecting the best structure and startup strategy; funding; marketing; discovering what your customers really want and need; leadership; and going global.

All the practical advice is interspersed with real-life stories of name-brand entrepreneurs, such as the founders of Warby Parker, Spanx, Tesla and many more. There’s a Q&A with Steve Jobs where he talks about where great ideas come from.

The book addresses the longstanding basics of startup, as well as current topics, such as alternative sources of financing, social media and current technologies.

And then there’s my book:

Small  Business Hacks: 100 Shortcuts to Success, by Barry Moltz and Rieva Lesonsky. ($19.95)

This book is a simple guide to help aspiring and existing business owners get things done—quickly. We give you shortcuts and tips to help you improve your marketing, sales, customer service, HR issues, funding and more.

Our goal is to help small business owners and startup entrepreneurs face the many challenges of business ownership—and to offer accessible, easy-to-enact solutions.

Books stock photo by Ilona Ignatova/Shutterstock