“I’ve read hundreds of business and personal development books over the years and here are the Top 30 Best Business Books of all time, in my opinion” says Nicola Cairncross. UPDATED: 19 January 2020
Nicola Cairncross is the original author & founder of TheMoneyGym.com, having loved the digital marketing side of the business, Nicola created ClicksAndLeads.com. Initially, a boutique Facebook Ads agency, Clicks & Leads is now a full-service specialist Digital Marketing consultancy & agency. Nicola now writes, speaks, consults with and mentors business owners globally.
She has previously been featured on CNN Breakfast News, in The Times, The Telegraph, Observer, The Scotsman, International Business Times, RED, Cosmopolitan, Company Magazine, Essentials, Woman & Home just to name a few. She sat on the “Experts Panel” at Visa International and Pampers iVillage in 2009.
She has many testimonials from happy clients and even managed to help one client make Cement Microscopy sexy!
“I have always wanted to become an entrepreneur but there were no schools for entrepreneurs back in the 1970’s when I became a teenager. Years of dismal failure after dismal failure followed and even reading business startup books didn’t help. Then I discovered the personal development and self-help market and I read the first book that really had a profound influence on my life.
That book was “Swimming With Pirahna Makes You Hungry” by Dr Colin Turner and there was one small drawing in there that changed the way I looked at money forever. He recommended another book, the mighty “7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” and wow! that book has had a profound impact on my life as well as my business. The best bit is that I actually got to work with Dr Turner about 15 years later.
The shocking thing is that nobody actually knows how to run your business successfully – Oh sure, a mentor who has successfully built a business themselves can really help, accelerate your success and steer you clear of the bigger holes in the road, but you HAVE to educate yourself too. Because they don’t know what you don’t know.
In the same way that I used to tell my Money Gym clients when they were thinking of delegating care of their cash and investing decision to highly commissioned employees in the financial services industry “Nobody will ever care about your money like you do”, well, now I tell my business mentoring clients “Nobody will ever care about your business like you do!”
So once I got on my way, taking 100% responsibility and turning over every stone to make sure I missed nothing, I realised that I was pretty much on my own, as soon as I bought my half-million pound hotel “no money down”. I asked both my bank manager and accountant “what don’t I know, that I need to know, about running a business?” and they both looked at me and said “every business is different and there’s no success manual”).
Well, there should be!
I read a book a week and have been doing that since 1998/1999, and that’s a LOT of books. Sometimes when you read one, you know immediately it’s going to become a personal classic, due to the impact it has on you internally or the way you change what you do immediately within your business.”
If you read JUST these 30 books and implement the concepts contained therein, you will have the closest thing to a “Business Success Manual” I can think of.
In no particular order of importance here is….
My Top 30 Best Business Books
- Ready Fire Aim: Zero to $100 Million In No Time Flat – Micheal Masterson
This book shot straight to pole position when I read it on the advice of one of my mentors, Rich Schefren, and it is written by one of his mentors. Michael outlines the concept of your “lead product” and how, without your business being able to profitably sell your lead product, you haven’t got a business. You would be shocked how many small businesses don’t know what their “lead product” is. The power and simplicity of that concept struck me immediately and I now ask Michael’s core questions of every mentoring client I work with.
- E-Myth Revisited (Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work & What To Do About It) – Michael Gerber
Obviously a classic and still just as effective today. The first book to put forward the idea of the “franchise prototype” and how to simply and easily develop systems for your business (and more importantly to get everyone else to buy into following them!)
- The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
This was pretty much the first personal development/ personal effectiveness book I ever read and it had a profound impact on me. For the first time in my life I began taking responsibility for the things that had happened to me and I still remember – and try and live by – some of the concepts I remember from that book – one being “do what is right, not what is easy”. And that’s not always easy actually!
- Rich Dad’s Guide To Investing – Robert Kiyosaki
What an eye-opener the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” was! Well, this next book in the Rich Dad series had an even bigger impact on me from a business point of view. I put off reading it because it’s full title sounded a bit dry, and so did the first two-thirds of the book seem to be at first. The general concept of the book is that we move in experience from being a novice investor to a sophisticated investor, and the more we move up the line, the higher the rewards and the higher the risks. Guess what the most sophisticated investors invest in? Startup or fledgling businesses! Now, isn’t that interesting? What do inexperienced “novice investor” type people do all the time? Start their own business! This book not only outlines the problem, it tells you what to do about it. How to assess any business so that any sophisticated investor would buy or invest in it, while educating yourself about how to build such a business.
- Sychronicity – The Inner Path of Leadership – Joseph Jaworski
This is not only a rattling good read and the story of Jaworski’s mid-life crisis as a successful lawyer in Washington and his subsequent travels around the world looking for his purpose and passion, but it covers the Entrepreneurial Traps which I recognised instantly! I won’t say anymore, but you must read this book!
- E-Myth Manager (Why Management Doesn’t Work & What To Do About It) – Michael Gerber
One of the best books I’ve ever come across on how to recruit effectively, how to attract the right kind of people for your business, how to set your expectations and discover theirs, how to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in your employees, how to find out what motivates them and how to ensure that they follow the business systems you set up after reading the E-Myth book. And what to do when they don’t! As, sometimes, they won’t!
- Strikingitrich.Com: Profiles of 23 Incredibly Successful Websites You’Ve Probably Never Heard Of – Jaclyn Easton
This book totally inspired me in 1998/1999 to start to try and make a living online and profiles 23 websites that were making over $1 million per year – mainly, with hindsight, through the directory or membership site model, which in my extreme dimness, I’ve only just come back to in the last 4 years! Along with the affiliate marketing model which enables people with no product or service of their own to get started and create recurring income online. The best book to get you started with that is “Dot Com Secrets” by Russell Brunson and these two books (along with my own book “Attract 3.0” of course!) are “must-reads” for those aspiring to the internet lifestyle.
- Take Yourself to the Top – Laura Berman Fortgang
This book was one of the first career coaching books I ever read and in her inimitable down to earth, no-nonsense style, LBF, as she became known in coaching circles, covers some of the best strategies for business networking I have ever come across. How to network effectively, who to choose who to network with… it’s all great stuff. Read this alongside “Love Is the Killer App” by Tim Sanders (see below), which is also very cool.
- The Portable Coach: 28 Sure-fire Strategies for Business and Personal Success – Thomas J. Leonard
Thomas J Leonard was the “grandfather of coaching” and still sorely missed. The man was a bona fide genius and this, his first book, put coaching and its benefits firmly on the map. I still love his distinctions, and one of the best was “selfish v self-ish” (think about it!). He also inspired me to write my eProgramme and thus my own book “The Money Gym” with his “Passive Income For Coaches” eProgramme. It was TJL who introduced me to 1ShoppingCart, which was very ground breaking in 1999/2000, and which enabled me to grow my mailing list and thus my greatest business asset.
- The Sticking Point Solution (9 Ways To Move Your Business From Stagnation To Stunning Growth In Tough Economic Times) – Jay Abraham
At certain points in a business’ evolution, you will hit sticking points or walls. From not selling enough, to erratic business volume, to massive costs, to mediocre marketing, Jay takes us through how to identify what is wrong with our business and what we can do about it, in Jay’s positive, down to earth style.
- Driven (How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices) – Paul R Lawrence & Nitin Nohria. This book explores (drawing on scientific proof from eminent scientists, philosophers and scholars through the ages) just what drives us as human beings and how that plays out in how we live, work, and interact together. Lawrence and Nohria propose that there are four main independent drives — to acquire, bond, learn, and defend. The way our brains have physically developed has contributed to the development of these drives and even more interestingly, that the drives, as they emerged, have actually shaped the way our brains further developed. All of which adds up to the totally unique way that humans think and act.
- Great Boss, Dead Boss (How To Exact The Very Best Performance From Your Company & Not Get Crucified In The Process) – Ray Immelman
Recommended by one of my mentors after hearing how much I loved “Driven”, this book had a major impact on me after I got past the few pages which were a bit… strange. Written in a story-like style, which I enjoy as much as the more academic types of book, this book contains the secrets of why it’s so hard to manage and motivate people and why some bosses inspire dedication, respect, commitment and great bottom-line results. Although I am a one-man band with outsourcers at the moment, I have a dream to create a “proper” business again one day and this book is the blueprint on how to do it. It builds nicely on “The E-Myth Manager” which is also excellent.
- Focus (The Future Of Your Company Depends On It) – Al Ries For anyone tempted to diversify, this book provides a cautionary tale. With practical, no-nonsense advice, Al Ries guides you back on track if you are getting distracted and spread too thin, and explains why companies that focus on core products and services are the most successful. As someone who regularly has to coach new clients into focusing on their ideal customer or client, or their most profitable product, this book was a breath of fresh air.
- Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got (What To Do When Times Are Tough) – Jay Abraham The chapter I most loved in this great book was the one on Business Bartering – it really opened my mind to the opportunities out there and the value of my service offering. Shortly after reading this book I bartered internet marketing mentoring for PR services and secured a load of column inches in our local press that I could never have paid for! This book has much more inside than just that one chapter though, so I highly recommend you check it out.
- Influence (The Psychology Of Pursuasion) – Robert Cialdini Shameful how long it took me to get around to reading this classic, and when I did, of course, I loved it. Interestingly Robert seems to have written this book to help people avoid being influenced, but of course, it’s become a marketing classic! Any internet marketer worth their salt has invested in Jeff Walker’s “Product Launch Formula” and so Influence will feel like an old friend, and it’s a rattling good read with lots of illustrative stories.
- Outliers (The Story Of Success) – Malcolm Gladwell This book is famous for introducing the notion of it taking 10,000 hours to get good at something, as picked up by Seth Godin on his blog. I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell having read his previous books Blink and The Tipping Point (which I also recommend), Outliers takes you through the theory of what drives success and what, really, makes some people successful and others not. Arguing that it’s a combination of intelligence (both IQ and emotional intelligence), luck (opportunities and timing), cultural context and hard work (the much-reported 10,000 hours). Using some great examples and anecdotes, Gladwell dispelled many myths at the same time as being very entertaining.
- Building Wealth (From Rags To Riches Through Real Estate) – Russ Whitney As we all know that most successful business people then sink their business profits into property, you really need to read this book as it’s one of the best (apart from Andy Shaw’s best-seller on property investing – see below) that I’ve ever read. In fact, this book is directly responsible for my buying a half-million pound hotel, no money down. In retrospect, not the best move I’ve ever made, I’d have been better sticking to one-bedroom flats but hey! it opened a lot of doors and you live and learn… This book will really open your eyes to what is possible when investing in property, and if you are in the UK, Europe, or Australia, don’t be put off, as pretty much all the techniques Russ talks about are possible on our respective domestic shores. Vendor finance and “rent to buy” for example, are getting ever more easy, since the collapse of the banking system and the severe lack of availability of mortgages for most people.
- Creating A Bug Free Mind / Using A Bug Free Mind – Andy Shaw Now available on Amazon but it’s much better getting it via Andy’s site as you get so much more for free. Don’t be put off by the hokey web design either, he’s a massive split tester and while he tried a more corporate looking site, it killed conversions and cost him thousands! Something I found with my recent redesign on one of my sites too. So he went back to the original design. I have to declare a further interest here – Andy is one of my close friends and a very inspiring man indeed. I met him back in 2003 or so, just after I bought the hotel, and he and his partners, Greg & Pete, blew my mind with their achievements in the property world. From a standing start of one “buy to let” on a credit card, they build up a property buying machine that amassed 270 odd properties within a few short years and made them multi-millionaires. Andy wrote about their system in his best selling book “Money For Nothing And Your Property For Free”, which is still totally brilliant but which ended with the prophetic words “The only thing that could go wrong with this is that the banks could stop lending…” and we all know what happened next! Wondering how it could all have come crashing down around his ears, Andy went on a journey of self-discovery and realised that, in all the self-help/ success books, including the mighty “Think & Grow Rich”, they were all getting one crucial word wrong and it was a killer mistake! He wrote these books in record time – they seemed to just flow out of him – and they are, for my money, already up among the greats in the personal development world. They are the ONLY books I take with me wherever I go. You can find more about Andy and watch Part 1 of an exclusive video interview with him here.
- Traction (Get A Grip On Your Business) – Gino Wickman. Traction tells you how to run a company effectively (and would work for managers seeking to be more effective too!) and “Get A Grip (How To Get Everything You Want From Your Entrepreneurial Business)” is the same practical content but told in story form, if you prefer that.
- Predictable Revenue by Aaron Hall – By the guy who took Salesforce from a little software company to a mighty behemoth, he shows you how to recruit, train and put together a sales machine, where marketing and sales fit together and where they don’t and how to make sure you make sales every single day. And if it’s all down to you, how to make yourself into an effective sales machine even if you hate sales.
- Your Biz Your Way (Learning To Trust Yourself) – Judith Morgan. Judith is my co-host on “Own It! Your Business & Your Life” podcast. She was an accountant, then a Financial Director for years working with many and diverse businesses so she knows what works and what doesn’t. Now she coaches small business owners, specifically artistic types, and this book is chock full of wisdom about the challenges you will face both practically and psychologically when you embark on the journey of entrepreneurship – and what to do about them.
- 7 Day Startup (You Don’t Learn Until You Launch) – Dan Norris. This book is straight-talking, practical and all-round awesome and not only my own ClickAndLeads.com agency was built on this model but the highly successful BeanNinjas virtual accounting firm, and Dan’s own WPCurve which he subsequently sold to GoDaddy before building the fast-growing Black Hops Brewery.
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less – Dan McKeown – I am practising this daily now and trying to remember that “less but better”.
- Profit First: A Simple System To Transform Any Business From A Cash-Eating Monster To A Money-Making Machine – Michael Michalowski. If you are working your ass off and making money but don’t feel like it’s coming to you personally like it should be, this book is for you!
- Getting To Plan B by Mullins & Komisar – life-changing concepts in here if you are feeling stuck
- The Lean Startup by Eric Reis – a step by step plan to follow as a new business
- Work Less Make More – James Schramko. My business coach for years, James brings years of experience running luxury car sales teams, plus years of experience coaching some of the most successful online businesses on the planet to this book. Straight talking and practical, he will really make you think about how you are doing things.
- SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham – about the differences between selling low and high ticket items (and how to do it well)
- Love Is the Killer App by Tim Sanders – one of the most helpful books about how to get ahead in corporate life after “Take Yourself To The Top” by Laura Berman Fortgang (see above).
- Key Person of Influence (Revised Edition): The Five-Step Method to become one of the most highly valued and highly paid people in your industry – Daniel Priestley. This book was a bit of a revolution when it came out, setting out clearly what many people were doing unconsciously but didn’t know they were doing it. Also highly recommended is “Oversubscribed: How to Get People Lining Up to Do Business with You”
- The (New) One Minute Manager – Kenneth Blanchard
Loved this book on managing effectively – yourself and your staff. Still aspire to have an empty diary and an empty desk, so that I can respond to situations and opportunities as they arise. A good companion book to “The E-Myth Manager”. And you should also check out “Who Moved My Cheese” by the same author.
I hope you enjoyed this Top 30 best business books list and that my personal reflections on each book has inspired you to go order a copy of each, I have always loved libraries (but not school) and I think we have such a wealth of knowledge in books and online, we are really doing ourselves a disservice if we don’t take every opportunity to learn how to do or be better.
Even if you don’t like to read, you can listen to the audio so you really have no excuse!
I also hope you take the opportunity to check out my books; The Money Gym (The Ultimate Wealth Workout), which shows you how to become more financially intelligent, especially if you are starting from scratch as I did.
I recently completely re-wrote “The Money Gym” for 2020. It’s bang up to date and if you buy it, then enter your details on the secret page you’ll find within, I’ll send you “The Missing Chapter” and any major updates completely free of charge. Things change very fast in the financial world! The Audio version is available on Audible too.
I’ve just released my new book “Attract 3.0 (How To Find, Attract, & Convert Your Ideal Client Or Customer). This outlines my successful “Be Everywhere Online” online marketing concept which you can put into place in as little as 20 minutes a week and which works for any ‘expert’ business where the principal doesn’t like direct selling very much, which is, let’s face it, is a lot of people!
I also have an Amazon No 1 Bestseller in it’s category, “The Business Success Factory” which is my take on entrepreneurial success and shares a bit of my journey.
For fun, I’m writing my first TV serial script, so, I’m keeping busy on the reading AND writing front!