22 Books Business Schools Should Give Out Like Candy
Updated: Jul 14
Can a good company become a great company, and if so, how? Good To Great breaks down those underlying differences that have continuously made some companies great, and others simply just average. I'm not saying there is a one size fits all solution out there, and neither doe Jim Collins, but like the general who burned the boats upon landing, leaving only one option (succeed or die), this book will make you realize there are definitely underlying truths that separate good organizations from great. From getting the right people on the bus, to setting bigger hairier and more audacious goals year after year, Good To Great is an essential read for the business professional.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich is the financial literacy book everyone should read. If you're a fan of those type of books that skip all the bullshit and get straight to the point, keeping in mind we have lives and don't want an overly complicated journey ahead, you'll like this book. It covers almost all the bases though, so if you handle your finances well, the most valuable portion of this book will be the part that tells you how easy it is to plan, manage, and even automate your retirement and investment strategy. Past that, you'll get tips about finding the credit card that will give you the most bang for your buck, how to approach banks for various lending needs, pathways to dealing with creditors that may save you a small fortune, and a slew of other tips and tricks on how to make the most of your hard earned cash.
Bogleheads', named after Jack Bogle, the guy who invented index funds, is similar to "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," in that it makes investing accessible to the average Joe. For an industry that often overcomplicates itself, shrouding itself in the ups and downs of the market, Bogleheads' gives the reader an honest understanding of investing, educating readers about how to design and manage their own financial planning. Whether you decide to work with a certified financial planner or manage your own investments, this book is an incredible asset for making informed decisions.
Before you read this behemoth of a book, read Bogleheads'. It's not required, but if you come into this book with a decent foundation on the fundamentals of investing, this book will be abundantly more beneficial.
With that said, this book has two primary functions. On one hand, there is the obvious instructional side that will teach you how to invest intelligently. It covers similar material that Bogleheads' touches on, such as key investments your average individual or family should be making to plan for retirement, and the scams and total bullshit spewed by news outlets only ever trying to capture hype. Where it differs is that it then goes beyond these traditional investment vehicles, and shares how pros like Warren Buffet invest on a per-company basis. What will most likely catch you off guard about this book it that although long, it's not that complicated and somewhat easy to comprehend. You'll realize this isn't necessarily rocket science, it's just plain smart. Like oh, they read a lot, and use critical thinking? Well damn.
On the other hand, this book is essential for the strategic intelligence analyst. If you are in the business of knowing your competition, your clients, or identifying new opportunities, The Intelligent Investor will give you the prompts you need to glean insights that may have otherwise been hidden or out of plain sight.
Ultimately, you'll walk away from this book with knowledge of how to read financial statements, review annual reports and company history, and accurately analyze a company before you make an investment. You'll know what red flags to be aware of, where to find them, and how to make informed intelligent investment decisions.
"All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in the caves, we were all self-employed...finding our food, feeding ourselves. That's where human history began. As civilization came, we suppressed it. We became "labor" because they stamped us, "You are labor." We forgot that we are entrepreneurs."
- Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner
The world needs more critically thinking, creative problem solving, entrepreneurs. Whether they have their own businesses, or are happily employed, we need the types who want to add value and will stop at nothing to push beyond the status quo. The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster is a great wake up call and rallying cry to remind us those crazy ideas are possible. It will remind you to tell that voice in your head that tells us we suck to shut up, and to just keep moving forward. From the mindset needed to take on the biggest of challenges, to strategies for success in business, this is a great read to inspire and come away with quite a few solid nuggets of knowledge.
Fanatical Prospecting is basically the sales equivalent to Jim Collins' book Good To Great. The book starts off asking why there are plenty who possess the skills of a good salesperson, but only a few continue to have phenomenal years? Jeb Blount, makes the case that the differentiating factor is something he calls fanatical prospecting, or that relentless drive to keep prospecting in good and bad times, to always have leads in the pipeline, to always be building relationships, and to keep at it no matter what. There is no 9-5 for these types. They will skip lunch to seize a new opportunity. They don’t make excuses, they don’t complain, they don’t live in fear “what if they say no?" or "what if this is a bad time?" They prospect even when they don’t feel like prospecting because they are driven to keep their pipeline full.
What I love about this book is that it's refreshingly honest about sales. Blount will remind you repeatedly there is no easy button in sales. Prospecting is hard, emotionally draining work, and it is the price you have to pay to earn a high income.
If you want a no BS book on sales and the work it takes to keep your pipeline full, this is that book. You will walk away a top to bottom approach to prospecting, lead generation, and closing, with examples of how to write objective driven outreach scripts for everything from cold calls to email, networking, and beyond. Every touch matters, and this book will give you the strategies you need to keep your pipeline full and deliver results.
You must ask for what you want, directly, assertively, and repeatedly. Asking is the key that unlocks qualifying information, appointments, demos, leveling up to decision makers or down to influencers, information and data for building your business case, next steps, micro-commitments, and ultimately buying-commitments. Getting your first "No" is inevitable. Objections will teach you how to navigate the vague, passive responses that make no earthly sense and how to arrive at the desired outcome you set out to achieve. From prospects under severe time crunches who suddenly become lackadaisical procrastinators, to stakeholder groups that need to give your competitor, who has been screwing them over for years, “one more chance,” Objections is another essential read for the sales professional who wants every tactic at the ready to nurture their leads and close more deals.
From the guy who practically wrote the manual on hostage negotiation for the FBI, Never Split the Difference breaks down the fundamental strategies everyone can use to achieve their desired outcomes in any number of scenarios. The book will take you through hostage negotiations, lessons learned, and everyday life and business examples from the many clients he's coached over the years. From salary negotiation, to negotiating high-end contracts with new clients, to managing conflict in high pressure situations, this is the number one book I recommend everyone read on negotiation.
An essential read for the business development professional, Million Dollar Consulting Proposals is by far one of the most beneficial books on writing proposals I have come across. Alan Weiss' philosophy on consulting is that your negotiated fee should be based on the value you bring to the table and the impact you make on the organization. This book will not only give you a detailed look at how to write six and seven figure proposals, but provides insights on how to identify qualified buyers and key decision makers, as well as how to overcome objections, negotiate terms, and close deals.
There's a part in the book where a Marketing Director of a Fortune 100 company said the following: "If I cut the marketing budget by 50 percent, about half of my department would have no idea what to do. They would have no capability to look for other ways to move their business forward without those resources. They wouldn't know where to start."
A Beautiful Constraint demonstrates resources are not simply what you control, but what you can access: what the rest of the company has, what those in their network have, what their neighborhood (literally or metaphorically) has, and indeed what the big resource owners they have yet to meet may have that they can use.
Past understanding resource utilization, this is also a great book for creating a plan and executing when you're given too much freedom or too wide of an objective. Goals need to be narrow and achievable. If top leadership tells you to increase sales and leaves it at that, it's on you to map out a plan of attack. Ensuring your team is on board and motivated towards a common goal requires that you communicate the goal clearly and establish purpose. A Beautiful Constraint helps accomplish this mission, and provides insights on how to develop the skills necessary for both you and your team to maintain commitment to a goal despite obstacles, adversity, or failure.
Interested in a side hustle to supplement your primary source of income? Or maybe you're interested in going all in and starting a business that will hopefully let you leave your full-time gig and be your own boss. Either way, everyone should have at least one solid resource on the ins and outs of how to start a business, and a little dose of reality of how easy it is to register with your state and local municipalities, but how challenging it can be to get things off the ground. Start Your Own Business is your one stop guide for creating a plan of attack, with everything from choosing between an LLC and sole proprietorship, to creating a business plan, identifying your target markets, lending, negotiating, site selection if you plan to have a brick and mortar location, financial and bookkeeping needs, sales and marketing, and just about everything else you would need to launch and grow your business. - On a side note, I would suggest this for those who have no interest in entrepreneurship as well, purely so that you too understand what the founders and top level leadership of your organization did to kick things off, as well as what they continue to do to keep the lights on.
For the type of people who aren't satisfied simply because they get the job done, but continue to look for every opportunity to improve, Ray Dalio's Principles will help open your eyes to areas you may not have known could be improved. His life principles can be applied across disciplines, whereas his work principles are the type you'll want to bookmark for when you make it to a management role and need insights on how to lead effectively. From holding yourself accountable and being radically open-minded, to critical thinking, goal setting, and effective decision making, this book is another great read for the business professional.
Million Dollar Launch is one of my favorite books on how to apply value-added negotiation and entrepreneurial thinking to business development. It can be applied to anyone who wants to start a consultancy from the ground up, or the sales professional looking for new strategies to get their foot in the door with key decision makers and qualified buyers. From identifying and quantifying the value-added elements of your products and services, to mapping out the networks connected to your prospects, to negotiating six and seven-figure contracts, this book covers a number of insightful topics you'll come across in the business of winning business.
From the U.S. national intelligence community, to small businesses and those within the ranks of the Fortune 500, purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed critical thinking will continue to be a soft skill in high demand. The kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions, is what employers are after. They don't just want someone who understands the theory, but someone who can apply it in the field and adapt to any last minute changes that may occur on the job. Critical Thinking and Intelligence Analysis offers a framework for structured problem solving, and shows readers areas we can work on as we pursue our own professional development and personal growth oriented goals.
How do you generate buy-in for your ideas, influence change, promote collaboration, or execute complex plans? Extreme Ownership will give you a look at how the U.S. Navy Seals do it, with both combat and corporate examples. Whether your organization is riddled with minefields of conflict, or you're surrounded by other smart, creative, freethinking individuals, this book should remind you that no matter what position you hold in your organization, you have an opportunity to achieve success through leadership and owe it to yourself to try.
A brilliant and easy afternoon read, Dave Trott's Predatory Thinking shows readers how to out-think the competition through a combination of entrepreneurial thinking and creative problem solving tactics. This book does a great job at shedding light on how to look at the world differently, and not just find solutions, but how to accurately identify problems. It helps you look past the constructs you've been given and rules everyone else is following, and prompts you to explore new possibilities. According to Dave Trott, there are no rules for success, only guidelines.
"Great ideas that change behavior happen only when they're based on a relevant truth. That's when they make an impact on societies and cultures and add value to peoples lives. But as people get more connected and live a more advanced lifestyle, they'll be more critical of bullshit. As an industry, we have to stop falling into the trap of phony ideas, of superficial gloss that looks great in an awards jury-room, but fails to matter in the real world."
- Amir Kassaei, COO DDB Worldwide
In an age where value-added content and experiences are king, understanding the ins and outs of writing, producing, and creating great ads is a very valuable and marketable skill. Hey Whipple Squeeze This is more than just a guide to creating great ads, it's about capturing your audience, resonating, and directing them to the finish line you want them to cross. If you're in a marketing or advertising role, this is a must read, but even if you live in the world of HR or IT, consider the value in understanding how to craft your new strategic plan that requires organization-wide buy-in to be successful. Whether you are trying to reach your audience for the product or service you are selling, or trying to orchestrate an internal communications strategy for your organization, the insights you'll gain from this book will undoubtedly help.
Copy is what the creative and advertising industries use to describe written marketing material. From the blurbs on the outside of an Old Spice shampoo bottle, to the write up in a magazine about that new yard equipment you never knew you needed, copy is practically everywhere you look. For the business professional, How to Write Better Copy will help you with everything from crafting subject lines with higher open rates, to more convincing press releases, to target centered marketing materials, such as website and digital content, as well as brochures and other marketing collateral.
In the words of Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate: "Language and power are inextricably linked. The spoken word pushes ideas out of someone's head and into the open so humankind can contend with adopting or rejecting its validity. Moving an idea from its inception to adoption is hard, but it's a battle that can be won simply by wielding a great presentation."
Resonate is a simultaneously an explanation, a how-to-guide, and a business justification for story-based messaging. It will take you on a journey to a level of presentation literacy that few have mastered. Using techniques from story and cinema, you will understand key steps for connecting to the audience, deferring to them as the hero, and creating a presentation that resonates."
slide:ology, another great read by Nancy Duarte, shows readers how to visually illustrate your message and guide your audience to the destination you have planned for them. If you've ever wondered how you can capture a complex idea on one slide without burdening your audience, or how to visualize data in a fun and engaging way, this is the book for you. After reading this book, your presentations, brochures and other marketing collateral will no longer serve as merely a placeholder, but will have a purpose, reinforce your mission and objectives, and be a key tool in helping drive engagement.
NOTE: For the next 2 books, take a look at Karl Weick's Sense-Making theory. This particular communications theory explores how people make sense of their situation in times of ambiguity, change, and crisis. It identifies actors involved in the decision making process, where people turn to to find information, and other influences that ultimately lead them to act and make sense of any given situation. By reading the following three books with this lens, you will gain a wealth of insight that will help with everything from generating organizational buy-in for new ideas, to mitigating crisis, to designing more resilient standard operating procedures.
For marketers and communication professionals alike, The Tipping Point is a great read for understanding the theory of diffusion of innovation curve and how brands, products, and ideas reach viral and epidemic proportion. By understanding how to identify which individuals are responsible for igniting movements, as well as understanding their motivations and the type of content and interactions they thrive off of, strategies can be devised to help recruit ambassadors that will champion your ideas and help generate mass buy-in for everything from new products to organizational change.
If you end up enjoying The Tipping Point, your next read should be Contagious. Where the latter focusses more heavily on the individuals responsible for contributing the first few sparks, Contagious is about the fuel that ignites word-of-mouth movements. Jonah Berger calls this fuel social currency, ie the intrinsic value we gain from sharing content. When you constantly post entertaining and lighthearted content on social media, your friends will show their affection through likes or other engagement, and in that there's a certain value obtained. On the other hand, if you're in an organization and you develop a reputation as a source for useful and accurate information, when a crisis occurs, you will ultimately be among the go to individuals for making sense of the situation. When you begin to pick up on insights such as these, and understand why people share content as well as consume it, you'll have the tools needed to craft contagious content, and ultimately grow sales, inspire organizational change, or ignite movements.