5 Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read

We’re big readers here at CCC. As Mr. King reminds us below, that’s a good thing because we’re writers, and we like to be well-versed at our craft. Reading is important even if you don’t write though. Business professionals and owners everywhere can benefit from knowledge and experience shared in a good book.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.”  -Stephen King

business books on a bookshelf

A selection of business reads by UNCG Research via CC BY-SA 2.0 http://bit.ly/2eE8A47

So let’s have a book swap! Below we’ve shared 5 books that have helped us in business (in no particular order), and we’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments.

  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking — Studies show that introverts are one-third to half of the U.S. population, and this book tells you how to embrace their personality and management style to improve your corporate culture and team. Introvert or not, every business professional needs to read this book.
  2. Death to All Sacred Cows — The most common negative review we’ve seen about this book is that its content is old news. Then why do so many businesses large and small still adhere to sacred cows for no reason? Beliefs such as, “The customer’s always right” can put you out of business. Read this book before that happens to you.
  3. David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants — Let’s be honest; any book by Malcolm Gladwell is a good choice, but we loved this one. David And Goliath shows how perceived underdogs may not be underdogs at all. This is a great read for small business owners everywhere who are wondering how to compete against bigger and better-funded opponents.
  4. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? The business world is constantly changing, and Seth Godin shows you how to be a linchpin. This book will help guide your career in corporate America or on your own, making you indispensable to bosses, organizations, business partners and clients. (Similar to Gladwell, any Godin book is a good and worthwhile read.)
  5. It’s Not About the Coffee — “We’re in the people business serving coffee, not the coffee business serving people.” Howard Behar talks about taking a people-centric approach and treating employees, business partners and clients as people — not revenue sources, assets or labor costs. It’s crazy how many businesses don’t understand this concept, and the results you’ll achieve once you do.

BONUS: Things a Little Bird Told Me — Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, takes readers along on his unpredictable journey and shares smart business lessons along the way. He focuses on the power of creativity and how to harness it to achieve success.

As we were compiling this list, we kept coming up with additional suggestions. As bookworms, it’s difficult to limit any reading list to five recommendations! We’re sure we missed some, but that’s the beauty of reading lists — they’re constantly evolving.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”  -Stephen King

What books have helped you in business or in life?

Have you read a children’s or YA book that’s relevant in your adult life?

What’s your favorite literature genre?

Your favorite bookworm,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about good books, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Does Your Small Business Have a Contingency Plan?

In preparation of the 2016 election, I recently attended my second year of Precinct Election Official (PEO) training by the local Board of Elections (BOE). In addition to keeping up with new developments, it’s helpful to review the massive amounts of information prior to each election.

What are the massive amounts of information? In addition to job duties and how machines work — contingency plans. The BOE has contingency plans for nearly any situation. Does your small business have contingency plans?

Does your small business have a contingency plan?

Why does your small business need a contingency plan?

  • You lose your largest client. Will you be able to stay afloat while you work to bring in new customers? Or is your business spread out enough to absorb such a hit?
  • Your niche market runs dry. Some markets are more volatile than others, but this could happen to nearly any industry or vertical market. (For example, look at how hard the Great Recession hit the construction industry.) It’s always a good idea to diversify your clientele enough to withstand market fluctuations.
  • You experience a medical emergency or illness. Nearly 80% of small businesses are self-employed individuals. (NASE) Will your small business be able to run without you? For how long? Do you have an exit plan?
  • Your area is hit with a natural disaster or extended power outage. Would you be able to continue to serve your clients? Is your business included in your emergency preparedness kit/plans?
  • You see an unexpected opportunity in the marketplace. How quickly can you add a product or service? Perhaps you’re seeing a decrease in demand for one of your key products or services. Can you switch your focus while still staying true to your brand? Agility is a valuable asset in the small business world.

Related Reading: 4 Lessons Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur

You need to be prepared to handle unexpected obstacles in your business, from marketplace changes to health issues. While none of us can be prepared for everything, having a contingency plan for your small business will ensure a smoother ride when you encounter a future roadblock — or  a black hole.

Your Turn

What other situations should your small business be prepared for?

Have you switched the focus of your small business or changed businesses?

What other advice would you give to small business owners regarding contingency plans?

Still a scout at heart,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about contingency plans, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Want Your Business to Flourish? Kill Your Sacred Cows

What’s holding your business back? Probably a sacred cow.

Death to all Sacred Cows: How successful businesses put the old rules out to pasture

Death to All Sacred Cows is a business book worth reading, no matter what business you’re in.

A what?! You’ve heard them before — those magical sayings in the business world that savvy businessmen and women everywhere regard as sacred.

The customer is always right. 
Teams create the best solutions. 
Always trust your research. 

Here’s the problem with sacred cows: always and never are rarely a good idea in the business world, a place which is constantly moving, changing and adapting.

“Businesses that only look to the past to guide their futures can be doomed to failure. In a rapidly changing world, anything dated tends to be dangerous.”

We’re not saying to forget your traditions or roots; they shouldn’t be the sole decision makers within your walls. You need to make decisions based on the current situation by looking at all of your options. Making decisions based solely on past successes can cause a company to be afraid to take risks or try new things. Success breeds success, until it doesn’t.

“The point is, in order to prepare for the future you need to unchain yourself from the strictures of the past. Let the past help and inform you; just don’t let it hold you back.”

Here’s one of our favorite sacred cows: the customer is always right. Don’t get us wrong; customers are critical to the success of your business. You need people to buy your products and services. We’re lucky to work with some great customers at CCC, but that doesn’t mean they’re always right. (Neither are we.)

Unless your business operates in an industry we’re not aware of, your customers are human beings. Human beings are fallible (yep, all of us), so customers are not always right. Of course, you want to provide the best customer service and experience in the world. You need to review each situation and understand when a customer is being unreasonable or is just plain wrong. (It happens, but if you work with great people, it doesn’t happen often. 🙂 )

“We’re just saying that slavishly kowtowing to the idea that the customer is the ultimate authority on how your business should operate is a surefire way to wind up with an inoperable business.”

In conclusion, use your brains. If you’re smart enough to run a business or be a successful businessman/businesswoman, trust your gut and decision-making skills. Don’t hide behind a sacred cow; it will kick you in the face eventually. (And read Death to All Sacred Cows for sound business advice and pure entertainment.)

Your Feedback
What is your favorite sacred cow to kill?
Have you read Death to All Sacred Cows? What’s your feedback?
What other business books would you recommend?

Eat, Pray, Love — In Business Too
Blink: The Power of Snap Decisions & First Impressions
Winning as the Underdog: Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

p.s. I’m not being paid to recommend this book. I just enjoyed it that much!
p.p.s. No real cows were harmed while writing this article (or the book, to my knowledge).

Your favorite bookworm,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about sacred cows, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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An Omnipresent View? The Life of a Small Business Owner

As I sit here and watch the conclusion of the Nets-Heat game, my thoughts keep drifting back to my business. It’s not for lack of excitement: this game, and especially the 4th quarter, has been a back-and-forth affair. In fact, I’m loving the view on TNT Overtime:

Image

Wouldn’t it be great if you had this type of dashboard for your business? I’m not talking about social media software but an overall sneak peek into the state of your business. Cameras focusing on different areas — key clients, where the action is, your cash flow, etc. — along with measuring fan excitement and the overall score. Oh, and the ability to pause (vacation, anyone?), rewind (eliminate a mistake before it happens) and fast forward (through a crappy day). Hey, I can dream, right?

While we don’t have an omnipresent dashboard view of our businesses, we do have resources at our disposal. This week is National Small Business Week, celebrated annually every year since 1963. If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, check out the following ways you can participate:

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

Whether or not you’re a small business owner, you can help! We can all shop small, and not just one day or week a year. Visit the Shop Small Map to check out dining, shopping, entertainment and other small biz options in your community or search online. (Social media is a great tool to search and gather feedback on small businesses you find.) As Business News Daily points out, it’s National Small Business Week, and you (yes, you!) should care.

Well, the game’s over (Heat won!), the tornado warning has expired and the flash flood warning is winding down. I guess I should wrap up this blog post; I’ve got a client meeting early this morning (before you’ll even read this post). Crank up the espresso machine…

p.s Looking for writing, marketing or social media help? This small business would love to help!

Small Business Owner, Writer, Driver & Janitor,
Jaime

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You Don’t Know Jack About Brandjacking

In the mid-nineties, there was a trivia game called You Don’t Know Jack. As a trivia buff, I loved the game and even had it on CD-ROM (remember those?). OK, I also loved telling people, “You don’t know jack” when they answered incorrectly. Which brings me too…

You Don't Know Jack logo

Brandjacking. What is it? When someone hijacks your brand, either personal or business, in order to steal your thunder (and publicity) or to hurt your brand’s reputation. It usually happens online, especially on social media. The term is widely credited to Business Week, which used it in a 2007 article.

So what’s the problem? First of all, it’s desperate. You’re either trying to grab some cheap publicity from another brand’s (hard work &) success or trying to cause damage to someone else’s brand. Either way, you look bad.

Second, come up with your own brand. Put in the work to build your brand, formulate a strategy and put it into action. Don’t try to jump on someone else’s coattails to success without putting in the work.

Maybe I’ve just spent too much time working on companies’ brands and understand how much time, effort and money go into the branding process. As all of you fellow marketers and business owners know, it’s a lot of hard work. For someone else to benefit from that (outside of donated publicity for a non-profit or cause) is incredibly frustrating and annoying.

Clearly Conveyed Communications logo

As a small business owner, my brands (personal and business) are my everything. I’m all in, as they say at the poker table. I’ve put every last chip I have into making Clearly Conveyed Communications work. For someone to come along and hurt my brand(s) would be a horrible blow.

As Tony Zayas so elegantly puts it on the Proforma blog, trust is the new business currency. If clients and prospects don’t trust you, they won’t work with you.

So if you think brandjacking is cool (or a viable marketing tactic), then you don’t know jack about branding.

The mic is yours…

Do you agree? Or is brandjacking a viable guerrilla marketing tactic?

Are there any brandjacking examples that you feel have been a success?

Would you brandjack?

You may also like: The Art of Branding | The Olympics: A Global Brand (Kind Of)
Rage Against the Political Machine: 5 Takeaways for Your Marketing Efforts

Photo credit: You Don’t Know Jack

Your trivia (& branding) buff,
Jaime

Connect with CCC & me…
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Global Expansion: Thinking Outside Your Borders

Clearly Conveyed Communications is excited to welcome Sloan McKinney as the latest contributor to the CCC blog. You can learn more about the author at the end of this post.  

Small businesses make the mistake too often in assuming that just because they’re small, international expansion will never be an option. It’s this kind of mindset that causes the troubles a lot of business owners have that prevent their company from growing. The fact of the matter is that reaching an international audience is much simpler than it was years ago — and we can all thank the Internet for that.

What many companies don’t realize is that the Internet isn’t obsolete; there’s really no conceivable way it can become obsolete. While small business owners lament slow sales or the difficulties of expanding their market to their friends on Facebook, they don’t realize that they have the technology to grow as a company. In fact…they’re using it.

Think outside of the box

Expansion Concerns

The idea of expanding a business to reach a larger base is inherently desirable. But the want to make it work often outpaces the logical questions that need to be answered before going forward:

  •  Is there a demand for the product or service overseas?
  • Does your company have the staff to handle the incoming demand for your company’s services?
  • Does your company have the means to handle transitioning into a larger company?
  • And lastly, does your company have the confidence to make the move?

These are all questions that need to be seriously considered before moving forward with anything.

Think Locally, Act Globally

It’s crucial that any business considering expansion first isolates what made them successful in the first place. There’s a reason why your company is doing well: what is it? Tie this in with the question about confidence. There’s a reason why you’re thinking about supplementing your business strategy, and it’s certainly not because you are struggling.

Once you’ve identified what makes expanding to new markets viable for your company, it’s time to consider if it is, in fact, viable to do so. Can your company support the move?

Time to Act

Alright, so you’ve answered all of the questions, and now you know it’s time to take the next step…which is what exactly? Easy: apply all of your answers to the previously stated questions to the new markets. Designate places you believe your business can be successful, and move. Start with niche advertising to get the ball rolling.

For example, if your company sells specialized toolboxes, advertise with a trade publication, and set up a booth at a trade show. It’s much more likely that experienced plumbers will purchase a hyper-specialized toolbox than a group of Boy Scouts.

Setting up a local phone number in the areas you are targeting is a good way to garner local business, because it will establish a local presence. It’s understandable why a consumer would patronize a local, established business over the upstart who just moved in…or isn’t even located in the immediate vicinity. A local phone number can be forwarded to an already established number, making it easier to manage calls, while still reaching a larger audience. It’s easy to implement, inexpensive, and a gesture to the locals in your new audience that you believe you have a product that they would like, and it’s a good one.

Expanding your operation is a justifiably daunting task. But with enough time, research, and patience, it can work for your business.

Sloan McKinney

Today’s guest blogger is Sloan McKinney, who is honored to have had the opportunity to share her knowledge on international communications with CCC‘s audience.  Her writing, which can be found on SmartVirtualPhoneNumber.com, also covers business globalization and technology.

“Think Outside The Box Concept” photo via Shutterstock 

Thanks for the wonderful article, Sloan!