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12 Best Books for Business Newbies

Books can be the solution to many of your greatest challenges in business. Start the new year with this essential reading list.

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Some of the most successful business leaders I know all share a similar trait: a voracious hunger for knowledge. Fortunately, plenty of them have written books to share what they know. I wish that, years ago, someone would have provided me with a list of practical, yet inspiring books to help me kickstart my career.

Since I frequently get asked by people new to business for suggestions, here's my book list full of some essential ingredients that everyone in business must know to succeed (in the order in which they should be read). Note: My first four books are not so much about business per se and business tactics, but about introspection and life. As such, I recommend everyone read them.

1. "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie

This is the granddaddy self-help book of all time. I believe that every graduating high school student should read this before walking for their diploma. If you can't empathize with people, build them up, and persuade them to like you, there's no reading list in the world that will help you.

2. "Man's Search for Meaning" by Victor Frankl

You can't sweat a lot of things in life without driving yourself crazy. To be a successful leader, you must obtain a perspective of what's important in life, make sense of the chaos, and learn how to cope with obstacles gracefully.  This short but powerful book offers invaluable psychological lessons of perspective and freedom from an unexpected place--an Auschwitz concentration camp.

3. "Drive" by Daniel Pink

Understanding what motivates people (and especially you) is the first step to understanding and achieving happiness. The focus on "inner motivation" in this book is fantastic--especially when you are just starting a business career.  At first, the money won't necessarily be there, but autonomy, mastery, and fulfillment can be even more powerful motivations for you and your team.

4. "It's Not What You Sell, It's What You Stand For" by Roy Spence

Building a business and bettering your life starts with understanding one's purpose in the world. This book explains not only why it's so important to understand the real meaning behind your work, but specific steps to finding your purpose (notice I didn't write finding "your passion").

5. "Good to Great" by Jim Collins

This is the single most influential book I've read to understand business basics.  From hiring to leadership humility to technology to the Stockdale Paradox, you will take a lot of notes and walk away a stronger leader after finishing this gem.

6. "5 Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni

Like it or not, you'll be working in teams for your entire career.  If you don't understand how to work effectively within a team setting, you'll be frustrated every day.  Read this to minimize team politics and maximize your productivity and results.

7. "Death by Meeting" by Patrick Lencioni

Meetings can be effective, but if not handled with skill your meeting time will be unproductive (and probably very boring).  Poorly run meetings are more of a reflection of those who lead them than the act of meeting itself. Take the power back and turn your meetings into something positive and purposeful.

8. "Positioning: The Battle for your Mind" by Al Ries, Jack Trout, Philip Kotler

This classic marketing book on how to understand your product or service--and communicate this message to others--can be a game changer for businesses of any size.

9. "Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, Bruce Patton

Negotiating is not about winning and losing. It's about everyone getting what they want. Being a smart and strong negotiator is a valuable skill in every aspect of your life, and this book shows you how.

10. "You're Not the Person I Hired" by Janet Boydell, Barry Deutsch, Brad Remillard

There's a certain magic that happens in a company when you've got all of the "right people on the bus."  This book will show you how to find the right people and increase their odds of success within your organization.

11. "CEO Tools: The Nuts N Bolts for Every Manager's Success" by Kraig Kramer

This one is not just for CEOs, but any curious mind (and yes, that means you) that wants to understand the financial underpinnings of an organization.

12. "Tell to Win" by Peter Guber

This is a recently published book that explains why storytelling is important and how to help you sell your ideas and influence others with stories. No matter how good your ideas might be, if you can't sell them, then nothing will happen. I read this book about two years ago and it has had more impact on my success than any other.  Story plays a huge role not only in business marketing and sales, but also in leadership and personal development.

What books have helped you arrive where you are today?

Last updated: Dec 5, 2013

JAY STEINFELD is the founder and CEO of Blinds.com, the industry leader in online window covering sales, representing over half of window treatments sold online and doing more than $100 million in sales annually.
@BlindscomCEO




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