5 books that have changed the way I think about business

As an entrepreneur, I don’t have as much time for reading as I would like; I’m often too busy ‘doing’. But, there’s value to be gleaned from other people’s stories of having been there, done that, and lots we can learn from their trials and tribulations.

So here are five books that have impacted me as a businessperson; the titles I tend to go back to that have made a difference to the way I think and approach things.

1. Losing My Virginity, by Richard Branson

There’s no doubt Richard Branson is successful and, while this book chronicles the impressive story of how he got to where he is, the idea that struck me most was Branson’s assertion that you don’t need to spend millions of dollars on marketing to make something successful. In his way, he shows that doing interesting things (I guess you could call them stunts) can attract its own kind of PR. I’m not a very ‘front and centre’ kind of person, but I’ve made an effort to be more so since I started a business… all in the name of publicity.

2. Think & Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill

This one may have been written in 1937, but the tenets of this bestseller still stand. Napoleon Hill introduced me to the idea of the “Master Mind”, a group of people coordinating their knowledge and effort, in the spirit of harmony, for the attainment of a definite purpose. In other words, the creation of a team of supporters, coaches and counsellors who can help us achieve our goals. Hill was also the pioneer of positivity with the oft-quoted idea that “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve with a positive mental attitude.” It may sound somewhat cheesy now, but I firmly believe that sort of process – the act of imagining where you want to be – is extremely powerful.

3. Contagious, by Jonah Berger

This book takes a look at why some things catch on, and why some ideas spread or, as we commonly think of it, what it takes for something to ‘go viral’. It’s not the only book ever to have tackled this, but it has just the right mix of scientific basis with something that was still interesting and easy to read. Not only did it look at the concept of social proof – the way that the information we get from others impacts our behaviour – but I love a book with some practical take-outs, and this book had those in spades.

4. How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

Another bestseller (and also first published in 1937!), this book is a poignant reminder that no-one really ever wins in an argument. Its colourful anecdotes remind us that “you catch more flies with honey” or, put a different way, that there are positive ways to bring people to your way of thinking. My key take-out from this book was the importance of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and attempting to see things from their perspective, in order to communicate more effectively. I still consciously do this today, especially when I need to make an impact, or when communication could otherwise be fraught.

5. The Art Of War, by Sun Tzu

Another old text, The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the 5th century BC. Each of the 13 chapters focuses on a different aspect of warfare, and it’s considered a leading piece on military strategy and tactics. You may wonder the relevance of something like this now, but I see it being about salesmanship at its finest. The Art Of War includes principles that, when applied to the business world, make the work we do – and the gamesmanship involved – into an art form.

Richard ConwayRichard Conway is Founder & CEO of Pure SEO.

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