We surveyed Jumpstart podcast guests to get their favorite business books for 2018, and here are their favorites!
Remember this scene from Good Will Hunting?
It’s the iconic bar scene where Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon, outsmarts a Harvard college student and tells him the truth about education. It culminates with Will saying to the stunned Harvard student:
“See the sad thing about a guy like you is in about 50 years you’re gonna start doing some thinking on your own, and you’re gonna come up with the fact that… you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a f**kin’ education you coulda got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library.” - Will Hunting
Why am I sharing this?
Because in the spirit of self-education, the team here at Jeffalytics has created a “Good Will Hunting MBA” reading list, featuring recommendations from our favorite Jumpstart podcast guests. Our guests have recommended the 50 best business books for anyone looking to pursue entrepreneurship, start a professional service business, or advance your existing career options. You can see the full list of books below, as well as commentary on why each book is worthy of mention.
The 50 Best Business Books for 2018 According to our Jumpstart Podcast Guests
Here are the top 50 business book recommendations from our podcast guests. Responses were requested from all Jumpstart podcast guests, and we have curated all the answers that were received into the following list.
Books are listed in chronological order of the first podcast guest to recommend them. Have you read a book recently that is worth mentioning? Be sure to mention it in the comments below!
by Jim Collins
Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro: I read it no less than three times. I tried to find every way I could to create the correlations with long-lasting companies that Collins' research had uncovered. It's so well-written and compelling that I may have even gone overboard in my attempts at mimicry. I'd certainly still endorse it today, though I'd temper that endorsement with the knowledge that growing your business to a giant, public company may not be right for everyone (it no longer is for me).
Kirk Williams, owner of ZATO: The single most beneficial business book I've read (thus far) is Good to Great by Jim Collins. In this book, Jim takes a look at companies that weather success and adversity well (not merely companies that have grown fast) and then compiles a list of key takeaways for the reader. It is an enjoyable read, filled with deep philosophical thinking as well as simple, actionable takeaways.
A key takeaway I've pulled from this book and tried to implement in every area of my life is the idea of "getting the right people on the bus," and being will to kindly help the wrong people off the bus. In this way, the successful companies he analyzed were more concerned with hiring the right people then they were with how much specific knowledge those individuals had - knowing that character, morality, and work ethic matters more than knowledge. That stuck with me as I began to do my own hiring. All in all, Good to Great is a book I've found both personally and professionally helpful, and I highly recommend it.
Marty Weintraub, founder of Aimclear
Jeff Sauer, host of Jumpstart Podcast: Of all business books I've read, I keep coming back to Good to Great. In particular, the concept of the flywheel, and how momentum is so significant for businesses. This concept helped me understand why good things happen but also gives comfort when things don’t happen exactly as you expect in business. Sometimes it’s just because you haven’t built up the momentum in your flywheel. This and other concepts have been great for my business growth and overall mental state as an entrepreneur.
by Derek Sivers
Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro: If you’re aiming for small(er) and profitable, but wonderful, I loved Derek Sivers’ Anything You Want.
by Michael D. Watkins
Krista Seiden, Analytics Advocate at Google: It helped me to have a better mindset of how to set myself up for success going in (Adobe). Each time I’ve changed roles since I’ve gone back and revisited it to remind myself of the most important things I should keep in mind to get off on the right foot. It’s also a great visual reminder sitting on my shelf that these concepts can and should apply beyond the first three months in a new job as well.
by Bryan Eisenberg and Jeffrey Eisenberg
Julien Coquet, VP & Chief Evangelist at Hub'Scan Inc.: Even though it was written 12 years ago, this book is an awesome primer on persuasion and personas.
It is meant to open marketers to the concept of applying data (and what is now called data science) to marketing campaigns and testing until you find the right audience (A/B & multivariate testing).
I love that it is one of the first books to clearly explain the difference between usability and persuasion.
Still very relevant in 2018 and a must read!
by Al Ries & Jack Trout
Cyrus Shepard, founder of Fazillion: In the age of digital marketing where we obsess over the most recent change in Google's algorithm or the latest tool that delivers the highest ROI, we often forget there that are underlying principals of marketing shaped by actual human behavior. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing explore a number of these principals that can determine the success or failure of any marketing campaign.
by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Aleyda Solis, founder of Orainti: My No. 1 Business book, the one that has influenced me more is "Remote: Office Not Required" by Jason Fried - because it opened my eyes to the possibility of working remotely and how to make it happen effectively, changed the way I thought about work-life balance and opportunities coming from a remote setting which ended-up making me become a remotely based SEO consultant.
by Rand Fishkin
Michael King, founder of iPullRank: It's a very real look at what it takes to run a modern digital business, it examines commonly held beliefs with a critical eye, and offers real-world advice that is not just "be a wartime CEO" and "get out there and raise 60 milli".
Britney Muller, Senior SEO Scientist at Moz: A MUST READ for any entrepreneur! Entertainingly raw, witty, no fluff startup insights that can save you YEARS of stumbling! You won't be able to put it down.
Geraldine DeRuiter, founder of The Everywhereist: It talks about the many pitfalls and cons of the startup world - that a lot of people don't share.
Jeff Sauer, host of Jumpstart Podcast: This book feels like it was written just for me. Rand gives words to the feelings I've only had in my head during the lonely journey of entrepreneurship. It's rare that a book can articulate feelings so clearly without undermining the intelligence of the reader. We feel both invested in Rand's journey, and persuaded to join his next company.
by Dan Roam
Oli Gardner, co-founder of Unbounce: As a visual thinker, I'm utterly lost without a whiteboard – I have 4 of them at home and carry a ReMarkable when I travel. While developing the concepts for my next talk, I've been getting into sketching as a creative way to develop new ideas, while creating new content marketing materials. Dan Roam's Draw to Win is excellent. It takes the techniques you learn in "The Sketchnote Handbook," and adds some brilliant business concepts. I've found (as many others have) that by sketching your ideas, you immerse yourself in them more deeply. The ideas I've been developing, as a result, are fantastic.
by Cal Newport
Darren Shaw, founder of Whitespark: It has given me many strategies to block off "deep work" time and shut out the many distractions coming at me so I can stay focused, accomplish the critical work, and feel good about each workday.
by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Duane Brown, founder of Take Some Risk: I was a bit skeptical of the book. I love how Jason and David think and talk about their philosophy about Basecamp. However, I'm not a huge fan of Basecamp the product. I got the book and read it in a couple of days! A lot of what they talk about for running Basecamp and the life we should (and could) lead is in the book. Saying no to a workaholic culture, saying no to celebrating raising huge VC rounds or overbuilding features in your product to support everyone under the sun. I think a lot about if I should do something, even if I can do something. I instead say no to 80% of the customers because we don't compete on price, then say yes to 80% and grow just to grow. Keeping and maintaining that growth is what got all the massive ad agency holding companies in trouble. What kind of company do you want to build?
Mike Arnesen, founder of UpBuild: I checked it out from the library shortly after founding UpBuild in 2015. I kept getting so much inspiration while reading it that I'd consistently put it down to go work. In fact, I had to return it and I still haven't finished reading it three years later. Whoops!
Angie Schottmuller, growth marketing advisor at Interactive Artisan: Ironically, because nobody likes rework.
by Jeffrey K. Rohrs
Samantha Noble, founder of Biddable Moments: I found this book really useful when it came to understanding the groups of audiences I should be looking to engage when writing content, creating ads or website copy. You can’t just focus on people that you are looking to sell to; you need to engage all kinds of audiences to help push your message out. If you simply rely on attracting new customers, who have you got out there sharing your content? Who have you got linking to your content? Who have you got talking about your offering to friends and family? Focus on your Subscribers, your Fans and your Followers to amplify your message and get the word spread to a larger group of potential buyers.
by Don Miguel Ruiz
Phil Mackey, On-Air Talent at Hubbard Broadcasting: This book offers a 30,000-foot view that helps craft a set of pillars to structure your life and actions. This book helped me crystallize my communication and decision-making processes.
by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Melissa Mackey, search supervisor at gyro: It illustrates how to break down concepts so people can understand. So applicable for PPC especially, which people tend to be confused by and PPC pros often have trouble explaining. If you want to be a better communicator and convey your message in a way that clients and others can understand, this book will show you how.
by Jeff Haden
Larry Kim, CEO at MobileMonkey: Success isn't for the uniquely-qualified; it's possible for any person who understands the true nature of motivation.
by Pamela Slim
Jess Ostroff, Digital Marketing & Executive Virtual Assistant at Don't Panic Management: This book opened my eyes to the possibility that I don’t have to have the same job, do the same tasks, or even run my own business to make a difference in the world. It’s all about finding the threads that tie my values to my work. I love this book because it’s a workbook in a book, and you could take weeks, months, or years to get through it. I don’t think I was even ready to read it when I first did, but it’s been a staple on my shelf that I keep coming back to as my life and priorities evolve. I’ve found that my core values never change, but the tactics through with to create positive change do.
by Atul Gawande
Jess Ostroff, Digital Marketing & Executive Virtual Assistant at Don't Panic Management: We work with many independent contractors who work on their own schedules and with their own processes. We also work with many different clients in different time zones, systems, and tools. Managing all of these has required us to have our own internal processes and, you guessed it, checklists for getting things done. We have found that reinventing the wheel each time takes minutes and brain power away from providing great service, so we used the ideas in this book to create checklists for everything we can. In addition to streamlining everything we do, it also provides a fallback system in the event of an emergency or a vacation. The checklists are visible so other members of the team can step in and help. We even have an emergency checklist for when things happen that are outside our normal procedure. It’s been a gamechanger!
by Felix Dennis
Ivan Rečević, co-owner of Gaia Consulting d.o.o.: There is only one I recommend for someone who wants to become an entrepreneur - How to Get Rich. Never mind the title, it is somehow the anti-book on the matter.
by Simon Sinek and David Mead
Paul Koks, analytics advocate at Online Metrics: Unconsciously, each year I have started living my life and doing the things I love most (private and business) more in line with my core principles, my Self.
And this is where this book perfectly shines in. Discovering your Why (on a personal and business level) to live your life in the best possible way and inspire others.
I see too many people struggling with their work and other decisions on a daily basis. So I think that most people (everyone?) will benefit from reading this book.
And, as a Digital Marketer, Analyst or whatever your role - think about it when answering: Why does your business (and Digital Property) exist? No, not just because of selling products. Think twice!
by Brock L. Eide M.D. M.A. and Fernette F. Eide M.D.
Ginny Marvin, paid media reporter at MarTech Today: This isn't a business book, but it has reshaped my way of thinking about many aspects of my work. [It] is about understanding how dyslexia affects learning and communication styles and ways in which those with dyslexia often have insights others just don't see. As a parent, it's been invaluable, and surprisingly, it's been an asset in my work. It has helped me try to step back and see issues or problems in a different focus and think about communicating ideas in multiple ways. And it has made me much more cognizant of how valuable it can be to have people with different learning and communications styles on a team. Particularly for marketing teams whose work is so much about being perceptive and striking connections through communication, in all its mediums.
by Jeffrey Eisenberg, Bryan Eisenberg & Roy H Williams
Aaron Weiche, CEO at GetFiveStars: An easy read that will both motivate and drive ideas for any type of business. Learn how Amazon has exploded by aligning with values focused on its customer above all else. This is the first business book I have ever wanted to send to all of my customers as I know it could change their business too!
by Greg McKeown
Lea Pica, Data Storytelling Trainer and Founder of LeaPica.com: Making the transition from career long employee to newly-minted solo entrepreneur is a drastic shift in how you approach your work. As someone who was chomping at the bit to tackle the multitude of projects of my own choosing at last, I ended up making a critical error of not being able to choose the most important thing at that point in my business. I wasn’t getting things out the door and moving onto the next most important thing.
As such, I ended up in a state of overwhelm and ambiguity over which direction to take next. This book was a game changer in understanding that all of my goals could be attended to at the right time in the right order. But focusing on what was absolutely essential to take the next big step was the key to maintaining my momentum. This book has enabled me to bring more focus and increase my time to market with critical behavioral and cognitive tool sets.
Jacob Baadsgaard, CEO at Disruptive Advertising: I've read this book three times (a rare thing for me to read a book more than once) and it has changed my life each time. I'm a lot better at saying no, getting my sleep at night, and making my family a priority from having read this book.
by Bo Burlingham
Dan Golden, president and co-founder at BFO: There's plenty of great books about hustling / digital marketing / etc but small Giants can help agencies figure out who they want to be and how to get there.
Mike Arnesen, founder of UpBuild: It's not that it was a book that changed my perspective on business. Instead, it validated things I was already doing! It was great to have the realization that it was actually a valid strategy to focus on being the best as opposed to big.
by Adam Grant
Jennifer Havice, conversion optimizer and copywriter at Make Mention Media and Communications: This is a wonderful book that outlines exactly why nice guys (and gals) don't have to finish last in business. In fact, the research shows that givers not only do well in business but can be wildly successful. You just have to learn how to give without expectation while maintaining a high sense of self-regard. And Grant walks you through the process.
by Steve Krug
Ilise Benun, founder of Marketing Mentor: It’s ostensibly about web usability and but it applies to everything marketing, in my opinion. It was relevant when it was published in 2000 and is even more relevant now.
Els Aerts, Co-founder of AGConsult: Together with Jakob Nielsen (gotta love Jakob, right?), Steve Krug is pretty much the reason I’m in this business. I read ‘Don’t make me think’ a long time ago, on holiday on a beach in Crete. My old copy still has some sand in it. It’s such a great book and so well written that I was hooked straight away. I still recommend it to people who want to get into usability and conversion optimization.
by Peter Block
David Baker, principal at ReCourses: It takes a radically fresh approach to understanding how to approach influence and articulation.
by David Maister
David Baker, principal at ReCourses: He wanted to use some of my research in it and I was flattered that a lighthouse in the consulting world would!
by Dan Ariely
Talia Wolf, founder of Getuplift: I loved it because it looks into understanding peoples' decision-making process and the different things that impact our everyday. As marketers, it is our job to understand our customers better so we can create better experiences for them.
by Richard Koch
Dan Shure, owner of Evolving SEO: My favorite business book is The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch. And I'll be honest: it's actually not a very well written book. BUT, it completely re-wired how my brain thinks about effort and results.
At a strategy and productivity level, it taught me to look for the small number of inputs that result in the best outputs. For example - realizing that when I work with clients in person, or with lots of screen share calls, we get the best results - I do more of that.
And at a practical level, it taught me to do an 80/20 analysis of marketing data. For example, in this post, I explain how to do an 80/20 analysis on your content and determine the few articles that drive the bulk of your results - and how you might use that to repeat success.
If you're willing to look beyond the fact it's not a well-written book - but could change how you look at everything in marketing, business and life - it's a highly recommended read!
by Richard Rumelt
Jeff Allen, president at Hanapin: My favorite book for introducing folks to strategy. People in the PPC world are still relatively tactical and strategy is becoming more critical, especially since the machines are taking over. Specifically, Rumelt's concept of a "strategy kernel" resonates with me. Most folks try to distill a strategy to a single line, but that's too reductionist. A "strategy kernel" is about understanding what's happening, deciding on an approach to deal with that, and then creating specific actions that will get you to your goals.
by Michael E. Gerber
Sheena Schleicher, founder of Schleicher Marketing: This book was recommended to me by a number of business owners I respect -- and I knew why as soon as I started reading. I was in the first few years of my independent consultancy and struggling to navigate the role of Technician vs. Entrepreneur. I always loved doing the work and also had issues with trusting anyone else to do the work as thoroughly as I would or, especially, to interact with clients that I spent years building relationships with. I had no real plans to expand and grow my business beyond an independent consultancy, but this book clearly explained how the path I was on was not sustainable and would eventually lead to burnout (likely within 5 years). This book taught me how to plan for and structure a successful, sustainable business from the start -- which began with answering, in writing, questions about my vision, values, purpose, and primary objectives.
I could go on and on about how this book is full of incredibly logical and practical instructions for structuring a healthy business from the start, with stories that every entrepreneur can relate to and learn from. We're still a long way from where we see our company at its full potential, but we're constantly improving and anticipate healthy growth for years. For me, the two most important lessons from this book include: the importance of working on your business, rather than in it; and that my business is not my life, it should serve my life.
Josh Shogren, founder of Passion Into Paychecks: It helped me come to the realization that I was the person doing everything in my business and I had zero systems within my business. This helped my switch my mindset for my business and made me start creating SOPs and documenting my processes so that I could hire for those positions. This mindset switch is the most critical thing that has ever happened to me and my business as it has allowed me to scale everything I was doing, and I was working less. Every entrepreneur and business owner should read this book.
John Doherty, founder of Credo: Both have changed my life in different ways, mostly through process thinking.
Britney Muller, senior SEO scientist at Moz: This one hit way too close to home (cried reading it on an airplane once...this should not be tear jerker) because when I started my business, I was 100% the technician that was good at a craft (aka the main character) and thought I could successfully run a business without adequately delegating and creating processes when I started hiring employees. Doing a better job of these things, and creating processes, like The E-Myth outlines is how you can avoid the entrepreneurial trough-of-sorrow and burn-out.
Chenell Tull, founder of Conversion Owl Marketing: Completely changes the way you will think about business, and how you're running your own business. He goes over structuring a business, even if you're still a solopreneur, and helps you truly set up a great foundation for your business.
by Daniel H. Pink
AJ Wilcox, owner of B2Linked: I love how he approaches what drives us and motivates us to put in our best work. We all say we work for money, but there are so many factors that are more powerful of a motivator than money when you take a closer look. I love sending random gifts to employees because of the principles that Daniel Pink shares in this book!
by Jonah Berger
Brent Csutoras, CMO at PeakActivity: Contagious was probably my favorite work-related read in the last year, as it really opened my mind up to some key points on why things ultimately go viral, which I had never really thought of before.
Specifically, the aspect of Social Currency and Triggers. Social Currency being where people get some sort of value from sharing an interesting story, whether it be credit for entertaining someone or making themselves seem more in the know or intelligent. Triggers being something that a target audience would relate to and do on a regular basis, which in the future doing again would remind them of the story in question, like being in a grocery store, drinking a cup of coffee, or laughing with friends.
These two aspects really made me rethink marketing as a whole and helped explain the reasons many campaigns did or did not succeed.
by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
Phil Singleton, CEO of Kansas City Website Design & SEO: I love this book and think of it often because it explains in great detail (and with detailed data) how most successful business people live low consumption lifestyles and are savers and investors, while many of the people we see that appear to be successful with the trappings of flashy lifestyles have much less wealth and are usually in debt to maintain their high consumption lifestyles. I think many of the lessons in the book apply to individuals as well as agency owners and small businesses. No other business book has had such a tremendous effect on me personally and my outlook on business and life.
by Monique Svazlian Tallon
Christi Olson, head of evangelism for search at Microsoft: Did you know that less than 14% of today’s top executives in the fortune 500 are female leaders? This book provides a model of the different aspects needed to combine feminine strengths with the traditional masculine qualities of leadership to provide a balanced approach to leadership – and one that can help us tip the balance to understand how a woman can embrace these qualities to join the ranks of the top executives.
I love that instead of focusing on how women should adapt to masculine leadership styles or join the boys club, it focuses on embracing the feminine qualities so that we can authentically come from a place of confidence and empowerment. The book is essentially a workshop-in-a-book containing questionnaires, reflection points and calls to action to help you understand different styles of leadership engagement. It’s a book that is for all business leaders to help them understand diversity in the workplace.
by Clayton M. Christensen and James Allworth
Ross Simmonds, digital marketing strategist at Foundation Marketing: This book has tons of brilliant lessons that can change both the way you navigate business and the way you navigate life. It's filled with practical takeaways and insightful case studies that almost anyone can connect with and apply in their own day-to-day life.
by Steve Stoute and Mim Eichler Rivas
Ross Simmonds, digital marketing strategist at Foundation Marketing: Hip Hop has changed so much of American culture and beyond but it's rarely talked about in boardrooms. From the start to the finish, Steve shares some fantastic stories from his own career that offer insights into how brands can use culture to tell their story in a meaningful way. The book is brilliant. I recommend it to every and any marketer striving to win in the years to come.
by Alex Reinhart
Michelle Robbins, SVP content & marketing technology at Third Door Media: A quick, fun, easy-to-read and digest analysis of how sometimes, the data isn't saying what you think it's saying, and why. We've all been in the situation of being presented with analysis and reporting that just didn't square and this book does a great job of addressing the most common traps people fall into when doing any kind of data analysis.
by Edward R. Tufte
Michelle Robbins, SVP content & marketing technology at Third Door Media: This book (and even more so, his one-day seminar he conducts throughout the year in various cities) does an incredibly thorough job of conveying that how data is presented is critical to communicating, understanding, and deriving insights about the data. Since being exposed to his work, I have never looked at charts, graphs or graphics the same way. He has a series of books on the topic, and they are each worth diving in.
by Alan Weiss
Tom Critchlow, freelance strategy consultant: If you can look past the rah rah nature, there are some great tips about consulting, structuring contracts and thinking about expertise.
by James C. Scott
Tom Critchlow, freelance strategy consultant: All about how top-down "high modernist" schemes fail and the ways in which they ignore the on-the-ground local knowledge. It's about architecture and politics but applies so well to consulting and the limits of top-down change.
by Stephen R. Covey
Britney Muller, Senior SEO Scientist at Moz: Covey helps ingrain common sense info like remembering peoples names and using them often, so that you can be more successful and fulfilled. Soak up not-so-radical ideas like how taking better care of yourself will allow you to better serve your business. A must-read book for anyone!
by Eric Ries
Britney Muller, Senior SEO Scientist at Moz: Be more strategic in how you launch a business, hire employees and create processes. The Lean Startup breaks it all down into easy to understand sections.
by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Wil Reynolds, founder of SEER Interactive: Fast moving companies must change with the times to stay relevant and on top. Your teams are averse to change and don't always fully grasp the consequences of doing things the way we always have. So those two forces are constantly working against one another. As such Switch really helped me to find easy ways to make change less daunting/scary.
by Stephen M. R. Covey
Wil Reynolds, founder of SEER Interactive: Speed of Trust is a book that helps you realize how often lack of trust slows down organizations and relationships, and how you can do small things to build more trust which helps become the "grease in the wheels" so to speak. I have found that every time you have an interaction and you find yourself thinking...what is their angle? You are adding in a mental tax to your interactions, after reading this book I was reminded to start off defaulting to trust in all relationships, and sometimes you'll be made a fool of, but that cost is often times smaller than the mental tax of wondering what everyone's angle is.
by Eugene M. Schwartz and Martin Edelston
Miles Beckler: For full on marketing based content, Eugene Schwartz's Breakthrough Advertising still blows my mind. He articulates some of the most important marketing ideas and copywriting ideas in one little book. It is dense with HUGE ideas so it requires reading each section over and over for all the value to sink in.
by Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne
Miles Beckler: Steven Pressfield's "Turning Pro" hit me right smack between the eyes like a punch in the face. This book cuts straight to the point and has helped me identify what I was using as resistance from doing my work... Now, I'm a more effective marketer and internet entrepreneur because I made the decision to go pro.
by Simon Sinek
Chenell Tull, founder of Conversion Owl Marketing: Even if you've heard the concept of starting with why, seeing it in the written word, explained the way Simon tells it will change the way you think about it. I rent all my books from the library and this is one of the ones I bought after returning it so I could make all my notes and scribbles in it and save for future use.
by Peter F. Drucker
Chenell Tull, founder of Conversion Owl Marketing: This book isn't just for the leadership of an organization even though the title may make you think so. It's a great book to open your eyes to time management and is such a great reminder to do the right things, not just the "important" things.
What do you think about these book recommendations? Have you read any of them? Which had the most significant impact on you?
Any books we missed? Let us know by leaving a comment below!
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