5 books small business startups should be required to read

By Posted in - Public Blog on July 5th, 2017 2 Comments

5 books for accountants and small business owners

Getting into a small business is a little like getting into parenting.

What kicks it off is usually pretty exciting, but it sets in motion a series of events that most people are totally unprepared and untrained for. It’s a case of you just don’t know, what you don’t yet know, first time around.

Personally, I think parenting and entrepreneurship are two of the most difficult things to do.

But they’re two of life’s most rewarding roles.

And both are crucial for a healthy society.

It’s ironic that two of life’s toughest roles allow you to get started without first having any training or qualifications!

Imagine, if before you started a family you had to pass some basic competency tests for emotional intelligence, communication skills and financial literacy — that you had to show you’re capable of being an effective parent and managing a household.

But we’re not living in some kind of science fiction dystopia, so that day is unlikely to come.

And when it comes to starting a business, I think Michael Gerber summed it up best when he coined “The Entrepreneurial Myth” (a.k.a. The E-Myth) that, “Most small businesses are not started by entrepreneurs, they are started by technicians having an entrepreneurial seizure.” Gerber makes the point that being able to do the technical work of a business—being a mechanic, or a baker or an accountant—has little to do with being able to manage and build a business that does those things.

They are different skill-sets altogether.

Have you ever heard anyone say—whether a parent or an entrepreneur—“If I’d known how hard it was going to be, I might never have started”? I’ve heard it many times over my 25-plus years of consulting to businesses around their strategy, marketing and technology.

Growing a business is hard Growing an accounting firm is hard. Do it well though, and the rewards are great… not just financially, but emotionally and professionally. You get to make a profound positive difference in the lives of your team and your clients.

So what preparation can first-time entrepreneurs and startup accountants do, to better prepare themselves for building a business? Like parenting, there’s no substitute for life experience—“You can’t learn to swim by reading a book,” as they say. You have to dive in and get wet.

Having said that, I know that in my business career of starting ventures including consulting firms, medical device and software companies and our digital marketing agency, there are some books that have made a profound impact on my effectiveness as an entrepreneur. And even though I also invested many tens of thousands of dollars in an MBA in entrepreneurship and new venture management where I learnt a lot, was a member of The 1% Club (top 1% of students) and had a lot of fun twice representing Australia in the world final of the Moot Corp business planning and capital raising competition over at the University of Texas in Austin, there are a handful of business books that I always refer back to and that I notice are often also mentioned in discussions with fellow entrepreneurs.

Books for accountants and small business owners

So here it is… my list of 5 books I believe governments should require people to read before they start a business, including an accounting firm:

  1. The E-Myth Revisited — Michael Gerber
  2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — Stephen Covey
  3. Getting Things Done — David Allen
  4. The 4 Disciplines of Execution — McChesney, Covey & Huling
  5. Scrum — Jeff Sutherland

They might not be about accounting as a subject, but these are books for accountants and small business owners.

You’ll notice that, other than the E-Myth, these books are about personal effectiveness and productivity — just getting things done and turning ideas into reality. The ability to execute is the biggest skill gap we see in the small business community, but upstream from all of that is having the entrepreneurial mindset and understanding the difference between when you’re being a Technician, versus a Manager, versus an Entrepreneur, and no-one has said it better than Gerber.

You are not your business.

So, what about you?

If you were in government and legislation was being introduced to require new business start-up entrepreneurs to first read five books, which five would be on your list?

Enter in the Comments below the business books you most frequently recommend. It will make for fascinating reading…

  • My “go to” books are 1, 2 and 4 above. There are lots of other great books also, but those 3 stand the test of time and I return to them often. Indeed I named my business “Q2 Ltd” – named after Quadrant 2 coined by Stephen Covey in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People… doing the important but not urgent tasks is our mantra!

    • MC Carter says:

      That’s brilliant Ann! Thanks for your comment. Yes these books contain timeless wisdom. I recommend to firms that they bulk buy their favourite book or two like this, and provide one as a surprise thank you gift (along with a hand-written note) to new (and renewing) clients. The clients love it, and they grow in their mindset and competence as a result. It also gives you common vocabularies and frameworks to use in conversations with them… such as Quadrant 2! Q2. Love it!

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