From time to time we post books, articles, and other resources that we believe offer practical, useful information for the business owner and his/her trusted advisors.  I am a voracious reader myself and feel compelled to share titles that I feel would be useful to business owners or your advisors.  Books capture the best that other minds have to offer.  If experts are generous enough to share, why not learn from them?   I have personally read these books, and, in many cases they were authored by colleagues whom I know firsthand.  Here is a list of books that I recommend.  Please note that I post them here as I read them, rather than according to my opinion of their value. They are all excellent and worthy of your time.  Click in the titles below to read book info and my comments about the book.

--Joan Ridley



ownership transition

Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealthby John M. Leonetti (pub. 2008, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)

This is an excellent read for any business owner who is thinking about leaving his/her business.  John and I agree that exit planning is best provided by a professional who has no pre-conceived notion about the exit strategy you should pursue.  Whether you are considering family succession, a third party sale, ESOP, sale to management or employees, and all the myriad other options available, you will find this book to be an invaluable resource.  It will educate you about all the aspects that must be properly addressed to leave your business successfully.  It will also help you understand why it takes a few years to plan.

The $10 Trillion Opportunityby Richard E. Jackim and Peter G. Christman (pub. 2005, Exit Planning Institute)

This book is an eye-opener for professionals who wish to become exit planners. Pete and Rich, founders of the Exit Planning Institute, are passionate about exit planning, and it shows.

Selling Your Businessby Russell Robb (pub 2002, Adams Media Corporation)

If selling to an outside third party will be your exit strategy, read this book now.  You will learn from a respected, experienced professional what you need to know about the process and what buyers look for.

The Wright Exitby Bruce Wright (pub 1997, The Wright Co.)

Bruce looks at the importance of finding meaning in life beyond the business.  His insights are invaluable to business owners who have dedicated their lives to running their enterprise.

How to Run your Business So You Can Leave It In Styleby John H. Brown (pub 2004, Business Enterprise Press)

John Brown is one of the trend-setters in the exit planning profession. This book will show business owners and their advisors how the exit planning process works, as John sees it.  I recommend it for owners of, and advisors involved with, businesses that will likely transfer to "insiders" - employees and children in the business, especially if they fall into the "Self-Employed" category described in Cash Flow Quadrant.

Cashflow Quadrantby Robert Kiyosaki (pub 1998, Warner Business Books)

Many entrepreneurs assume they are business owners when in reality they are self-employed.  This easy-to-read book explains the difference and why it is important to know which one you are.  It will change your view of wealth-creation.

Letting Go: Preparing Yourself to Relinquish Control of the Family Businessby Craig E. Arnoff, Ph.D. (pub 2003, Family Enterprise Publishers)

This is another excellent read offered by the Family Firm Institute. If your exit strategy is family succession, you will want to read this book before you start the exit process.  Every founder of a family business will find Dr. Arnoff's comments helpful.  He walks you through the mental and personal areas that you ought to address if you really want the business to remain in the family, and, if you want to keep peace.  Knowing what you will do after you leave the business, and, being passionate about it, is more important to the transition of ownership than most business owners realize.  The book also offers tips for those who will remain with the company after you transition ownership.

Exit Right - A Guided Tour of Succession Planning For Families-In-Business-Togetherby Mark Voeller, Linda Fairburn, and Wayne Thompson (pub 2002, Summit Run)

Mark Voeller is an international authority on families in business together. He offers invaluable tips in his book to founders who wish to leave with a legacy of peace in the family and a business that will thrive as a family-owned business for many generations.

Built To Sellby John Warrillow (pub, 2010 Flip Jet Media Ink)

This is a must read for any "business owner" who assumes that he/she will someday sell his/her business. Your business might not be salable but you don't know that yet.  Read this book and find out how you can build a service business to sell, and sell for terms that will support the lifestyle you dream of.   You can read it in a few hours and come away with business wisdom that would otherwise take years to acquire.   

Built To Sell Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without Youby John Warrillow (Portfolio/Penguin)

John's latest book takes the "business owner"  through a series of easy-to-understand steps to grow a lifestyle business into a viable enterprise that has real value in the marketplace.   Just because your enterprise is cash flowing and producing a nice lifestyle for you and your family, don't assume that you have something to sell until you read what John has to say.  I couldn't have said it better myself.   Don't wait until you are ready to sell to read it.  Do it NOW.

How To Value, Buy, or Sell a Financial Advisory Practiceby Mark C. Tibergien & Owen Dahl (pub, 2006, Bloomberg Press)

This book was aritten for financial advisory practices, but anyone who owns a personal service business will learn how to turn it into a business with real value.  Owners of service businesses rarely have a realistic view of the value of their "business".  The rude awakening comes when they try to sell.  If you haven't created real value, once you are gone, there is little or no value.  Read this book and learn how to turn your lifestyle practice into a true business that can function and thrive without you.

The Handbook of Incentive Compensationby Armstrong, Hams, Ivancic, Rogers, and Rosen (pub, 2009, The National Center for Employee Ownership)

This is an excellent reference for anyone wanting to establish an incentive compensation program.  Incentive compensation programs are essential for any company whose goals  are to grow profitability and value.  An incentive compensation plan can play a critical role when retential of key people is critical to the owners' exit strategy.  

Every Family's Businessby Thomas William Deans (Detente Financial Press)

This book will surprise you.  Yes, it's about the family business, but Deans offers another perspective on the legacy vs. family wealth building dilema.  If you work with clients in family bsinesses or if you are a shareholder in a family business, I suggest that you read it long before the founder plans to depart or you could be going down the wrong rabbit trail.  Keep an open mind.  Deans just might change how you think about your family business. It is written in story form so it's easy reading.  

Ownership Thinkingby Brad Hams (2012, McGraw Hill)

Brad Hams lays out a simple plan to engage employees when the goal is to create a culture of accountability, purpose, and profit.  He shares the tools he uses to map out and facilitate an agenda to grow profitability and value.  I would be remiss if I did not mention how Brad ties the current corporate culture to entitlement thinking in our society and his vision to change how employees think. The book is easy to read, non-technical in its approach, and insightful.   This book is useful, yet visionary and an exciting read.  I heard Brad speak at the Exit Planning Institute's 2011 Annual Conference.  As a speaker he is engaging, has lots of stories to share and is well worth listening to.  

B2B Executive Playbookby Sean Geehan (Clerisy Press)

Author and business consultant Sean Geehan gives us a step-by-step process for developing and running a Business Customer Advisory Council (BCAC).    Geehan's premise is that in order for a company to have sustainable, predictable and profitable growth (SPPG), it must engage its customers' executives during the strategic planning phase of any product or service.  The company's customers' executives and the company become "business partners", insuring from the start  a successful roll-out of its new products and services.  Geehan's book is packed with charts, graphs, success stories, testimonials and data to demonstrate that his methods work. It offers food for thought and a plan for the reader to implement his ideas.   

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Value Sustainability and Value Enhancement

The Automatic Customer, by John Warrillow (pub., the Penguin Group)

John offers valuable insight into how even the smaller lifestyle business can be converted into a sustainable business with real value.  It's about changing how you view your business and taking another look at your business model from the standpoint of the marketplace and potential acquirers.   Every lower mid-market business owner needs to read this book and then brainstorm about how to apply John's ideas, or, risk having a business with little or no value when it's time to leave.  

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber (pub 1995, Harper Business)

Michael Gerber makes it easy for business owners to get a handle on the various systems that need to be in place and functioning correctly in order to sustain and grow a business- any business- no matter how small.

Comer Cottrell: A Story That Will Inspire Future Entrepreneursby Comer Cottrell (pub 2008, Brown Books)

Comer Cottrell is an entrepreneur who truly follows his instincts.  He has a natural feel for what products will succeed, with minimal or no data from marketing research.  Just as amazing, he knows how to connect with the right people to make his dreams come true.  He is a true entrepreneur who knows how to manifest.  This is a wonderful story about how he grew his company and sold it just at the right time for $80MM.

Driving Your Company's Valueby Michael J. Mard, Robert R. Dune, Edi Osborne, and James S. Rigby, Jr. (pub 2004, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)

Jim Rigby and his co-authors really understand how to create, and just as importantly, how to sustain corporate value.  Although technical, this book takes a good look at value and how to monitor it, without being so technical as to discourage the business owner whose time is limited.

Little Red Book of Sellingby Jeffrey Gitomer (pub 2005, Bard Press)

Jeffrey Gitomer is outrageous but then, most good salesmen are.  This book will give you the courage and know-how to do what you need to do to be the best salesperson you can be.

Brilliant Strategies and Fatal Blunders: How Small Businesses Survive an Overcrowded Marketby Robert Krumroy (pub 2002, I-B Publishing)

Bob Krumroy knows how to market and he shares his best ideas in this book.

Midas Marketingby Rob Slee (pub. 2009, Burn the Boats Press)

In his latest work, Rob Slee offers a fresh, new approach to strategic planning.  He demonstrates how your customer becomes an invaluable consultant, coaching you in the development of new products and services.  This book is fun to read, full of stories, and thought - provoking.

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 Enjoy It by Craig West (pub 2013, Succession Plus Pty Ltd)

This is an excellent resource for the business owner who is brave enough to tackle DYI business exit planning.  In it, Craig West, CPA, addresses the most critical issues that the business owner must address, ideally long before he is mentally ready to leave his business.  Generous with solid information and insight from someone who has advised numerous business owner clients about value enhancement and ownership transition, this book is a valuable resource.  Despite the "Aussie-isms",  it is well worth a read.  Bring a highlighter as golden nuggets come in rapid fire.

family employee issues

Family Business by the Numbers: How Financial Statements Impact Your Businessby Norbert E. Schwartz (pub 2004, Family Enterprise Publishers)

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an ownership interest in any privately held business whether you are a business owner or a family member who may or may not be active in a family owned business.  Without a basic understanding about how to read financial statements, you will not be able to grasp how and why the business is performing as it is.  This is a good basic overview of financial statements told in an easy-to-read, case-study format.

Financing Transitions: Managing Capital and Liquidity in the Family Businessby Francois M. de Visscher, Craig E. Arnoff, Ph.D., and John L Ward, Ph.D. (pub 1995, Family Enterprise Publishers)

This is an excellent overview of the need for, and correct use of, capital to sustain and grow a business.

Nurturing the Talent to Nurture the Legacy: Career Development in the Family Businessby Amy M. Schuman (pub 2004, Family Enterprise Publishers)

This is a must-read for anyone involved in a family owned business.  Identifying the right talent in the family and knowing how to grow it is critical to keeping the business in the family if family succession is your goal, or maintaining enterprise value.

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personal development

Getting Things Doneby David Allen (pub 2001, Penguin Books)

If you want some excellent tips on how to take command of your day and the workflow process, this is an excellent read.  Despite all the books out there on the subject, David Allen has come up with ideas that are new and useful.

A Whole New Mindby Daniel H. Pink (pub 2005, Riverhead Books)

Books like Daniel Pink's expand your mind, creating fertile ground for new ideas.  This is a must-read for anyone who is a principal or key-person in an organization.  It will help you identify how you think and where you fit in a business that wants to make an impact.

The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatnessby Stephen Covey (pub, Free Press)

Stephen Covey reaches beyond how to be effective in this book.  His message here is almost metaphysical as he encourages us to present our true self to the marketplace. The foundation for success is based on your passion, being fulfilled, and making a significant contribution.

The One Thing You Need to Knowby Marcus Buckingham (pub 2005, Free Press)

While giving you effective management ideas, Buckingham sticks to his mantra of the need to try new ideas and to be out of balance to be successful. Just like another favorite of mine by Buckingham, First, Break All the Rules, this book shows you how break-through thinking is necessary to succeed, but it must be tempered with good management.

Good to Greatby Jim Collins (pub 2001, HarperCollins)

Being a good widget maker is not enough to succeed.  You have to be able to manage effectively and all that it entails to build a great company.  Collins tells you how to do it.

The Ultimate Giftby Jim Stovall (pub 2001, River Oak)

This is a beautiful book and well-written.  Chock full of wisdom, give it to every member of your family - after you read it.

The Fred Factorby Mark Sanborn (pub 2004, Doubleday)

Success is all about service and this book offers wonderful stories that illustrate that truth.

The Good Life Rulesby Bryan Dodge and Matthew Ruddy (pub. 2009, McGraw Hill)

Maybe it’s because I have heard Bryan speak on several occasions that I could hear him speaking when I read this book. He is passionate about his message and it really comes across, his self-professed ADD notwithstanding.  He is in integrity with himself and it shows when he speaks and when he writes.  His book offers an abundance of practical advice about how to be effective, accomplished, and still have a personal and business life that you can be proud of.  Bryan is a very busy guy and doesn’t have time to repeat himself.  He won’t waste your time saying the same thing owner and over again.  Another thing- go hear him speak if you have the opportunity.  He is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Think and Grow Richby Napoleon Hill (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005)

Is there anyone out there who has not read this classic?  My colleague, John Leonetti, insisted that all members of his Platinum Group (advanced business exit planners) read or re-read it.  It was originally published in 1937, during the Great Depression and its message is more timely today than ever.  I read it for the first time in the late 1970's. Hill's message is basically this:  we can create tremendous prosperity if we will follow his teachings,based on his study of the very wealthy.  This book is the real deal.       

Getting Nakedby Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass)

This easy-to-read story shows us how to get real and be authentic with our customers and clients. The upshot is they will trust you more and appreciate your honesty resulting in loyalty to you and your business.  Take to heart and learn from Jack Bauer's example.  You will spend less dollars on sales.  Start keeping the custoemrs and clients you have.  You will love going to work every day, and, will receive more referrals than you ever dreamed of. 

The Trusted Advisorby David Maister, Charles H. Green & Robert M. Galford (pub. 2000, Simon & Schuster)

I read this book years ago.  It was recommend by the late Todd Fithian.  The authors map out for us how we can move from selling to advising.  It requires a more mature approach to working with clients that is intimate and relationship-based rather than product-based.  The trust-based relationship is the total opposite of the concept of selling that focuses on the salesman's need to sell.  It's all about what the client needs. This book will change how you view your customer  and will help you move quickly from a customer-based to a client-based relationship.  

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The Cutting Edge In Financial Servicesby Bob Veres (pub 2003, The National Underwriter)

Bob Veres is a futurist. He is also very direct and humorous which makes his work so much fun to read.  If you want to know where financial services as a professional is headed, read everything he writes.  In this book Bob talks about how to relate to your clients, how to market and sell to them, and most importantly, how to serve them.

The Tipping Pointby Malcolm Gladwell (pub 2000, Little, Brown and Company)

If you want to know how trends get started and then explode into society and the marketplace, read this book.

Blinkby Malcolm Gladwell (pub 2005, Little, Brown and Company)

Visionary types will especially love this book.  It will help you better understand, and appreciate, how you come up with the ideas that often baffle others, especially those who are steeped in research and the facts.  In Blink, Gladwell helps us to understand insight, wisdom, and the important contribution they make in the world of innovation.

The Master Plan by Peter Christman (pub. 2015, no publisher noted)

This is not a step-by-step book on how to prepare to exit your business, although Peter does outline what you need to know.  What is different about this one is that he speaks directly to the business owner, with integrity and authority that only Peter can about what he calls "the third leg of the stool", the client's "life plan".  What the client is all about, his values, and what he is wanting to accomplish, both business and personal, is what it's all about.   It takes a mature advisor and a mature client to have this important, intimate discussion.  Most advisors have the skills to address the business side of the exit planning equation, but few can articulate the personal aspect as only Peter can.  This book is vintage Peter Christman and a must read for any advisor who professes to be a business exit planner, regardless of what you call it.

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