Geri Stengel

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7 Must-Read Books for Small Business Owners, Social Entrepreneurs, Nonprofit Leaders

'Tis the season for book lists and I don't want my readers left out. Rather than conjuring up a reading list based on my own tastes, needs and what I've had time to read, I asked our experts – the professionals who teach our webinars – for recommendations. Looking at this list, I'll have to plan a trip to the beach myself, just to check out these new ideas.

differentiation, networking, nonprofit, reading list


Cracking the Code: How to Win Hearts, Change Minds, and Restore America's Original Vision
by Thom Hartmann

You know how you can just tell when people are the real deal? That's how I felt when I met Thom Hartmann.

Cracking the Code: How to Win Hearts, Change Minds, and Restore America's Original Vision tells how to speak with more impact and better results. He uses examples of persuasive messages by political conservatives to illustrate how language can make the message: "exploring for energy" instead of "drilling for oil." He admonishes progressives to learn persuasive messaging to make their voices heard. Cracking the Code will teach you all you need to know about getting a message out, from how to crack the code to how to use it.

Pamela Ziemann, author of Giving Voice to Your Cause: Speaking Tips for Nonprofit Professionals

by Dan and Chip Heath

A great read for people interested in changing behavior, which is just about everyone in the nonprofit world. We tend to talk about the power of storytelling; this book takes that concept to a whole new level. It's written for both professional and personal situations of all kinds. I think it's particularly applicable to donors, activists, or other groups you want to take action on behalf of your organization or cause.

Sarah Durham, Principal of Big Duck:Smart Communications for Nonprofits

Savvy Networking
by Andrea R. Nierenberg

Whether you network frequently or are just getting started, Andrea Nierenberg is my go-to resource for advice on building effective relationships. She shares practical tips and advice, and really practices what she preaches. Nierenberg is a sought-after expert in her field and frequently consults with top U.S. and International companies. The tagline on this book is "118 Fast & Effective Tips for Business Success." Every reader will find several tips to implement immediately!

Maria Semple, author of Panning for Gold: Find High Net-Worth Prospects Now

Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd
by Youngme Moon

As someone who trudges through as few business books as possible, I’m Moon’s perfect target. Different was ... different: Refreshing, humorous and, most of all, unique.

Instead of a choppy and predictably written business book, the author has a distinct voice and storytelling ability. Her skill allowed me to get to the heart of book and to actually use its messages.

Moon encourages us to set aside the concept of "weaknesses" and instead focus on differentiation, not just as a marketing tool but as a mindset. The concept is similar to design-thinking. With my career in transition, that’s where I’d like to be: fostering creativity in my existing and new endeavors.

Janet Giampietro, Creative Consultant and Social Media Strategist

Crossing the Chasm
by Geoffrey Moore

This book is a classic for anybody responsible for the growth of their business (even if you are not in technology). It is very insightful.

Jeff Silbert, Order of Magnitude Group

The Four Hour Work Week
by Timothy Ferris

Before you roll your eyes and dismiss this as a joke, read a sample of the contents of The Four Hour Work Week on Amazon or another online book seller. As crazy as the title is, the book is filled with concepts to challenge how you approach work; how much time you spending doing “work;” and how, if you are really creative, you can take control of your life. Granted, you need a huge grain of salt to get through this, but the core concepts and the mind-expanding aspects of rethinking how we work and how many hours we work is worth every penny you spend on this little treasure.

Veronica Fielding, CEO, Digital Brand Expressions

The Art of the Start – The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Staring Anything
by Guy Kawasaki

Want to read a book that challenges many of the “accepted” methods of starting a business? How about how NOT to write a business plan? Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start – The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Staring Anything is the book to read. It's easy to read and leaves you wondering why so many people believe and accept the received wisdom of traditional methods of planning for and actually running a business.

Not just full of theory, Kawasaki gives many practical “how-tos” that I find very useful. How about the “10-20-30 rule?” Make your PowerPoint presentations NO larger than 10 slides, no longer than 20 minutes, and no smaller than 30 point type. Pretty good, huh? OK, it’s a simple idea, but he’s full of them, and the book will fill you up with some new and compelling ideas. I heartily recommend it.

Alan Siege, Small Business Management Consulting