BACK TO BUSINESS: The Ultimate Business Book Shelf

BACK TO BUSINESS: The Ultimate Business Book Shelf.jpeg



No matter what your age, September never fails to evoke that exciting feeling of a fresh start and new opportunities. This makes it the ideal month for business owners to revisit their learnings and seek out new inspiration, heed advice and absorb pearls of wisdom from those who have conquered in business.

Whether it be strategic business books, real-life stories or motivational podcasts, investing your time in learning from others’ failures and successes can help to shape the business person you want to be.

Yell Business spoke to a selection of business owners across a variety of industries to pull together a must-read list; for anyone looking to start a new business, or hoping to inject a fresh lease of life into current ways of working. Insights like how to sell by not selling, how to remain in the now and why you should forgo mainstream methods are at your fingertips.


Phil Smith | Celebrity hairdresser and businessman at top salon, Phil Smith Hair

Losing My Virginity by Sir Richard Branson

“I found this book immensely inspiring, and re read it a few years ago to refresh myself with all the wealth and knowledge Sir Richard had to share. It was particularly inspiring as it shows how you can build something massive from a tiny idea. If you stick with your dream, and stay loyal to your brand and believe in it, then in turn your customer will also believe in it too. Businesses can be lost in a flash and it’s important you roll up your sleeves and work harder than you ever have. It’s a long journey to build success, but you have to find time to enjoy this new chapter, and the route you take to get there. The ‘get rich quick’ phrase is a myth so it made me realise I wasn’t going to achieve success overnight, but had to work hard and believe in myself.”


Liz Willingham | Owner of public relations and comms agency, Liz Lean PR

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

“This book focuses the mind and teaches you how to stop it wandering – by being present. This helps relationship building which is at the core of everything we do in PR and communications. We are in a busy and fast-paced environment and anything which allows us to destress and remain creative adds value to our work every day.”


Kevin Latouf | Founder of organic wine subscription service, The Wine Butler

Jab, jab, jab, right hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

“This book is all about giving as much value to your customers before you ask them if they’d like to buy something from you. This book gave me a super clear understanding of the best ways to effectively build an audience and also how to give value to that audience. To sell by not selling, which is a way of thinking that doesn’t make sense short term, but to build a successful business over the long-term it’s something that is essential. In essence the book translates as ‘give, give, give, then ask'”

“Right now I try not bombard my audience with products and I try not to sell to them on a daily basis. Instead what I’m trying to do is give value through trying to show my audience things they didn’t know. Specifically for me that’s about wines, winemakers, the regions and places, and also how to get the most out of the wines you're drinking. I want my audience to feel like they’re taking away something from every post, video, blog etc.”


Charly Lester | Co-founder of online female business platform, A League of Her Own

Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg

“The book is a real call to action for any woman in business wanting to achieve more.  Some of the examples and anecdotes are really eye-opening, and show that successful women face very different challenges to successful men. As a female entrepreneur, rather than putting me off even trying, this book made me want to step up and ‘lean in’.  Sheryl is an inspiration to women in business, she’s achieved so much (even before her time at Facebook) and this book inspired an entire movement.”

“I think this book justified the way I had felt in certain business situations.  In the past I had received emails or had conversations where I had taken a step back and wondered ‘would this person be speaking this way to me if I wasn’t female?’ but I had doubted myself.  Reading the book made me realise I wasn’t being paranoid, and made me reframe some of the situations I’ve been in. It’s also made me even more motivated to change the way that we treat women and men in business differently, and to look right at grass roots.  The idea that girls get branded ‘bossy’ while boys are encouraged to take the lead is sad and something that needs to change.”


Elliot Bulley | Owner of personal training company, Go Hard Go Home

Bounce by Matthew Syed

“The book actually inspired me to go back to uni and do a masters. There's a nature and nurture themed section on being surrounded by the right people, be it team mates or competitors, at the right time - I cross related this to networking and pursuing goals throughout life and business. Self belief and visualisation and of course practice, practice, practice. Learning from mistakes and adapting to move forwards.”


India Sellars | Co-owner of specialist British bridesmaid brand, Maids to Measure

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

“I particularly like this book because it's an easy read, short, concise and based on a simple foundation: you cannot change other people, you can only change the way you relate to them. The best thing about this book is it's versatile, works in a personal & work setting & ultimately timeless! It teaches you to bring people round to your way of thinking through subtle conversational techniques - this is a powerful skill, especially in sales, when negotiating with customers/suppliers.”


Imogen Wethered - Co-founder of customer experience management cloud platform, Qudini

Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

“The book is a very punchy and easy to digest book with alternative advice on how to do things differently when starting a business. The advice is contrary to a lot of the typical advice you might hear, it had a lot of examples of things that people did well or badly as a result of following traditional/mainstream methods. I found this inspiring because it enabled me to start out in the industry realising that there are so many different ways of doing things and different pieces of conflicting advice that people will give, so sometimes it's best just to take the action that you think works best for you.”

“I applied the learnings from this by always placing everyone's advice and other books I read in equal esteem, but ultimately using judgement and instinct to decide the best course for our business and not always using mainstream methods because everybody else does.”


Alison Shadrack | Founder and CEO of public and media relations agency, Adia PR

Simple, Logical, Repeatable by Marianne Page

“This book helped me realise that the sooner I put even simple systems in place in my business, the quicker I could build a high performing team around me who would follow the systems to our exacting high standards.  Marianne is quite simply the systems guru, having spent years working for McDonald’s in senior management.  Like their food or not, McDonald’s is renowned for their consistency, reliability and team building.”

“This isn’t a book to read once and pass on – I know I’ll be referring back to it on a yearly basis.”


Ellie Wharton | Founder of award-winning health tea brand, Positivitea

The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

“It was not necessarily the content of this book but more the sentiment it conveyed –  quite simply that anything is possible if you put your mind to it! The Four Hour Work Week empowered me to finally take the leap of faith off the corporate ladder that my instincts had been telling me to do for a long time.  Not only did it encourage me to leave the rat race but to do it with gusto, as if it was actually the only sensible and rational thing to do at that point in my career, and with many case studies of successful entrepreneurs to support the case for starting your own business, I’d barely finished it before I’d made my decision to do so.”

“There are many useful entrepreneurial tools weaved through the pages of this motivational book – optimised time management, outsourcing, expanding time with meditation, the 80/20 rule and Parkinson’s Law to name a but a few. It’s full of inspirational gems… I mean who wouldn’t want to ‘Live anywhere, escape the 9-5 and join the new rich.’?!”