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Best Books for Service Business Owners in 2018 [Jonathan Pototschnik’s Recommendations]

Published on January 16, 2018

Jonathan’s consumed well over $100,000 worth of books and training materials in his career as an entrepreneur.

I thought he'd be the perfect person to ask for recommendations of the best books for service business owners to read in 2018.

What Jonathan gave me wasn’t just a short list. He included...

  • self-help.
  • marketing.
  • works of fiction.
  • long-time favorites.

Get your library card ready. (Or your Amazon cart.) You're going to want to check these books out:

Top 2 Non-Fiction for Building Yourself Up in 2018:

Jonathan reads a lot. He listens to audiobooks on his way to the office.

He reads any chance he gets because every business owner needs an active mind. One that is constantly bending and contorting to adapt to new situations and information.

1. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

Nugget of Wisdom from Principles, “Pain + Reflection = Progress.”

Principles was a #1 NY Times Bestseller and the #1 Amazon Business Book of the Year.

Ray Dalio is a wildly successful fund manager and has appeared numerous times on the Time and Bloomberg influential people lists.

Find it on Amazon.

2. Leadership & Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute

Choice Quote: “Self-deception is like this. It blinds us to the true causes of problems, and once we’re blind, all the ‘solutions’ we can think of will actually make matters worse. Whether at work or at home, self-deception obscures the truth about ourselves, corrupts our view of others and our circumstances, and inhibits our ability to make wise and helpful decisions.”

The Arbinger Institute has helped thousands of organization improve their efficiency and effectiveness since 1979.

This book presents the story of a single organization and examines the psychology of changing and improving a company’s systems from within.

Find it on Amazon.

Top 2 Fiction Books for Shifting Your Perspective in 2018:

You might be thinking, “Fiction is a waste of time. What is it doing on a list of important things for business owners to read?”

Here’s the thing: fiction engages your brain differently than non-fiction. Fiction wakes up the part of your brain that loves stories. A good novel grabs ahold of you and pulls you into itself. That’s when the important part happens:

You see the world through the eyes of other people.

You read a character’s actions and put yourself in their shoes. This encourages radical empathy AND forces you to consider solutions to problems from other people’s perspective.

It acts as an exercise in problem-solving. Say you’re dealing with an employee issue, if your first thought when approaching the problem is “How can I arrive a solution that benefits both me and the employee?” you are way more likely to get the employee to buy into the solution.

Reading fiction works out the part of your brain that looks at problems in a multi-faceted way and creates “muscle memory” so that you approach real-life problems in the same way.

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ernest Cline is a self-proclaimed nerd. Ready Player One is a tribute to all of the things he grew up loving (Steven Spielberg movies, Star Wars, and arcade games). It’s set in a future where the world is more interested in virtual reality than actual reality and follows the adventures of a kid trying to unravel the puzzles of the virtual world’s creator.

Find it on Amazon.

2. Replay by Ken Grimwood

Replay is a novel built around the premise of a guy who lives the same 25 years of his life over and over again. Each time the memories of the previous attempt are intact. Each time this happens, he adapts his focus and leverages his memories to different ends.

It’s a time travel story, but only on the surface. Below that is the consideration of "what ifs" we all have. If I had done or said differently what would have happened?

Find it on Amazon.

Jonathan’s Business Book Hall of Fame:

These are books that Jonathan has read over the course of his career that impacted him so strongly he wants you to know and grow from them, if you haven’t already.

The Goal
by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

“What you have learned is that the capacity of the plant is equal to the capacity of its bottlenecks.”

The Goal is a different kind of business book, one written as a novel about a plant manager striving to increase efficiency.

Find it on Amazon.

The Ultimate Sales Machine
by Chet Holmes

“The one who gives the market the most and best information will always slaughter the one who just wants to sell products or services.”

This book makes no bones about what it’s going to give you. Chet Holmes is a master trainer and strategist. He can teach you how to increase your sales and maximize your company’s sales potential.

Find it on Amazon.

The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working
by Tony Schwartz

“While working on The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci regularly took off from painting for several hours at a time and seemed to be daydreaming aimlessly. Urged by his patron, the prior of Santa Maria delle Grazie, to work more continuously, da Vinci is reported to have replied, immodestly but accurately, 'The greatest geniuses accomplish more when they work less.”

Tony Schwartz has a problem: we’re all working the wrong way. He wants to fix that by examining myths and exaggerations about how we work and debunking or embracing them.

Find it on Amazon.

The Star Principle
by Richard Koch

“As the New Yorker columnist and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell has shown, word of mouth can flare up and quickly die or it can reach the ‘tipping point’ where no force on earth can arrest the product’s relentless forward march. The art of the entrepreneur is to get word of mouth to the tipping point.”

Richard Koch is a name tossed around the Service Autopilot office regularly. He’s also the author of The 80/20 Principle and we’ve got our own resident 80/20 expert.

Find it on Amazon.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things
by Ben Horowitz

“Life is struggle.’ I believe that within that quote lies the most important lesson in entrepreneurship: Embrace the struggle.”

Ben Horowitz runs a venture capital firm in the far-off spaceland of Silicon Valley. He’ll give you the principles that startups use to remain successful. If you’re always thinking big, your business will be able to scale.

Find it on Amazon.

by Robert Cialdini

“Embarrassment is a villain to be crushed.”

This is a classic about the power of influence to shape buying decisions. You’ll learn to think like a customer and use that knowledge to get more sales.

Find it on Amazon.

Jonathan’s Books You Should Read that Aren’t Necessarily Business Related

These books are important to Jonathan and changed the way he looked at the world (or were so damn fun he couldn’t stop reading them).

by Yuval Noah Harari

“History is something that very few people have been doing while everyone else was ploughing fields and carrying water buckets.”

This book surveys the history of the human species all in less than 500 pages.

Find it on Amazon.

Everything Matt Ridley’s Written (but especially The Rational Optimist)

Matt Ridley’s part of the rare breed of scientists who can communicate effectively to the general public.

Author Page on Amazon.

Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles

These are a fictional series set in the fantastic “Four Corners.” Pat Rothfuss is the kind of writer who approaches magic like a science and creates clear rules for his universe before he plays with all the characters in it.

Find it on Amazon.

Reading Books is Like Networking

The more books you read, the broader your base of knowledge is. You’ll be able to connect dots that you wouldn’t have seen previously.

Unrelated topics have a way of clearing your mind of your day-to-day problems and, many times, that’s when an amazing idea finds you.

The books above are just an introductory list and you can explore from there. As Jonathan updates me on his favorites, I’ll keep this list up to date.

Related Post: Jonathan's 11 Best Marketing Tips


Cody is a copywriter with Service Autopilot. He was writing before he could read, dictating stories to his mom. Of late, he distills business principles and practices learned from his ever-increasing trove of books and his year with SA Support into digestible blog posts designed to provide maximum value to service industry business owners.


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