Best Books for Building a Business | 2020 Edition

Hey friends, my name is Pete Matheson and in 2011 I started my own IT Business. Over the years that grew into a 7 figure business and then earlier this year in 2020, we sold it.

I wanted to talk about 3 books that shaped my business and the journey I went through, which helped it build and grow into what it was when we sold it. I will also include details of another book that I read recently which I wish I had read whilst running my last business, as it would have definitely had an impact on how I would have done things differently. It’s something I’m making sure to implement in all of my future ventures.

The good news here is that if you want one of these books, then you can get one for free! By signing up for a free 30 day trial of Audible using this link. As always I recommend just signing up, keep the book forever, then just cancel before the 30 days is up. When you cancel, you still get to keep the book – so there’s a neat little hack…

I also read somewhere that if you are an Amazon Prime member already then you may get 2 free books – but since I’m already a member of both I can’t tell you if that’s true or not! Maybe let me know down in the comments?


Onto the first book – and this one is something I have already mentioned a few times in my YouTube video’s – Profit First by Mike Michalowicz.

Let’s firstly address the obvious concern that I and many other people have when you see the title of ‘Profit First’ – which is that this book is not just about taking all the profit, becoming super rich and that’s it. Instead, Profit First teaches you a super simple but clever way of managing both your personal and business money. It demonstrates that when done properly, you will never find yourself in a position where you don’t know if you can afford that holiday or the new car, or to hire a new member of staff, move offices…

It fixes all of that. To quote a section from the book it summarises the reasons why you need to read this book quite nicely here “Why do you want to grow? Well I want to grow so that my company can manage more clients and generate more sales ” She said. “Why do you want to do that”?  He looked at me as if I was an alien. “So my company is bigger Mike”. 

“Why would you want a bigger company”? I asked. “So that I can make more money”. She responded. “Why not just make more money now? If you want to grow to make more money for yourself one day, you’re playing a game of kick the profit down the road”. 

It’s all about how making small adjustments over time can have big impacts. Much like when overpaying on your mortgage payments – if you don’t know already, if you over pay by even a tiny amount each month, you could shave off years from your mortgage – which is insane! But this book also addresses a huge proportion of businesses and business owners, including some that I know – who put their whole life into running their own businesses. The keep their staff and customers happy and generally run a great businesses, but they take next to nothing from the business, sometimes not even a salary or even minimum wage because they “can’t afford to” – and that is where this book really gets going.

Firstly – It summed up my experience of speaking to our accountants when we first started out in business with this section of the book; “if you get a $1000 deposit, I’m telling you starting today, transfer $10 into your profit account. If you can run your business off $1000, you can surely run it off $990. If you get a $20,000 deposit, transfer $200 to your profit account. If you can run your business off $20,000, you can absolutely run it off $1980. You will never miss that 1% which is a low bar. 

Once you dig further into the book it goes through the method which you can use to make sure your credit card debts get paid off quickly, to make sure you have enough money to pay the bills, and in business, enough money to pay staff, your taxes, save up for new office equipment, staff bonuses – and yes, of course, profit. And it takes you through this process gradually, setting targets for how to slowly decrease your operating costs and make sure more is getting reinvested back into the business to help it grow, to fund future expansion, and of course that then flows through to your personal financial lives in the same way. Following Profit First will allow you to regularly overpay on your mortgage payments, it will tell you when you can afford to go have a fancy meal out at a restaurant, or book that big holiday, all of which is without getting into credit card debt and paying for things that you can’t afford. Profit First is one of those books that changed the way we looked at our business and personal finances.If you are currently running a business and you have one bank account, maybe two – then please do read this book. It WILL dramatically change and improve your lives too, I promise. For those listening on Audible, it’s 8 1/2 hours of listening, which if you commute to work won’t take you long to get through. Though I actually bought the book to read after listening to it because I needed to digest and understand some of what he was talking about a little better, and also because I gave this book to my wife and our accounts department and even our accountant read. Our accountant actually implemented Profit First into one of their other businesses!

#2 BOOK 2

Book number 2 is They Ask You Answer by Marcus Sheridan, someone who I had the pleasure of hearing speak at a virtual summit that I attended earlier this year. I don’t physically own this book as I actually did listen to this one on Audible and was able to digest everything easily without having to buy the book. This one is 6 hours on Audible – so a little shorter as well.

They Ask You Answer by Marcus Sheridan, teaches you how your business can get much better at it’s sales processes by a super simple format. Answer the questions that your customers ask, before they ask them. Think about when you go into a meeting with a new customer, that very first meeting, and replay in your mind all of the questions you are repeatedly asked. Who are you, what’s your background and experience, what’s your hourly rate, why are you suggesting X instead of Y, why are you so cheap? Why are you so expensive? How long does it take? What are the risks, how are those risks overcome, what happens if…

There are hundreds and perhaps thousands of questions that over time, you will consistently be asked by your customers. This book teaches you how best to address those questions and how to build your online content marketing machine which will lead to Inbound sales . This means that new customers are calling you up, instead of potentially wasting your time by booking a meeting, then asking all of those same questions and realising that you are not a good fit. Instead they are calling up to essentially sign up, since all of their questions have already been answered!

Reading this book changed my thoughts about how we as a business did marketing. It was part of my journey around video marketing, around creating pillar pages and online content that worked better, in my opinion, than the more traditional style of lead generation. You will see more sales come in to your business, more traffic on your website, perhaps your YouTube subscribers will go up, and you will see a return on your investment – slowly, and over time.

I’m a big fan of small actions have slow but dramatic impacts on your business, rather than the direct ‘Do X and it will generate Y’ sales environments. Small actions actually adjust the way your business operates, it makes you a healthier business because it builds your brand up as being a leader in your market.

Are you great at running in person events? Well, I guess you were – because those aren’t happening anymore! Compare that to how well those who have concentrated on the slow and steady inbound marketing process who are seeing a complete opposite impact on their business – with everybody now going online for more than they ever used to before. Not to say those in person events are bad, and it would be good to do both. I guess this is just a timely reminder to not put all of your eggs in one basket, since the government seems to have the ability to cut that off at their desire!

Following They Ask You Answer, we built out our website knowledge base, we even created a Welcome brochure that we took to sales meetings,  and we emailed one to customers who enquired which answered most of those questions that we got asked at every new customer meeting. We listed support pricing on our website, which is a very controversial thing to do in some respects – but personally, I think it worked very well for us.

So if you’re looking to improve the quality of leads through to your business and improve your sales process – then I would highly recommend reading, They Ask You Answer, by Marcus Sheridan.


On to the final book, which is the one I wish I had actually read many moons ago. This is the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris

And this is kind of what it says on the tin, to an extent. Tim has a fantastic way of writing to explain his journey, and takes you through the steps of running a business and being a business leader, but to also have the freedom and importantly, time, to live your life. It is his methology that I am applying to all of my future ventures, because as a business owner and technically, multiple business owner right now, I know how easy it is to be pulled from pillar to post over the most trivial things day to day.

I remember the number of times I would be trying to get my head down and yet be getting asked questions left right and centre about things that others in my business, most of the time even the people asking the questions, themselves could answer. This book is all about how to engineer your business to solve all of those issues. The Four Hour Work Week is a brilliant book that shows you how to build and scale your businesses, whilst still being able to live in different countries, have that afternoon off to spend time with your family and friends, veg out on the sofa, go surfing – whatever you want to do with your life.

And I think this is a really important book particularly now, with business owners super stressed about surviving the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, mental health going through the floor for many people who are shut away working from home, or unable to work, and whatever else it turns into. This book isn’t just one of those positive affirmation type books where you finish reading, all inspired, ready to break out into the world to do your thing…and then the weekend comes, family life gets in the way, someone gets a cold, a member of staff calls in sick, a customer calls to complain… all of those normal life things happen and you never get to doing what you set out to do.

This book actually has plenty of resources that you can use, and it points you in the right direction for places where you can look to outsource tasks, finding a PA or VA, things that you can just copy and replicate in your own businesses with a few minor adjustments. So if you are working your butt to the bone, never finding a few minutes to spare, coming home in the evening and getting straight back to work again – then please, please find the time somehow to read this book. It will show you that you can achieve the same amount, and likely so much more by working smart, which inevitably means to you working less, having a better work life balance, less stress and anxiety in your life, and will generally make you happier. That’s the ultimate goal right? It’s not to get rich or famous, not to grow to a billion dollar business, it’s not to own possessions – but it is to be happy. Though that happiness may include possessions, of course, but that is subjective depending on who you are.

Interesting statistic here, expert studies have come up with a salary of $75,000 per year where happiness peaks. So anything you earn above and beyond $75k or for us brit’s it’s about £60k, is a point of diminishing returns. And what that means is – yes, money does buy happiness, up to a certain point, then anything you earn above that figure doesn’t make you any happier.

This book, the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris is all about how to bring in that money, each and every month, without having to work 12 hour shifts, 7 days per week, 365 days per year as many of you business owners out there are doing. Even if you are not a business owner, it gives you some pretty inspirational advice about how you could start a side hustle, whilst still in full time employment – which can then grow to provide your full salary meaning you can leave your job and head into early retirement, working only a few hours per week.

Those are my 3 top book recommendations from over recent years.

I’d love to know what book recommendations you have, whether that’s on Audible or physical paper copies, drop them in the comments section. Which book have you read that has had an impact on your life? Don’t forget that you can get one of these books completely free by signing up for an audible trial using this link. Let us know which book you went for!



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