Everyone loves a success story, whether you live vicariously through the achiever or you feel inspired to learn by example -- and do something. We asked small business owners to share their favorite biographical book of a successful entrepreneur and its impact on their business. By Teri Evans
Recommended by: Brian Scudamore, founder & CEO of 1-800-GOTJUNK?, a Vancouver, B.C.-based junk removal company with locations across North America
Why: "I was inspired by the way Schultz looked at employees as partners, offering them full health care and company stock. He really believed in taking care of people."
Business impact: "I never thought picking up that book would have such an impact on my business, but it has. I created a profit-sharing program for my employees and increased their paid vacation to five weeks from three. It became a strong recruiting tool and inspired a strong culture. When the leadership shows they care about their people, it trickles down to all levels."
Recommended by: Tom Krieglstein, co-founder of Red Rover Corp, an online directory for college communities based in New York.
Why: "Throughout the book, he ties life experiences back to his business. Even though an activity may have nothing to do with business, there was always some nugget he used to become a stronger entrepreneur."
Business impact: "Extracurricular activities tend to be last on every entrepreneur's to-do list, but now I schedule them like I would any business activity. For example, I play soccer and you always have to think two steps ahead to get in front of your opponent; I apply that same strategy to business."
Recommended by: Erik Viafore, founder of Mountains Plus, a retailer of specialty outdoor equipment and clothing based in Mercer Island, Wash.
Why: "The book drove home the importance of really providing outstanding service to develop a loyal customer base; it's one of the few areas you can differentiate yourself. Hseih points out that when customers call, you have an opportunity to wow them."
Business impact: "I bought copies of the book for my employees and now we treat every inbound as a special opportunity to wow somebody. In modern business we tend to lose sight of that. It's a simple concept but it's hard to do."
Recommended by: Megha Rodriguez, founder of Hire Humanity, a social marketing services firm based in Atlanta, Ga.
Why: "The book explains how she seized opportunities and went from being an employee to a business owner with really no qualifications or credentials. What she had was the intuitive ability to see what works and what doesn't as a business."
Business impact: "It empowered me. I used to shy away from saying I'm a consultant because I don't have an MBA, even though I had 12 years of business ownership experience. After I read her book I changed the way I presented myself to the marketplace and I've almost doubled my income."
Recommended by: Heidi Ganahl, founder of Camp Bow Wow, a Boulder, Colo.-based pet care and training company and franchise.
Why: "Lincoln was about overcoming adversity and he had the ability to get people on the same page even when they were adversaries. Of the many books about Lincoln, this one also tells the stories of key members in his cabinet, three of them ran against him but he got them on his team."
Business impact: "My company has 200 franchises with different opinions on how things should be done, so it's complicated to get everyone on the same page. Lincoln listened and found ways to connect with what people agree on rather than disagree on -- and use that to move people toward his vision. That's how I run my company."
Recommended by: Annie Searle, founder of Annie Searle & Associates, a risk-management consulting firm based in Seattle.
Why: "Bill Gates is always thinking about how to do things differently, and he continues to get bigger in his thinking, just like his company got bigger. He anticipated what the market would ask for and acquired a lot of companies."
Business impact: "It's about being open to opportunities and paying attention to where the next generation of innovation is going to come from. In my business, I'm always anticipating what area of risk my clients may be vulnerable to, so they can take a proactive approach."
Recommended by: Matt Sandy, co-founder of MEDEA, a New York-based interactive beverage company that manufactures personalized vodka bottles
Why: "It offers a full perspective of him on a personal and professional level. At one point everybody counted Apple out, and I admire how Jobs was able to navigate many business obstacles in a competitive industry to realize his vision."
Business impact: "I identified most with his passion and fighting spirit because I'm also in a highly-competitive industry with entrenched players. In my company, everything is enveloped with care and compassion for every last detail."
Recommended by: Indira Harper, founder of Encourageville, a personalized poster company based in Chicago, Ill.
Why: "Lillian Vernon catalogs are filled with personalized items, and in the book she talks about how personalizing products makes people feel special, and she got a lot of joy out of it."
Business impact: "Vernon started personalizing belts, and the business grew from there. That stuck with me when I started my business. It's about pleasing the customers, so they know what I'm making for them is one of a kind."
Small business owners reveal their picks and business lessons learned.