Growth & Customers

Sage Book Club: 9 must-read books to boost business owner productivity

Want to be more productive and need a helping hand? A group of business owners share their top reads that can help you along the way.

If you’re running a business, you’ve likely got a lot of responsibilities—from conquering cash flow to expanding your network.

But with each day bringing new distractions and challenges, making the most of the time you have is harder than ever.

Fortunately, productivity is a skill that can be learned. And many of today’s successful businesspeople lean on the wisdom of others to make every day count.

For this month’s Sage Book Club, we asked a group of business leaders to recommend a must-read book that has inspired and helped them to work more productively.

Add a few of these gold mines to your reading list and prepare to get more done…

7 habits of highly effective people

The 7 habits of highly effective people by Steven Covey

Sue Keogh is the founder of Sookio, an award-winning digital marketing agency focusing on content creation, strategy and training.

An oldie but a goodie.

This is where I discovered the approach of always focusing on things that are ‘important but not urgent’, which stops things building up to the point that everything is important AND urgent, and you don’t know how to prioritise.

It’s honestly how I live my life, from long-term planning in the business, where we hold monthly reviews rather than annual so minor niggles are dealt with early, or templating as much as possible to save time later.

And on the personal front, it’s about keeping the car topped up with petrol, so you don’t run out on the way to a meeting.

Or going to the dentist regularly so you don’t need an expensive emergency appointment. Or doing regular fitness so you don’t reach a panic point and need to crash diet.

So, all in all, it makes you more productive because you’re not operating at crisis point the whole time. And applying it to both your personal and professional life means you stay on a more even keel. Boom!

Find out more about The 7 habits of highly effective people

Deep Work

Deep work by Cal Newport

Amanda Webb is the founder of Spiderworking, which provides digital marketing support for businesses.

This has stayed in my head since I read it. I don’t follow all the tips but there are some parts, that you think would be obvious, that nag at me.

Things like turning off all distractions, making sure you have everything you need (including snacks) in your workspace before you start, and blocking out time to work on projects.

Noreen Burroughes Cesareo is an international trade, strategic marketing and communications specialist with an entrepreneurial background. She says everyone is born with influential power, but this book teaches how to harness it.

This is a book for our times, written with the constant distractions we face in mind.

It’s a guide more than a reading book, and it gives direction on how to train yourself to focus and retain concentration.

If you’re battling with social media interruptions, this is the book to help you work more efficiently and unlock productivity.

Find out more about Deep work


Simplify by Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood

Joel Blake is on a mission to make business services more inclusive and equitable for all. His entrepreneurial journey includes founding one of the UK’s first diverse recruitment companies for the business, professional and financial service sector, and co-founding a lending firm for small and medium-sized businesses.

Simplify enables you to truly look at the key value proposition for your product or service and decide on the most effective way to position it for the attraction and retention of your target market.

But even more importantly, the book gives you real practical insight to help you also understand the internal implications of doing so, with a sense of excitement and opportunity.

Find out more about Simplify

Never check email in the morning

Never check email in the morning by Julie Morgenstern

Jeremy Corner helps retailers to make a positive impact in the world with beautiful greeting cards and sustainable gifts.

Our team still uses techniques from this handy book to maintain productivity. This was one of the books that helped me permanently reduce my weekly working hours. It also helped us boost profits and reduce stress.

One of the tips in the book (dance near the revenue line) helped us to organise all of our in-trays in each department so that revenue-generating tasks were prioritised over everything else.

Very important in a fast-growing business.

Find out more about Never check email in the morning

The one thing

The one thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Keller

Bobby Lane is a chartered accountant with more than 25 years’ experience in professional practice. As a CFO, he built the first multi-award-winning small and medium-sized business outsourcing team at accountancy firm Shelley Stock Hutter before the company was acquired by Blick Rothenberg in 2017.

This book talks about our tendency to divide our attention between different tasks and ideas, not allowing us to fully develop any of them.

But if we concentrate all our attention on one crucial thing, we will complete it successfully and move on to the next task.

It covers how to achieve extraordinary results, eliminate all things that are not essential and how to prioritise the remaining ones by asking yourself, ‘what is the most important?’

It’s a great book for anyone looking at how to prioritise and master what matters.

Find out more about The one thing

Free to focus

Free to focus by Michael Hyatt

Teresa Heath-Wareing is an online business, marketing and mindset expert. She helps founders across the globe to build their business and create a life they love. She’s also an international best-selling author, award-winning speaker, TEDx speaker, and host of the Your Dream Business podcast.

I’ve read a lot of productivity books. As a business owner, time is one of the biggest challenges. Not only getting things done but also being motivated to get the work done.

So, becoming productive and getting things done is so important. One of my most favourite books on this subject is Free to focus.

Michael is the author of several New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling books, which includes Free to Focus. And I was lucky enough to interview him on my podcast, and his advice is game changing.

A total productivity system to achieve more by doing less is the book’s subheading. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

But honestly, this book has so many good practical things that you can do in your business today and will make a big difference to your productivity.

And the best bit is that he shows you how you can be more productive, not so you can work more, but so you can work less.

Find out more about Free to focus

The science of hiring quota busting sales teams

The science of hiring quota busting sales teams by Andy Miller

Janice B Gordon is a professional speaker, trainer and educator. She’s the founder of strategic sales revenue business Scale Your Sales.

So often, we conduct structured interviews, recruit on emotion and bias, and don’t realise we’re setting ourselves and the candidate up for disaster.

Applying The science of hiring for quota busting sales teams is the essential recruitment guide for business owners and sales leaders.

This book breaks down what is wrong with current business recruitment practice and why many of the non-sales-specific tests, personality-driven tests, and standard interviews are not fit for purpose.

Getting your sales recruitment wrong is costly, not only in fees but lost sales.

I highly recommend this book for all businesspeople and sales leaders, and those recruiting revenue generators.

Find out more about The science of hiring quota busting sales teams

The 4 Hour Work Week

The 4-hour work week by Tim Ferriss

Carl is a serial entrepreneur, chairman of business advisory firm d&t, and author of Boss it, The startup coach and The franchising handbook.

This book helped me a lot in understanding how to create a life (both personal and working) on my own terms, by using assistants, delegating effectively, and finding the path of least resistance on projects.

It has amazing tips on how to use Tim’s DEAL (delegate, eliminate, automate, liberate) approach.

In particular, the DEAL acronym has stuck with me since reading the book. While it hasn’t truly got anyone down to a four hour week (not even the author himself), the book has some fantastic tips.

Find out more about The 4-hour work week

The secret power behind successful leaders

The secret power behind successful leaders by Judith Germain

Stella Holman is the founder of The ConnectorInt Online, where she helps small and medium-sized business owners grow their companies.

I was invited to participate in the Maverick group organised by Judith Germain.

I’ve listened to various podcasts and live chats on leadership, but it wasn’t until I started reading this book that I realised I was an ‘introverted maverick’.

The book explains how to be inspired to do the right thing, and enhance and extend your influence to be a successful leader.

Find out more about The secret power behind successful leaders

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