From preparing the kind of business you want to run to fine-tuning your image and conflict management style, the inspiring stories and advice offered in the following five books will help women entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level (even if it's just the first).
The Boss of You: Everything a Woman Needs to Start, Run and Maintain Her Own Business (Seal Press, to be released in May 2008)
By Emira Mears and Lauren Bacon
Who should read it: First-time women entrepreneurs who like the idea of starting small and working with people they know.
Why this book stands out: Few business books have the courage to go for the humble angle that this one does. Before creating their startup, Raised Eyebrow Web Studio, authors Mears and Bacon noticed that every business book "seemed to assume that every businessperson was pushing for big growth, plenty of staff and massive profits." The authors, however, took a different approach. "We knew that we wanted to start out small (just the two of us), work with people we loved and grow at a sustainable rate over time while still being paid what we were worth."
Because it doesn't give the mainstream "grow big and fast" message on business, the book offers unconventional advice on running a business where every aspect of it is close to your heart.
Birthing the Elephant: The Woman's Go-For-It! Guide to Overcoming the Big Challenges of Launching a Business (Ten Speed Press, 2008)
By Karin Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman
Who should read it: Women preparing themselves for the psychological and emotional strains of starting a business.
Why this book stands out: Instead of focusing on the typical startup challenges, this book homes in on preparing your psyche to overcome the startup challenges. The exclamation point-heavy success coach voice used throughout the book can get corny, but the inspiring stories from role models like Bobbi Brown, Liz Lange and Lisa Druxman (our own Mompreneur columnist) make up for it.
Authors Abarbanel and Freeman say surviving the emotional roller coaster of a startup means finding a new rhythm in your lifestyle. To help establish that rhythm--and give you the faith that you can even find it--the book breaks down the process and offers case studies taken from the stories of experienced entrepreneurs.
The Art of War for Women: Sun Tzu's Ancient Strategies and Wisdom for Winning at Work (Currency Doubleday, 2007)
By Chin-ning Chu
Who should read it: Women ready to declare war on their greatest problems--not through brutality, but through determining the most efficient way of gaining victory with the least amount of conflict.
Why this book stands out: Chu takes lessons from one of the world's most time-honored books on strategy, Sun Tzu's The Art of War, and applies it to the lives of multitasking women. The book is premised on the Eastern idea that war doesn't revolve around fighting. According to Chu, who is also one of the world's best authorities on the classic work, women are inclined to this idea as natural negotiators and problem-solvers that prefer win-win situations over the winner-take-all mentality.
This book is especially refreshing because it doesn't rely on mainstream strategies. Chu emphasizes that every good strategy begins with a deep understanding of the people and the world surrounding a particular situation--including our own weaknesses, strengths, fears and goals. An intelligent way of addressing conflict is therefore not rooted in some bullet-pointed list of rules, but in the ability to integrate a deeper understanding of ourselves and our environment into the strategies we employ. While considering all of our strategic tools--psychology, clothing, desk d?? 1/2 cor, timing--even the most complex problems are transformed into exciting intellectual exercises.
Career and Corporate Cool : How to Look, Dress, and Act the Part--at Every Stage in Your Career (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2007)
By Rachel C. Weingarten
Who should read it: Those who know how important image is, but don't really know how to maintain it appropriately through the different roles and stages of life.
Why this book stands out: Weingarten humorously acknowledges how confounding it is to maintain an appearance that benefits us through all of life's personal and professional transitions. Developing a style people admire becomes even more complex when you realize it requires so much more than a great business suit; the right attitude through speech, writing, perfume, makeup, diet and response to personal emergencies factors into your style.
Weingarten makes the development of this style more exciting as she explains that "there is no one definitive Career and Corporate Cool ideology, but many practical tips and steps from people in all walks of life who have figured out how to make their jobs more than just a way to pay the bills, but rather a passion, a facet of themselves."
The Girl's Guide to Building a Million-Dollar Business (AMACOM, 2008)
By Susan Wilson Solovic
Who should read it: Women ready to confront their fears of taking their business ambitions to the next level.
Why this book stands out: Today twice as many men run million-dollar businesses as women--and Solovic, CEO of Small Business Television, gives a thorough explanation as to how women can even out the playing field.
Though the number of women-owned businesses is booming today, Solovic argues that many of these women don't have million-dollar businesses because they don't imagine taking their businesses to the next level. While juggling everything in their personal and professional lives, many women fail to grow their businesses because they don't know if everything will get out of hand. But after consulting women in business for more than 30 years and co-founding a business of her own, she assures readers that establishing a million-dollar business can be done without sabotaging everything in their personal and professional lives.