I am a big fan of the Business section of the book store. This might seem odd to some of you who will say “This woman does a podcast about parenting and education; She’s a lawyer- so what’s the deal with recommending business books?” Here’s the connection:

Managing People is pretty much the same whether

the people are 4 or 40 years old.

Sure, kids are still developing, and you need some specific tweeks to really understand how they think and how to explain things so they will understand, but basically, managing other humans is based on psychology, not business skills. This is why some of the best business management books are great for parents and managing a home- the science and tools are identical.

By the way, while checklist books- ie. The (insert number here) Keys to Success- often have catchy titles, but the devil, as we all know, is in the details. The title sells books, but making your business, or your life a success is much more complicated than checking items off a list.

*My Favorites:

Anything written by Marcus Buckingham. From “First, Break all the Rules” to “Now, Discover Your Strengths” to the latest “The Truth About You”, Marcus Buckingham’s work helps you discover what your personal strengths are, and for anyone, you have to start with knowing what you are best at, in order to make any project/business a go.

Seth Godin’sThe Dip” and “Meatball Sundae”– these books help you sort out the questions of what you are doing, why you are doing it, and whether or not you’re in a dead end or just a lull.

The Pirate’s Dilemma by Matt Mason. This book is about how businesses can deal with the fact that times are changing so fast, it’s the Pirates that are taking ideas, transforming the into businesses, and profiting from it.

Buying In by Rob Walker. This book talks about marketing and branding is changing and evolving quickly, and how to understand what is going on.

Then there’s all that finance and legal stuff. Good reads on this front are harder to come by. This can be pretty dry stuff, on the whole. But I would suggest doing some reading of blogs, newspaper articles and more to get at least a passing knowledge of the following:

  • The basics of copyright law is not a bad thing. – Important for doing anything online, so you don’t get sued by using stuff you don’t hold the rights to.
  • The basics of economics – you really need to know a bit about how you plan to handle money, cash flow, accounting, taxes, compliance with applicable business licensing laws and the like before starting any business, big or small.
  • You have to understand cash flow and risks. Many businesses fail, not because it was a bad idea, but because they didn’t have enough cash in the bank to weather the tough times along with the good. Just look at big retailers who are struggling- part of it is a cash-flow issue, and part of it is falling behind its competitors who are doing the same thing, only better and cheaper, without the same cash issues.
  • You have to read the news and understand your marketplace and sector. Your competitors will eat your lunch unless you offer something that makes you special. How to you differentiate yourself from everyone else out there with the same idea

Most importantly, besides reading great books, understanding yourself and your strengths, and knowing how a business makes and loses money, you need to:

Draw up a business plan. Not many new businesses go through this process unless they are getting a loan or looking for funding. However, if you can’t explain the ins and outs of your business to yourself, how will you ever be able to explain it to other people? The Small Business Administration has a great outline of How to Write a Business Plan. This process also requires you to look at things like competition, marketing plans, income projections, etc. and gather all your documents in one place. (There may be lots of excuses to avoid writing a business plan, but it’s never a bad idea to articulate how you think you are going to make money and when you hope things will become profitable.)

I’ve drawn up business plans for my family and for my podcast/blog projects from time to time, because the structure provides me with an opportunity to really think about what I am doing, why, and outline strategy to move the project forward, even when that strategy is not necessarily all about profit.

Jut remember, families are also small businesses, and you need to manage them like a business in order to get ahead, and that includes saving for the rainy day and inevitable problems and unexpected expenses that pop up. Whether it’s paying for Prom Night at home, or a worker’s comp claim at work, the unanticipated costs or events can be what tips the balance between the red and black ink.

See? Managing Business and family isn’t so hard, after all, if you realize the skill set is the same for both.

*For convenience, I’ve linked this to my Amazon affiliate store- if you look under the link for Business/New Media, you’ll find all these books and more.