"Business, that's easily defined - It's other people's money." -  Peter Drucker


I like to say that I once coached for about four hours a night and that was my job as I was finishing up my degree. Now I work fourteen hours a day so that I GET to coach for four hours a night.


Whenever someone tells me they want to start a business, and asks me my advice, I only have one answer, "Don't." If they tell me they want to start a fitness business, or strike out on their own as a fitness trainer, I get even more adamant about discouraging them.


Opening a business is a huge risk that almost never pays off. Worse, you no longer get to spend the majority of your time doing the one thing you were passionate about that caused you to want to start the business in the first place. Instead you spend all your time running a business.


  • If you were a baker, now you are an entrepreneur who sells baked goods.
  • If you were a gardener, now you are an entrepreneur who sells gardening 
  • If you were a coach, now you are an entrepreneur who sells coaching.


Of course, you may still do the things you did before (baking, gardening, coaching), but that comes second to actually keeping your business alive.


The cardinal rule of business is this: Business = Customers


business books, entrepreneur, starting a gym, opening a gym, crossfitWithout a customer base, you have nothing. You can't just coach the air. And you could give your services away for free (there are times this is good for business), but at some point you need to charge and make money or else you are going to lose everything.


The books below are fifteen of the best books I have personally read and go back to. There are of course a lot more, but this is a good start. I am still learning myself, but I've come a lot farther than I was just a year ago. These books are part of the reason. The other reason is, of course, actually running a business.


#1 - The Art of War by Sun Tsu - Business is NOT war. I hate that kind of analogy. But it is brutal and harsh, and many of the tactics outlined in this remarkably old book apply directly to running your own business.


#2 - No B.S. Direct Marketing: The Ultimate, No Holds Barred, Kick Butt, Take No Prisoners Direct Marketing for Non-direct Marketing Businesses by Dan Kennedy - Probably the most important concept any business owner needs to understand is this: business = customers.


#3 - Found Money: Simple Strategies for Uncovering the Hidden Profit and Cash Flow in Your Business by Steve Wilkinghoff - Chapter one would be a good enough to buy this book. It helps you figure out those products and services you offer that are going to bring in the most money, versus those that take all your time and leave you bankrupt.


#4 - My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins – An oldie that stays around for a reason.


#5 - The Robert Collier Letter Book by Robert Collier – I love a good copywriting book. This is a great copywriting book.


#6 - Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy – This is a great read all around, but it's also a treasure trove for advertising knowledge and ideas.


#7 - Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith - I really enjoy Chris Brogan's mellow style, which pairs well with the topic of building honest trust with your customers, which you MUST do. In today’s world, if you are a phony, everyone will know it very quickly. Care, care, care some more, or get out now.


#8 - Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers by Seth Godin - like Brogan's book, this one is in many ways an updated #9, but with applications to the modern world of blog-based businesses.


#9 - How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie - The original precursor to #7 and #8.  I know you are worried about looking silly reading this in a coffee shop. But you shouldn't. It is a classic because it is true.


business books, entrepreneur, starting a gym, opening a gym, crossfit#10 - Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by Jim Collins - Even though you are a small operation (maybe it's just you), learning from larger companies is still very relevant.


#11 - Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras - More from Jim Collins.


#12 - Crush It! Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuck - While this book is light on specifics, it is high on passion and inspiration. Whenever I feel the most bogged down and miserable about a downturn in my business, I reread this. It's very hard not to believe you can do anything after you do.


#13 - The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuck - A bit more practical than Crush It, but still full of his natural passion.


#14 - Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh - I started reading this on a flight from Portland to Columbus, OH on my way to Nationals.


#15 - Ignite The Fire: The Secrets to Building a Successful Personal Training Career by Jon Goodman - My friend Jon Goodman has written a great crash-course in building a fitness business that I think is perfect for those of you who are just starting out.


Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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