Every business journey goes through ups and downs, and you have to take the good with the bad in order to survive. While the downs are inevitable, it’s how you deal with them that controls what their impact will be. Sometimes the difficult times that challenge us can even push us to greater success.

If you’re at a low point in your business, and you’re struggling to get out, these books may help provide a spark of inspiration when you’re in a dark place.

1. Mean People Suck: How Empathy Leads to Bigger Profits and a Better Life by Michael Brenner

Author Michael Brenner has seen his fair share of challenges both experienced by the client he works for, and during the course of his career as a marketing and sales executive.

One challenge that comes up time and time again is low levels of employee engagement and a negative working culture. Lack of compassion, blame, and lack of respect in the workplace leads to a poisonous working environment.

In this book Brenner explores how empathy can be used to defeat and diffuse the “mean” in every situation at work, creating a happier environment and greater potential for business success.

2. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries

It’s a sobering fact that most start-ups fail. However, in this book, the author demonstrates how most of these failures are preventable.

The Lean Start-Up lays out a blueprint for new businesses to follow, adopting efficient processes and leveraging human creativity to adapt to today’s fast-changing business environment.

3. Be the Hero: Three Powerful Ways to Overcome Challenges in Work and Life by Noah Blumenthal

Be the Hero is a modern-day parable focused around a young professional who’s struggling in every area of his work and life.

The book teaches readers to “change the story” they are telling themselves, moving from a place of negativity and blame to one of power and positivity. By demonstrating gratitude for what we have, we can move beyond challenges and be more creative and constructive with our solutions.

4. Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson

It may be one of the older titles in this list, but Who Moved My Cheese? is an undisputed classic, and its advice remains as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.

Unexpected change can be one of the greatest challenges you’ll ever have to face in your business, but with the right approach, you can embrace change and use it to grow and evolve. This book is all about spotting the warning signs that change is coming, and how to cope with massive changes when they occur.

5. Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to succeed in today’s challenging economy. If you can’t seem to find a way to make your business profitable, or you’re struggling with complex accounting practices, Profit First may offer some solutions.

Michalowicz introduces four simple principles to simplify accounting and make it easier to manage a profitable business. The system taught in this book can transform your cash flow, whether you’re brand new to business, or you’ve been operating for several years.

6. Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day by Todd Henry

Many of us use excuses to leave our most important and valuable work until tomorrow. If your days feel busy but you’re not achieving anything of value, or you feel bored at work it’s a clear sign you need to shake things up.

Die Empty could be the motivation you need to stop putting your best work off for yet another day. It provides clear guidelines for defining your goals, cultivating an ambitious mindset, and stepping out of your comfort zone to create your best ever work. This can all help to transform your business and career.

7. Hard Times: Leadership in America by Barbara Kellerman     

The level of trust in leaders in America and worldwide is at an all-time low. Leadership is more difficult than it’s ever been, and yet it’s also more crucial than ever before that today’s leaders excel in their roles.

Hard Times is not just an exploration of leadership in the context of US politics, but also in businesses and organizations of all sizes. Kellerman clearly sets out the challenges that face the leaders of today and offers suggestions for how anyone can improve their leadership skills at any level and in any industry.

8. Cracked it!: How to solve big problems and sell solutions like top strategy consultants by Corey Phelps, Olivier Sibony, and Bernard Garrette

A skilled business consultant can streamline your business processes, identify opportunities for future growth, and suggest solutions for problems you may not even realize you had. But not every business can afford to hire a top consultant.

Cracked it! teaches the problem-solving skills of top strategy consultants combined with the latest research in psychology and advances in design thinking. The result is an easy-to-use guide for anyone who wants to improve their organization by solving problems large and small.

9. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

With today’s workers valuing company culture more than any other factor when choosing which organization to work for, a culture of negativity in the workplace can spell disaster for your business.

Principles lays out Dalio’s own recipe for an effective business culture, built around two key principles of “radical truth” and “radical transparency”. If you’re struggling with meeting your business goals, engaging your employees, or developing efficient systems in your organization, this book could hold the answers.

10. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

Former Navy SEAL David Goggins has overcome incredible adversity to achieve success in his personal life and career. In this honest and gritty memoir, he describes how he used mental discipline and hard work to transform himself into one of the world’s top endurance athletes.

Goggins shows how anyone can push past their personal challenges to achieve their full potential. This inspirational tale has takeaways for anyone who’s ever felt like giving in, whether it’s in businesses or in life.

11. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Bad habits are often the cause behind unwanted outcomes, but they can be unbelievably difficult to break. Procrastination, negative thinking, and other bad habits will limit your business success, and can feel impossible to break free from.

In Atomic Habits, James Clear lays out a simple and effective way to eliminate your bad habits, while at the same time building positive habits to help you achieve your goals and accomplish more every day.

12. Leading the Unleadable: How to Manage Mavericks, Cynics, Divas, and Other Difficult People by Alan Willett

Managing difficult people is often the worst part of any leader’s job. In Leading the Unleadable,Willett lays out a strategy for managing the most challenging people in your organization and turning them into productive team players.

The book explains how to master your management mindset, communicate problems effectively, coach others, and spot problems before they occur. Leading the Unleadable offers effective people-management strategies for managers in any industry and at any level.

13. The Success of Failure: A Coming-of-Age Fable About Overcoming Failure Despite Ourselves by Mike Bensi

This quick and entertaining read is a valuable resource for leaders who want to learn how to overcome challenges and come back, stronger than before.

By learning from your failures you can develop effective strategies for both work and life, and ultimately become a more successful person.

14. Emotional Intelligence in Business: EQ: The Essential Ingredient to Survive and Thrive as a Modern Workplace Leader by R. Stevens

Effective leadership requires managing your emotional state as much as business savvy. This practical book offers a clear breakdown of emotional intelligence, as well as a guide on how to manage your emotions to be a more successful leader.

If you ever overreact when the stakes are high, or react without thinking when faced with an unexpected situation or information, this book can be valuable to help you learn how to manage your reactions and give your team the solid and stable manager they need for optimal results.

15. The Corporate Culture Survival Guide by Edgar H. Schein

The effects of globalization, technology, and changing organizational structures have changed the corporate culture of today’s businesses way beyond anything we could recognize a decade or two ago.

If you’re struggling with dealing with the massive changes in business culture over the past ten years, this book is your survival guide for creating a more effective and functional organization.


  • Carlos Hidalgo

    Entrepreneur, Author, International Speaker & Coach

    Carlos Hidalgo has held senior corporate roles, started his own entrepreneurial ventures, and served in non-profits over the course of his 25-year career. After leading his first company to consecutive Inc 5000 awards, Hidalgo made the decision to leave and start his second company VisumCx, which works with clients from the Fortune 50 to start-ups as a coach and advisor to executives and their teams. In addition to his current role as CEO at VisumCx, Hidalgo and his wife also run a coaching practice to help individuals and couples defined work-life boundaries so they can have better balance and thrive personally and professionally. In addition to his various roles and business pursuits, Hidalgo is the author of Driving Demand, one of the Top 5 Marketing Books of all time according to Book Authority which was published in 2015.  Hidalgo's second book, The UnAmerican Dream, launched in June 2019 and speaks to entrepreneurs and business leaders about finding personal and professional success.