The most influential business books of all time

The most influential business books of all time

One way to improve your business brain is to feed it. There are tomes and tomes of writing about business that have been penned down the centuries. Regardless of how long you have been in business, being au-fait with the best of these titles will add more weapons to your arsenal.

The Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith (1776)

It's quite incredible to think that the information contained in Smith's famous and highly significant volume is still considered gospel by economists across the globe. It was written back in the days when a British entrepreneur looking to invest in America had a lengthy sea voyage to look forward to. Yet, even today, in the age of Skype, email and the iPhone, Smith's clear vision of good economic practices is cited time and time again by experts and lecturers across the globe.

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand (1957)

The bible of the neo-conservative movement, Atlast Shrugged is the novel that best encapsulated Rand's provocative, compelling and romantic view of capitalism and capitalists. Business leaders, she argued, are the engine of a healthy society, whose vision, bravery and ambition support and protect the well-being of the masses. Rand was a true rebel of the literary scene of the late 50s. As more and more poets, novelists and journalists called for left-wing revolution, she stood firm in her resistance of collectivism and her belief in the fundamental role of those who create wealth.

Guerrilla Marketing – Jay Conrad Levinson (1984)

Guerrilla Marketing changed the way corporations and companies of every size and shape addressed advertising. Levinson's simple though key argument, that a target market is more likely to respond to an unconventional marketing tactic than one they have seen before, was revolutionary. Suddenly, businesses realised those huge, expensive TV spots that they were pouring half their budget into each year might not be as effective as a creative piece of flyering.

The Greatest Salesman in the World – Og Mandino (1968)

Eleven years after Ayn Rand changed the way people thought about business leaders, Mandino reshaped the concept of the salesman with this seminal work. Salesmen were not, he argued, down-at-heel Willie Lomans or devious snake oil dealers, but decent people that helped people to connect with things that made them happy. It's still a revolutionary thought today.

Great business leaders

Great business leaders

So, who are the greatest, most influential and most skilful business leaders currently operating in the world? Depending on who you ask that question to, you might get a thousand different answers. Here, in no particular order, our some of the ones we rate highest and why. If you run a business of any kind, paying attention to the careers of these powerful operators is well worth your time.

Howard Schultz

Schultz is the head of Starbucks, a small, local coffee house you might have heard of. What makes his story so incredible, however, is not just the incredible, globe spanning success of his franchised outlets but also the journey that took him to that position. After growing up in the poorest part of the Bronx, New York, he worked non-stop, driven by a vaulting ambition and a brilliant nose for opportunity (he's also a key investor in eBay).

Larry Page

As the head of Google, Page has been a wonderful example of a truly steadfast visionary business person staying committed to his core beliefs regardless of what the world throws at him. In its 16 year rise to global dominance, Google has been viciously criticised and gushingly praised. Page has shown the calm and self belief to let neither of these elements blow his far-sighted thinking off course.

Warren Buffett

Is there anything to say about Warren Buffett that hasn't already been said? A true legend of capitalism, his conservative, surefooted investment strategies have flown in the face of the boom and bust economics of the last four decades. The net result? He remains the most respected and successful investor of modern times.

Sir Richard Branson

Anybody that wants to know about how to successfully brand themselves, should look no further than Richard Branson. Perhaps the world's most recognisable business leader, Branson's is brilliant self-promoter, measuring his public appearances beautifully, with just the right amounts of confidence, self deprecation, humour and intelligence. The man has now amassed a personal fortune of an estimated £3 billion and owns over 400 companies, including Virgin airlines, Virgin Racing, Virgin Gaming and Northern Rock. His success in such a diverse range of ventures is testament to the pervasiveness of his brand.

Want to run a business from home Read this

Want to run a business from home Read this

Are you about to start a small business? Then there is a good chance you have already considered running it from your home. Before you do, there are a few things to think about. This guide will run down the pros and cons of working out of your house and give you a few key tips to doing so effectively.

The Advantages

The one that most appeals to those who punch a clock in an office every day is that you get to spend the day at home. This is, in many ways, the ultimate freedom for the self-employed person. Your hours can be every bit as flexible as you would like them to be.

Cost is another important factor when it comes to running a business at home. No rent to pay, no commuting costs and, if you are a parent, you can save money on childcare costs. Plus there's a number of tax benefits for those launching a home based business.

Thanks to the lower start-up costs, you can launch the company as a part time business and allow it to develop from there.

The Disadvantages

The first advantage could also be read as a disadvantage: spending all your time at home could lead to cabin fever pretty quickly. Running your business at home might also disturb your lifestyle and family privacy.

There's also your neighbours to consider. Running a company results in all kinds of comings and goings at your address that could lead to disturbances in your neighbourhood.

Being at home can sometimes make it difficult to get into the business-like frame of mind, making the establishment of daily timetables and disciplined working tough. There's a lot more distractions at home than there are in the office.

Tips on getting it right

The first thing to do is to assess the risks in your home. The Health and Safety act applies to a home business just as much as an office-space.

Will there be employees in your home every day? If so, you are legally required to take out employer's liability insurance.

Will you be taking meetings with clients, customers or business visitors not employed by the company at your address? Then public liability insurance will be essential.

Insurance will also be required for any business stock that you keep at home, plus a business interruption policy is worth picking up too.

What can 3D printing do for your business?

What can 3D printing do for your business?

Chances are, you've heard plenty of chatter about 3D printing over the last 12 months or so. Depending on who you ask, it is either the future of manufacturing, a nerdy pastime for gadget geeks and gamers or a passing fad that will be gone the way of the mini-disc by this time next year. Despite what the cynics might say, the technology and business headlines in early 2014 all indicate that 3D printing is very much here to stay, with numerous large, multinational companies and major organisations firmly getting behind the technology.

Dell has just signed a deal to sell MakerBot 3D printing products through its online store, NASA is convinced 3D printers will play a huge part in getting astronauts to Mars and Credit Suisse's Jonathan Shaffer has estimated that the global worth of the 3D print industry in 2016 will reach $800 million.

The big question for you in all of this is: how might this impact my business?

If you do not work in a company that sells a tangible product of any kind, then the likely answer is ‘not at all.' If, however, you work in any industry that relies upon manufacturing then the almost certain answer is ‘very heavily and very soon.'

3D printing is particularly useful in the prototyping stage of product development. From the earliest moments of designing an object to the production of the final prototype, 3D printing can make the process more cost effective, quicker and, most importantly, more effective. Small details can be changed on the original CAD, and then printed without compromising the prototype's structure.

So, if you work with prototypes, then 3D printing will be essential to your future. Then there is the question of 3D printing for small parts. While mass producing machinery or products through 3D printing is not cost effective enough for widespread implementation, the printing of individual components for machinery is being adopted more and more across the globe. For example, an RAF jet that recently took off from a UK airstrip included 3D printed parts. Future plans are to house 3D print devices at bases across the world, meaning airplanes can be repaired and maintained using parts printed on-site, massively speeding up the repair process.

The same principle could be used on a much smaller scale for engineers, plumbers or maintenance workers. Rather than having to check they have all the spare parts for a job before arriving at a job-site, they could 3D print them after examining the broken device, once again saving time and cost.

For these and more reasons, 3D printing is a technology to which it is well worth paying attention.