Now that the recession shows signs of ebbing, small-business owners should evaluate their strategies and think about ways to improve their companies' competitive positions. Here are nine books that might inspire you: Winners Never Cheat -- Even in Difficult Times (Wharton School Publishing 2008) by Jon M. Huntsman, a self-made billionaire. Huntsman discusses how to build a successful career by following your moral compass in this updated version of his earlier hit. Inspire: Why Customers Come Back (FT Press 2009) by Jim Champy. Businesses that manage to retain customers will probably survive the recession. This book provides ideas on developing new products, picking the right sales partners and improving customer relations. From Lemons to Lemonade: Squeeze Every Last Drop of Success Out of Your Mistakes (Wharton School Publishing 2009) by Dean Shepherd. This book provides examples of how companies learned from their mistakes to build great products that sell. Work Wanted: Protect Your Retirement Plans in Uncertain Times (Wharton School Publishing 2009) by James W. Walker and Linda H. Lewis. This book helps retired professionals get back into the game. Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy (Portfolio Hardcover 2009) by Isadore Sharp. Unlike the Marriotts, Hiltons and Trumps, Sharp isn't a name people readily know, yet he developed one of the finest hotel chains in the world, the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Sharp started with motels, but shifted toward luxury after realizing that people were willing pay for the best. This book talks about what it takes to target the high-end market and how to provide superior customer service. Early Exits: Exit Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors (Meteorbytes 2009) by Basil Peters. Peters is an experienced venture capitalist, who recently spoke at the Angel Capital Association conference. The book is focused on exit strategies, the top concern when an investor writes a check. It's a good read about what entrepreneurs should ask for and expect from investors.
Retail Superstars: Inside the Best 25 Independent Stores in America (Portfolio Hardcover 2009) by George Whalin. Instead of focusing on household names like Wal-Mart Stores ( WMT) and Target ( TGT), this book takes a look at stores that developed loyalty for niche products. Faith-Based Marketing: The Guide to Reaching 140 Million Christian Customers (Wiley 2009) by Bob Hutchins and Greg Stielstra. This book serves as a case study on marketing to anyone who's passionate about something. So if you love cycling and plan to open a bicycle shop, this book shows you how to tap into the emotions of biking enthusiasts. Double Your Income Doing What You Love (Wiley 2008) by Raymond Aaron with Sue Lacher. I know so many people who are unhappy with their careers. This excellent book provides a process for figuring out what you enjoy and going after it.