Two Dozen Business Books Every Contractor Should Read, Part I

Feb. 1, 2012
Mark Matteson says, “A year from now, you’ll be the person you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” He’s right. So what are the books you should read?

Mark Matteson says, “A year from now, you’ll be the person you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” He’s right. So what are the books you should read?

I started to list half a dozen essential books for contractors and quickly came up with two dozen. I could easily add more, especially if I included the books that are on my reading list that I haven’t finished. These are books I’ve personally read and recommend.

HVAC Spells Wealth

By Ron Smith

Self-interest disclaimer: I wrote the forward to this book and Ron Smith is a good friend and business partner. He is also the most influential person in the HVAC industry. An inductee into the Contracting Business Hall of Fame and a Service Roundtable Servant Leader, Ron literally created the residential service agreement. He was the first contractor to hire a full time retail sales person. Tom McCart, Charlie Greer, Ruth King, Al Roach, and others were all brought into the industry by Ron. In HVAC Spells Wealth, Ron tells his story and casually dispenses more business insights than most people learn in business school. It’s a must read for any contractor. You can buy it at or If you come to work for me, you get a copy of Ron’s book.

The E-Myth Revisited

By Michael Gerber

I challenge any small business owner to read this book and not see his or her own image reflected back. Gerber nails me and I suspect he nails you. Gerber explains the difference between working IN your business and working ON your business. Available everywhere, this is another book I believe in so strongly that I pass it out to employees.

Guerilla Marketing

By Jay Conrad Levinson

Over 20 years ago I heard Levinson speak at a contractor conference. I was mesmerized. I bought is book and I was hooked. He is the master of small business marketing tactics. His books are available everywhere.

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

By Jack Trout and Al Ries

This is one of the seminal books on marketing strategy and branding. It’s short. It’s readable. It’s packed with insight. Available everywhere, this book will fundamentally change the way you look at advertising and at the ways you promote your company.

Positively Outrageous Service

By T. Scott Gross

Scott Gross was a small business owner who creatively marketed his business on a limited budget. He shares his insights into budget promotion and more significantly, how to design a service business that people will feel compelled to talk about. The best place to find this book is Amazon.


By Solomon

Solomon is often reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived. Personally, I think there’s at least one person who had more wisdom. Regardless, Solomon was pretty sharp for a national leader. In Proverbs, he lays out pithy wisdom you would be wise to follow. Available for free online or in any hotel room nightstand.

Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus

By John Gray

Don’t think about this as a book about marital relations; think about it as a book about sales and marketing. Men and women really are wired different. We really do have a tough time understanding each other. Gray offers some brilliant insight that will increase the effectiveness of your advertising and sales efforts. You can probably get an unread, like new copy at a used book store with the rest of his or her books.

The One Minute Manager

By Ken Blanchard

This is a very short, easy to read book about motivating employees and children, who are similar, and sometimes the same people. It’s definitely worth the couple of hours it will take to read. It’s available everywhere.

The Richest Man in Babylon

By George Clason

Are you wealthy? If not, would you like to be? In this easily read business parable, George Clason shows you how. If you only read one book on wealth your entire life, this is the book to tackle. You can find it everywhere.

Freedom From Fear

By Mark Matteson

In the interest of full disclosure, Mark is one of my good friends. The Service Roundtable is bringing him to Australia in May to lead the Service Nation Alliance Leadership Workshop in Melbourne and to keynote the Australian Roundtable in Sydney. Of course, I’ve got a lot of good friends I’m not bringing to Australia. I’m bringing Mark because he’s an outstanding public speaker and insightful, succinct writer. It’s amazing how many life lessons he packs into a very thin, readable book. Freedom From Fear is brilliant. It’s the only business book I’ve brought home that my wife took and wouldn’t give back. After reading it, you’ll want Mark’s other books too. Buy it at or

Greatest Salesman in the World

By Og Mandino

This is another, short, easy-to-read parable about business. Heck, it’s about life. The lessons Og Mandino imparts on not merely sales lessons, but life lessons. This was an important book for me and might be for you. You can buy it anywhere.

Inside Contracting

By The Service Roundtable, edited by Mike Weil

Inside Contracting is unique. It was written by contractors. Taken from posts to the Service Roundtable’s HVAC Roundtable, Inside Contracting is packed with the street smart lessons contractors learned the hard way. To learn the easy way and get the inside scoop, buy a copy of Inside Contracting. It’s only available at

Next Hotmail, I’ll add another dozen books to the essential contractor reading list.


Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable. For more information on the Australian Roundtable in May, call 877.262.3341. If going to Australia is on your “bucket list,” there will never be a better than now. We’ve booked EXTREMELY DISCOUNTED rates at one of Sydney’s top hotels. Airfares are running less than $1500 round trip from most U.S. cities. You can attend a great conference with Mark Matteson as keynote and write off the cost of travel!

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.