13 Books Every Creative Entrepreneur Should Read

And how you can find time to read more.

Two book tables at my local library. Some intern deserves a raise.

Two book tables at my local library. Some intern deserves a raise.

It’s been said that leaders are readers, but in truth, great leaders are voracious readers. Reading gives you a competitive advantage, plain and simple.

The two biggest hurdles that people tell me they deal with when it comes to reading are finding time to do so and the price tag that reading a lot can bring with it.

Let’s tackle the time issue first: if you read 20 pages a day, you’ll read around 20 books a year.

In case you think that still isn’t a doable goal, 15 minutes a day is 91 hours per year. Most people spend at least two hours a day scrolling social media – 30 days a year. An entire month! You have more time than you think.

Second, you can cut down on the cost of buying books by signing up for a good, old-fashioned library card.

I have a private list on Amazon called “library” and when a book is recommended to me or I come across one I want to read, I add it to that list. Then, the next time I’m at the library, it’s easy to pull up on my phone and see the list of books I didn’t want to forget about.

While I have created the habit of always checking the library first, if they don’t have the book, I buy it. If it’s a book I want to read again, I buy it. If I know the author, I buy it. Also, almost all libraries these days have the option to download the book to an ebook or audiobook app (like Libby) if you prefer to read books digitally.

I am a believer that the ideas contained within the pages of a book are what truly matter, and that reading a book with paper pages vs digital is simply a matter of preference. I will say though that when kids see me reading on a device, they tend to assume I’m on social media or checking email. Since the importance of reading is something that is both taught and caught, reading physical books while I’m at home is a priority for me in this season of my life. Libraries make this more doable and more affordable.

A Splendid tip: Designate a special shelf or space in your home for everyone’s library books to go. This way you aren’t digging books out from underneath your kids’ beds or searching for where you misplaced them once it’s time to turn them back in.

Below are some of my favorite books related to owning and running a business. I am sure there are several I loved that I am forgetting about at the moment. There are also many I read that are popular but that I felt “meh” about so they’re not listed here.

Also, these are mostly business books or non-fiction, but I make a point to read fiction and poetry as well. I find that well-written fiction gets my creative juices flowing in a way nothing else does. I often end a fictional story that has nothing to do with business brimming with new ideas for my company. If you’re feeling stuck, a cup of chamomile tea and a good fiction book may help you.

13 Books Every Creative Entrepreneur Should Read


1) On public speaking:
Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

(I’ve given this book as a gift so many times. It’s the best one on the subject, hands down.)

2) On entrepreneurship: The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

(One of my favorite business quotes comes from this book: “As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every two hours and cried.”)

3) On business strategy: Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Reneé Mauborgne

4) On teams: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

5) On selling a service: You Can’t Teach Hungry: Creating the Multimillion Dollar Law Firm by John Morgan

(If you can read past the attorney-specific advice, there is plenty in here for people who sell creative and intellectual ideas rather than tangible products.)

6) On invisible affluence: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

7) On communication: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson

(I also have this as an audio book and re-listen to it once a year.)

8) On business systems: The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber

9) On business management: Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

10) On leadership: Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden

11) On getting out of your own way: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

12) On decision making: Left Brain, Right Stuff: How Leaders Make Winning Decisions by Phil Rosenzweig

13) On focusing your mind: 10-Minute Toughness: The Mental Training Program for Winning Before the Game Begins by Dr. Jason Selk

(I started using methods from this book several years ago while preparing for my speaking engagements and it changed everything for the better, immediately. The author has since released another book called Executive Toughness: The Mental Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance.)


Original post published October 2018

The Frienemy Market

You can’t do great work if you’re being pulled down.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark


In my travels as a speaker and wedding business consultant, I've found that local wedding markets can be described in one of two ways:

  1. A market where some groups of wedding pros are truly friends with each other, seek to collaborate, and let the other groups live and let live

  2. A frienemy market

A frienemy market is exactly what it sounds like: most of the wedding professionals pretend to like each other, but in actuality can't stand one another. "I love your idea!" they'll crow, with their fingers crossed behind their back. They never share real ideas for fear that you'll steal them, even if you've never stolen anything in your life. They'll dismiss your accomplishments as no big deal, even if they are a very big deal and will try to guilt-trip you into thinking that you shouldn't be so proud of whatever it is you may be celebrating.

As a professional speaker, it's pretty easy to tell which markets are which. During the conference cocktail hour in both types of markets everyone is best friends, posing for Instagram, and making small talk about each other's kids. During the Q+A sessions however, people in a frienemy market will ask very few questions but deluge the speaker with questions via email afterward. When other speakers and I exchange notes, the markets this happens in are always the same.

It's also worth noting that the markets with the least creative ideas, the least innovation, who harp the most about the “good old days” – but who also have the most ego – are frienemy markets.

Frienemy markets produce mediocrity. If you're in a market like this, develop some Teflon-like skin and do whatever you can to not get sucked into the trap. You can't do great work if you're being pulled back down with every decision you make.


Originally published July 2012

How To Get More Wedding Inquiries

5 Website Changes You Can Make Today

Wedding welcome party photo by    Cameron Clark

Wedding welcome party photo by Cameron Clark


If you’re a wedding entrepreneur, here are four changes you can make to your company’s website that will help you get more inquiries.


1. Create one clear call to action throughout your site.

Not three, not five, not eight. One.

If you're a service-based wedding professional, the point of your website is to get potential clients to contact you so that you can start a conversation. It is not to convince them of everything they need to know.

We like to think that people click through our sites in the way that we've laid them out, that they’ll go through all our galleries, or swipe through our 10 favorite things, or that they'll complete the fun Buzzfeed-style quiz on the wedding colors that best match their personality, but they don't.

The majority won't even land your home page, they'll land on whichever page on your site best matched their Google search term.

Make sure whichever page they land on is clear about what step you want them to ultimately take. That ultimate step should be contacting you.


2. Delete all industry jargon from your website's copy.

You may hate the term "vendor" or "supplier” (and with good reason), but a potential client who has no experience with the wedding industry will assume the term "creative partner" refers to your business partner or your life partner. They have no idea that you're referring to wedding professionals from other companies.

If this is the battle you want to pick, that’s your choice, but educating a client on how much weddings actually cost may be a better issue to focus on than making sure they get their vocabulary straight, especially since wedding spending is down and the DOW dropped 800 points earlier this month after “the bond market flashed a warning sign about a possible recession for the first time since 2007.”


3. Make your website’s copy inclusive.

Love is love, and it’s important that your site’s copy doesn’t unintentionally alienate people based on who they’re marrying.

Instead of writing the singular “bride and groom” (assumes the partnership includes one of each), you can use :

  • “bride or groom” (“Our services are designed to take all the stress off the bride or groom’s plate.”)

  • the plural: “brides or grooms”/”brides and grooms” (“I love seeing the faces of our brides and grooms when they see the beautifully designed ballroom for the first time.”)

  • couple/couples (“The couples we work with tend to be fun and down-to-earth while still appreciating the finer things in life.”)

On your contact form, if you need the second person’s name, simply use “Your Name” and “Partner’s Name” instead of bride/groom’s name for those fields.


4. Having a blog on your website is still the best SEO method. Period.

If you're not getting found online, blogging is the easiest and quickest fix.

If you have a blog but it's hosted elsewhere (Medium, Tumblr, Blogspot, etc), transfer it to your site. The best method is to host it as a folder (website.com/blog) and the second best is as a subdomain (blog.website.com).

I've written 2 million+ words on my wedding business blog over the years. I am not a blogger. It is not sponsored, ad supported, or affiliate-monetized. But it has landed me some of my biggest clients because it ensures I turn up on the first page for whatever they're looking for. Plus it shows that my expertise runs deep and I know what I'm talking about.

2 million+ additional words on my site for Google to crawl.

You know how many words my competitors have on their sites? Not 2 million. Not even close.

How many words does yours have? How many do your competitors have?

If you write paragraphs as Instagram captions (which do NOT help your SEO because they're coded as no-follow links), you can reprioritize to schedule some blog posts as well. Make the brand house you rent work for you (Instagram), but build equity in the brand house you own (your website and blog).

Also, "engagement season" in the United States starts at Thanksgiving (late November) and goes until Valentine's Day. If you want a potential bride or groom to find you once the question is popped and a ring is on their finger, start updating your site and blog now so that Google has time to index everything.


5. General web UX (short for "user experience") wisdom is that your contact form should be short and sweet.

By short, I mean three fields or less. Even bumping up to just four fields can reduce the number of people who fill out the form and click "submit" by over 50%. That measly extra field can cut your inquiries in HALF!

  • Unless you're a high-volume venue, you probably don't need their wedding date before you talk to them.

  • You don’t need to know up front where a potential client first heard of you, plus whatever they fill in on your contact form is probably wrong. They'll write Instagram because that was their last click when in reality they first saw you mentioned in a print issue of WedLuxe magazine, googled your company on their phone, clicked on a Pinterest result, clicked on a photo to a real wedding you had published on Over the Moon, clicked to your Instagram, then after scrolling for a while, clicked to your website.

  • A couple at the beginning of their wedding planning process likely does not know their real wedding budget yet. If they're having a luxury wedding, they may even assume that their budget will be around $50,000-$60,000 (they’ve heard the US national average is around $30k, so they figure doubling that number is a safe bet). Filtering them out by budget on your contact form is a sure-fire way to lose amazing clients who are happy to pay your rate once they've been educated on real costs and have been guided past sticker shock.

The above information is useful, but asking these questions can wait until your first conversation after you’ve gotten the inquiry.

That said, in some cases you can get away with more form fields without hurting your visitor-to-inquiry conversion rate, which can be helpful in certain circumstances. The catch with this is that the form fields have to be valuable to the potential client, not only to you.

For example, Millennials and Gen Z (aged 40 and younger) are famously guarded when it comes to giving out their personal cell phone numbers. This can be mystifying for people who grew up primarily sharing a landline with their family members.

Even so, it can be very helpful for you to get their phone number up front. If you opt to do this, one way to increase the chances that they complete your contact form is to include a field that asks how they prefer you contact them (by email, by phone, by text/WhatsApp, by Facetime).

A doctor or a teacher is unlikely to be able to take an unsolicited phone call and doesn't necessarily want non-urgent texts showing up on their Apple Watch. People working in an open-plan office where personal calls are frowned upon or personal email sites are blocked can often return a quick text without interrupting their workflow. If your destination wedding client lives outside the US, WhatsApp is likely king. Gen Zers are known for their love of FaceTime because – despite the anti-social label they’ve wrongly been given – they highly value face-to-face connection, even if it can’t be in person.

If you want clients from a younger generation to hand over their phone number on the initial inquiry form, make sure you give them the power to tell you how to use it, and then respect those boundaries.