As often as those in business cite the school of hard knocks, there are always lessons to be learnt from the pages of a good book. Management Today asked a group of thriving entrepreneurs what books inspired and influenced their approach to business.
Founder of London-based influencer marketing agency, Digital Voices
"It's cheesy, but I'd highly recommend The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. Often starting a business can be built into a big goal that seems insurmountable. However, Reis explains how smart businesses often develop from testing a Minimum Viable Product and pivoting until they find a model that they can scale.
"Initially Digital Voices offered too wide a variety of services and The Lean Startup inspired me to change that. Without a specialism we couldn't scale or productise our offering. The nature of the agency has changed so much because we now offer a very specialist service to lots of brands and agencies: YouTube creator marketing campaigns (influencer marketing, but with YouTube videos). The Lean Startup helped me think smarter about pivoting and specialising, which has led to much faster growth.
"Currently, I'm rereading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, which always makes me pause and think about company culture. I also really enjoyed the The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson (given to me by my old boss at Google) which argues great ideas come from the intersection of different disciplines - it gave me a lot of confidence to venture into business."
Founder of Osaka Labs, a creative data analysis company
"Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite by Paul Arden. It explores what we believe is true in the world from taking the 'safe' job to the best ways to create amazing marketing campaigns. It gave me permission to be defiant. It basically says it's okay to ignore people even if they are in a position of authority because the world isn't black and white, it's a million shades of grey.
"I tend to jump from the Financial Times podcast, to art books, to management consulting blogs, but one that has me absolutely hooked is Tim Harford’s FT articles that he writes once a week (or so). They are easily digestible thought pieces about topics such as behavioural economics in real-world situations. In his book Undercover Economist, Tim Harford was the first person to explain to me how economics is applied and really triggered my love for communication and psychology. "
Founder and director of V4 Wood Flooring, a company that manufactures and supplies hardwood flooring to retailers
"Due to my dyslexia, I consume most of my ‘reading’ through audio books. Ones written by successful business people – including Steve Jobs, Duncan Bannatyne, Elon Musk and Bernie Ecclestone – are staple reading for me.
"Duncan Bannatyne’s Anyone Can Do It is a brilliant read. It’s full of stories detailing his journey, from being jailed while in the Navy to running a multi-million-pound fitness empire.
"The one thing all the authors have in common is they share a self-belief that is captured in their books, which highlight their determination and attention to detail. I find these autobiographical books far more inspiring and educational than traditional self-help tomes. Real people who have been there and done that have a far more authentic voice. They don’t preach and everything is based on real-life experience – mistakes and all.
"At the moment I am reading everything I can about Gymshark’s Ben Francis. Like me, he started in business at a relatively young age and it’s been a fascinating journey. How he grows and operates his business is captivating, and while I am definitely my own man when it comes to business, I am not so egotistical as to realise that I have to keep learning and evolving. Understanding how others do this is key to that."
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