Read like a CEO: Adam Sharp, CleverTouch

Quakers, All Blacks and software CEOs all inspire this avid reader.

Last Updated: 05 Dec 2019

Despite the fact that "most business books are badly written, often repeat themselves and lack storytelling", Adam Sharp still finds time to get through three or four a week. The CEO of B2B marketer CleverTouch Marketing applies a "management by magazine" approach, skimming through to select the most useful insights. 

Occasionally he’ll find an amazing book and devour every word.  Here are some of his favourites.


"Small Giants by Bo Burlingham provides a refreshing alternative to raising money on hype and the fail fast approach of many Silicon Valley firms. It details how some entrepreneurs want to be brilliant but stay small and focused. It isn’t about making fast money, it’s about being the best you can be with solid values underpinning all decisions. 

"A consequence of this approach is seen in The Monk and The Riddle: The art of creating a life while making a life by Randy Kosimar. It’s about the 'journey not the destination’ and doing what you love, seeing a problem and making it better. I used to give this book to all new employees at CleverTouch. 

"The Chocolate Wars by Diane Cadbury is a brilliant social history of the 19th century entrepreneurs behind businesses like Cadbury’s, Fry’s of Bristol and Barclays Bank. These purposeful companies were founded by Quakers who had no option but to create their own businesses. Their emphasis on values creates a fabulous foil for today’s bosses.  

"The Joy of Work by Bruce Daisley uses a bit of common sense, a bit of psychology and a lot of research. It provides strategies and ideas for the modern workplace. Many of these approaches could easily be adopted to drive culture and a love of work.

"Legacy: What the "All Blacks" can teach us about the business of life by James Kerr was recommended to me by a fellow CEO and rugby fan. I was cynical at first but it’s a really well researched book and very much based on core values, hard work and the mantra ‘that better people make better All Blacks’ resonates throughout.   

"Digital Body Language by Steve Woods literally reinvented the traditional sales, marketing and buyer relationship. Woods was the co-founder and CTO of Eloqua, a marketing technology firm that pioneered the space of marketing automation and was subsequently acquired by Oracle for over $800m. 

"Let My People Go Surfing, by Yves Chouinard. Yves is the founder of Patagonia, a brand I greatly admire for its ability to balance the irony of clothing and apparel production with the environmental need for sustainability. It’s another example of an accidental CEO doing what he loved first and foremost, climbing. When climbing in Scotland he discovered the local climbers wore rugby shirts, heavy duty and colourful, and so much better than anything back in North America, and that was the start of Patagonia.

"Winners Dream by Bill McDermott is just a great and very open biography of someone who with drive, energy and ambition rose from running the corner store to running the corner office of a global organisation, SAP." 

Image credit: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / Contributor

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