Read like a CEO: Julian Richer

Ethical business and challenging perspectives are themes of the high street electronics boss' bookshelf.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 25 Jan 2019

"It’s so important that we see the potential impact of what we do as businesses," says Julian Richer, founder of high street electronics chain Richer Sounds. The hi-fi magnate, who reads both the Telegraph and the Guardian cover-to-cover each morning, shares his recommended reading list for business leaders.

"As a capitalist I think it is important to read books like The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell, because it allows you to see the other side of life. It was published at the turn of the last century – so before the introduction of the welfare state. Tressell writes somewhat semi-biographically about how workers were treated and the conditions they had to put up with. In socialist circles, I’d say this is up there with Karl Marx, although it’s a much easier read.

"On the theme of treating your employees fairly, James Bloodworth provides a pretty severe assessment in Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-wage Britain. It details Bloodworth’s experiences working undercover at Amazon and a lot of other businesses.

"I am hugely sympathetic to a lot of it. Amazon’s behaviour (if accurate) is frankly appalling, although I’m not too sure how open-minded Bloodworth is. If he worked for me I’m certain he’d also find fault, even though I’m really doing my best to treat people well. But it is interesting for us employers to read it just to see what our staff really think about us.

"Dame Margaret Hodge chaired the Commons public accounts committee for five years and her book Called to Account: How Corporate Bad Behaviour and Government Waste Combine to Cost Us Millions is just brilliant. It’s mind-blowingly, shockingly and rivetingly depressing because it is all about government waste and how the authorities cock things up.

"It also touches on tax avoidance. As taxpayers this is something we should all be concerned about. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, but we can definitely make improvements as a society.

"In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman might be a bit obvious, but it genuinely changed my career and the way I think about business. This book showed me that it doesn’t matter what products you sell, your sector or market size: the common feature of world-class businesses is the way they treat their customers and their employees.

"After reading it I took a microscope – and a knife – to my business model. I’m sure if I read it again tomorrow it would still affect me. This was a seminal book in my career, and from that moment on my business went through the roof."

Wider reading

The Diet Myth by Tim Spector

This pulls together all the stuff we read in the papers about health – which is often contradictory – and cuts a path through to what you can believe.

The Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain by Damian Le Bas

We don’t have a lot of sympathy for Gypsies generally as a society, but this was very educational and interesting. It’s a story we don’t hear too much about.

The North Water by Ian McGuire

It’s about whaling boats. I live in North Yorkshire, and Hull used to be a massive whaling centre. I love animals and I hate the idea of killing them, but this is the gritty realism of whalers going out.


Image credits

Header: Sergey Tinyakov/Gettyimages

Body: Courtesy of Richer Sounds

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