Sunday, 15 February 2009

Me & Business Books

Although I have had a long-interest in all things businessy, I've sometimes been a bit cynical about many of the titles that take up shelf space in a business section. Evangelical titles and cheesy covers with promises of how to make a million or be a super success. Cynical because I don't think you can 'learn' business like that. But there are some business writers that I have always had time for, two of whom I discovered in the late 80s while at college -Tom Peters and Charles Handy. Neither of these business gurus spoke in a cheesy language, their style was down to earth and the simplicity of their messages really struck a chord with me. Peters especially became a great source of inspiration throughout my early days in junior management when I was literally handed a directorship with zero guidance or mentoring. Tom Peters filled that vacuum. I was so fired up by reading his 'Liberation Management' I bought a copy at Waterstone's and presented it to my boss, I just wanted to share the Tom Peters gospel with someone. I stuck a post-it on the front cover signposting 2 case studies that had really spoken to me. Unfortunately my passion fell on deaf ears and he never acknowledged the gift; I think he always misread my intentions and thought I was telling him to polish his own management skills (I wasn't).

When I started working for myself I enjoyed Peters' series 'Reinventing Work': I loved the style and format of those little hardback books. I picked up the first in Borders in Palo Alto on an inspiration trip to California when - paradoxically - I was in the book store researching titles in pursuit of writing my own business book, then billed 'The Self Sufficient Entrepreneur'. Reading that first one on the 'plane back to London it helped give me the confidence to shake things up and reposition my business based on me. It was the start of a journey, and I don't just mean the flight. I forgot the idea of the book and reinvigorated my own business.

And then last year suddenly - and strangely - my own book appeared on in the business section of Waterstone's and Borders. My first book 'Leap!' was never meant to be a great work of intellect or a big idea; it was very much my own story, written like a blog but it helped readers change their own working lives giving them the confidence to take the leap to work for themselves. I kind of felt it was like the book 'The Best Friend's Guide to Pregnancy' that I gave my wife when she was pregnant with our first child, not a how-to guide, but a book offering you advice, tips and inspiration. And now my second book 'Juggle!' is somewhere between a warehouse and book stores in the UK.

So as I look back on my relationship with business books it's great to have a companion to review some of the classics, remind myself about the key messages of past reads, see what I've missed and identify some new books for my must-read list. 'The 100 Best Business Books Of All Time' by Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten segments their selection in different genre categories offering the reader 'what they say, why they matter and how they can help you' in short, punchy chapters. Each chapter is a really good tease, communicating the essence of each book and some key points. Not only have they created a really useful guide, but they've also created a great looking book in design and layout (something that is really important and often neglected). It feels good to read. I've only just started flicking through it but already it's made me want to pick up a Guy Kawasaki book.

There's a really good website for the book at

I'll end with a quote from Charles Handy that Jack Covert reminded me about in his review of 'The Age of Unreason'. As ever, Handy was formulating ideas ahead of his time. Here's his take on the changing landscape of work (published back in 1990!):

"Now for the first time in the human experience, we have a chance to shape our work to suit the way we live instead of our lives to fit our work. We would be mad to miss the chance".

1 comment:

Colby said...
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