Most people have a memorable book that has impacted their life in some way, inspiring them to achieve success, or helping them overcome personal challenges, and entrepreneurs are no different. Here, six business founders share the titles that helped them on their startup journeys.
Inspired by a resilience
Sami Benchekroun is cofounder and CEO of Morressier, a virtual conference software provider and platform for early-stage research. The Long Way, the autobiography of legendary French sailor Bernard Moitessier, was instrumental to the founding of the company, and became the inspiration behind the name of the business.
Moitessier is best known for pulling out of the Golden Cup race, a solo circumnavigation of the globe. Despite being in the lead, he realized that winning the race was not the means to his own personal fulfillment.
Benchekroun says: “I was inspired by his resilience, self-awareness, and dedication to his goals, in the face of the hardship and isolation that accompanied him throughout his journey. Although launching a company is very different from sailing around the globe, I see many parallels in that doggedness and willingness to risk everything; two traits that every entrepreneur needs to succeed.”
Katrina Borissova came up with the idea for her natural and vegan soap brand Little Danube on the day that the U.K. went into lockdown, after being inspired by Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
“Creativity was something I could never relate to, as I never considered myself a creative person,” she says. “But after reading a few pages it became clear to me that I had lost that childlike joy of testing trying, and starting new things.”
The book contains interviews with artists, scientists and politicians about their own experiences and sense of purpose, providing a framework that Borissova believes can be used to help anyone to find their purpose.
“At the time I was without a job, in the middle of a pandemic, feeling I would never be as resourceful as I could be,” says Borissova. “This book helped me to overcome my personal barriers, fuel my creativity and build Little Danube from scratch.”
Practice makes perfect
Tom Maxwell, CEO of the Twisted-USA, LLC group, first read Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, some years ago and still picks it up every so often, especially when he wants to reflect on his journey so far.
He says: “I’ve always been interested in the mechanics of success, what creates success, what drives successful people, and how to engineer success. Gladwell’s book provides several examples of successful people and the factors that play into their success. I find it useful for when I want to analyze what I’ve done, rather than what I am going to do.”
A recurring feature in the book is the ‘10,000 hour rule’ that says to be an expert in any skill one must have practiced it for 10,000 hours, a trait demonstrated by all of Gladwell’s success stories.
“It doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s a critical component of it, especially for those who, like me, didn’t have other head starts in life, such as influential parents or family wealth,” says Maxwell. “If you understand your strengths and weaknesses, and the external factors that may help or hinder you, I believe success is more within your control.”
Learning how to scale
Starting and scaling a business is a major goal that can often seem insurmountable. What helped Jennifer Quigley-Jones, founder of influencer marketing agency Digital Voices, over that hurdle was The Lean Startup by Eric Reis.
“Reis explains how smart businesses often develop from testing a Minimum Viable Product and pivoting until you find a model or product offering that you can scale,” says Quigley-Jones. “Initially, Digital Voices offered too wide a variety of services and the book showed me to change that, and also to think smarter about pivoting and specializing, which has led to much faster growth. Without a specialism, we couldn’t scale or productize our offering.”
The power of self-belief
Cheney Hamilton launched Find your Flex, a platform for those seeking flexible job roles, after her own request for flexible working following the birth of her second child was turned down. She called on inspiration from The Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel to help her reaffirm her motives for launching the business.
The books tell the story of a girl growing into a woman, overcoming hate, prejudice, language and cultural barriers, and gaining status in her own right along with a career in medicine, all set at the dawn of mankind.
Hamilton, who first read the books in her teens, says: “They’ve been a huge part in driving the belief that anything is possible. This young woman fights for everything she has been given, and that gave me the belief that I could also achieve what I wanted to. Her fighting spirit is so relatable, and that’s what we are doing now, fighting for parents and people who need flexible working, and making it the norm.”
Share to inspire
Show Your Work by Austin Kleon has inspired Alex Young, founder, and CEO of immersive training startup Virti, to share some of their business processes with other startup founders.
“One of the best things a founder can do is share their company journeys, warts and all, via blogs, podcasts and videos to help other budding entrepreneurs as possible,” he says. Standing up and self-promoting can be challenging, and some founders are reluctant to share too much for fear of having someone steal their ideas or intellectual property.
Kleon says: “I’ve found that sharing in this way is pivotal to helping me build my network and credibility amongst different audiences and stakeholders, which all feeds back into the success of Virti.”