An entrepreneur’s work is never done.
This is especially true when you first launch your business and you are the chief cook and bottle washer, and pretty much everything else in between. So taking some time out to read a business book or two may seem like a totally unwarranted indulgence of dubious longterm value.
But bear with me. As this latest entry in the continuing series, “3 Business Books that Changed My Life” shows, taking some time to learn from the wisdom of entrepreneurs who have gone before you can make a real difference to how you approach the running of your business, and its eventual success or otherwise.
Rebekah Campbell, who I recently profiled on my weekly Fairfax blog, Enterprise, is a testament to the power of drawing inspiration from others. She credits reading the life stories of Richard Branson, David Geffen and Steve Jobs with inspiring her to dream big in business.
She is the founder of posse.com, a “social search” site that allows people to create a virtual street on which they can place five of their favourite places to shop, eat or hangout. The idea is that businesses can then engage with customers via this portal and reward them with special deals for their loyalty.
But it’s not the first entrepreneurial venture for Rebekah who started out running her school newspaper in her native New Zealand at a profit and graduated to managing and promoting bands in Australia. She has managed everyone from Evermore to Matt Corby and Amy Meredith, and has also been behind major fund-raising events such as Levi’s Life Festival which was staged to raise awareness of youth suicide.
Here are the three business books that changed her life:
Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson
I read this book when I was 18 after getting it for Christmas from my mum. I had always thought about being an entrepreneur and I identified with his ambition to do lots of interesting things.
It fuelled my ambition to get out there and do something big. It gave me a global focus – I grew up in New Zealand – and it made me think that I could do [what Richard did] too.
It’s a really well-told story and it sounds like [he’s led] the most awesome life, and it inspired me to be an entrepreneur and be really ambitious in my thinking. Everything he ever did, like start an airline or a massive retail chain, were always really, really big ideas and made me think big.
The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood by Tom King
I read this when I had just moved to Australia and was working in the music industry. I was involved in the day to day of running a business, and trying to think about the next record release or the next band and it wasn’t small thinking.
When I read David Geffen’s story, it lifted my ambition again to another level and made me think about getting into America and what he’d learnt about the music industry and management and moving from management into owning content. It inspired me to think bigger again.
I was in the early stages of my entrepreneurial career and I had made a bunch of mistakes by this point. Reading about David Geffen’s flaws [which led to him] getting involved with some of the wrong people and falling out with people, it made me feel better about just going for it and not worrying about what other people think and not worrying about making mistakes.
iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon
It’s a Steve Job’s biography that is much better than the one which came out recently (Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson).
This book goes into detail about what happened when he got fired from Apple, and what kind of character he was, and what he doing at the time.
Then he went and set up his own software company and got offered an IBM contract for his operating software but he couldn’t be bothered reading the contract. So he told them to come back later and he lost the deal which went to Microsoft. He would’ve been Bill Gates if he hadn’t been [done that].
Steve Jobs had his own vision for what his companies were going to do, and he [missed] small things that didn’t fit that vision. For instance it took Pixar winning an Oscar for him to notice what they were doing.
If you’re interested in the way Steve Jobs did business, then it’s the perfect book for that. He didn’t authorise this book and he was much less involved than he was in the official one and so it doesn’t paint him in nearly as glowing a light as the official one. But you can learn a lot more about his mistakes and not to make the same ones yourself because of that.
If you’d like to learn how to write your own business book, our course How To Write a Business Book is the perfect place to start.