Have you ever read a book about how to succeed in business? Chances are, if you have, that it was a dry, platitude-stuffed volume with more attempted witty remarks than an ITV gameshow. To avoid this, here are our 6 favourite books from the men who have lived in and changed the world of business.
My Years with General Motors – Alfred Sloan, Former CEO of General Motors (1963/1990)
This is the original in insightful business memoirs. Sloan’s tales of steering General Motors from 1923 to 1946 quickly became the definitive text on management, and cuts to the quick in a way that very few management books have done since. Sloan writes clearly and frankly, and although it should be remembered that he was not a saint, he was in many ways a man ahead of his time.
Who: The A Method for Hiring – Geoff Smart, CEO of ghSMART (2008)
In this age of recruitment firms and huge HR teams, it can be easy to forget that hiring is picking who will be working with you for a long time. Geoff Smart is a man who realises this, and puts his company’s success almost entirely down to the combination of experts within the organisation. Smart makes hiring for the future seem simple – what do you need, and who can provide it?
Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way – Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group (2011)
Richard Branson always seems to be having a lot more fun than your average CEO, and this book will tell you why. Letting himself be ruled by ideas and ambition, as opposed to everyone else’s structures and rules, turned out to be a good idea. Branson writes engagingly and passionately about his life in business, never straying into the realm of boring dispensation of wisdom.
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman – Yvon Chouinard, Founder and CEO of Patagonia
Do you have a passion? Do you think that turning it into a business would ruin your enjoyment of said passion? This memoir from Yvon Chouinard, who turned his passion for exploring the outdoors into a multi-billion dollar company, may set you on the right track. It’s also impossible not to be entertained by Chouinard’s straight-talk style.
Rework – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Founders of 37Signals
Fried and Hansson share their “easier is better” philosophy in a simple guide for all of the potential startups out there. This book has the advantage of being current, but don’t think that it will soon be irrelevant. There’s enough insight in here to last until all of today’s startups have either flopped or floated.
Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy – Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft
In 1999, Microsoft set the record for market capitalisation. Bill Gates, as the man behind this incredible success, saw the right time to answer the question “How does he do it?”. His answer is that by collecting as much data as possible, and using it to great effect, you can know what people really need. The book has surprisingly stood the test of time, applying just as much to Facebook and Twitter as to Microsoft and Apple.
By Joe Chapman