There’s a section of my business bookshelf which is more medicines than manuals. These are the real-life tales and commentaries that sometimes work as therapy, sometimes as Prozac, but are always my first stop when I need to dig deeper for motivation or inspiration.
Business as Unusual by Anita Roddick
Covering the extensive ethical and global issues Anita Roddick championed, as well as talking about what it meant to start a business in a completely new way, this is inspirational. It’s out of print at the moment, but it’s worth tracking down a second-hand copy. Although, be prepared – it can turn into a bit of a rant sometimes.
The Element: How finding your passion changes everything by Ken Robinson
A fascinating science and society mash-up that has huge relevance to our working lives (think Freakonomics and Outliers). I love the way it triggers those over-excited ‘anything is possible’ feelings with its combination of real-life examples (George Harrison, Vidal Sassoon, Arianna Huffington) and the fact that Robinson is clearly a master of his subject and extremely convincing.
Hegarty on Advertising by John Hegarty
A living business legend, Hegarty has put down on paper pure common sense about what makes consumers tick. Combining it with the tale of building his advertising agency BBH, he is charming and persuasive – just like his famous ads for Levi’s, Audi, Lynx and so many more – as he blends original thought with where-have-you-been-all-my-life basic (dare I say obvious) truths.
Against the Flow by Dee Caffari
In 2005, Dee Caffari became the first woman to sail solo around the world the ‘wrong way’ (that’s westward against prevailing winds and currents). An extraordinary tale of achievement (I had a lump in my throat from page one), her bravery and determination make sitting in an office worrying about cash look like a picnic on a sunny day. No wonder she’s now a popular motivational speaker, too.
A book of our own
A big week, this week. My business partner Holly Tucker and I just signed a deal with publishers Simon & Schuster to write a book. Out in July, it’s something we’ve been longing to write since we first searched for the perfect business book ourselves – and couldn’t find it. It’s going to be accessible, human, practical and extremely honest, a small business bible for women who are facing the same challenges we did when we first set up notonthehighstreet.com. We’re teaming up with bestselling author Jessica Fellowes (The World Of Downton Abbey), and will address the experiences of the 2,500 businesses that have grown with us (as well as our own), sharing all the things we wish we’d known. So, we’re very excited and having a great time remembering the early years of our story.