Stuck for what to read this summer and want to use the time improving your business acumen? City A.M. has asked five of London’s leading fintech founders what they’d recommend.
Hiroki Takeuchi, co-founder of GoCardless, the online direct debit provider
Five dysfunctions of teams, by Patrick Lencioni
I love books that introduce me to concepts that change my world view. Sometimes that’s on big things (like the idea of black swans), and sometimes it can be on smaller topics. This short book (you can read the whole thing in a few hours!), is about smaller concepts. It’s about the pitfalls teams face as they work together. Through a really relatable story, it introduces a few concepts that I’ve found invaluable as we scale. Embracing conflict is the main one that I’ve kept with me. In the past, I’d always found it easy to shy away from difficult conversations. But by turning towards them, I’ve been able to improve my relationship with my team mates and create more productive discussions. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone interested in leading teams to work more productively together!
Anil Stocker, co-founder of Market Invoice, the invoice financing firm
Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck, by Chip and Dan Heath
This was actually recommended to me by John Kerry’s speech writer. There’s no right answer when it comes to standing out from the crowd in business, but Made to Stick is almost it. Creating a compelling message, or telling a memorable story is vital in the early stages of any business, be it for making hires or pitching to investors. I’ve found this book so useful for effectively communicating the vision of the business to others, and learning how to make a message resonate with a stranger. It uses a series of anecdotes to show why we choose to remember and engage with some ideas and not others. It’s especially relevant for entrepreneurs thinking about brand values and promises. It’ll also play a big part in getting an audience to really buy in to what you’re saying.
Tom Blomfield, founder of Mondo, the mobile bank. (Tom is also a founder of GoCardless.)
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz
This is a brutally honest collection of essays about leading a startup as “wartime” chief executive, recounting the battles Ben fought to keep his company from failing. Ben now runs one of the world's most successful venture capital funds and, as his co-founder Marc Andreessen explains, “running a startup is like eating glass. You just start to like the taste of your own blood”. He tackles many of the tough problems that founders face, from laying off senior executives to poaching staff, all the way through an IPO to his company’s eventual sale for $1bn. It’s a must-read that explores the gritty reality of running a company.
Christian Faes, co-founder of LendInvest, the online mortgage lender
Too Big To Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin
Published in 2009, this is an oldie but a goodie. It sets out in minute-by-minute detail the events that played out when the world fell apart back in 2008, and the battle commenced to save Wall Street (and London). I recommend it to anyone who needs reminding of how badly financial services can be run – and what massive steps forward we’ve taken in a relatively short time since. We all know how the credit crunch played out, but for those of us who don’t let a spoilt punchline get in the way of a good story, his tales from the frontline of the world’s biggest banking crisis make for a gripping read.
Cameron Stevens, founder of Prodigy Finance, the postgraduate loans P2P firm
The Culture Map, by Erin Meyer
This has made a real splash in our office, and I’m using the summer to finally catch up and read it. It focuses on how to work effectively with people from other cultures and, for an international company, it is a fantastic framework. Meyer explains how different cultures value time, experience, structure and feedback. To give one example, Indians and South Americans consider negotiation to be a normal part of the process when it comes to a finance product, whereas North Americans take things at face value. Knowing this helps us to engage differently with all of our customers, and allows us to understand and respect clients and co-workers and avoid causing offence. This is especially important when most communication is online, where the risk of misinterpretation is even higher.