Six books to spur Britain’s start-up revolution onward

Matthew Rock
THE number of UK start-ups hasn’t deviated much in years, with business birth rates hovering between 10 and 13 per cent of overall enterprise numbers. So recent figures from StartUp Britain, showing a 10 per cent spike of 484,224 new firms in 2012, are a welcome anomaly.

For many first-time entrepreneurs, the idea of starting a business is terrifying. Many will have lost confidence through an impersonal redundancy process, or wonder if they’re up to going it alone. But, as investor-entrepreneur Luke Johnson says, “nothing saps ambition quite like a steady income”. The flipside of 20-year lows in City employment could be that many find their inner entrepreneur in 2013. So how do you give yourself the best chance of success?

Countless books offer advice. With titles like You Can Do It, or How I Nailed It, most fail from the start; the hesitant entrepreneur needs a dose of belief. My favourite personal pep-talk is Start it Up: Why Running Your Own Business is Easier Than You Think, by Johnson himself. A successful businessman and gifted columnist, his views carry clout.

Younger entrepreneurs tend to have more appetite for risk, but Johnson also encourages the more mature. “Experience and wisdom will be their secret weapon,” he says. But the most successful entrepreneurs, he cautions, “are not the same as other people. They have an ambition, a competitive urge and a lust to take risks that is way beyond the norm.”

The already self-confident will love Start it Up; the tentative may feel cowed. “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now,” Johnson advises, quoting Goethe. Rasheed Ogunlaru’s Soul Trader is a more therapeutic introduction. His eight principles – clarity, customers, courage, cooperation, conversations, creativity, compassion and change – are drawn from encounters with business owners. But Soul Trader mixes sensitive counsel with practicality. It could become a well-thumbed classic.

Steve Parks’s updated Start Your Business, Week by Week is another clever format, providing weekly to-do lists over six months, culminating in the launch of a business. Those who crave structure at a testing time will find this reassuring.

Jonathan Moules’s The Rebel Entrepreneur, meanwhile, heaving with personal stories, will also reassure entrepreneurs that they’re not alone. They’ll be encouraged that bootstrapping (“the value of having no money”) is critical to success. And while Moules admires entrepreneurs, he knows they’re often flawed, lucky, adaptable, and always persistent. “Entrepreneurs are not those who push original ideas at all costs, but those who work out which of their original assumptions are wrong, and stop pursuing them.”

Rachel Bridges’s fast, smart How to Start a Business Without Any Money also shows how much can be achieved (hiring staff, renting premises, advertising) for nothing. And if you’re hatching an online business, Lucy Tobin’s Entrepreneur takes you inside Britain’s top digital companies. Could your business be the next Wonga?

Matthew Rock was a founding editor of Real Business, the UK’s first magazine for entrepreneurs. Follow him on Twitter @matthewrock –