What We’re Reading
My favorite place in New Orleans is Octavia Books, a little independent bookstore off Laurel Street, around the corner from Toast and a quick jog from Audubon Park. One of my first outings upon arriving in the Crescent City in July 2017, I still make bi-monthly pilgrimages to the store. As a trepwise associate (read: business geek), many of the books I’ve been bringing home lately have focused on building impactful businesses. Below, find a few of the titles that are piled on my bedside table (and on my kitchen table and by the door and in the passenger seat of my car):
“The real innovation and value are being created by the fighters who are forming little squads and cobbling together businesses. Some fail, some succeed. If they succeed, they wind up building an army that’s providing new software, better services, tastier food, or whatever else the world needs. They also create organizations that form the character of the people in the army who believe in what they’re doing.”
In his 2014 book, Andrew Yang, the founder of Venture for America, makes a compelling argument for young people to pursue entrepreneurship. He discusses the “war for talent,” where enterprising, and almost excessively well-educated young people are sucked into more structured career paths, and he encourages his reader to imagine what could happen if those same young people changed their path. What could happen in cities like New Orleans, Baltimore, and Detroit if more Millennials and Gen Z-ers decided to launch businesses there, rather than pursuing a career on Wall Street or in a Boston law firm? If Yang is correct, it’s a pretty incredible future.
“I think of Patagonia as an ecosystem, with its vendors and customers as an integral part of that system. A problem anywhere in the system eventually affects the whole, and this gives everyone an overriding responsibility of the health of the whole organism. It also means that anyone, low on the totem pole or high, inside the company or out, can contribute significantly to the health of the company and to the integrity and value of our products.”
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, the self-proclaimed “reluctant businessman,” started his company in 1973 selling beautifully-made rock climbing gear for the serious adventurer. Revised and expanded in 2016, Let My People Go Surfing not only tells the story of Patagonia, but reflects on what it means to build a socially-responsible company that still turns a profit. While reading, I was reminded of the conversations I am constantly having with colleagues at trepwise, thinking about how we can consistently provide value to our own ecosystem, across our clients and the broader New Orleans community.
“Regardless of where you are in your career or what you do in and out of work, superbosses are the people whose businesses you should study, not least because the proteges of a superboss will usually determine where the industry is going next.”
Quick quiz: What do Lorne Michaels, Miles Davis, Alice Waters, and Larry Ellison have in common? If you guessed “Well, obviously Finkelstein has identified them superbosses because this is a blurb about that book,” yes, you’re right, but you didn’t need to be so snarky about it. Finkelstein, author of 20 books and 80 articles on leadership, talent development, and corporate governance, spent 10 years researching Superbosses. He profiles leaders from numerous industries, highlighting what it is that made them effective leaders and trainers of top talent and tracing their influence across decades. As someone who works with leaders from a myriad of industries, I found it interesting to think about the core tenants of leadership that help to develop employees and their talent.