Roger Trapp: 'Even poets have been cited nio inspiring business founders & managers"

Henry Stewart, the founder of the London-based IT training company Happy Computers, had twin inspirations when setting up his business nearly 20 years ago. The first was that his experience at the short-lived newspaper
News on Sunday showed him how not to run a business. “It was a great idea, a radical tabloid with a serious news agenda, but it was the most appallingly run organisation,” he has said. “It taught me |the importance of management skills.”

The other was rather more positive. This was the “great stories about how people have done it” that he has encountered in management books.

He cites as a “key influence” Ricardo Semler’s Maverick, a book that was in vogue in the 1990s as a sort of how-to manual for managers seeking to encourage employee participation. |It apparently turned Stewart from “an embattled small businessman, ringing back every day from holiday, into somebody who sets the principles and guidelines”.

It is the sort of testimonial that helps to justify the huge business book market. Prominent among the nitty-gritty volumes on the mechanics of business are countless books by and about business celebrities.

Presumably, some people just read them |for the entertainment, but an important aspect behind many of the titles is the idea that they |will in some way inspire readers to seek to emulate Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Alan Sugar, whoever.

Nor is it just books that push these stars. Reality television has also entered the business world, with such programmes as The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den promoting the idea that Donald Trump, Alan Sugar, Peter Jones and the rest have something to teach would-be business people.

In some cases, this may be true. But it could also be argued that that older television depiction of business, Dallas, is about as valid as a depiction of how business works today.

This is not to say that role models are not important in either inspiring people to set up a business in the first place or in helping them to give a direction to an existing business.

The noted management thinker Rosabeth Moss Kanter, in an article published last year, pointed out that “seeking role models – not just benchmarks – is one |way to find an upside |in the downturn”.

Accepting that it was counterintuitive, because hard times tended to make businesses and people more introspective, she added: “A time of cynicism and mistrust can be made brighter by focusing on heroes. And because every story of success is also a story about persistence despite obstacles, the lessons can be applied to one’s own situation as a source |of inspiration and practical tips”.

But inspiration and encouragement does not have to come just from within business. Many business founders and managers have been inspired by all kinds of people – from political and military leaders to athletes and coaches. Even poets have been cited.

Who a business chooses (and, more importantly, states) as a role model |or inspiration is increasingly important, because in a crowded marketplace such a statement can say a lot about your business.

In an effort to understand better what is driving today’s independent businesses, The Independent and CultureMap, the think-tank focused on small and medium-sized businesses, are launching a role-model survey.

It will take a few minutes of your time to complete, but the answers – to be published in the next edition – will tell you, and us, volumes about business today. So, if you are the owner or a director of a company employing up to 250 staff, we’d like to hear from you.

independent.co.uk/rolemodels

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

£45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us