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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas