Business Memoirs that Inspire

Here’s my list of favorite books that share practical and inspiring ways to incorporate ideals into your business:

Mission in a Bottle by HonestTea founders Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff. Graphic “novel” that shows the practicalities of building a socially- and environmentally-concious company. I love the way they are forthright about the challenges of distribution, capital management and operations that nearly killed their business. Dare I say, a refreshing approach?

Let my people go surfing: the education of a reluctant businessman by Yvon Chouinard. The legendary founder of Patagonia tells the history of the company and shows how his personal vision inculcates every part of the business –from product development, to sourcing, to employee engagement.

Start something that matters by Blake Mycoskie. The founder of shoe company TOMS offers simple (simplistic?) lessons about how to start a mission-driven company. It’s a quick read. One of the value-adds is the Readers Guide in the back aimed at helping entrepreneurs find their own vision, voice and values.

The Soul of a Business by Tom Chappell. This book, authored by the founder of Tom’s of Maine and pioneer of natural toothpaste, has a philosophic and spiritual tone. The approach is rooted in Chappell’s decision mid-career to go to divinity school. His second book Managing Upside Down is good too but a more traditional business book.

Body and Soul by Anita Roddick. Roddick was the founder of The Body Shop, a true rags to riches story of a struggling mother who changed the retail world through innovative products and political and environmental activism.The Body Shop was one of the first companies to promote no-animal testing, selling cosmetics and skin care products in reusable containers, and using all-natural ingredients. The book was written in 1991, 16 years before she sold the company to L’Oreal – a move protested by loyal customers and publicly regretted by Roddick.

Do the KIND Thing by Daniel Lubetzky. Lubetzky, the founder of KIND Bars, mixes his personal story with his business principles “Think Boundlessly, Work Purposefully, Live Passionately.”

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. Hsieh is the founder of Zappos, an on-line shoe company renowned for its customer service. The book is a great guide for instilling a customer-focused corporate culture that authentically engages employees.