Log In

Reset Password

Learning from the insights of company founders

First Prev 1 2 Next Last
Guy Raz is a journalist, correspondent and radio host and currently working at NPR doing among other things, his popular podcast, How I Built This. (File photograph)

For many years, I have been an avid listener of the National Public Radio show How I Built This by Guy Raz.

Listening to the weekly interviews with the founders of successful companies reminds me of the extraordinary things ordinary people can accomplish when they undertake to solve shared problems or to recognise opportunity and untapped potential.

These episodes allow me to share the founder’s journey in a personal and engaging way, while also being inspired (even if only briefly in the moment!). Many of these stories have stayed with me over the years.

In 2020, Raz released the book version of How I Built This, capturing for all of us many of these amazing stories and the lessons learnt.

Thus, our Moments of Clarity column this week is a shout out not only to company founders and entrepreneurs, but also to those of us who are problem-solvers and creators, and to Guy Raz, who shares the unexpected paths to success from the world’s most inspiring entrepreneurs in his book, also titled How I Built This.

His podcast and NPR interviews of the same name are a source for many of the themes explored in this book.

The structure of the book is based on the inspirational stories of successful company founders and the different ways in which they innovate and persevere.

NPR host Guy Yaz uses his podcast How I Built This, to interview the world’s best-known entrepreneurs to learn how they built their iconic brands

Raz has organised these stories around three themes: the Call, the Test, and the Destination, each of which highlights specific topics, companies and founders.

Each chapter then explores a specific moment that nearly every founder faces in the life of their business. These stories provide nuggets of insight that extend beyond building a business. They inspire both “possibility and relief”– by sharing the pathways and insights that come from finding real problems that needed to be solved – and by solving them. The applicability of the lessons learnt from the exploration of these moments is broad and relevant not only to founders but also to all of us as creators and problem solvers.

Raz shares why he wrote this book: “In this book, you cope with the struggles and self-doubt and fear of starting a business or pursuing a big idea in your workplace.

“When we hear stories from other people who’ve gone through similar challenges – and figured out a way through – it can be one of the most powerful motivators for us!

“So in that spirit … I’ve written a book! Not surprisingly, it’s called How I Built This, and it’s filled with advice, wisdom, ideas and inspiration – all told through the stories of more than 100 incredible entrepreneurs.

“The book is designed for anyone looking to build something new – a business, a project, a non-profit – anything that takes courage and energy. And I wrote it because over the course of my career, I’ve always wanted to have something I can turn to when I need advice or encouragement or a road map for how to solve a problem. This book is for you! “

Although this sounds like a book about business, it's more about life.

Guy Raz presents personal stories. The themes that unite them are getting inspired and then the path to finding one's way through a variety of challenges.

Following these themes makes the stories he shares not only compelling to read but also applicable to many situations in which we might find ourselves. These stories offer insights on how to keep going if you don't succeed at first.

To quote a review, with which I agree: “It's not simply a matter of trying again – there are numerous practical tips that have wide applications. A rich source of ideas, and an entertaining read”.

Following on our last MOC on “The Culture Code”, one of the chapters that I found most interesting was in Section Three, The Destination: Chapter 20 – Build a Culture, Not a Cult. This chapter features the story of the beginning of Netflix and of its founder, Reed Hastings.

In 2009, Hastings compiled 130 PowerPoint slides drawn from his ten years of experience as a serial entrepreneur. He and his team then referred to this as the “culture deck”. This deck articulated the intentional vision of what Netflix wanted to be and how the founders wanted it to operate.

This presentation was then posted on SlideShare, from which it “began to ricochet around the internet” and ended up becoming an unexpected but powerful recruiting tool for this early stage company.

Netflix was one of the first companies to intentionally hire for culture and values “fit”. In the very competitive Silicon Valley hiring environment at the time, being able to clearly articulate the culture the Netflix founders were committed to developing became a competitive hiring advantage. More about the importance of culture from “Day 1” is included is this chapter.

Each of the chapters includes an equally compelling and interesting founder’s story around themes from being open to ideas in chapter 1, to getting attention and pivoting (chapters 12, 13, 18), and concluding with topics such as thinking small to get big and being kind (chapters 21 and 25).

I have found that many of the insights shared are equally applicable to established organisations and to the leaders and teams within... perhaps because to arrive at this point of becoming a viable, ongoing organisation, employees, teams, leaders, customers and stakeholders all participated in “building this” – and are continuing to do so every day. Enjoy the read … or tune in to the How I Built This podcasts.

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published February 27, 2023 at 7:55 am (Updated April 11, 2023 at 2:52 pm)

Learning from the insights of company founders

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon