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Top reads to boost your business know-how while self-isolating

As we hunker down to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic, there’s been no better time than to curl up with a good, motivational book. Abigail Healy asks travel stalwarts to recommend books that will provide inspiration during these testing times

Jo Rzymowska

Jo Rzymowska, vice-president and managing director, Celebrity Cruises, UK, Ireland and Asia

Title: Beating the Blowfish

Author: Emma Pontin

Synopsis: Hours ahead of a transatlantic race, yachtswoman Emma Pontin was diagnosed with breast cancer. The book is about her battle and experiences.

How has it influenced you?
I first read the book back in 2010, when Emma was appointed godmother of our ship Celebrity Eclipse. It’s a frank and inspirational account of a battle with cancer, first-hand, from someone who didn’t let it define her or interrupt her dreams and ambitions. Over the years, I was honoured to get to know the woman behind the words, who was everything the pages in her book suggested. The book remains hugely motivational to me. Emma had a phenomenal impact on our business and how we approach challenges and leadership. She reminds us all to keep fighting to achieve our goals, even when things are incredibly tough. Sadly, Emma died in 2016, but she and her incredible story are always in my thoughts.

Derek Jones

Derek Jones, chief executive UK, Der Touristik

Title: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Author: Stephen R Covey

Synopsis: In summary, it says that proactive people work on the things they can do something about. We see the world not as it is but as we are conditioned to see it (our paradigm). To make minor changes in life, you should focus on your attitudes and behaviours, but to make significant changes, you should work on your basic paradigms.

How has it influenced you? The book was first published in 1989. I bought it at the airport on my way to Ibiza to work my second season as a Thomson rep, so I had plenty of time to read it that summer. It totally changed my outlook, and looking back it provided me with many of the tools that would help me to build a successful career in travel later. The one “habit” that really stuck with me was the fifth one: seek first to understand then to be understood. I still use it every single day. When you listen to conversations in business, a lot of the time people are just waiting for others to stop talking so that they can give their own opinion, but when you listen (when you really listen without planning your next move) you learn so much more and arrive at solutions much more quickly. There’s actually an eighth habit – find your voice and inspire others
to find theirs. For me, this is the one that has developed as my career has progressed.

Richard Dixon

Richard Dixon, director, Holidaysplease

Title: Creativity, Inc

Author: Ed Catmull

Synopsis: The story of how Catmull fulfilled his dream to make the world’s first computer-animated movie. Via a partnership with George Lucas and then founding Pixar with Steve Jobs, Toy Story became the film that he dreamt of, thereby changing animation for ever.

How has it influenced you? I read this during a relaxing break in Dubai a couple of autumns ago. The insight Catmull gives into working with Jobs, and then further down the line how he took the ethos of Pixar to reinvigorate Disney after it bought Pixar, was full of great lessons in team-building and corporate culture. Creativity, Inc will help any managers, especially those leading creative teams, to foster a spirit that encourages people to think freely, be honest in assessing themselves and those around them, and avoid becoming stifled by protocol. At Holidaysplease, we have always been keen to try new things and think differently about all aspects of our business – be it web design, technology, marketing, sales or admin. Reading Creativity, Inc affirmed many of our beliefs and provided the motivation to keep creativity and free thinking at the forefront of what we do.

Mark Tanzer

Mark Tanzer, chief executive, Abta

Title: Black Box Thinking

Author: Matthew Syed

Synopsis: Failure is an essential part of progress. Sports journalist Syed contrasts the safety performance of the aviation industry with that of other professions, especially the medical profession.

How has it influenced you? The culture of the aviation industry is to be open about accidents and failures (hence the “black box” of the title) and to share the facts in order to learn from experience. Syed highlights the obstacles that can get in the way of this. For example, exaggerated respect for seniority, or a blame culture, which inhibits open disclosure. He says progress is most often built on repeated small failures through trial and error, rather than the one big breakthrough. There are lessons here for all walks of life.

Julia Lo Bue-Said

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive, The Advantage Travel Partnership

Title: Tough Calls

Author: Allan Leighton

Synopsis: The book is about difficult decisions we are faced with from time to time and how the experts handle them.

How has it influenced you? I first read this book as one of my holiday reads in the summer of 2015. It really helped me to stay focused when the company was undergoing significant change, resonating with some of the experiences Leighton shared while running Asda, Royal Mail and others. My learnings focused on decision-making and the harm that procrastination has on a business. You are better off learning from bad decision-making than from the risk of not taking any. It also made me realise that I wasn’t alone in having to make tough calls. I would highly recommend it, as it is written in a practical way and has helped me work through complex problems that required practical business thinking to find the right solutions.

Dan Pearce

Dan Pearce, managing director, TTG Media

Title: Start With Why

Author: Simon Sinek

Synopsis: This book is about how the best companies, and the brightest movements in history, have been created for a purpose – with a “why” that inspires teams to come together to be more than the sum of their parts. Every company has a “what” and a “how” – how many have a “why” that they are constantly reviewing and referring to?

How has it influenced you? I first read this when I was setting up TTG Media as an independent business in 2013 and wanted to be clear about why I was doing this crazy thing. It really struck a chord with me, as I was trying to build a company with a purpose. As a company, we now go back to the “why” regularly from our smallest projects to the launch of the TTG Top 50 Travel Agencies. Start with the why and the commercials will follow. That’s the idea, anyway

Lisa Henning

Lisa Henning, group membership services director, The Travel Network Group

Title: The Chimp Paradox

Author: Steve Peters

Synopsis: A powerful mind-management model that professes to help you become a happy, confident, healthy and more successful person.

How has it influenced you? It gave me insights into human psychology and helped me understand how my own brain works. For example, it covers why we as humans react to certain things emotionally rather than rationally, and how to stay calm in stressful situations. It also gave me useful tips on a range of issues, from communicating with co-workers to managing stress. It looks at the topic of setting expectations and says “if you want a painting, search for an artist”, which is key to how we make others feel about themselves. We work so hard at The Travel Network Group on how we make our members feel good about the support we provide, and this book has helped me become more effective in my relationships with both members and co-workers.

Lisa McAuley

Lisa McAuley, managing director, dnata Travel B2B Europe

Title: Exploring Strategy

Authors: Various

Synopsis: It equips readers with a detailed understanding of the issues and techniques of strategy, using illustration and application to make sense of the subject. It is packed with plenty of text and case studies relevant to strategic management.

How has it influenced you? I read this book as part of my MBA in 2015. It not only helps promote structured thinking, but it also encouraged me to trust my gut instinct, which time and time again in my career has been invaluable. It covers topics from capabilities, stakeholder and politics, culture, innovation, entrepreneurship, globalisation and how strategic planning plays a part in everything we do, whether conscious or not. I remember it sparking much debate, and the case studies on organisations including Amazon, Virgin, Google, Ryanair, easyJet and Manchester United Football Club were incredibly detailed and useful while I was studying.

Derek Moore

Derek Moore, chairman, Aito

Title: Blowin’ in the Wind

Author: Bob Dylan

Synopsis: A compelling message that all the answers are out there and that anyone can go and look for them.

How has it influenced you? I can’t think of a book that shaped my career in travel. I didn’t study business – I was just winging it. But there is some literature that set me on the course towards co-founding Explore in 1981. I say “literature” since, rather improbably, its author received the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016. That simple but forceful, complex and compelling message inspired me. I didn’t want to study business; I wanted to explore the world and find all the answers. I bought a guitar, played in folk clubs and travelled the world with that guitar, as a tour leader. I kept diaries of my travels and used them to design itineraries when we started Explore. In the end, I became a businessman but it was all inspired by that Nobel Prize winner, that folk singer from the US asking
“How many roads…?”

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