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Building blocks of success: Guy Raz’s book on what makes a business idea click

Guy Raz uncovers the origin story behind the innovators, entrepreneurs, and blue-sky dreamers who created some of today’s most recognisable brands in his book ‘How I Built This.’ Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU  

If you have a saleable idea, but do not know how to go about making it a successful business, Guy Raz’s How I Built This — The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs may just be the book for you. Based on interviews conducted by the American journalist, host and creator for his National Public Radio (NPR) podcast of the same name, How I Built This is an interesting peek into what makes entrepreneurs successful.

“Anyone who wants to learn how to develop an ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ and anyone interested in being inspired by creative thinkers and problem solvers, will find the book useful,” says Raz in an email interview with MetroPlus.

Written in collaboration with writer-producer Nils Parker, How I Built This uses case studies from across a wide range of people in the food industry, consumer packaged goods to the tech world, to gain insights into what makes for an successful business venture.

Raz — who has been called one of the most popular podcasters in history by the New York Times and reaches more than 19 million listeners a month — says that format of the book, with its emphasis on personal stories, is meant to inspire readers. “Time and again I found classic heroic journeys embedded in these case studies,” he writes in the introduction.

He says successful entrepreneurs are helped not just by an idea, but also a desire to strike out on their own, an opportunity to leverage their skills and experience, and sometimes, simply a lucky break.

Conversational style

Readers can get the inside shoptalk about how founders of brands (among others) Carol’s Daughter (cosmetics), Dell Computers, Away luggage and hip-hop fashion house FUBU got started. The diversity of his subjects’ experience has actually been a boon, says Raz. “It has allowed me to show examples from a diverse range of industries and sectors and also how a wide variety of entrepreneurs from different backgrounds were able to meet their unique challenges.”

Building blocks of success: Guy Raz’s book on what makes a business idea click

Divided into three sections — ‘The Call’, ‘The Test’ and ‘The Destination’, the book is written in a conversational style that manages to distill years of experience into an easily understandable paradigm. Sometimes, the lack of a game-plan can work just as well, says Raz in the book. “…What I find to be most thrilling of all, most startling really, about the heroes of these stories is that their lack of subject matter expertise or institutional knowledge was never a deterrent to them. It was actually a blessing. It was freedom,” he writes.

Broadcasting career

Raz’s own journey is interesting as well. Joining NPR as an intern in 1997, he worked his way through nearly every department of the non-profit media organisation, from temporary production assistant to breaking news anchor. In the early 2000s, Raz reported from more than 50 countries, covering the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Macedonia, and the ongoing conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories. A graduate from the Brandeis University, with a post-graduate degree in History from the Cambridge University in the UK, Raz spent a year as a Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard University.

He then began the podcast How I Built This in 2015, that narrates how major businesses of the world were founded, through in-depth interviews.

Journalism, he writes, was a way to “avoid falling into the pitfalls of running a business like my parents.” But Raz eventually founded children’s production house Tinkercast with his co-host Mindy Thomas in 2016.

COVID-19 lessons

During the lockdown, Raz has run the How I Built This Resilience series, a twice-weekly video interview programme that discusses how the pandemic has affected the business models and philosophies of entrepreneurs.

With virtual events taking precedence during the lockdown, Raz says the disruption in the technology and innovation sectors has actually helped him.

“It has allowed me to work more efficiently and rely far less on long-distance travel,” he writes.

Podcasts have created a space for new media productions that have become one-man-shows these days. Sharing some insights into how he works within this framework, Raz says, “I have always done some interviews in person and others remotely (where a guest is in a different studio.) Both methods work very well in audio and allow for an intimate and meaningful conversation.”

But readers can expect something more than the usual compilation of a reporter’s body of work in the printed version of How I Built This, says Raz.

“I have reached deep into my archive of notes and interviews that have not appeared on my programme to find new insights and stories that offer meaningful moments of inspiration for anyone looking to bring an idea into the world.”

How I Built This by Guy Raz is available across all leading online portals.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 5:59:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/american-journalist-and-podcaster-guy-raz-on-what-makes-a-business-idea-successful/article33270689.ece

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