"It’s what you read when you don’t have to that determines who you will be when you can’t help it,” said poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. And a lot of successful entrepreneurs swear by this.
Shark Tank investor Daymond John credits the roots of his Sh600-billion clothing line Fubu to the inspiration he found in Think and Grow Rich, written in 1937 by Napoleon Hill.
The book traces the path to fortune of 500 wealthy business owners, and underscores the value in fearlessly going after what you want, staying persistent and having faith in yourself.
Daymond ended up writing a book on his own journey to building a successful lifestyle brand: The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget and a Hunger for Success can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage.
Studies on the habits of the rich have shown that 88 per cent spend at least 30 minutes a day reading. So it can’t hurt to borrow a leaf from them, especially when it comes to something as important as managing finances.
We spoke to our readers to find out what books have inspired them to make better decisions about their money. Here are five of the books that got the most mentions.
1. ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki
Rich Dad, Poor Dad highlights the importance of building wealth through investing in assets, and starting and owning businesses.
The book, which has the addendum ‘What the rich teach their kids about money – that the poor and middle class do not’, is based off Kiyosaki’s experiences with two fathers: his own and his best friend’s.
One of the anecdotes you’ll come across in the book is of an eighth grade dropout who spends less than he earns in a way that outsmarts a college professor who can’t make ends meet even on his higher salary.
George Mbithi says it’s the best book he’s read on investing, and it taught him the importance of saving with a specific goal in mind.
“I’ve been able to make many important financial decisions since I read the book. I wasn’t serious about saving, but now I am. I’ve adjusted my lifestyle and spending habits, and have come to understand the difference between an asset and a liability. I’m learning to spend money on things that generate more money, not on those that just gobble up cash,” says George.
2. ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ by George Samuel Clason
This 1926 book offers critical advice around saving wealth creation by borrowing from ‘the ancients’. It’s delivered in parables written with great skill and humour.
One of the parables on savings is delivered by Arkad, a character who urges his countrymen to not only work hard, but for every 10 coins they put into their purses, to use only nine. Eventually, their purses will start to fatten, and the increasing weight will feel good in their hands and bring satisfaction to their souls.
The parable also offers advice on controlling one’s spending: “Budget thy expenses that thou mayest have coins to pay for thy necessities, to pay for thy enjoyments and to gratify thy worthwhile desires without spending more than nine-tenths of thy earnings.”
Eve Lusago says this was the first book she read on managing money, and it completely changed her habits.
“I didn’t appreciate the idea of living within your means until I read this book. It sounds like obvious advice, but you’ll be surprised by how much you unconsciously spend on non-essentials. Now, I’m much more careful about where each shilling goes, which has made life so much richer.”
3. ‘The Science of Getting Rich’ by Wallace Wattle
The author maintains that one’s ability to accumulate wealth is directly related to how they think about it.
For instance, those who maintain that money is the root of all evil are unlikely to be wealthy.
Simon Kisulu, a poultry farmer, says reading this book inspired him to become his own boss.
“After I read the book, I changed my mentality and sought the freedom of owning something that’s my own, aside from my regular job. I’m now rearing more than 1,000 birds for meat and eggs, and make about Sh30,000 a week,” says Simon.
Wallace Wattle wrote the book back in 1910, and among his key principles is opportunities are infinite. Allowing yourself to believe anything is possible will make you open to wealth-creation opportunities that are beyond your current reality, he says.
4. ‘Increase Your Financial IQ’ by Robert Kiyosaki
Increase Your Financial IQ was written in response to the criticism that while Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad offers a treasure trove of ideas for entrepreneurs, it doesn’t tell people how to be smarter about money.
This book, therefore, offers a detailed guide on managing money, based on Kiyosaki’s own experiences. It takes into account the fact that many entrepreneurs struggle with financial literacy, and offers five ‘financial IQs’: making more money, protecting your money, budgeting your money, leveraging your money and improving your financial information.
Beth Mwaura, who runs Royale, a training and consulting firm, says she read the book when her business faced its toughest test yet.
“I read it last year when most businesses were affected by politics. My company wasn’t spared, and I knew I had to cut costs to survive. But as I thought about who to let go, I got to reading and found better ideas.”
Her inspiration came from one of her favourite lines in Kiyosaki’s book: “When the economy is bad, brilliant businesspeople don’t cut on costs and try to scale down. Instead, they look for more ways of bringing in more funds.”
She took up blogging and came up with online courses for sale. She’s detailed her journey to recovery in a book, which she recently launched.
5. ‘Think Big, Act Small’ by Jason Jennings
This book offers all-round support for entrepreneurs and companies that are looking to grow. The over-arching idea is that to increase your revenues and profits, you need to stay connected to your customers.
Based on research gathered from the US’ most successful businesses, the author advises companies to think big about ideas, about solving customer problems, making better products and creating value.
However, they must never stop behaving like start-ups. Remain humble, treat every employee like an owner, and have hands-on managers who aren’t afraid of being in the frontline.
“We often dream of creating high-value companies that register astronomical growth, but this book reminds us to stay grounded and focused on the people who will turn our dreams into reality,” says Emmanuel Mwangi, who runs a content creation company.