Podcasts aren’t just for start-up founders. They’re also a great way for busy company CEOs to brush up on their business knowledge and learn from some of the best businesses in the world.
1. How I Built This
How I Built This is produced by NPR (National Public Radio) in the US. As its name suggests, the podcast looks at famous brands/companies and the founders behind them. Each episode features a guest entrepreneur who discusses the highs and lows of building a massive brand.
The show is hosted by Guy Raz and is intimate and conversational in nature. Founders are often remarkably frank, speaking openly about the challenges they faced. Episodes are fairly long (around 30 minutes), but worth the investment.
Great episode: Zappos: Tony Hsieh
The head of the most famous online shoe company in the world discusses how he leads as an extreme introvert, and reveals that he doesn’t care about shoes at all. In fact, he only owns two pairs: Black Asics and a pair of flip-flops.
Time invested: 30 minutes
“I’m actually not passionate about shoes at all. I’m passionate about customer service and company culture, so I can talk about those two things, but I can’t say anything about shoes.” — Tony Hsieh
2. The $100 MBA Show
Hosted by Omar Zenhom, The $100 MBA Show is short and to the point, delivering useful info and actionable lessons. Episodes are brief (around 10 minutes) and don’t have any fluff. Some focus on personal development, while others look at the nitty gritty of building and managing a large organisation.
The name of each episode makes it very clear what that particular podcast is about, so you can listen to the ones that you think will have value for you, and ignore those that won’t.
Great episode: #895 — Selling to Big Corporates
‘Guest lecturer’ Steve Glaveski discusses the mindset and approach needed to sell to big corporate companies.
Time invested: 10 minutes
“Understand the KPIs of who you’re targeting so you can speak their language. Understand what their challenges are and how they make purchasing decisions. Price might be one factor, but other things companies consider when making purchasing decisions could include things like switching costs, the quality of your brand, reputation, brand awareness, trust, security, privacy concerns, social proof and compatibility.” — Steve Glaveski
Related: 3 Podcasts new entrepreneurs should listen to
3. Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson
Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson is hosted by, well, Walter Isaacson. He’s one of the greatest living biographers — having penned best-selling biographies on people like Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin — so he knows how to take a true story and turn it into a riveting narrative. With Trailblazers, he looks specifically at disruption.
He looks at how and why it happens, and why large companies are often too slow in reacting to it. The show is expertly produced, with Isaacson interviewing various thought leaders and showing how industries like film, music, electronics and gaming have been disrupted. Interestingly, the podcast series was commissioned by Dell Technologies, but it doesn’t feel like a piece of marketing content.
Great episode: Lights… Camera… Disruption
Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are threatening to disrupt the film and television industry, but it’s not the first time this has happened. The entertainment industry has been forced to deal with disruption before. Will the traditional system survive in the age of Netflix?
Time invested: 30 minutes
“[Netflix] have brought a very Silicon Valley type of culture into Hollywood. And they have played a pretty hardball game. Unlike the TV competitors they have, they know exactly how much you watched. They know if you watched 13 minutes and stopped. They know if you've watched to the end. They know if you binged. That’s the kind of granular information TV networks don't have.” — Kim Masters, editor-at-large, Hollywood Reporter
Related: Everything You Need To Know About Podcasting But Were Afraid To Ask
4. Masters of Scale
As both the founder of LinkedIn and a partner at investment firm Greylock, Reid Hoffman is a Silicon Valley insider with access to some of the most famous entrepreneurs on the planet. His podcast, Masters of Scale, hasn’t been around for very long, but it already boasts a guest list that includes Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook, Brian Chesky from Airbnb and Eric Schmidt from Google. As the name suggests, the podcast is all about the tricky process of scaling a business.
Great episode: Imperfect is Perfect
Mark Zuckerberg talks about the early days of Facebook, explaining the company’s growth strategy and how it managed to spread from one college campus to the entire world. As you can imagine, what works for one campus doesn’t work for the whole world. Facebook’s motto of ‘Move fast and break things’ quickly became problematic.
Time invested: Between 30 and 90 minutes
“So ‘move fast’, I think, is interesting, because you actually have to be willing to give something up to get it. And the question is, ‘What are you willing to give up?’ And early on, the trade was, ‘Move fast and break things.’ The idea was, we will tolerate some amount of bugs and flaws in the service of moving faster and learning what our community wants faster. But we got to a point where it was taking us more time to go back and fix the bugs and issues that we were creating than the speed that we were gaining by going faster.” — Mark Zuckerberg
Related: 5 Answers from Digital Kungfu on why podcasts are your best self development tool
5. The Tim Ferriss Show
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the biggest podcasts on the planet. Most of the time, it is the most popular business podcast on iTunes, and it was the first business/interview podcast to achieve more than 100 million downloads.
Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) interviews high-achievers on his podcast and deconstructs their habits and behaviours to examine why exactly they are so successful. He doesn’t focus only on entrepreneurs and business people, though, often also interviewing celebrities, athletes and scientists, but the podcast is almost always worth listening to. Generally speaking, these interviews don’t offer very specific business advice, but they do provide great insights into the mindset and self-talk of the super-successful.
Great episode: Testing The Impossible: 17 Questions That Changed My Life
A sample chapter from Ferriss’s book Tools of Titans, where he examines insightful questions that have helped him reframe situations and overcome obstacles.
Time invested: 90 minutes
“These days, more than any other question, I’m asking: ‘What would this look like if it were easy?’ If I feel stressed, stretched thin, or overwhelmed, it’s usually because I’m overcomplicating something or failing to take the simple/easy path because I feel I should be trying ‘harder’.” — Tim Ferriss
6. The Matt Brown Show
Matt Brown is a local entrepreneur, speaker and the founder of the global media platform the Matt Brown Show. He is also the CEO of Digital Kungfu, a strategic business consultancy that specialises in helping companies accelerate innovation and disrupt traditional markets by enabling them with new ways to do business that serve their customers more effectively and responsively. Unlike the other podcasts on this list, which are all from the US, this podcast is South African, and it focuses on some of the most interesting and dynamic local entrepreneurs.
Great episode: Gil Oved & Romeo Kumalo
Matt Brown speaks to South African Shark Tank entrepreneurs Gil Oved and Romeo Kumalo.
Related: 12 Free marketing tools and tips for your new start-up business
Between 25 and 60 minutes
“Very simply, if I have two entrepreneurs with exactly the same features in front of me: Same business, same opportunity — two entrepreneurs asking for the same amount of money, with only one difference separating the two: One guy had succeeded in his last three business ventures and the other failed in his last three business ventures, ten out of ten times, I will pick the guy who failed.” — Gil Oved
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