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John Doherty, Founder of Credo, Shares Inspiring Moments Born Thanks to Books

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John Doherty is an entrepreneur, founder of Credo – a company that connects big companies with the right agency or marketing consultant for their needs.

Tired of bad marketing providers, who either don’t have any positive effect on business, or even do more damage (a common scenario), John started Credo – short for Credible. It connects businesses looking to grow their online audiences with vetted agencies and consultants – marketing providers specialized in the quality work those businesses operate and need, saving them money and time.

John has almost a decade of experience in digital marketing. He founded Credo as a side project five years ago, to solve the frustrations of his friends who had hired bad agencies and whose businesses were hurting as a result.

John’s also a photographer. He currently lives in his hometown in Colorado, with his wife, Courtney, and Butterbean – the lovely labrador from the photo.

From our interview you’ll find out more about the books that turned into pivotal moments of his life, the ones he couldn’t put down until he finished, how he protects the downsides of his business, but also how practicing sports is beneficial to entrepreneurs.

Estimated reading time for this interview is 11 minutes. If you'd rather listen to it, you can do it on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher.

What’s your favorite book and why?

My favorite business book is either The Four Hour Work Week or The E-Myth Revisited. I like both of these individually because they show a different way to build a business and a life than the narrative you usually see online. As a first time entrepreneur, these have been invaluable to me.

I honestly don’t read much beyond business books at this point, so I can’t really pick a non-business book.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

I’ve had a few of these times through my life. The first time was when I was spending some time at a commune in Switzerland. I was reading this book called Beyond Identity, which basically explained in a way that made sense to me the different challenges and feelings I had been struggling through. I felt like a veil was lifted off my eyes and I could see clearly, and I actually break down in tears. I look back on that day as a pivotal day in my life.

The second time was when I was reading Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things. I was traveling quite a bit for work at the time and remember sitting in an airport (I can’t remember which one) ordering food and reading. I literally could not put the book down and during that sitting I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that every entrepreneur deals with make-it-or-break-it moments many times, and that it is indeed possible to push through and come out the other side stronger as a person and as a business.

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

The business books that have impacted me the most are the three I already mentioned – The Four Hour Work Week because it opened my eyes to a different lifestyle from the normal, The E-Myth Revisited because it pointed past being a solo entrepreneur to building a team and a company that can run without me, and The Hard Thing About Hard Things because it encouraged me to keep going.

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

I read a lot actually, but also find that the constant flow of information online in entrepreneurship and marketing circles could be a full time job in itself! Therefore, I use Pocket to save articles by utilizing their Chrome extension. This way I don’t miss them and can go back when I have time.

I do almost all of my reading on the Kindle app for iPhone. I started reading digital copies years ago because I was reading so much and was tired of carrying physical copies of books. That said, I sometimes get sent advanced copies of books that have come out, so I will read those in physical format. I also just recently read Alex Honnold’s Alone On The Wall, which is a semi-autobiographical read on his free solo rock climbing accomplishments, in physical format, and finished it in under 24 hours.

How do you make time for reading?

I’ll be honest that I do not read as much as I would like, but I tend to read a few articles from my Pocket queue every evening before I go to bed. I actually do most of my reading on airplanes since I am not connected to the internet and have time to read uninterrupted.

Maybe there is a pro tip in there for myself and others who waste time on the internet instead of reading – turn off the internet on your phone and spend that time reading.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

I have taken notes at times, but overall I do not. I most often read on my phone, which means switching back and forth between apps to take notes. However, I use the Kindle app highlight feature frequently to highlight the portions I read that seem meaningful. I find that this helps them stay in my mind.

This said, there are a few books I’ve read where they have very specific challenges that have required taking notes or creating a document.

How do you choose what books to read next?

Honestly, I usually get my books from other people via recommendations and when I open up my Kindle app, I pick the one that I am in the mood to learn about. At any one time I’m reading 4-6 books. I’m currently reading a biography of John Rockefeller, a book on personal finance, rereading a few books that I’ve mentioned above, and have one non-fiction book about poverty in inner cities.

Do you prioritize the books recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?

I get my book recommendations from many different places. Because most of them are business books, I most commonly get the recommendation from coaches and business mentors.

I honestly feel like at this point, I’ve read most of the most popular business books and now I am getting specialized recommendations from people who know me best.

On the personal fun reading book side, my number one recommender is my wife!

What book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I am reading quite a few books right now. In order:

1) Titan: The Life of John D Rockefeller Sr – I am trying to gain insight into what made one of the most successful people in recent history successful. I believe in learning about people like him, both the good and the bad, and thinking critically about how I want to live my life.

2) The Big Leap – I’m undecided on this book so far, but the book’s goal is to basically help you rethink what success means and to push through our limits to the next level in life whether that is business, finances, or relationships. It feels a bit too hedonistic for my tastes, but I’m willing to finish it out and glean some good things from it.

3) Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future – this book is by Peter Thiel, who while I completely disagree with his worldview has seen thousands of startups both grow and fail. They have some interesting takes on what it takes to make a startup successful and look towards changing the world.

In the IndieHackers interview you mentioned how you made sure you are protecting your downside – a lesson learned from Richard Branson. Can you share a few other examples of how you have applied this lesson in business?

I think this is one of the most valuable lessons in business. Many more experienced entrepreneurs than me will disagree, but I do not believe in “burning the ships” as it were and giving yourself no other option other than for that business to succeed.

With Credo, I have protected the downside of running out of money (the ultimate downside!) by taking personal consulting clients while also building Credo. I know that even if Credo went belly-up tomorrow, I could still pay myself and not take a lifestyle hit.

I should note that this is a downside that I don’t really need to cover anymore because Credo has grown so well. So, a new downside I am looking to cover is what happens if I get hit by a bus tomorrow. Morbid, I know, but having clear instructions written down and in a trusted person’s possession ensures that my family and my customers will be taken care of if the worst happens.

Skiing & rock climbing are some of your favorite hobbies. This might be just my own bubble, but I know many entrepreneurs who practice sports to unwind. Except for the obvious health benefits, what effects do they have in other areas of your life?

This is funny answering after my answer to the above question, but yes I agree that many entrepreneurs do sports to unwind. It’s been proven to help you both physically and mentally. Physically because you tire yourself out and that manages stress, which helps you mentally. I also find that these two sports are challenging to me both mentally and physically as they are both difficult on the body and require a lot of problem solving.

I’d say that having hobbies like these also remind me that there is way more to life than work. I love the outdoors and spending time outside, and even though these sports are physically tiring I find myself energized after a weekend or an evening of challenging myself.

Links where you can follow John Doherty or find out more about his projects:

All books mentioned by John Doherty in this interview:

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