Business Book Reviews – for the Busy Business Owner
The Accidental Entrepreneur: The 50 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me about Starting a Business, by Susan Urquhart-Brown, AMACOM, 2008, 179 pages (including index) $17.95 paperback.
Pluses: Well-organized menu of chapters classified by type (Defining the entrepreneur, Getting started, Marketing, Operations, Working with the Internet, Growth, Motivation, etc.) Individual essays or articles are short, to-the-point, and direct. The book includes dozens of tips, quizzes, worksheets, and case studies, as well as a thorough index.
Minuses: Not many. Something for the wish list: One thing many young “solopreneurs” could use is an easy way to relate their own businesses to case studies that are not obviously relatable. Also, many accidental entrepreneurs these days start their careers under duress or in extreme need. Any tips for them?
Details: As a former magazine editor, I understand the lure of numbers, especially in titles—Fifty ways to reach your goals, five secrets to keeping the pace, the 30-second vacation—books and articles with numbers in the title grab the reader’s eye and offer the solidity of the finite.
By my count, The Accidental Entrepreneur: 50 things I wish someone had told me about starting a business author Susan Urquhart-Brown actually delivers 54. Urquhart-Brown, an accidental entrepreneur herself, has compiled a kind of bible for getting started, staying the course, examining one’s motives and fears, using perceived weaknesses and keeping ahead of the tax man. In other words, a handy compendium of practical and spiritual considerations.
As I read The Accidental Entrepreneur, I found myself treating it the way I would a magazine full of self-help articles that I could jump to, read, digest, and then leave. Each article stands alone in its message, yet thanks to the book’s organization, each addresses an angle of one topic. For example, there are two short articles and a quiz in Chapter 1, “What is an Entrepreneur, Anyway?” Here, Urquhart-Brown provides answers to an essential list of questions all wannabe entrepreneurs should be able to answer. These questions begin with self-examination (“Who am I?) and end with funding. The chapter also covers common myths about going into business (Forget the four-day work week) and concludes with the first of many quizzes designed to bring one face-to-face with the naked truth.
Subsequent chapters contain more articles, tips and case studies. In Ready, Set, Go!” (Chapter 2), there are six brief pieces dedicated to preparing for the adventure of going into business and the pitfalls one can expect to encounter. I found it refreshing to hear that I could expect to fail, that, in fact, failure is a necessary component to success. Chapter 3’s “Taking Care of Business” includes nine pieces, including a handy checklist, that help readers determine the structure of their business along with the pros and cons on working with a partner.
As someone who works with very young entrepreneurs, I welcome Urquhart-Brown’s tough-love tone. Of the half-dozen ongoing themes that run through every section of The Accidental Entrepreneur, self-awareness, i.e., knowing who you are and what your motives are is the most dominant. While close to half of all businesses fail within the first three to five years, the obvious reasons, according to Urquhart-Brown are weak capitalization and poor planning. A third reason should not be ignored. “The business owners had weak underlying reasons for going into business,” she writes. “Having strong and meaningful reasons for going into business cements your commitment to a new enterprise and keeps the business going in good and bad times.”
The personal themes of motivation, accountability, self-sabotage and success comes front and center in chapter 4 “What Do You Bring to the Party?” While I found it easier and more useful to dip into The Accidental Entrepreneur and read whatever struck me, I did find myself following the text in this chapter most avidly. This is probably because anyone, “solopreneur”, business owner or worker bee, can relate to the challenges of burnout, procrastination and fear. Action is nearly always the antidote to these problems and Urquhart-Brown provides plenty of exercises, journal prompts and tips for working with (not avoiding) the inevitable inner hurdle.
No self-help book about business is complete without chapters dedicated to marketing and The Accidental Entrepreneur is no exception. There’s a particularly interesting essay on cultivating the “something special” in one’s business in which Urquhart-Brown defines the “inner ecology of the business environment” as interior landscape of a business owner and his employees.” “Inner ecology is the relationship between your actions and your understanding of what makes you tick,” she writes. “Ask yourself: How well do I truly know myself? What motivates me? Do I follow my dreams? Do I find peace and joy in what I do? The more you understand what makes you tick, the more present and available you become to life in general. This presence and availability energizes those around you and produces a harmonious work environment… that is palpable to customers.”
Anyone serious about going solo should read all the advice in this book and commit to all the exercises. Those unwilling to wrestle with the finer points of a business (no, not the money, but the mission, the motivation and the fear) can congratulate themselves on finding out sooner than later that owning a business is not for them. At $17.95 a pop, such a learning experience is a deal.
Book website: http://www.amacombooks.org/book.cfm?isbn=9780814401675
Visit Urquhart-Brown at her business website Careersteps123
Based on this review, would you read this book?
The author of this review was provided the book by Capital Access Network, Inc. The views expressed represent those of the author and do not reflect those of Capital Access Network, Inc. nor its subsidiaries. Any opinions and/or advice expressed by the author do not imply endorsement by Capital Access Network, Inc.