Posts Tagged ‘Book Reviews for Entrepreneurs Starting Own Business’
Start-up businesses can fail for a large number of reasons. It goes without saying that the fewer mistakes made the less likely failure will occur. People provide many tips on how to start businesses successfully but perhaps it would be easier to actually continue reading
How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters
By Scott Rosenberg
In late January of 2001, in the depths of the dot-com crash, a San Francisco startup called Pyra Labs ran out of money. Its staff departed. The co-founder of the company, a young Nebraskan named Evan Williams, decided to make a go of it alone. He scraped together $40,000 in new funding and moved Pyra’s servers into his apartment. This permitted the company’s 100,000 registered customers (and counting) to keep using Pyra’s service, Blogger, to publish their online journals, or blogs.
A year later, Blogger had 700,000 subscribers. Whether sharing cookie recipes or commenting on weapons reports from Iraq, those writers were constructing a significant new form of grassroots media. Blogging turned traditional publishing on its head, allowing anyone with a computer and modem (or even a smartphone) to gain a global voice for free. By 2003, Williams was able to sell his business to Google for a lucrative pile of pre-IPO stock. Three years later he and his partners launched yet another tool for global publishing, the micro-blogging phenomenon, Twitter.
Williams’ story is just one thread in the narrative of Say Everything, Scott Rosenberg’s account of the blogging revolution. Rosenberg, co-founder of the online magazine Salon.com, describes a remarkable chapter in the history of communication. At this point it’s hard for some to remember that even in the late ’90s most people regarded Web pages as things to read, not places to post and publish. It’s an important story, one that leads not only to YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia but also to the transformation of corporate and government communications. Rosenberg writes gracefully and appears to have researched thoroughly. His book may be a bit heavy in detail, historical and technical, for a general interest audience. But many bloggers are sure to relish the history of the drama they’ve stepped into. I certainly learned a lot.
Rosenberg introduces readers to pioneers such as Justin Hall. A Swarthmore College dropout who was itching to share, Hall in 1993 began publishing details of his life and linking to things he was finding online, including bootleg music and porn. He established a cult readership. It quickly became apparent that if Justin Hall could publish his stuff, everyone else could, too.
Could blogging be a business? Entrepreneurs such as Nick Denton, a former Financial Times journalist, would lead the way. Denton hired journalists to post on sites such as Gawker, for gossip aficionados, and tech gadget blog Gizmodo. He established an early model: lots of attitude, frequent posting, strong focus—and entry-level pay. Then came rival Jason Calacanis, who launched the blog network Weblogs (TWX), luring away some of Denton’s stars with equity stakes. Enter Arianna Huffington in 2005 with another model: persuading bloggers to labor for free—while boosting their brands—as contributors to her popular Huffington Post.
The blog wars make for fun reading. The impact for society comes from the stream of eyewitness reports and opinions flowing onto Web pages. As customers and employees blog, corporations lose any hope of controlling news as they used to and push instead to influence it. And as we see in the streets of Iran, angry voices carry around the world and construct their own compelling narrative, even when dictators censor the press.
It’s easy to focus on stupid or trivial blogs and dismiss the lot of them. But as more people add their voices every day, Rosenberg writes, “saying that ‘ninety percent of blogs are crap’ begins to feel misanthropically close to saying ‘ninety percent of people are crap.’ ”
He quotes an American Army major, Andrew Olmsted, who left an entry to be posted after his death, which came near Sadiya, Iraq, in January 2008. “The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous,” Olmsted wrote, “even if most people haven’t agreed with them.” Thanks to the technology and media Rosenberg describes, all of us have that same marvelous power to reach out to the rest of the world. It’s astonishing how quickly the change has come.
You may ask, why a book written by a politician who has no business background is included in my business book reviews? My answer is that there are lessons to be learned from an extraordinary performer in any field, and it is apparent that Barrack Obama is an extraordinary performer by any standard. Because this book was written before Barrack entered politics it is perhaps more honest than it is possible for him to be now. This honesty allows the reader to gain a great insight in to Barrack’s personal character and makes it possible to identify some reasons why he has been such a success.
1. Successful People are People Too!
Generally when he hear stories of very successful people, we hear about their amazing work ethic and drive, they are presented as people with almost superhuman focus. So what was refreshing for me as a 23 year old was to find out that at one time Barry (as he was called at the time) was just another college student, unsure of who he was or what he wanted to do with his life, who enjoyed parties and girls just as much as the next guy!
2. It is Never Too Late
Barrack Obama did not graduate from Law School until he was 31. The general consensus is that you got to college, pay off your loans, and work until its time to retire, probably changing companies and roles a few times along the way. But it is evident from Obama that it does not have to be done this way. Obama did what he wanted to do after college. Then after a few years he decided that he would go to Grad school and increase his knowledge and skills and begin a new departure in his life. I think it is fair to say that Obama’s journey to the presidency did not begin until Law School. He did this at an age where most people have accepted that the way their life is now is how it will continue to be. But he has shown in the time since he graduated that it is never too late to try and change and improve.
3. Passionate Perseverance
You only get once chance at life, therefore it makes sense that we should all do what makes us happy. While this is easier said than done, there is a generally held belief that we should all work at something we have an interest in and we are passionate about. But in our busy world filled with bills, invoices and doctors fees, it often doesn’t seem practical to pursue your passions or something gets in the way of our dreams. Most people prefer to take the safe job that they might hate, rather than take a chance on something they love but may not seem practical or provide enough financial support. Barrack Obama though, did what very few people do. After college he chose his career based on his passions not his paycheck. He became a community organiser in the south side of Chicago. He wasn’t making much money, but he was truly doing what he loved. The result of this (although he is modest in the book) is that he was fantastic at his job and had a profound impact on those he worked with in the community and their lives. Obama then went to Harvard Law School and on completion of his degree, he again turned down the option of pursuing a career with great financial rewards, and began work as a lawyer helping the poor in Chicago. From that point on we all know that he rose quickly in politics and eventually became Senator and eventually President. I think this shows the power of passionate perseverance. Obama was passionate about helping people and trying to improve government and this passion has lead him all the way to the White House.
The two main lessons I took from this book can be universally applied. If you are passionate about something, whether its playing a sport, volunteering in your community or writing a blog, the extra time, effort and energy required always seems worth it. And secondly if you are passionate about something but haven’t done it yet, joined a team, cooked for a bake sale or started writing, then why not just start now, because it’s never too late…
Thanks Fiscal Student…another great review.
Did you ever see someone at work or in school achieve something really great, and think to yourself, you know what, I knew that guy/girl a while back and she didn’t seem that much better than me. Well the good news is your right, the bad news is that they succeeded where you failed through tremendous hard work. Geoff Colvin’s book is quite comprehensive in its study of excellent human performance across multiple fields from chess to golf to business and music. In all cases the greatest performers had been practicing extremely hard for at least 10 years before any exceptional performance was achieved.
You often hear commentators say of Tiger Woods, he makes it look so easy, the truth is that the shot he is playing probably is easier than he’s used to. A good example of this is a technique used frequently by Tiger to practice bunker shots. He drops a couple of balls in the sand trap, and then stands on them, burying them into the sand, before practicing this shot for hours. So if he is faced with what most people would consider a difficult bunker shot in a major tournament, it is much easier than what he has been preparing for. Extraordinary achievers practice consistently over long periods of time and continually make that practice more challenging as their skills improve.
This book comes to the conclusion that while a certain amount of performance is unaccounted for by hard work, the success which is attributed to innate gifts is overrated. If anything is the difference between great performers and the rest of us it is the motivation to do the required work.
This is a well researched and well written book. I also found it very inspiring because what your parents tell you when your younger is true, anything is possible if you work hard enough. Or as the old saying goes, “You know how to get to Carnegie Hall?” practice, practice, practice….
Thank You FiscalStudent….looking forward to reading this one!
This book rocks!, hilariously funny and full of great advice. If you looking for a practical how-to, what’s-it-like guide to becoming a rich entrepreneur, written by an expert and eccentric, Felix Dennis’s How To Get Rich is probably for you.
I really like his writing style — direct, bold, and funny in a self-effacing way– truth be told, with a title like “How To Get Rich”, I lowered my expectations a bit in case it turned out to be the usual drivel you usually find in the Business Profiles section of a bookstore. You know, the 18-point font, double-spaced, full-of-motivating-platitudes stuff that you get when flipping through Trump and Kiyosaki or worse. Those books have their use, but in general, once you’ve read one, the next one isn’t going to be much different. (Actually, Dennis has some pretty harsh words for all the authors out there who write how-to-get-rich books without actually having done so, except by selling copies of their how-to books!)
Enter Felix Dennis, a British publishing mogul who loves writing poems, outstanding wines, and telling it like it is. If you’ve never heard of him, he started Dennis Publishing in 1974, hit it big by publishing magazines related to the PC revolution back when no one else thought it would last, and nowadays publishes some of the most successful men’s lifestyle magzines in the US, like Maxim, Stuff, and Blender. By his own estimation, he’s worth about $400-$900M before tax.
Dennis emphasizes in his book that it’s a definitive how-to guide to being rich, and he regularly repeats, more than half-seriously, that if you’re not using his book to get rich, then you’re wasting your time and might as well give it to someone who will use it properly. Though I have no foot to stand on, I disagree wholeheartedly. You’re going to get good advice from this book regardless of whether you’re aiming to become rich, want to run your own simple business, or even if you work for someone else.
Sure, for those who are looking to get filthy rich, Dennis’s advice is probably spot-on. In a nutshell: choose a good industry (he gives some guidelines on what to avoid), mix in some luck (he gives advice on how to improve your chances of catching Lady Luck), and, finally, the most important part, retain 100% ownership of it through thick and thin (much easier said than done). Dennis truly believes that getting rich really isn’t hard, and anyone can do it, as long as they’re willing to make the sacrifices that are required to get there. On this point, I like that Dennis handles being rich even handedly (something you won’t find with Trump or Kiyosaki). He says outright that being rich won’t make anyone happier and is in fact more likely to lead to distress and loneliness, because getting there and maintaining wealth always requires personal sacrifices that most people aren’t willing to make, and for good reason.
So what is it I like so much about this book?
I suppose the reason I enjoy this book so much and will read it over and over again is that you seldom have the opportunity to hear someone’s philosophy and conclusions about living life, let alone someone who has probably done things you’ll never get to do (but might like to). I like that Dennis gives examples of his thought processes, and I don’t mean only on his successful ventures. More often than not, he gives examples of how he missed opportunities and made errors. He talks about what he’d do differently if he had the chance to start over. He gives some advice on managing talent (what he considers the important asset in a business) even though he also says that entrepreneurs shouldn’t be focusing on managing people.
This book will give you perspectives that you’ll seldom hear from other people in your life.
I have just finished reading Duncan Bannatynes autobiography “Anyone Can Do It”. I have to say it was surprisingly good. Despite being very interested in entrepreneurship and learning about it, I was never really a fan of Dragons Den and have watched only a few episodes. There are a couple of reasons for this.
- Firstly, despite what the “Dragon’s ” say it is a reality t.v show which are almost without exception, absolutely shit. Similar to the way Big Brother only seem to allow crazy people into the big brother house, Dragons Den seems to me to focus more on weirdos with wacky ideas then genuine (and perhaps more boring to average tv viewer) business people. There’s a reason for this which Duncan alludes to in his book, if someone really has a good business or product, why come to Dragon’s Den in first place. Why not get a loan or remortgage their house for finance. This is exactly what Duncan did himself when starting out.
- Secondly the presenters are using the show as much as the contestants are, in their case it is for the publicity. In particular they seem to revel in the good cop bad cop routines and embarrassing the contestants.
- Thirdly very few of the deals seen on screen are actually completed.
- Finally because I as a budding entrepreneur learn nothing from hearing Dragons ask questions. The crucial part where they go through due diligence(An investigation or audit of a potential investment that serves to confirm all facts in regards to a sale) process is where their talent would shine but it is not shown on screen. I would love to see a show called “Beyond Dragons Den” or something where we really get to see the dragons at work on an actual investment.
So as I said, before I started the book i was not a Bannatyne fan, as I thought all the Dragons were a bit full of it. However I was amazed by Duncan’s simple business acumen. one example is when he goes to a gym and works out the potential profit he could make based on some simple math of building costs combined with the gym membership fee and the number of ceiling tiles in the building. The book is an easy and very interesting read, with some very good advice about starting a business while still being entertaining.The key point I took from the book was this
An entrepreneur in debt is an entrepreneur in business
The debt Duncan took on when starting was staggering, but it was also essential to his rapid growth. I never before realised the importance of debt.
Thanks FiscalStudent great post. -www.Startups.ie
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Entrepreneurs –Autobiography/ Biography
Business Stripped Bare – Richard Branson (Virgin Books)
This is a sort of update on Sir Richard’s business empire taking a more philosophical view on what makes a business successful. This is not a patch on Losing My Virginity and in fact many of the same stories are repeated. Unless you are planning to take over a chain of banks, buy a railway monopoly from the state or build a spaceship you can live without this one. 2/5
Anyone Can Do It – Building Coffee Republic From Our Kitchen Table – Sahar and Bobby Hashemi (Capstone Publishing)
Sahar and Bobby Hashemi are the sister and brother team who built Coffe Republic the UK high street coffee chain. Giving up highly paid professional jobs, she as a lawyer in London and he an investment banker in New York, they staked everything on their dream. This is a great little book and well worth a read. It takes you step by step through the process of building Coffee Republic , from the original idea and brainstorming to Growth and customer service. 4/5
Making Bread – Brody Sweeney (Liberties Press)
A refreshingly honest, direct and jargon free book, Brody shares his experiences, good, bad and difficult of setting up O’Briens Sandwich Bars. This book is well worth a read as it offers good practical advice from an Irish perspective. The chapter on bank finance is particularly relevant i.e ‘Banks only like lending money to those who don’t need it’ and how to get around this. 4/5
Anyone Can Do It – My Story – Duncan Bannatyne (Orion Books)
Grumpy dragon Duncan tells his story from a tough upbringing in Clydebank, Scotland to multi millionaire entrepreneur. Duncan was a self confessed dosser until he finally set his mind to making money in his thirties. Starting with an ice cream van business he built business after business each more profitable than the last. This book also shows Duncan’s charitable side which is pretty inspiring stuff. 4/5 This book is also reviewed by FiscalStudent (See post below)
Enter the Dragon – Theo Paphitis (Orion Books)
Theo Paphitis has built one of the most successful retail empires in the UK. Theo founded his first company at 23 and his big skill is in seeing untapped potential in loss making business which he then makes profitable. Of particular interest to anyone in retail this is worth a read although there is a big middle padding section where he covers his period in charge of Millwall football club, this is just boring. 3/5
Tycoon – How to turn dreams into millions – Peter Jones (Hodder & Stoughton)
I hated this book and to be honest could not finish it. From the arrogant title ‘Tycoon’ to the incredibly annoying ‘Tycoon Tips’ throughout the book you get the impression of someone who is a bit too dizzy in the glare of fame. Tycoon Tip – Avoid. 0/5
Business Nightmares – When Entrepreneurs Hit Crisis Point – Rachael Elnaugh (Crimson)
A novel approach from the fallen dragon. After the high profile loss of her business ‘Red Letter Days’ and subsequent removal from Dragon’s Den, Rachael interviews other high profile contacts such as Jeffrey Archer and Doug Richard. The book has a pretty bitter and angry tone particularly towards some of the remaining Dragon’s. Despite this it is relevant to see the dark side of business when things go wrong as they do more often than not. There is also some good advice and tips that could save you lots of money and heart ache. 3/5
Dragons’ Den – Success from Pitch to Profit – Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden, Theo Paphitis, Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan (Collins)
This book is a bit of a con. Someone got an hour interview time with each of the Dragon’s and turned it into a lightweight mish mash in order to cash in on the show’s popularity. You will walk away none the wiser. 1/5
How They Started – How 30 good ideas became great businesses – David Lester (Crimson)
This is a great little book, each chapter is a perfect bite size, just long enough to tell each story while maintaining your interest. The book covers businesses such as Bebo, Moneysupermarket.com, Pizza Express and Cobra Beer and gives a brief outline of how they got going and the challenges that they faced along the way. 4/5
Purple Cow – Transform your business by being remarkable – Seth Godin (Penguin)
A good ‘Loo’ read. Marketing Guru Seth Godin urges everyone involved in creating, designing or selling to think in new ways about their market. By adopting alternative approaches to your business, you and your company will survive to innovate another day. 3/5
Online Marketing Heroes – Michael Miller (Wiley)
Terrible and boring. Interviews with 25 ‘succesful online marketing guru’s’. If you are having trouble sleeping, this one is perfect for you. 0/5