Don’t Get a Job, Build a Business
This book is a well-considered treatment by authors Baker and Hession, who bring their coaching and entrepreneurial experience to bear on the subject of setting up a business.
From the outset, they make the important distinction between a self-employed person who is absorbed in the detail of their own work and an entrepreneur who sees their business as an entity set apart from themselves with the capacity to grow.
It looks at the special mindset needed to run a business successfully and how to be able to step back from the business, so that entrepreneurs can develop their personal life around it too.
Another point of emphasis is on how entrepreneurs can go about building a team, with advice on attracting and retaining talent. There’s also practical advice on building a network of contacts.
The book is framed around a series of choices and decisions people need to make about their business. They suggest that owners need to look hard at their business and ask whether it can achieve growth, whether it can be sold for a value that can help fund their dream life, or if it won’t be a saleable business in the future, whether it can generate enough income so that they can invest in other assets that will.
R James Breiding, Profile Books. €35
Why has Switzerland – a small land-locked country with few natural advantages – been so successful for so long in so many different areas? That’s the question posed in this richly illustrated celebration of all things Swiss.
This country has punched above its weight in sectors as diverse as banking, pharmaceuticals, watchmaking, confectionery and textiles.
The answer it seems is that the Swiss do entrepreneurship and innovation particularly well. Openness is seen as a crucial quality. Many of the dynamic figures who shaped iconic global brands sought refuge in Switzerland, often fleeing persecution elsewhere.
Topography also plays a role in this entrepreneurial environment as many parts of Switzerland are quite isolated, with their own specialisations and social structures.
The Swiss, it seems, have a strong work ethic and a very good education system that values both traditional training and apprenticeship along- side more academic third- and fourth-level education.
According to the author, all of this has facilitated the emergence of a broad, educated and secure middle class that has moderated the tendency towards “winner take all” outcomes characteristic of free market societies.
The Customer Rules
Lee Cockerell, Profile Books. €14.99
This book is sub-titled, “The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service”. It certainly offers a very accessible guide to the subject, distilling some of the more weighty writing on topics such as competitive advantage into a more homespun advice style.
Rule No 2, for example, notes that the old adage about winning customers one at a time and losing them one at a time is outdated. In the era of social media, you can easily lose thousands of them at a time because, with a few keystrokes, a disgruntled customer can tell an online audience why they should not do business with you.
The advice is often patronising, however. Rule No 5 is “Ask yourself, what would mom do?”. The author also recalls being carpeted for not having his hair cut by the founder of the Marriott hotel chain in Philadelphia, in a chapter devoted to looking sharp.
There’s plenty more advice in this style, from exhorting managers to treat customers the way they would treat their loved ones, to hiring the best cast, rehearse and then rehearse more, respect the environment and to always act like a professional.
However, those experienced in management are likely to find the tone and content of this book somewhat irritating.