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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Bookshop – Startup Books


The new business road test, John Mullins FT Prentice Hall 2003
This book is designed to help you get your business idea sorted out before you write your business plan. And it will give you a lot of extra work. But work which is well worth worth it before you start to consider all of those vexed questions about where your customers are going to come from, how much you're going to charge and where the money is going to come from. What I like about this book is how structured it is - you really have to think about the industry you're going into and how attractive it is before you start to consider how many clients you have already tucked up your sleeve. I am already using this in workshops I run. I've lent it to a client already so had to buy another copy. Its that useful. Ooh and there's plenty of casestudies. This is one business book which wasn't rushed out to be stuffed in a bookrack in an airport bookshop. Good solid stuff.
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Swimming against the Stream, Tim Waterstone Macmillan 2006
The man behind the bookshops tells you what its like to start a business from scratch. When you've been made redundant from WH Smith. And asked not to start a bookshop. The first incentive for starting a business - revenge. Its a breezy account - rampage more like and surprisingly illuminating considering it is so partisan. It does convey the feeling of what it is like to start a business and the shoals to avoid. I thought the last chapter on financing and going public was really interesting. There's enough books out there about how to size up entrepreneurs - sorting out venture capitalists and banks (who Waterstone loathes) was another highlight. An easy breezy read.
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Soloing, Harriet Rubin 2001
The previous two books although fascinating aren't where I'm at. But soloing is written for me. This is a rhapsody to going freelance by an American publisher. So plenty of Americanisms to hand. My 2nd favourite Americanism is hiring a lawyer to agree the severance with your company and not writing a resignation letter. Talk about how to p*** off your employer! And the book is rather overwritten since she loves what she does and thinks it's the best job in the world. But underneath the rhetoric there's a very solid perception about how different the sole trader's working life is and in particular the fact that it is much closer to an artistic performance than acting as part of an offshore workforce. It is absolutely true that the first audience the freelancer works for is themselves and their own job satisfaction and this enjoyment is even aesthetic. Because each project is a one off and as a 'soloist' you have often been picked because it's you they want. And what you as an individual bring to the project. So how you do the work becomes a significant part of the value you bring. I've never heard a freelance talk about this before and it rang true for me. It has a lot of practical advice about setting up and how to develop the business. And my favourite Americanism? Apparently no consultant should consider hiring themselves out for less than $3000 a day. I'll be in touch Harriet.
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100 greatest ideas for building the business of your dreams, Ken Langdon 2003 Capstone
Another startup book using the tried and tested break it into lots of little pieces because we're all to busy to read formula. And its a good one. Having run my own business a lot of the territory is familiar but what I also appreciated is that with his management consultancy background he has a lot of experience in articulating processes. Which means that even if you have been going a while he still has a lot to teach about developing business plans and getting finance and staying afloat!
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White Ladder Diaries - the pain and pleasure of launching a business, Ros Jay 2004 Whiteladder press
White Ladder is a publisher of books about how to sort out everyday life better using skills predominantly drawn from business. So Ros Jay kept a diary about the first few months of setting up the business and brought it out as one of their first titles. What I like about this book how realistic is the account of the thrills and spills. Setting up a business doesn't ever go to plan - lots of things take longer or don't work as you anticipate and likewise the successes can be just as unexpected which can be a blow to the ego. There's a lot of detail which if you're not in the publishing business can be overwhelming - though if you want to get into publishing I think it has to be one of the best primers ever written! BT certainly don't come out of it very well. But it gives a real insight into living on the edge - it's not all anecdote though. All the way through the principles behind setting up a business are codified. There's even a summary of all of them at the end. And it won't surprise you that the book also contains promos for the other titles White Ladder have now brought out. A great read if you want to know how starting a business feels.
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Marketing Judo: building your business using brains non budget, Barnes Richard Richardson 2002 Pearson
I enjoyed this book. A lot. John Barnes and Richard Richardson have built up several businesses without spending a lot of money on marketing spending - all the more impressive since Richardson is e Y&R and BBDO. They outline 7 principles for overcoming larger more established and deeper pocketed opponents. Something I could readily relate to! It took me back to when I ran a band in my spare time and quickly found that PR was a lot of fun (and free), that direct marketing was a lifesaver, and that advertising was always expensive and left me depressed because it was so difficult to find tangible evidence that it was working. The book has lots of case studies - often very funny about how they beat the odds. And there is a practical workout section at the back -yup they may have made their fortunes but they still run the odd workshop in how to do the same so here's how.
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Anyone can do it: Building Coffee Republic from our kitchen table: 57 real life laws on entrepreneurship, Sahar and Bobby Hashemi 2003 Capstone
During November I ran a couple of workshops for growing businesses which is always a buzz. Which is why I've continued to read books written by startups. What is characteristic of the best of these is the sheer naivety and seat of the pants approach which takes entrepreneurs through the first few years. Bobby and Sahar Hashimi brother and sister team faced with bland coffee in London and having experienced decent coffee in New York decide to set up a chain of coffee bars in London before Starbucks carpetbombed it's way into the UK market. The book is refreshing and hilarious as they do the market research, and go round banks trying to borrow 70 grand to start the business (almost everybody turns them down) and poach a couple of staff from Pret a Manger who are supposed to be ace at service but turn out to speak only a few words of English. This is a lively and very hands on account of the thrills and spills of the first few years. The book is really the work of Sahar Hashemi the sister. At the point when they move to several stores - it ought to be just as interesting but the book fizzles out at this point and ends with her in floods of tears in the BA lounge reading in the FT that she's been finally reported as having left the company. Bobby in the meantime is still trying to hold the company together as the share price dives towards the floor. The book isn't just about telling the story of Coffee Republic - there's a lot of useful principles. Of which the best is the valuable reminder that it's not about having an original idea that nobody else has had - because that can be nicked. The key is implementation because that is where the point of difference comes from and is far harder to rip off. A cracking good read.
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From Acorns to build your brilliant business from scratchj, Caspian Woods 2004 Pearson Prentice Hall
Despite being endorsed by the Bank of Scotland and written by a guy who started an events company called 'Let me hold your balls for you' which is good for a giggle - this book just feels a little on the light side. It breezes through what it takes to start a business. It could have done with a tougher editor. No chapter is longer than a few pages which either means it is unputdownable or flaky - take your pick. (Or is it that because it is designed for workaholic entrepreneurs they can't spare more than 10 minutes at a time so the chapters have to be kept short. I was preparing to give this book a bad review when he got onto the subjct of customer acquisition - when the book came into it's own - because he knows his stuff - he's learned it the hard way - and there are some great lines: "As any Casanova at the nightclub will tell you it's a numbers game". "Your objective is not to talk people into buying but to get them to talk themselves into buying." And there's a link to the author's website where there are templates and all sorts to download. So I'll give it 7 out of 10 for those couple of chapters alone.
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A good hard kick in the Ass: the real rules for business, Rob Adams 2002 Random House
Oct and Nov of 2004 I was running workshops and coaching sessions for the management teams of a number of medium sized rapidly growing businesses. Which was reflected in my reading list! This book is a hard nosed and very American take (what else did you expect from such a title) on business startups. Rob Adams works for a company which in effect coaches high tech startups. It is very grounded - constructed around the idea that people starting businesses have all the same misconceptions about it and need a series of swift kicks to get them onto the right path - there's at least one casestudy per chapter - the examples are all IT which you may struggle with. But the writing style is quite repetitive to drive the kicks home. Myths like business is all about having an original idea, that you need to raise lots of capital, that investors are only interested in the business plan - that you need to be advertising from the word go. What is particular ingenious is the way in which he blends both the market validation and the wooing of investors to create a virtuous cycle so those who give you the money have the knowledge to direct their investment and the customers whose opinions you ask as well as the technological partners you work with provide you earliest and best revenue streams. Good stuff!
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