The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook

There’s a lot about The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook by Iain Scott which resonated with me. In particular, Iain mentions a few times about bad experiences with ‘business advisors’. You know, when you go to a business advisor to get some advice on how to set up/run your business and instead they tell you you should be something else entirely (in Iain’s case it was “don’t give up your secure job”). Yes! This is exactly what we found in the early days of running our business. To be fair we also met some smashing advisors who were very encouraging, but one crushing experience was with a Business Link advisor who told us that we should go and work for someone else instead. Really? Is that supposed to boost our confidence and help us get our business on the right track? No! Luckily we didn’t pay any attention to the pillock and ten years later our business is going strong.

It was really refreshing to read of someone else who has had similar experiences and had the confidence to carry on regardless.

I also liked Iain’s attitude that you don’t have to be a born entrepreneur, that there are many reasons why you might set up your own business and everyone is capable of learning how to do it. In fact I think this is the real strength of the book – making your realise that you’re not the only one who feels the way you do and giving you a confidence boost to give it a go. Raargh!

So, if you’re thinking of starting your own business (or are already running one but want a boost) then this is a great book for helping you with your confidence. Don’t however fall into the trap of thinking it’s a how-to guide on setting up a business, as this really isn’t what it’s about. Think of it as a pep-talk rather than a how-to and you’ll be on the right track.

In fact, I’ve marked down my rating on this a little because even though I loved the idea of an Enterprise Agony Uncle I found the explanations more confusing that helpful (sorry Iain). I’m afraid we’re going to have to agree to disagree on changing ‘margin’ to ‘contribution’ – that makes even less sense to me than margin. But the concept of an agony uncle is brilliant!

Rating: ★★★½☆

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Super Structured

Now, this is a book to get excited about. The title “Super Structured” caught my attention straight away and with a sub title of “how to overcome chaos and win back time” how could I possibly resist?

I think this book might have been written for me, it’s perfect. It’s a step-by-step 31 day plan to give you structure in your working life. Each day you have a task to complete which takes you a step closer to being in control of your task list and working more effectively. For example on Day 2 you make a list of everything you can think of that you need to do and choose your tool for keeping all your to-do tasks. This is a great first step as it helps clear your head and get everything down on paper so that you can start to deal with it.

I had great fun working through the 31 days and feel like I’ve got a lot out of it. Some of the systems David recommends I already had in place (like a tickler file – Day 30) but some of them are new additions to my productivity systems (like an emergency checklist for when I’m feeling overwhelmed – Day 13).

The book is predominantly aimed at improving your working life, but I would say that it can be equally applied to your home life if you feel that you would benefit from some more structure there. Having worked through it once with work in mind I’m very tempted to have another go at home – might help keep the ever growing pile of paperwork in check.

Super Structured is due to be published on the 28th February – follow the link to Amazon below to pre-order your copy today. You won’t regret it!

Rating: ★★★★★

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Managing Online Reputation

Managing Online Reputation is a book about how social media can impact businesses and how they can handle crises online.

I was worried initially that is was going to be another Great Brand Blunders, store i.e. endless tales of things going wrong. Indeed the first section of the book is very much examples of business crises being handled online. However, I’m glad I stuck with it as the advice really kicks in for the second half of the book. It turned out to be a very intelligent discussion of the types of problems you can encounter and how they can be handled through social media. Yes, there are plenty of horror stories, but in this case they are used as examples to back up the theory.

As a small business owner I wouldn’t necessarily rush out to buy this book to help manage my social media. The examples are all very much big corporation crises, so it will need some translation to apply it to a small business. But if you’re interested in the subject then it’s a very interesting read and if you are particularly active in the world of social media you could well get some good tips from the book.

Personally I didn’t get massively enthusiastic about the content of the book and had to make an effort to read it through to the end, but that’s more a reflection of my focus on small business rather than big. It’s intelligently written, well structured and Charlie very much knows his stuff.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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The Big Book of Happiness

I’m turning into quite a Chris Croft fan. A couple of months ago I watched his time management course on and absolutely loved it. He’s got a very engaging style which made it highly entertaining as well as useful. So, ed I was very interested to read his “Big Book of Happiness”.

And I wasn’t disappointed. This is a great read, which takes you through various things you can do to help increase your happiness. It’s arranged in such a way that you can pick out one technique and give it a go, and each part ends with an action point for you which helps make it highly practical. And if you choose to read it through from beginning to end there’s a handy summary of his 87 ideas at the end.

What I particularly enjoyed whilst reading the book was looking out for Chris’s personality shining through in his writing, which it did. I do wonder whether I would have completely appreciated this if I hadn’t previously watched his video course – so I would recommend looking out for some of his videos before reading the book to get full enjoyment out of it.

As an example of the material Chris covers, I completely got the part about The Power of Music, where Chris explains how music can help choose your mood. I’m all for this and have a ‘raargh!’ playlist for times when I need an energy boost.

Overall this is a really interesting book which definitely provides food for thought when it comes to increasing your happiness. If this is a subject that you’re interested in, you can’t go wrong by starting here.

Rating: ★★★★½

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The Consultant’s Handbook

This book is a breath of fresh air. It’s a book which is exactly what it says it is – a handbook for consultants. It takes you through different elements of offering a consulting service, ed clearly explaining what’s needed and giving examples to help you fully understand the points made.

What struck me is that the advice in the book is all highly practical – it doesn’t just set out high level theory as to what a consultant is but really gets into the nitty gritty of it. For example there’s a chapter on Managing Client Meetings which takes you through how to plan the meeting and suggesting how to structure the meeting to get the best results. This is a level of detail which I often feel is missing from business books.

Although the examples in the book are from scenarios involving large businesses, viagra buy I could easily see how I could apply a lot of the techniques and structure to working on small projects. The client meetings section is one that particularly jumped out at me and I will be going through that again to feed into how we run meetings. Another area which really struck a cord with me is the importance of good communication in project work. This is an area which I always feel I need to improve, so I will be dipping back into this as well.

And I really do feel like this is a book which I will be able to ‘dip’ back into to pull out particular information, which is exactly what you need with a handbook. I love the way the chapters are laid out, with regular sub-headings to give each a really strong structure, the examples boxed out to differentiate from the rest of the content, and a summary at the end reiterating the important points. My tidy brain really appreciated the structured approach.

I think you can probably tell by now that I’m a big fan of this book. More of the same please!

Rating: ★★★★★

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Great Brand Blunders

To start with a summary I would say that this book is an interesting read but strangely energy-draining. Looking at the reviews on Amazon, viagra usa people do seem to love the book so maybe it’s me being overly sensitive.

The premise of the book is to give examples of how businesses have had big marketing disasters so that you can learn from their mistakes and avoid doing the same yourself. Sounds interesting right? And it is but for me it was too bam, bam, bam. The examples are at first entertaining but there is something strangely energy-draining about repeated examples of businesses getting it wrong. The purpose of the book is to give examples of how it can go badly wrong, so you can learn from others’ mistakes and not make the same error. However, instead of feeling educational it felt instead like I was supposed to glory in the blunders. I guess I feel the same way about this that I do about gossip – a bit of gossip can be fun but if all you do is gossip and take pleasure in other people’s troubles it can really bring you down.

There is definitely interest in the tales of woe and you can learn from them, but I think that instead of compiling them together in a book they would be better presented in a blog format. Each example could be treated as a case study – describe what went wrong and then take the time to explain how it could be avoided or handled better. Reading one of these a week could then be an enjoyable and educational experience, instead of what to me actually became a bit of a slog.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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How To Be Really Productive

How To Be Really Productive by Grace Marshall is an in-depth look at what you can do to make sure you are productive. It’s not a step-by-step ‘do this, try then do that’ guide, mind but instead takes you through different areas where you can make changes to how you approach things.

It’s starts off very high level, talking about your values and purpose. Personally, I find that when I’m in the middle of chaos with so much to do that I don’t know where to start, having to think about values etc is pretty impossible. I guess from that point of view I prefer a bottom up approach, rather than top down, but I do completely take on board that you need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

The next chapter is all about dealing with the chaos. This was much more up my street and gave some practical techniques to try out – like an excercise for getting everything out of your head so that you can begin to organise it, and the CORD productivity model (Capture and Collect, Organise, Review, Do). This really struck a chord with me (no pun intended), particularly the explanation that when you are suffering from chaos the hardest thing is the feeling of loss of control, and that everything demands your attention at once. That pretty much sums it up for me!

Each chapter takes a different subject with a discussion of how it affects your productivity and what you can do to improve things. As I said it’s not a step-by-step, but you can take the sections that interest you and pick out ideas for what you can implement. I did find that when I got to the end of the book I felt a bit lost in an ‘erm, what do I do now’ kind of way. But this was solved by reading through it again with a pen and notepad handy to pick out the bits I wanted to use. So, for me it’s not a read once and change my life book, but instead a guide which I can dip back into to pick out different bits every now and then.

What I really liked about the style of the book is that you really feel that there is a real person behind it. Grace talks about her own experiences which makes it a very enjoyable read and helps get the message across.

Not my absolute favourite when it comes to productivity, but definitely high on the list of books that I will turn to.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy “How to be Really Productive: Achieving Clarity and Getting Results in a World Where Work Never Ends” from Amazon >

HR for Small Business for Dummies

HR for Small Business is a guide to taking on employees. It’s very much written with small business in mind. If you’re thinking of taking on your first employee I would consider this to be essential reading.

The book is written in a very easy-to-read style and goes into an amazingly useful amount of detail. If you need to know exactly how to go about recruiting and looking after employees for your business then this is definitely the book for you.

The book starts with the essentials, drugstore describing what is involved in employing someone, treat how to recruit, how to work with them, managing pay and parting company. It then gradually builds up to more advanced topics, including legal requirements so that you can be confident you’re doing things right.

I’m not currently looking to recruit in my small business, but if I was I would first want to read this book cover to cover to get a good undertanding of what’s involved before venturing into becoming an employer.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Emotional Resilience

I’ve been prevaricating over writing a review of this book because I’ve been struggling over how to approach it. I definitely think that it’s an interesting idea that your emotions can affect your work and how you interact with people. I can see that how I feel impacts how I react to things and if I took a moment to review this and adjust my response I would deal with things much better.

However, pilule this book isn’t going to make it to my list of all-time favourites. And I’m slightly ashamed to admit that it’s because it’s just too much hard work. I’ll stress that there is some really good stuff in there but when I start feeling like I’m having to wade through the content is when I start to switch off, and unfortunately that’s what happened with this book. As a result there are big chunks of the book where I quite frankly don’t have a clue what I read.

What it’s all about is how your emotions can impact your effectiveness and how addressing this can help you in work situations. Whether it’s interacting with other people or approaching your workload, paying attention to and adjusting your emotional response will help you day to day. Now, that’s my interpretation of the book and that genuinely interests me.

It’s an indepth book with a lot of detail and exercises for you to do – so if that’s what you’re after this could really be your book. But personally I think it could have been edited down a lot more to give the message in a much more easily digestible way – I’ve read books which get their message across much more snappily without losing their effectiveness so I know it can be done.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Buy ‘Emotional Resilience:Know what it takes to be agile, adaptable and perform at your best: Know What it Takes to be Agile, Adaptable and Perform at Your Best’ from Amazon >

The Automatic Customer

The Automatic Customer is about subscription businesses with a view to showing you how introducing subscriptions to your business could work for you. The author uses examples of businesses that do this so that you can see how it works in practice. The argument is that this is the way that a lot of businesses are going, physician so it’s something that you should consider as a business owner.

It’s a very interesting book and one which held my attention throughout. However, for sale I was a little put off by it being very America-centric. It is after all an American publication so that’s not the book’s fault, but I did find that:

  1. The tone is a little strong for my British palate. The first part of the book was very strongly arguing the case for subscription businesses and I found this a little too strong. It felt a bit like it was saying “if you don’t do this you will FAIL”. And I got to the point where I wanted to say very politely “Come come, my good man, I’m convinced now. Please continue with some more detail rather than repeating the same argument again”.
  2. The example businesses are on the whole American businesses. Again, nothing wrong with that as such – but a UK version of this would be even more interesting to me.

But there’s no denying that it is an interesting read crammed full of real-life examples. It didn’t give me a lightbulb moment of ‘Aha, this is what we can do with our business’ but I am definitely interested in the idea of subscriptions – it would just take more thought on my part to come up with how to apply it.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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