Goodbye to old BBB website

I’ve been giving my Brilliant Business Books website a much needed revamp and over the next few days will be launching the new site.

If you are subscribed to receive updates by email through Feedburner this will be the last one of these that you receive. Once I’m set up on the new site I’ll be looking at new and better ways to offer email updates.

Please check back at in a day or so to see the new site. I’ll look forward to seeing you there!

Business Writing Tips: For Easy and Effective Results

Sometimes a book falls in your lap just at the perfect moment. This is what has happened with Business Writing Tips by Robert Bullard. I’m finding I’m having to do quite a bit of writing at the moment – new content for our revamped business website (including a blog), proposals for new projects, and I’ve got a top secret writing project in the works (hopefully not top secret for too much longer). So, a book about writing for business is exactly what I need right now.

Robert’s book is a highly practical guide to writing for business, giving tips on preparation, the writing itself, and the nitty gritty of grammar and punctuation. If you ever find yourself wondering what the difference between a colon and semi-colon is, then this is the book for you!

1. Am I interested?
Absolutely. I like to think that I can string a sentence or two together, but some tips on how to improve are definitely welcome. I can find myself being quite pedantic about things like punctuation so the detail in the book very much appealed to me.

2. Did I enjoy reading it?
Very much so. The book is well laid out into easily-digestible sections and is absolutely packed full of practical advice.

3. Will it help my business?
It already has! I particularly enjoyed the section on Writing for Particular Outputs – the ‘Improve your Website’ chapter has tips I can apply not only to my own websites, but also to our clients’ websites. I feel added confidence in advising clients on their website content and will definitely be referring back to this section for a reminder. And I went straight to the chapter on ‘Securing Media Interest’ when I found myself writing a press release last week – something I’ve only done a handful of times before. In fact I’ve already seen a couple of instances of the press release being used with only a couple of changes to the wording, so Robert’s guidelines were obviously very good!

If you run a business you can’t get away from a certain amount of writing – you can’t go wrong if you’ve got a copy of this great guide on hand for those moments when you need a bit of extra help.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy “Business Writing Tips: For Easy and Effective Results” from Amazon >

Good People

Sometimes I read a book which I feel that I should be enjoying but really struggle with. It causes me all sort of angst in an “it’s me, not you” kind of way. Is my head too full of stuff that I don’t have the brainpower for intelligent writing and can only cope with lightweight?

Good People by Anthony Tjan is one of these books. The subject-matter of the book really appeals to me in principle, but in practice I’m finding myself reading paragraphs and not having any memory of what I’ve just read. Is my poor 42-year-old brain not up to it any more?

It’s really making me think hard about the books I’m reading and how I review them. So, I’m going to try something slightly different this time. When reviewing books, I’m going to consider the three different criteria:

  1. Am I interested?
  2. Did I enjoy reading it?
  3. Will it help me with my business?

So, how does this apply to Good People?

1. Am I interested?
Yes. I like the idea that to run a business you don’t have to be ruthless and just out to make yourself money. Yes, you do need to make money, but I’m sure that there must be a way of doing it without walking over everybody else. So for me, a ‘good person’ is someone who is not only good at what they do, but also treats other people well.

2. Did I enjoy reading it?
No. I thought at first that it was going to be a cracker. The author is straight in with an example of how the company WD-40 has an excellent record of retaining staff because they love working there. That’s interesting right, that a large company treats its staff so well that they actively enjoy working there? The book has examples and anecdotes throughout and these bits I really engaged with. But in between that is some very theoretical writing on goodness. This is what I really struggled with. I found this writing quite dense and very difficult to take in. And I really did give it a shot, but when I find that I’m having to force myself to pick up a book to continue reading it, I’m afraid that’s me lost.

3. Will it help me with my business?
No. In a very general way it will because it’s made me reconsider what I mean by being ‘good’ (not sure if it’s the actual message the author was trying to convey). However, I definitely wouldn’t say that this book has a practical use for a small business owner. If you’re interested in some very intelligent writing and the concept of good people then give it a go, but I couldn’t find anything practical in it that I can apply to how I run my business.

Sorry, it’s me, not you…

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy “Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters” from Amazon >

Running A Web Design Business From Home

I’ve been following Rob Cubbon for some time now. I can’t remember how I came across him, it might have been from stumbling across the first edition of this book on Kindle. What I like about him is that he writes very honestly about what he’s doing and comes across as a real person who genuinely wants to help others.

I wish I’d had a copy of this book when we were first starting out. “Running a Web Design Business From Home” was exactly what we were doing to start with and we really would have benefited from his guide. It feels in some ways that we’ve had a similar experience – starting out in our spare time and building up to the point of being able to quit our jobs and concentrate on the business full time. But, Rob has found a way to make passive income as well as from actively working on websites, which is really something to aspire to.

This book is a really easy, enjoyable read, packed with brilliant advice. There’s the occasional thing I don’t completely agree with, but on the whole I think this is a really solid book. What I like about it is that Rob is really positive and encouraging – if I hadn’t already set up a business, this would give me the confidence to give it a go. I kind of feel like I want to work through the book and copy everything that Rob’s done. And then take him out for a pint to say thank you.

Actually, one thing that I’ve really taken away from this (apart from inspiration with regards to passive income) is that there is a different mindset to being freelance and running a business. It’s actually quite important and something worth reminding myself about every now and then.

If you’re thinking of setting up your own web design business, or are working freelance but would like to not be so reliant on the hours you work bringing in money, or, like me, are already running a web design business but feel you need a bit of inspiration – go get yourself a copy of this book. It’s really worth it.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy “Running A Web Design Business From Home: How To Find and Keep Good Clients and Make Money with Your Home Business” from Amazon >

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

I grabbed a copy of this book after reading the Guardian article that I mentioned in my previous post: Where are all the women business writers? I was inspired by the article to seek out more business books by women and as Sheryl Sandberg was mentioned in the article this seemed to be a good place to start. And indeed it was.

What the book is all about is women’s right to equality at work and what women can do to help themselves and to effect change. Sheryl uses ‘lean in’ to describe what we, as women in business, should be doing – instead of holding ourselves back because of a lack of self-confidence we should instead lean in and be ambitious.

I was completely hooked from the start. Sheryl writes very intelligently and coherently. She brings in her own personal experience, as well as facts and figures from research, which makes the book very well rounded. Not only has she made me more aware of the inequality of men and women in business (and the home), but she has also made me want to do something to make it better.

Honestly, I feel like I’ve had my head in the sand for the last few years. I generally only come up against sexism in a subtle way. But of course in the big business setting that Sheryl works in it’s going to be way more obvious. Things like office buildings where you’re met with blank looks if you ask where the ladies loo is. And the more serious matter of women not being given high-level jobs or being paid as much as men if they are.

I find that this is something I feel passionate about and would like to find my way of making a contribution. I hope that writing about it here is a small step in the right direction.

Rating: ★★★★★

Grab yourself a copy of “Lean In” from Amazon >

Where are all the women business writers?

I think I might have started on an interesting journey.

There are a few blogs that I follow because I really like the approach of the bloggers. When I say ‘follow’, I mean that I have subscribed to their sites and actively read the updates that land in my inbox. I know that I’ve found someone interesting when I open the email and find myself following the links to read the full article. These are people that I’d like to sit down with over a pint and pick their brains.

But, I realised the other day that all the people I follow are men. In other areas, I find that I lean towards the female – for example, I listen to more female singers than male. And when it comes to fiction my favourite authors are female. Not that I don’t like male singers and authors, it’s just that I like a strong female role model … if I’m having a low energy day then I listen to Madonna to give me some extra Raargh.

So, it suddenly felt wrong that in business I’m not following any women. After all I’m a woman and I run a business! So, I started looking for some inspiration and came across this interesting article on the Guardian website: Imposter syndrome and time issues: why women don’t write business books. And, you know what – my business library is a bit lacking in women business writers. It’s not that there’s none, but it’s a bit male-dominated.

Is it because, as the article suggests, there are a lack of books written by women, or is it because for some unconscious reason I’ve been leaning towards books written by men. Hmmm, neither explanation is very inspiring.

So, I’m actively looking for:

1. Some BRILLIANT business books by some brilliant women (I’m just finishing one now and will post a review shortly)


2. Some great blogs written by women on the subject of business / productivity / self improvement

Come on ladies, I know you’re out there.

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☆

Buy “The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook” from Amazon >

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: ★★★★★

Buy “Super Structured” from Amazon >

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: ★★★★☆

Buy “Managing Online Reputation” from Amazon >

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

Buy “The Big Book of Happiness: 87 Practical Ideas” from Amazon >

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