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 >

That light bulb moment

Inspiration is a funny thing isn’t it? Sometimes you can’t get hold of it however hard you try and sometimes it just comes to you. Maybe that’s it, search maybe inspiration is something that you can’t force, maybe you just have to let it happen.

Last night I was trying to think of a subject for a blog post for our web design blog. As part of my 28-day marketing plan I’m writing at least one blog post each week – the last couple of weeks I’ve done a two-parter on how to make the most of your website. So, yesterday being the start of a new week I wanted to start planning this week’s post. But could I think of anything? Nope, not a sausage.

And then while I was waking up this morning an idea came to me. So much so that it stuck in my head and I had to get up and write it down. So, since 6.30 this morning I’ve been sat with my laptop drafting this week’s blog post. A productive start to the day but I would have liked another 30 minutes of snoozing. Now all I need to do is proofread and add it to the site – might even manage that later on today.

10 characteristics of brilliant business books

One of the things that I enjoy about writing this blog is that it reminds me how many brilliant books there are out there (and sitting on my bookshelf). That has got me thinking about what makes a brilliant business book. So, viagra sale here’s my list of 10 characteristics, salve in no particular order:

1. Pleasure to read

The book has got to be enjoyable, not a chore to read. I don’t want to have to force myself to open it up every evening in order to get through it. Instead, it must hold my attention and be written in a style that encourages me to keep reading, to the point that I don’t want to put it down. Yes, that is possible with a business book, trust me.

2. Inspiring

I want to be inspired by the book. Inspired to start trying out its advice straight away. I want to get a feeling of ‘yes, I can do it and I will!’. There’s nothing better than a book that leaves you feeling upbeat and ready for anything.

3. Easy to understand

I want to be able to understand the concepts in the book without resorting to a dictionary or having to re-read sections over and over again. I don’t mind if the concepts are challenging, if I’m learning something new then I do expect to have to make a bit of an effort, but I don’t want to be faced with a load of jargon and acronyms which aren’t explained.

4. Applicable to my business

It’s important to me that I can apply the advice/concepts in the book directly to my business. Of course, if I’m reading ‘Brilliant Book of Business Advice for Emily’ then I would expect it to apply to me, but it’s not that easy. I once did a marketing course designed for creative businesses but the course tutor had entirely based it on ‘creative business’ meaning ‘artist’. As a result he was constantly saying “this won’t apply to you, Emily”. Lovely. So I guess it’s important for the book to be clear from the start about who the intended audience is and then make sure that audience is catered for.

5. Practical application

Not only do I want to be able to understand the book in the context of my own business but I also want to be able to go away and apply the concepts in a practical fashion. Theory is great but I also want to be able to see how I can apply it in a practical way. Give me some exercises to do or talk me through putting together an action plan. Or, give some examples (see no. 6 below). I’m not going to fully understand it if I can’t see how I can use it.

6. Examples

Examples are great. They can be real-life examples or made up, doesn’t matter. Examples help you understand how the theory can be applied. They can also be inspiring (especially if they’re real-life examples) – a description of how somebody took a certain action and the positive affect it had on them or their business.

7. Knowledgeable author

It’s important that the author knows their stuff. If you think that they’ve got something wrong it makes you doubt the validity of the rest of their advice. So, they need to write in a knowledgeable way that gives you confidence in them, but also back up their claims with supporting resources. A few statistics don’t go astray, but don’t overload us with them

8. Up-to-date website

A lot of books these days have accompanying websites with downloads and other supporting materials. It’s clear from some books that the author has great plans for developing a fantastic resource. However, if you’re reading the book a couple of years down the road you may not find exactly what they’re promising. It’s amazing how many obviously abandoned websites I’ve come across. So, if you are directing readers to downloadable resources, put them there and keep them at the address that you’ve given. If you’re not going to actively work on the website for years to come, then provide everything that’s needed for the book and leave it at that. There’s nothing more offputting than news that is 3 years out of date, or promises of downloads which you can’t find however hard you try.

9. Clearly laid out

I like to see a list of contents which makes it clear what the topic of each chapter is. Attractively laid out pages with sub-headings and boxouts. Clear print – I don’t want teeny tiny crammed in print which I need a magnifying glass to read (yes, my eyesight isn’t the best), instead a good size print, nicely spaced out. It’s amazing how much this can affect your enjoyment of a book.

10. References to other brilliant books

And finally, I want the book to point me in the direction of other brilliant books. If I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read then I want to keep reading.

Brilliant Start-Up

Brilliant Start-Up by Caspian WoodsNow here’s a book to get your entrepreneurial juices flowing: Brilliant Start-Up: How to Set Up and Run a Brilliant Business by Caspian Woods. First published last year I was delighted to find it in the online catalogue of our library system and amazed to find a copy actually at our local library, viagra buy so went skipping round to borrow it.

The book takes you through the stages of setting up and running a business. It is an inspiring mix of practical information and entertaining writing style. If you’re toying with the idea of setting up a business then this is definitely the book for you. Our business has been going for a few years now but even though some of the book was covering old ground I still found it an interesting read, so I would say that it’s not necessarily just for start-ups. It’s given me a new perspective on parts of our business and I’ve set myself some homework to follow up on some ideas.

The only criticism I would have is the bias towards sales rather than marketing as a whole. There’s a whole chapter which is basically on telesales way before the whole marketing concept is covered, which I found offputting. However, the author began the book with explaining that it would be opinionated and this is an example of that. I can see the point he’s trying to make, I just don’t necessarily agree with it.

My previous book review was, I said, not one for lifting your motivation. This book is exactly that – whether you’re thinking of starting up a business, are in the process of doing so, or (like me) have been running a business for a few years, this book could provide you with the inspiration that you need.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy “Brilliant Start-Up” from Amazon >

Inspiring Women: how real women succeed in business

Inspiring Women: How Real Women Succeed in Business by Michelle RosenbergI’ve found myself having an interesting love/hate relationship with Inspiring Women: 25 Top Female Entrepreneurs Reveal How Real Women Succeed in Business by Michelle Rosenberg. It was on my Amazon wishlist so my brother bought me a copy for Christmas (thanks bro!). It’s a series of profiles of women behind successful businesses, search talking about what they’ve achieved and how they have done it. I was keen to read it because I don’t know much about the actual people behind businesses and thought it might help me choose a role model/something to aspire to, particularly with it being specifically about women and me being a woman and all.

However, what I’m not and have no plans to be is a mother and what this book is screaming at me is that to be a ‘real woman succeeding in business’ I have to have the added challenge of raising a family and spending enough time with the kids etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m full of admiration for women who do manage to do both, but that’s just not who I am. I find it hard enough getting a decent work/life balance as it is! But, my idea of reading about how women have succeeded in business is more about learning about their experiences running the business, not the children bit.

Overall I did find the book very interesting but I found the focus on being a mother increasingly frustrating and at some points (which I quickly talked myself out of) began to feel inadequate for my lack of offspring. Does everyone have to be introduced as ‘blah, mother of three’ – if it was a book about men in business that wouldn’t happen. It seemed that even the types of businesses covered were fluffy women-friendly ones – maternity clothes, baby food/toiletries, fashion, secretarial. Let’s face it I obviously don’t fit into the target audience for the book – if I was a mother thinking of setting up a business I’m sure I would find the book incredibly inspiring.

How about a book about women succeeding in male-dominated industries … like web design for example? They can be women with or without children, I don’t mind, just don’t make it all about the motherhood.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy “Inspiring Women” from Amazon >

How to Be a Complete and Utter Failure

How to be a complete and utter failure in life, <a href=mind work and everything by Steve McDermot” />How to Be a Complete and Utter Failure in Life, seek Work and Everything by Steve McDermott is another brilliant book of the same school as How To Be Brilliant. It is highly readable and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. It takes the angle of telling you not to do certain things to ensure that you are a failure. Definitely one to give you a kick up the backside if you’ve been lacking motivation.

It doesn’t have such a structured approach as How To Be Brilliant, however you could easily note down the various steps and devise your own plan from it. What I really like about it is that it makes you look at things differently and pushes you to try things that you might have dismissed otherwise – I have to own up to being a bit too comfortable in my comfort zone at times, but this book reminds me that I need to push past it.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy “How to be a Complete and Utter Failure in Life, Work and Everything” from Amazon >

Start of another 90 days of brilliance

One of my favourite ‘sorting your life out’ books is How to Be Brilliant by Michael Heppell. I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll probably mention it again. The book helps you plan out ’90 days of brilliance’ to help you achieve or work towards achieving your goals. It’s a brilliant motivator.

Last week I came to the end of a 90-day period, see which started well but kind of petered out into unbrilliance – though I did manage to get through my planned reading list, online so it wasn’t a complete wash-out. So, I’ve spent the weekend working my goals and planning my next 90 days. This time I will stick to it! Helping me along is my good friend Sparkatrician, who is going to be my ‘brilliance buddy’. He’s also starting out on a 90-day plan so we will egg each other on and generally provide support. Have got our first phone call booked in for tomorrow night.

It’s been quite an intense weekend doing the prep, but I now have 90-, 30- and 7-day plans printed out and in my ‘brilliance folder’. Despite intending to limit my goals to a manageable amount, there’s quite a lot on there. Still, got to aim high! First step will be to get up at 6am tomorrow and do yoga.

Five Star Service, One Star Budget

Five Star Service, <a href=cialis sale One Star Budget by Michael Heppell” width=”1″ height=”1″ />Another brilliantly inspiring book by Michael Heppell. Five Star Service, One Star Budget is a very enjoyable read and cram-packed full of practical advice on how to provide outstanding customer service. The author has a fast-paced, hugely enthusiastic style that pulls you along. I wish all business books could be like this – to the point, fun, easy to read and making you want to jump up and put it all into practice.

Some of the advice may seem like it’s common sense in a ‘I already knew that’ kind of way, but as the author points out – it’s not the knowing, it’s the doing that counts. If nothing else the book acts as a reminder of what you should be doing. You can use it to dip into when you feel your business needs a boost, or as a manual for transforming your customer service if you work through it a chapter at a time. Well worth a read.

A truly brilliant business book.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy “Five Star Service” from Amazon >

New article: motivation for home-workers

Another article is now in place: 10 tips for how to stay motivated when working from home. This is a particularly relevant one for me today as I haven’t been feeling brilliantly motivated. Will start tomorrow afresh having reminded myself of the techniques that work for me.

Is there anything that you do differently? A brilliant tip that could make all the difference. Leave a comment below, buy viagra I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Starting off the resources

I’ve made a start on the resources page. Just three to get us started:

  1. Flying Startups – as mentioned in the Start Your Business Week by Week review
  2. buy author of How to Be Brilliant” href=”http://www.michaelheppell.co.uk”>Michael Heppell – for some brilliant inspiration
  3. Business Link – I’ve heard mixed views on Business Link, but what it’s definitely good for is an excellent online resource covering all aspects of running a business

I’ll be filling this out more over time. If you know of any useful business websites give me a shout and I’ll add them in.

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