and other ramblings of a small business owner
I’ve had my ups and downs with How to Start a Business from Scratch by Stewart Jacobs. I’ve had moments of “that’s a good point, must remember that” and moments of utter bewilderment. My verdict is that the book has definite value … but it could definitely do with work in certain areas.
Shall I start with the good stuff or the bad stuff? Let’s start with the negatives so that I can end on a positive note.
One of the things that I found astounding is that there are practically no examples used throughout the book. Lots of statements of fact but no scenarios to back them up. A simple example is that he mentions you should get a domain name but doesn’t give an example of what a domain name is. I say “practically none” because there are a couple of instances that I can think of where the author mentions a couple of example businesses. Examples, real life or otherwise, would have helped with my understanding of the points made and with engaging me with the content of the book. As it was the style was easy but unexciting.
One area which I felt was strong (which I’ll touch on below) was financial information – in this case some example calculations were given (yay for examples!) but the figures were given as percentages which I found difficult to get my head round. Some made-up figures would have been much easier to grasp I think.
To round up the negatives, I’d say the book is more theoretical than practical, and one of the things I particularly look for in a business book is practical application.
That being said it does (as I mentioned above) have value. The author gives an overview of all the areas you need to consider when setting up a business. It might not give you all the detail you need but it is a good overall guide. What’s more the author has the courage to cover the less exciting areas of setting up and running a business. Although one of my criticisms is that the book is unexciting, the flip side of this is that it isn’t afraid to mention the areas (such as cash flow forecasts) that are less sexy. This is something to look out for in other startup books I think – I do like a book that is inspirational but do some of them run the risk of sexing it up a bit too much and missing some important info?
In particular I was particularly keen on the coverage of financial management. I picked up on this because it’s an area that I need to do some more work on myself. When talking about finances for startups it’s easy to get caught up in the ins and outs of bookkeeping – important but what about monitoring your finances so that you know exactly where your business is at? That’s what this book does well – the advice is to use a bookkeeper for the day-to-day bookkeeping but to have a system in place to oversee and monitor the business finances. Some of the techniques mentioned are exactly what I’ve been looking for (and haven’t found recommended elsewhere in other general business books) so I’ll definitely be going back over them and seeing how I can adopt them … using real figures of course not just percentages.
How to Start a Business from Scratch is not an in depth guide to starting a business but it does cover a lot of ground. You may find yourself crying out for more detail to clarify what the author means in certain areas, but if you use the book as a guide to what you need to cover you can fill in the detail from elsewhere.
So, not a particularly inspiring book but one which is worth keeping on your shelf as a reference.
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