Are you a potential entrepreneur? Rob Adams wants to burst your bubble. Forget ideas, forget business plans - for this Austin-based business professor and venture capitalist, it is simply the people who can 'make it happen' that get funding. Putting together a can-do team that has what Adams calls "execution intelligence" - the know-how to how to take a business all the way from an idea to establishment in the market - is the single most important thing any entrepreneur can do.
Adopting the metaphor of an entrepreneurial boot camp, Adams styles each of his chapters "kicks" after the title of his book. Each "kick" addresses the process by which a startup moves from one milestone ("value inflection point" in the parlance) to the next on the path to success. Along the way, many notions that are thought basic to the entrepreneurial game are dispelled as myths. First, "good ideas are a dime a dozen" and are highly overrated. Second, what you think you know about the needs of potential customers is merely the tip of the iceberg. Don't worry about that business plan for now; put all your energy into "validating the market." Find the points where people in the real world are experiencing pain, and then design a truly marketable product or service to alleviate it. Don't look for perfection; just get it on the market. If that seems counterintuitive, Adams asks you to consider a little product called Microsoft Windows. Version 3.1 (the first version to become widely used) wasn't perfect by a long shot, and neither is the latest release, Windows XP. Is Microsoft worried?
Where else can entrepreneurs benefit from revised thinking? Getting big money upfront only hurts your long-term valuation; at the beginning you only need enough to get started. Always remember that venture investors are interested in how good your team is, not how nice your business plan looks. The best investors will wait for their payoff; so don't hesitate to refuse investors who want a quick return. Finally, always know that you have to do the work. Don't hire a marketing consultant: get on the phone, make appointments, and investigate that market yourself. Your team needs to learn all aspects of the business; even your engineers should make those calls. When the time comes to take your product or service to market, no one knows it better than your team. Advertising is not the same thing as marketing, and marketing is far more important.
The "kicks" are mainly structured around examples of companies that Adams' group worked with and funded. Most of these high-tech companies were founded in 1999 or 2000, and it says something about the validity of Adams' approach that they have survived this much of the current economic downturn. Sidebars offer other supporting evidence from companies like Dell, Amazon.com and Microsoft. Neophytes to the corporate financing and venture capital game will find the "capitalization primer" at the back of the book most helpful.
"A GOOD HARD KICKů" is not for your everyday entrepreneur. Although the author claims that anyone starting a small business can benefit from his guidance, the Small Business Collection here in the Business Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is full of books that will be more immediately helpful. However, for the entrepreneur setting her sights on the big prize - say a goal of capturing ten percent of a potential hundred million dollar market - the advice here is eye-opening.
If you come down with a severe case of "writer's block" every time you need to write a business letter, your worries are over! BUSINESS LETTERS FOR BUSY PEOPLE includes hundreds of sample letters easily adapted for virtually any situation. There are sections for specific categories of letters including collections, sales and promotions, goodwill (appreciation, congratulations), personal (birthday, illness, marriage, condolence), employment changes (job acceptance, job rejection, character reference), customer relations (acknowledging a complaint, following up on a complaint), press releases, postcard correspondence, etc.
Electronic correspondence presents its own challenges, and for those the book includes valuable "tips and techniques for smart e-mail practices" and how to use e-mail "cautiously and courteously." Guidelines and checklists found in every chapter will ensure that you get your message across in the best possible way. To make the process of writing those letters even easier, a CD-ROM containing templates for all the sample letters included within the book is included. This is one "How-To" book that really delivers what it promises. It belongs in the office of every business professional.
Management as a discipline is one of the most influential social innovations of the past century, and as a skill it is basic to any endeavor. Its importance in relation to our lives - at work or not - cannot be overstated. According to the authors, former editors at the Harvard Business Review, management boils down to "building organizations that work." Using uncomplicated prose and appealing stories about real people and organizations, this book provides a refreshingly direct and lucid overview of general management theory and practice. Along the way we absorb the distilled wisdom of the best management minds, such as Peter Drucker and Michael Porter.
Magretta starts with the basics, defining core theories of management such as value creation, business models, strategy, and organization. She stresses the interrelated quality of these concepts: "the design of an organization is implicit in its strategy, so much so that it is sometimes hard to tell where strategy leaves off and organization begins." There is a clear presentation of which numbers matter, how to determine a set of goals, and how to set performance measures that will deliver satisfied customers, concrete success for employees, and innovation for future survival.
Magretta believes that these concepts apply equally to both for-profit and non-profit organizations, a contention she supports with an arsenal of examples from organizations that have flourished over the long term. Destined to become a management classic because of its clarity and scope, this book will have value for beginners, for seasoned managers, and for anyone who wants to know how to get people to accomplish something collectively. And unlike your standard management textbook, it is pleasure to read.
HF5549.5.R44 F35 2002
The Hiring and Firing Question and Answer Book
by Paul Falcone. AMACOM, 2002.
Request for Proposal: A Guide to Effective RFP Development
by Bud Porter-Roth. Addison-Wesley, c2002.
Contact the business librarians, who also answer questions about business, money, and work, at (412) 281-7141 or at www.carnegielibrary.org/locations/downtown/contact.cfm.