Monday, April 16, 2007

The Startup Garden- a WorkSavvy Startup Book Review

Do you want a no-nonsense, jargon-free, helper to guide you on starting and running your new business? Then look no further than Tom Ehrenfeld's The Startup Garden (ISBN 0071368248, McGraw Hill, 2002, and still as vital as the day it was published).

The book is written by a widely experienced small business journalist. It is a pleasure to read and for someone wary of business semantics, Tom's book will keep them at ease. Its format makes the information readily assimilable; there are plenty of breaks; short case-studies and practical descriptions of where you can get further help.

The Startup Garden treats entrepreneuring like gardening, so it's about cultivating your business and caring for it as the living thing that it is. Tom is as much concerned with your own learning and development, as with the commercial development of the enterprise.

The book begins with an examination of why you might be wanting to start a business and what you want to get out of it. It shows how you can approach planning the business and make sure that you learn from the feedback that flows from operations. Tom's approach to business numbers and finance helps you get clear on the big picture and what aspects of money matter to the business. He is of the school that considers raising large sums of external finance may not be the most effective way to go.

He favors the bootstrapping approach to business, where you generate the maximum volume of sales and are parsimonious with expenditure, leveraging all you resources until your business is performing successfully. Right through the Startup Garden you will be able to see how to draw on your own strengths rather than having recourse to expensive outside expertise. I know from my own business experience that it is all too easy to assume that there are people out there who know better than you do. Such notions tripped me up more than once, and at considerable cost.

What is clear, Tom points out, is that your best consultant is your own learning. At the beginning, the new entrepreneur tends to identify very closely with the business creation and detachment is difficult. The first lesson is to rejoice in the mistakes you make. They can be priceless teachers. He points out the importance of revisiting your original mission and testing its current validity, checking that your early role remains appropriate, especially in the light of the world outside your own company.

I share with Tom the last thoughts he expresses: "get started". Reading books―even his―will only teach you so much. Doing it will teach you more. I have met far too many people who say things such as, "my prototype's not right yet", "inflation's running too high", "the trade cycle hasn't bottomed out yet", "my bank's turned me down", and many other invalid reasons for not launching. The right time is now. Reading the Startup Garden should not take more than an hour. That is a piece of procrastination I recommend! The quickest way to get a copy is to write an email direct to Tom Ehrenfeld:

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