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For once, a good book about running your own business
on 21 January 2011
Deborah Meaden is an experienced and highly successful businesswoman who has recently become well known to the general public thanks to the 'Dragons' Den' television series. Unusually, in a literary field dominated by celebrity entrepreneurs, she possesses qualities that make her book about running a business useful. In particular, she has no time at all for business school jargon. She writes in an unfussy and literate manner that communicates her meaning very directly.
In fact Meaden has little patience with a whole series of popular myths about entrepreneurship - many of them pedalled by would-be entrepreneurs who seem to have spent more time reading how-to manuals than actually running a business. This is the first book about entrepreneurship that I've encountered that is absolutely clear about the personal qualities and commitment required, and has no truck with the comforting notions that 'anyone can do it' or that hard work alone will inevitably result in success.
Throughout the book, Meaden illustrates her thoughts about business with examples drawn from her own experience and that of other successful entrepreneurs, as well as contestants from the programme. The main theme that emerges is that success in business is not rocket science, but a matter of knowing and following 'common sense rules' - handily gathered in an Appendix. Neglecting these rules pretty well guarantees failure - or temporary success for the wrong reasons, which leaves the business vulnerable when circumstances change.
Meaden covers a wide range of topics, bringing her gimlet eye to everything, including matters from which she admits most entrepreneurs instinctively shy away: how to make employees redundant, whether to employ family members, how and when to recognise that the moment has come to fold a business. The book also includes a detailed account of how to write a business plan that is far more realistic than most. Her description of the character of a true entrepreneur - the competitiveness, the optimism, the can-do attitude - even the vanity - is disarmingly accurate, but explains why these people must be the way they are to succeed. In fact, if a reading of this book only persuades you that you don't fit the bill, Meaden may have saved you a great deal of heartache. Recommended, particularly for anyone toying with the idea of starting their own first business.