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Not as good as I expected
on 21 March 2012
As someone who eagerly awaits Luke Johnson's weekly column in the FT and more often than not find it contains very useful insight and advice, I found this book slightly disappointing. It is quite short for a start; nothing wrong with that but it's not cheap, and while the book looks thick the typeset is large and many pages are taken up with only 9 or 10 word quotations. But more significantly, it suffers from the same weakness that some of Johnson's columns in the FT do - when he sticks to the nitty-gritty of actually starting and running a business he is consistently interesting and worthwhile. But he regularly veers off to go on extended rants about how the world would be so much better a place of everyone was an entrepreneur like him, how businesspeople get such a rough ride, etc. At times his quasi-religious fanaticism about the need for everyone to be business people from the cradle to the grave and never relent or pause for reflection begins to grate. The last 10 pages or so in particular, where he trots out all the usual whinges of the business community, and tries to tie them into a existential lesson on existence, are embarassing. But it's worth reading for the bits where he sticks to his knitting on actual lessons from business.
It occurred to me that Johnson may have something to answer for in terms of the blandness of our High Streets; he seems to have been - or is still - in control of the majority of the restaurant chains in the country (or at least in the south-east). And this is another curious inconsistency in his message - he continually rails against big businesses for their inefficiency, lack of thrills, waste of human talent, etc, but seems to feel it's fine to be a big business (rather than an entrepreneurial start-up or disruptive smaller enterprise) if he is behind it or has a major stake in it.
I love the guy and admire his achievements, but he might be even better if he lost a little of his missionary fanaticism, at least when penning his books. I'd suggest that anyone making the decision on whether to buy this book look to follow Johnson's advice as an entrepreneur and look to cut costs by picking up a second-hand copy for half the price; he would undoubtedly approve of such 'disruptive' types of consumer behaviour (or would he ?).