on 10 June 2011
I own a business and I also work on the side as a business consultant. This book comes as a breath of fresh air in an otherwise overcrowded market of business books written by academics and other charlatans, most of whom would end up getting a nose-bleed if they tried to run so much as a whelk stall!
For every field of human endeavour, there are gurus and in the field of business management, gurus seem to be being hatched, a six-pack at a time. To become such a creature, you have to write a book, outlining some method or system. This could be a fashionable Japanese thing, such as `Kaizen' or `Keiretsu' or one of the `Management by Something' schools of thought, such as `Management by Walking About' `Management by Mojo' or `Matrix Management.' Despite there being hundreds of such gurus, each with his or her own pet theory, none of them seems to have actually managed anything.
It is as if all the books on fly-fishing were written by people who had never seen a river! To be hailed as a management guru, you do not actually have to know what you are talking about.
His book speaks directly from the world of experience. It is the words of common sense that cut through all the babble of sillier management-speak spouted by others. I can honestly state that, if you are starting out in business, this is the first book you need to read. (The second will have to be 'Ogilvy on Advertising.')
When I started out in business, some 30+ years ago, this book did not exist and so I can state, with hand on heart, that at some time or other, I have made most of the mistakes listed here (except listening to my mum, I have always studiously ignored her advice, but that is another story). Today, this book does exist, so there are no more excuses!
He lists 43 mistakes - and that is my main criticism, there are so many more! In particular, I have to deal with too many businesses that just do not have the slightest idea how to sell their goods or services: how to find the customers and find out how many there really are, how to reach the customers and tell them that you even exist and how to structure a sale. There are dozens of mistakes in sales and marketing and Bannatyne does touch on this subject in a hand-full of sections, such as research, making a good first impression and not putting any real effort into marketing. I see brilliant companies, providing first-class products at fantastic prices that have no website, no marketing budget, not even a few flyers and some cards, and are desperate for trade!
Bannatyne could have dealt in greater depth with mistakes of advertising and marketing. It will be read largely by owners of small and medium-sized enterprises and these are the people who make this type of mistake the most.
He also devotes just three pages to 'sensitivity analysis' and this could be expanded greatly and cover the general field of assessing risk and a company's susceptibility to risk. Altogether, the word risk does not even appear in the index (it is mentioned just once, when dealing with the banking crisis) and the misjudging of risk is one of the big pitfalls of business. Here, as in all sections, I kept wanting more!
A few people starting out in business are wildly deluded. They have an idea that is so silly or left-field, that normal people can only shake their heads, wondering about their sanity. Bannatyne gives us a few of the nuttier ones - the man who invented a condom for cucumbers, the one glove to remind you to drive on the right when outside the UK and the seaside furniture made of cardboard that turns to mush if it gets wet.
These are just a small section of some would-be entrepreneurs that came to the TV programme `Dragons Den' but in the real world, the nutters are far nuttier! (I once had to deal with a man who raised his start capital by robbing bank. On being released from prison, he came to me to ask where he had gone wrong!)
But nearly all the mistakes that are outlined in this book are simple mistakes of common sense. Cash flow, marketing, debt, product quality, bad business plan and so on. It would be easy to criticise that Bannatyne states the obvious, but it is the obvious mistakes that are also the commonest.
I have to deal on an almost daily basis, with people who defy common sense and refuse to accept reality or a change of circumstances. And before you think it is just the sole-trader and the small businessman who acts stupid, remember that most record companies refused to believe that the CD was dead as a mass market product. Just 12 years ago, I told an international manufacturer that digital video-tape had no long term future. They refused to believe me and lost nearly all their market share.
It is a short book, that you can read in an afternoon. Yes, it is 225 pages, but half the space is taken up with over-sized titles and blank space, so it could have been twice as long and dealt with the various subjects more fully - and as I stated above, listed more mistakes and in greater depth!
In an ideal world, Mr Bannatyne would sit down with his writer (Jo Monroe - who has done an excellent job BTW) and write the rest of this book, going into such subjects as structuring a sale and assessing risk.
Despite that, I give this book five stars, simply because it does what every good product should do.
It uniquely fulfils a need.
on 4 January 2015
I took this book on holiday (a gift from my wife) and thoroughly enjoyed reading it, but more importantly, on my return I gave it to two managers in my business with instructions for them to read it also, because it sets out everything that should be right, but may be wrong with a business. Most of it is common sense, or would be for a business with good customer relations and service in mind, however, it is easy to forget or miss the obvious when your head is in all the problems.
I thought it excellent; easy to read and down to earth, without any boastfulness from a man who's made millions from his own advice. I liked that particularly, because that presented the book as a manual for putting things right, not to massage the authors ego. From memory (I read it four years ago) each point Duncan makes is illustrated with practical examples of how to get it wrong, and I could see my own business reflected in those examples. It isn't a road map for making your fortune - that takes business acumen you may or may not have - but it lays down the foundation stones by which you might just achieve it. Good luck to you and good health to Mr Bannatyne.
on 30 November 2011
As far as business advice books go, this book seems to be aimed at the novice. I think anyone with any degree of business experience, beyond a couple of years, would find less than 20% of the book useful. The back of the book boasts that it is invaluable whether or not you're a sole trader or a bond trader in the city. I would suggest only a start-up sole trader would find the book 'invaluable'.
The book is clearly ghost written and has the feel of being hastily cobbled together to provide a vehicle for a number of Dragon's Den anecdotes. There are a couple of real world case studies related to 'proper' businesses however they actually seem out of place in a book of this type. What input Mr Bannatyne has had into the writing of the book I don't know but I would imagine it was brief. Advice within the book ranges from 'make a good first impression' to 'keep an eye on your costs'. There's even a reminder to manage your staff. This is not groundbreaking.
Interestingly in the section 'Mistake - being flattered by turnover' Mr Bannatyne states in bold letters 'if you don't know the difference between revenue and profit, the scale of your ignorance is enormous'. A few pages later however, when illustrating cash flow and comparing two companies each with revenues of £120K and profits of £36K he says 'Company A and Company B both produce an annual turnover of £36K'. Shouldn't that be profit? Like a wise man once said, if you don't know the difference between revenue and profit.......