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Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
The Knack: How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up
Format: Paperback|Change
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on 5 November 2009
I own hundreds of books varying from business to sales to educational literature and this book is in the top 5 of books that I not only enjoy reading but must read on a regular basis. The book is so good in my opinion that I own the audio book and the Kindle version as well.

It is so down to earth and honest and perfect for anyone starting up or someone who needs a reminder on how to survive.

This is a must buy for anyone who is a small entrepreneur.
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on 27 February 2013
To me this book is really about the 80/20 of business. Those few core elements that if you get right then you're running a fundamentally sound business, equally if you don't, no matter what you do you're in trouble.

Many small business owners get stuck in what Perry Marshall called 'bright, shiny object syndrome', where you're always reaching for new distractions that you think will boost your business, without doing the simple things right. Norm Brodsky brings you through those simple things in a very easily readable narrative, focusing on case studies of his own successes and failures as well as those of the people who he gave advice through the years. It's about the importance of key numbers in your business, but also equally the psychology behind your decisions and actions.

He's quite up front about his own failures and character flaws, and writes in a warm, relaxed and confident tone of a man who's been there and done that and has little to prove, least of all to himself. It makes for easy reading, but there's value in there.

Seemingly this book sprang from a popular column in Inc Magazine, but thankfully it doesn't feel like a couple of dozen articles stretched over 250 pages, a trap some fall into. In fact he neatly slides excerpts from his 'Ask Norm' column into relevant case studies. He's very balanced, broad and empathetic in his descriptions and analysis of himself, his competitors and those he gave advice to.

To conclude each chapter he does a little bullet point reminder of principles he's just explored. Some might find this a little over-simplistic but for me it was a welcome addition. It might have benefited further by expanding that to explicit actionable tasks to analyse one's own business. Maybe that would be asking too much.

To sum up, it was an enjoyable read, and I still managed to gain insights in spite of already having read dozens of business books. Get it, it's well worth the price!
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VINE VOICEon 12 December 2009
I really enjoyed this book. It's a pracitcal insight into how the author (Norm) built his businesses, and he goes over successes and mistakes. There's useful sidebars called "Ask Norm" where he deals with the typical questions that people have. The book covers a lot of ground, and perhaps if you're a total newcomer to business some of it will go over your head. Well worth a read.
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on 2 February 2009
I bought this book because I read Inc. magazine when I can and think that the advice given by the author is excellent - obviously drawn from actual experiences in the trenches not from theory.

I was not disappointed! It is easy to read and I found myself highlighting and making notes of some of the thoughts, not because they are new but because they made me sit up and go aha! A different perspective on the pressures faced by all entrepreneurs, especially ones like me who is only in his 3rd year and have faced a number of issues and challenges.

I would recommend that you buy this book if you are looking at starting a business and want the advice a mentor would give you and also if you have already started your own business and want some help in the way you look at the issues you face on a daily basis.
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VINE VOICEon 8 October 2009
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." -- Ezekiel 36:26

I've been teaching classes about how to start small businesses for many years and have many clients around the world who run small businesses. From these experiences, I've learned that those who want to learn about small business usually fall into one of the following categories:

1. They like the idea of being their own boss but have no idea of what's involved . . . but they would like to learn more.

2. Someone in the family had a successful small business, and they liked what they saw and want to do it for themselves.

3. They do something very well and work for an employer who doesn't treat them well enough. They feel they can strike out on their own, do well, and make more money.

4. The person has fallen in love with a dream of what a small business might be, but they aren't interested in changing anything about the dream . . . including things that doom the dream to fail.

5. They have been successful in a managerial role in a medium-to-large business, have some money, and want to take on a situation where they can improve effectiveness.

Why am I tell you all this? It's to help you understand who should read The Knack. This book will be highly valuable for those in the first category by filling in some of their knowledge gaps due to a lack of experience in running a small business. The book will also help them to realize they should find some experienced business people to learn from.

There's a drawback for this group: This book is a little too advanced for people who have few ideas about what a small business does. Mr. Brodsky has a quite sophisticated sense of the moving parts involved in a small-to-medium-sized business that won't be appreciated by those who don't even know what the tasks are. As a result, a lot of this book's wisdom will blow past its ideal readers. That's why I marked the book at four stars.

The book would have to be firmed up and made more detailed in its conceptual roots to be highly valuable to people in second and third categories. They will know most of the basic lessons. Not much can help those in the fourth category except painful experiences. The last group will fail to grasp how small businesses are different from what they've been doing if they read this book.

I plan to recommend it to my students who have pretty good instincts for small business, but lack the perspective of experience. I'm sure it will speed their learning.

I'm pleased to be able to make that recommendation.

As for content, the authors wisely focus on the key fundamentals: positive cash flow, developing profitable customers and keeping them, keeping track of how you are doing, leading your employees, developing and maintaining discipline, and avoiding mistakes that can be very costly (such as weakening what's working to start something that doesn't work). The book's strength is that it deals with the emotions and habits that underlie success and setbacks. Pay attention and be more deliberate in what you do, and the results will be better.
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on 15 October 2014
I originally got this book in audiobook version but I wanted to physically look at some of the examples so I bought the hardcopy. I really, really good book for entrepreneurs or people who want to start there own business. I didn't know what to think by the name when I first saw it but I really enjoyed and I am glad I have both the audio and physical versions.
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on 11 October 2008
Though not available yet in Europe, The Knack is on the shelves in every US airport which means TransAtlantic travellers don't have to wait to sample this delightful and inspirational, b.s.-free treat from Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham. Inc magazine is the best when it comes to magazines on entrepreneurship and Norm is its best columnist. In The Knack, he gives you a passenger-seat ride back over his business odyssey which has seen him build an unglamorous inner-city storage business into an exemplar of entrepreneurship and community building. Anecdote-rich and brimming with commonsense advice, you'll find out how the King of Jordan and a daily shower gave Norm the tips he needed to build a customer-crazy company which he's just sold for $110m.
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on 13 April 2009
This book presumes that just because you're smart and capable, this doesn't mean you'll be any good at running a business. Jumping straight in with the numbers, it immediately shows that figures are everything - don't understand the numbers, and you are going to fail.

However, from there the book goes on to be an educative primer on just about every aspect of owning and running a small business - from closing the right types of sales to identifying your core competencies; from spreading your client base to dealing with banks, venture capitalists and other lenders.

There is basic advice on building a business for sale; how to treat competitors; negotiation skills; holding on to clients; choosing salespeople; and who to turn to for advice.

In 274 pages it isn't going to teach you all you need to know about the above, but with lots of real-life cases from the author's mentoring background and own business (and in the form of letters, presumably from his magazine column, which are too brief and don't add much), this book is a fast and useful read containing many pieces of advice that I suspect will serve any budding entrepreneur well.
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on 4 October 2011
a great book full of useful advice and tips and real key points of how to watch your numbers, costs and plan for the future. the writer is helpful, and you get the feel he genuinely wants you to go for it while still being level headed, easy to read and good for reference.
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on 4 July 2009
I especially like the first part detailing use of profit statement, cashflow statement etc. The book is an entertaining read.
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