Archive for Book Reviews

The Essential Online Solution: The 5-Step Formula for Small Business Success – Rick Segel & Barbara Callan-Bogia

The Essential Online Solution: The 5-Step Formula for Small Business Success
Rick Segel and Barbara Callan-Bogia

This book has not been one of my favorites, but I cannot really figure out why. All of the advice about building a professional, effective website and spreading the buzz about your business seems good to me. There’s info on SEO, word of mouth marketing, banner ads and adwords and adsense. Maybe it’s just not that applicable to my situation at the moment.

The five steps to small business success according to Segel and Callan-Bogia are:

  1. Uncovering Possibilities – Which looks at online buying and selling as a while and how you can fit into that picture.
  2. Building Practical, Powerful, Professional Web Sites that WORK – How to initially build your site, make it more effective, and avoid common errors that detract from your site.
  3. Positioning You as the Source: Creating Expert Status – Using blogs and podcasting.
  4. Creating the Buzz with Clicks and Clends – Discusses how to position yourself online and how to use pay per click and viral advertising.
  5. Sell, Sell, Sell – Covers how to use eBay and other programs to get your business going.

The section critiquing different websites for positive and negative qualities is very helpful for someone who is not familiar with the internet. Even if you have done a moderate amount of online shopping however, you already should have a pretty good feel for what makes up a good website. Advice given is that your site needs to be user friendly, personalized, simple and straightforward. Many good examples of sites that have these characteristics are given. It would be nice to have some bad examples to look at, but out of courtesy to the owners of those sites, they are only described in the The Essential Online Solution, not named.
All in all, if you’re not pressed for time, there are some interesting things to learn from this book. However, it is not a quick read, at least for me it wasn’t, and you probably know a lot of the information in it already. To be fair, part of the reason it took me a while to read was that I kept reading things I probably should do to promote myself and things to apply to my websites. I would stop reading, thinking when I got the chance I would make sure to redo the CSS code on my quantum tutoring site to enhance my SEO or other things like that, but I was never motivated enough to actually do them and eventually I’d go back to just reading.

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The Engine of America – Hector V. Barreto

The Engine of America: The Secrets to Small Business Success from Entrepreneurs Who Have Made It!
Hector V. Barreto

The Engine of America: The Secrets to Small Business Success from Entrepreneurs Who Have Made It! was written by former Administrator of the US Small Business Administration, Hector V. Barreto. I found Barreto’s book inspiring and full of useful information. With the stories of some of the most successful small-business entrepreneurs, he teaches the keys to successfully start up a company or grow an existing one.

The Engine of America gives a lot of the same advice that you hear all the time about running and starting a business. Therefore, it is a great book for someone just starting out. Additionally, the advice, although repetitive for those entrepreneurs who have been in business a while, is given in a way that keeps you entertained. Stories of successful entrepreneurs remind us that anything can be done, and help us keep an optimistic point of view.

Barreto gives sound advice about studying to learn what you need to know and planning your business venture to increase likelihood of success. Then he addresses the need to take risks, but to take calculated risks rather than just a shot in the dark. One aspect of business I don’t think of a lot is employees. I am far from that point, but Barreto addresses how to share your vision with your employees and how the people around you are a critical key to your success.

A large portion of The Engine of America is dedicated to specific tools for success that every entrepreneur can benefit from. From how to contact SCORE for free advice from successful businesspeople to how the Small Business Administration (SBA) can help you obtain financing to what government programs are available to small businesses. From his insider’s point of view, Barreto helps unlock the mysterious process of dealing with government organizations and programs.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s an easy read, but it contains a wealth of useful information. I especially enjoyed the quoted advice from successful entrepreneurs such as Earl Graves, founder and publisher of Black Enterprise magazine, and Tom Stemberg, founder of Staples.

You can read an excerpt of Chapter 4 Challenge the Conventional Wisdom or go to www.theengineofamerica.com for more information.

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How to Start a Home-Based Online Retail Business – Jeremy Shepherd

How to Start a Home-Based Online Retail Business
Jeremy Shepherd

You would think that it would be difficult to find up-to-date information about online businesses at a public library, but I struck gold with this one…or maybe it was pearls. Once again proving that if you use your resources such as the public library, you can continue to better yourself and use your knowledge to your advantage.

How to Start a Home-Based Online Retail Business is the perfect book to help you do just that. The book is well-written, easy to read, and provides you with the essential information to begin to do business online.

Jeremy Shepherd got started early in the online world. In 1996 he opened PearlParadise.com, and has become the leading online pearl wholesaler and retailer. His business, which started with the purchase of one pearl necklace during a trip to Beijing, has grown to be a multi-million dollar enterprise.

Shepherd’s book details how to save money while starting your online business, how to design and create your website, how to market your business, and how to use a merchant account to allow customers to pay you by credit card. He doesn’t even forget to give tips on shipping, which is oh so important to an online purchase, or to tips on avoiding fraud, which is oh so important to you and your business.

How to Start a Home-Based Online Retail Business gets right to the point, doesn’t talk down to you, doesn’t require a degree in Computer Science to understand, and covers all the necessary details of becoming an online entrepreneur. I love this book. Once I get an online business going, I think the library will have to ban me from checking out this book. I’ll either have to memorize it or splurge and buy myself a copy. (Amazon’s got it for just over $10 at the moment, so I imagine it would be worth the investment.)

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Guerrilla PR Wired – Michael Levine

Guerrilla PR Wired
Michael Levine

I think this is the first book about business and finance that I actually thought was not really worth my time in reading it. Maybe I normally just make good choices about which books look interesting and educational. This book was certainly not either of those.

Guerrilla PR Wired tries to capitalize on the Guerrilla name (as in Guerrilla Marketing and Guerilla Marketing for the Home-Based Business by Jay Conrad Levinson), but it is completely unrelated. The only thing “guerrilla” about it is Levine calling people with small businesses “guerrillas”, just as Levinson does. When I read “guerrilla”, I assumed it was part of THE guerrilla franchise and was fooled into reading it.

This book is very outdated and too simple to really be much use in public relations or online marketing. It’s expected that a book on online marketing will go out of date within a few years after its printing, but I learned things about the ancient version of the internet that I had no idea existed. Additionally, its simplified view of public relations doesn’t give the reader with much information to actually put together a PR campaign and execute one.

Although, as a person who had no idea what public relations were and what they intended to accomplish, I figure this book at least gave me the jist of the idea. One of the most useful things I learned was to pitch your news releases to local weekly publications. Then, larger publications can become interested in the story and then they might publish it….hence, big follows small.

So overall, there are probably better books to get you started in PR online and offline. Let me know if you have any suggested ones for me to read!

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Getting Business to Come to You – Paul and Sarah Edwards & Laura Clampitt Douglas

Getting Business to Come to You
Paul and Sarah Edwards & Laura Clampitt Douglas

Another great book for a small business looking to establish themselves and learn the essentials of marketing. Getting Business to Come to You focuses your attention on the most effective, low-cost methods of marketing and also gives very useful technical details on the process of creating your own marketing materials.

The four most effective, low-cost marketing methods are

1. Word of mouth. To have a business thrive and grow with only word of mouth marketing should be the goal of every entrepreneur. Not that you can’t give it a kick with some other methods when you want, but what sweet bliss it is to have your customers and new ones beating a path to your door with no effort on your part except your great reputation and service. The key is to get yourself into the mind of the people that matter…your customers. Focus your efforts on those people that will buy from you and get them to give you referrals. Everything else you do is in order to reach this goal.

2. Public relations. PR is your ticket to being established as a leader in your industry. Create a publicity kit and get the media’s attention. Use your publicity to get others to recognize your name and know that you are the expert in your field.

3. Direct marketing. Use it to control how often your business enters into the mind of your customer. A monthly newsletter or a quarterly sale or discount, that they are alerted to via direct mail or email, will keep you in their minds and keep them telling their friends about you.

4. Inventive advertising. New customers will be attracted to your business if you are effective at advertising. Being inventive is the key. Your copy has to stand out from the rest and you have to be creative. Experiment with different media such as bulletin boards, radio and TV shows, yellow pages, trade directories, etc.

This book has helpful lists of when a particular marketing technique is right for your business and when you’re just wasting money. It helps you tailor your marketing campaign to your needs. I especially enjoyed the technical details on such topics as building a publicity kit and writing and designing advertising copy that sells. Other topics were detailed as well, but these stood out as the most important for my business at this time. Read the book and see which ones stand out for you!

While reading Getting Business to Come to You I often found myself putting the book down to implement some of the things I had learned before moving on. For example, when it talked about focusing in on getting your name into the minds of your potential customers, I had to stop and write emails to all the teachers I know to find out how best to let math and science teachers in the Urbana/Champaign, Illinois area know that Quantum Tutoring is THE tutoring company that they should refer their students to. After reading the chapters on advertising I came up with a strategy to post flyers at football games and other local school events; after reading about public relations, I planned to get involved in the local parent teacher associations and set up a booth at the local schools’ career fairs. I also used the tips in this book to create my business cards and letterhead.

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Guerrilla Marketing for the Home-Based Business – Jay Conrad Levinson

I know I’ve been slacking off lately. You’re going to have to cut me some slack, because it’s finals week. Next week will be the start of Christmas break, and then I’ll really get to writing. I have to write a lot during my breaks, so I have a stockpile of articles to post. Otherwise I won’t ever post anything during the time I’m in school. Anyway, this book review is from one of my favorite books so far. There is so much great, practical, usable information for marketing a home-based business. I can’t wait until we get some of our ideas rolling, so I can play around with the techniques in this book. I tried to take really good notes so I could look back and remember exactly what was in the book anytime I needed (since I had gotten it from the library). So, in my opinion they are definitely worth reading.

Guerrilla Marketing for the Home-Based Business
Jay Conrad Levinson

So far this is one of my favorite books. The connection made between marketing for small businesses and guerrilla warfare is brilliant. You my friends are the guerrillas. The giant corporations are your competitors, and you can hit them by being quick, responsive and inventive. Your strength is in being small.

I took copious notes while reading this book, and I would recommend that everyone read them. You can find hundreds of specific techniques that can help you market your startup such as by word of mouth, via newsletter, utilizing networking and developing your niche in the business.

The idea of finding your niche in the marketplace is an amazing one. How many stories have you read on other people’s blogs or in entrepreneurial magazines about people who made a few million selling upscale clothes for little boys, lotions and shampoos for babies made with all natural products or jars of different, fancy types of peanut butter. Those are just a few of the stories I’ve heard lately.

I’ve started thinking that I really enjoy the marketing side of business. This blog is essentially a marketing tool. It lets people know who I am and what I’m doing. It gets my name into places I couldn’t reach without it. I can’t wait until our business is further in its development. Then, I can use everything I’ve learned in this book, about how to use my time and money wisely, to ensure that those most likely to be my clients know about my business.

Anyone that owns a startup business should get this book. Buy it or borrow it from the library. It has so many great ideas, you can really customize your marketing strategy to your business.

Read my notes to get started on some ideas. Check out Guerrilla Marketing’s website. It also seems to have some good articles and information that was contained in the book.

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The Millionaire Next Door – Thomas J. Stanley & William D. Danko

The Millionaire Next Door
Thomas J. Stanley & William D. Danko

This book is and should be considered required reading for…well, really for everyone, but at the very least for entrepreneurs and anyone interested in personal finance. The point is not just that there are average-looking people who live near you and just happen to be millionaires. The point is that you almost have to be average-looking to ever become a millionaire in the first place.
Stanley and Danko back up all their claims with statistics, and provide a lot of information about who the affluent of America really are. It becomes incredibly obvious how one should build wealth in this country. There is no trick to becoming affluent. You simply have to spend less than you earn. I don’t mean a little bit less. If you live well below your means, you can save millions before you retire easily on even a modest yearly income.

I personally like the equation given to measure your expected net worth.

Expected Net Worth = Age * Pretax Annual Income ÷ 10

If you are over this amount, you are a “prodigious accumulator of wealth” (someone who saves more than the average for their income and age); if you are under this amount you are an “under accumulator of wealth” (someone who saves less than average for their income and age). Where do you fall? Simply multiply your age by your pretax annual income and divide by ten. That is your expected net worth. Oh, and don’t forget to subtract from your net worth any inheritances that you have received. Money that you did not actually earn does not count.

Prodigious accumulators of wealth are those who are or will become your millionaire next door. What may surprise you is that many of those who live in fancy houses, drive expensive cars and wear trendy clothes and accessories are really not very wealthy at all. In fact most of them are under accumulators of wealth. Despite their six or seven figure incomes, they couldn’t live off their savings for more than a few months.

The mindset you have to have is that you want to become wealthy in order to be financially independent, to protect your family and to manage your own future. You will then budget, save and plan your personal finances. If you just want to have fancy toys, go ahead, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you are or ever will become financially independent without working to become so.

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One Phone Call Away – Meshel

One Phone Call Away – Secrets of a Master Networker
Jeffrey W. Meshel

Let me tell you more about what I did while I lived in Argentina. I was a missionary so I tried to find people who had interest in religion and try to convince others that it was a worthy subject. I spent everyday all day talking to as many people as possible, walking up to people in the street or going door to door, and meeting new people through charity events. This experience helped me to conquer the fear I had of just starting a conversation with someone, especially because I was doing it all in Spanish, which is not my native language. Not only did I learn not to be shy, but I also gained a great love for helping others.

Jeff Meshel emphasizes exactly those two things in his book on networking, One Phone Call Away. He has become a master networker, because he does it to help others. He tries to go out of his way to connect two people that can help one another, and the great thing is that it brings business in to his company as well.

One Phone Call Away gives great tips for novices on how to overcome shyness and how to control the perception others have of you. This part was very helpful to me as someone just starting to enter the business world. He also has tips for expert networkers about organizations they can join, and how they can expand their networks. I assume those tips are great also. They sounded good for CEOs and other executives.

I found myself with two opinions throughout this book. The first was very positive and appreciative of the advice to ask “How can I help others?” and not “What’s in it for me?” It shows that networking is not a selfish thing to, but rather a very productive business practice.

The second opinion stems from my own desire to not change my behavior because of money or my status position. Because Meshel networks with executives and other high status people, he finds it profitable to adopt habits of the rich and famous. One example he gives is paying twice as much for a yearly health club membership to be an “executive member”, which ended up giving him business opportunities with other executive members he met at the gym. This is probably simply a sound business practice. I just don’t like the thought of putting myself above the regular members of the gym.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. Here’s the list of networking rules Meshel gives. It’s basically in order from novice to grand master black belt level networking.

As Meshel also mentioned, I would advise anyone to get a job as a retail or door-to-door salesman (or be a missionary like I was). It really gets the fear out of you, and makes you comfortable initiating a conversation.

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Color Smart – Mimi Cooper

Color Smart: How to Use Color to Enhance Your Business and Personal Life
Mimi Cooper with Arlene Matthews

Color Smart is a good little resource for color in marketing. It is a simple and direct guide to keep the business owner or prom queen from making a color faux pas. It teaches you to pay attention to the signals that colors send about you and your business, as well as how to impress others by appealing to their color preferences.

Cooper states that people come in three varieties or color profiles

  • Color-Forward: Those who embrace the newest colors of every season and dare to be the first to use them.
  • Color-Prudent: Those who are more cautious to try new colors, but use them in small amounts to add excitement to their life.
  • Color-Loyal: Those who stick with their colors and almost never try new ones.

To relate to others at their level, you’ve got to utilize colors that are at their same color profile. If you want to make yourself look fun, exciting and creative, use colors that are one profile level higher. To seem down to earth and reliable, use one profile lower.

Besides the color profiles of different people, you should also be aware of the signals that colors send. Red draws attention to itself and stirs strong emotions. Oranges imply spiciness and also that something is inexpensive, though it should be used in small amounts. Yellow is best used as an accent color, conveys happiness, and is the easiest color to spot (hence yellow school zone signs, etc.). Greens have the widest variety of signals, which are mostly influenced by their content of yellow or blue. Blue, the most popular color, is calming and soothing, but can be seen as boring. Purple should be used sparingly, but is great for children’s products. Neutrals, grays, blacks and browns are often used as accents, but can be used alone or in combination with themselves.

There are other features that teach you how to do what the pros do in using color. The professionals use these colors to attract our attention, help us recognize products, and reposition their businesses in the marketplace. Cooper also points out that different countries use color in different ways. When marketing to foreign lands you know ahead of time how to best cater to their styles.

So far I’ve used the advice and information in this book to design this blog and plan on using it to with all of our visual marketing techniques. With this book you can learn how to market your business using color. Which signals do you want to send? And how do you want others to see you?

For a great example of the true power of color in marketing see why Ace is not Tide!

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The E-Myth Revisited – Gerber

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Business Don’t Work & What to Do About It
by Michael E. Gerber

This book is great for making you think properly about starting a business. Think about all the people you know who have started a business. Most continue to this day to work more hours and have more stress, because they keep working in their business and they’ve begun to hate it. Michael Gerber teaches how to “work on your business, instead of in it.”

Most people try starting businesses in things they are good at. Perhaps they do their job every day and think, “I could run this business on my own, do a better job at it than my manager and have all the profit for myself.” So they start a business doing the work they always did, but they now also have the responsibilities of managing, marketing, hiring and procuring supplies. They go nuts, and they start to hate what they used to love.

Sometimes they try hiring someone to do some of their work. That person is good at it, so the owner keeps piling more stuff on that person and not handling the responsibility of it. That person ends up getting tired of their job and the fruitless, unorganized way you run the company they work for. They quit, and the business grows small again. Then the owner really goes nuts.

Gerber gives the formula of the franchise prototype. By thinking about each position your business needs in it to operate, whether it is sales clerk, waitress, cook, or accountant, and by setting up and writing down a system by which that person does their job, you free yourself from doing the work. You can hire anyone to do it and teach them how. You don’t need to hire professionals that will run things their way. Hire amateurs and train them.

The best strategy is to start from the bottom, writing up a system for the easiest jobs and getting someone to do those, then move on to the more complex ones. Once your system is working smoothly, you can replicate your entire business by hiring a whole new team of people to run it. Thus you are like a franchise.

This is most applicable to any business with a physical storefront. Web-based businesses might not profit from trying to replicate themselves, but the way of thinking is correct. Work on making your business run without you. Then you can really grow and you are not stuck doing all the work. Sound crazy?! It worked for Steve Jobs. He even got kicked out of his own company for a while.

Too busy to read the entire book? Read my notes for a summary of the most useful points.

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