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Book Review

What No One Ever Tells You About Starting Your Own Business

Real Life Start-Up Advice from 101 Successful Entrepreneurs

by Jan Norman

What No One Ever Tells You About Starting Your Own Business is an excellent read for entrepreneurs. Norman asks 101 entrepreneurs what they wish they had known when starting their businesses and what they would have done differently, if they had it to do over again. Norman questions what might have made them successful faster.

Most of the big failure traps are covered such as cash flow problems and the danger of undercharging for your product. Each of the 101 short chapters tells you a little bit about each of the entrepreneurs profiled, their business, and what they learned while building a business. The depth of each entrepreneur's insight and appropriateness to your own business will vary, but a new entrepreneur will certainly learn something.

Experienced business people will enjoy reading about the variety of businesses other people run.

The companies profiled range from one-person endeavors to Lillian Vernon Corporation with its 20 million mail-order customers. We learn that a young and pregnant Lillian Vernon was a housewife looking for extra income when she placed her first mail-order ad and invested about $2,000 in her new mail-order business. Within three months, the company was raking in tens of thousands of dollars in profitable orders.

Lillian's advice? Learn to read and interpret financial statements. Lillian said that would have helped her grow her business better. Hmm… it seems being in the right place, maybe, having the right product for the time, or luck, didn't hurt her either!

Other entrepreneurs' success came far less easily, and Norman covers the possibility of failure and the difficulties that other entrepreneurs faced. There is some really down-to-earth and grounded business advice. It is interesting to read about the variety of companies which range from video production companies to Wisconsin growers of ginseng.

We learn that even with ginseng going for $65 a pound (obviously not the too-low-product-price problem!), growing it creates a cash flow problem, as the weed, root, or whatever, takes four years to harvest. And, then, the plant can only be grown once in any area. That's not because the cops are after the growers or any such thing. It's legal. I checked.

An aside for wannabe Jeopardy-like game show contestants: Ginseng is an herb highly-valued, especially in Asia, for its medicinal purposes and is exported from the U.S. Not to be confused with ganja, which is illegal. Norman doesn't profile any ganja growers. As I read the profile, I thought to myself, "Gosh, this must be a really small company." Hsu's Ginseng Enterprises, the featured company, has $20 million in annual sales.

But, before you run out to grow ginseng or start a mail-order company, or start any other business for that matter, be sure you pick up a copy of What No One Ever Tells You About Starting Your Own Business. You will certainly learn something about small business. Plus, it's a fun read.

What No One Ever Tells You About Starting Your Own Business