Buy A Ticket, or Five Reasons You Should Buy The Startup Garden Today

A former client of mine was a great public speaker who could bring the house down with the following joke (shortened considerably here). Every day this poor guy curses his luck to God, complaining that he never ever wins the lottery. This goes on and on until finally, one day he hears a voice from on high replying to his lamentation. The clouds part and he hears in a booming voice:

“Why don’t you try buying a ticket?”

I.E. You can’t get what you want if you don’t ask for it. Always be closing. Simple, yes. Hard to remember, yes.

So. My request is: please buy my book! Over the course of this week I am going to provide material that expands on the heart of my book, The Startup Garden. I wrote the book to help other people take the next step forward with whatever venture they are thinking about and working on. The book didn’t perform well in the market, for reasons which I’ll write about later on this week. I’ll also take some time to review great resources that have appeared (or which I discovered) since publishing my book. Basically, every day I’ll produce something that adds more stuff, for lack of a better word, to the main ingredients of The Startup Garden. By the way, at the end of this post I have directions for buying the book from me directly.

Today I’ll start by sharing an excerpt that hasn’t been posted before. Here’s the first reason you should buy my book: Jim Collins says so. We met when I had the privilege of editing some of his columns for Inc. Magazine, and I’ve always admired Jim enormously, not just for his writing but for his ability to live consistently with his values. He has been very generous with my work—including the book on his personal library, and writing a wonderful foreward, which follows. Jim, thank you so much for supporting my work, and for leading by example!

Foreword by Jim Collins

Many of us become entrepreneurs because we’re constitutionally unemployable. A job is nice, but we have an inner itch to do something we are truly passionate about—a need to build something we can shape in our own image, something that reflects not just want we do but who we are. I’ve always viewed entrepreneurship not just as a business concept, but as a personal concept. Entrepreneurship at its best is about creating a path that is uniquely suited to you as an individual and building a vehicle for driving down that path.

Consider the story of Yvon Chouinard, one of my favorite entrepreneurs. Chouinard began his business in 1957 as an 18-year-old kid who wanted nothing more than to pursue his passion for rock climbing. He borrowed $800 from his parents to buy a used anvil and forge to create new equipment for his first ascents of the sheer walls in Yosemite Valley. With no thought at all of building a big company, Yvon banged and clanged away on his anvil until he’d created a whole new set of pitons—metal spikes hammered into cracks of a rock to secure the climber to the rock.

One of Yvon’s designs, the “Lost Arrow” (named after the famous spire in Yosemite) quickly caught on with other climbers and became a standard item for big-wall ascents. Climbers everywhere wanted Yvon’s pitons, and so he began selling them out of the trunk of his car and backpack, wherever he happened to be climbing. Later, he formalized his business with a single mimeographed sheet that listed pitons and prices. This first “catalogue” told customers not to expect fast delivery during the summer months, as Yvon would likely be hanging in a hammock on the side of a sheer rock face, 2,000 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley.

Yvon’s business grew slowly, as he brought in enough cash to fund his rock climbing and to pay for making more pitons. Year after year, he gained more customers, and he made more pitons, and got more customers, and made more pitons, and so forth. He built momentum step by step, never allowing the business to become his life, but always keeping it as the vehicle for his life.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he added some key people to his operation. One was Tom Frost—another climber—who worked with Yvon to systematically redesign virtually every piece of rock-climbing hardware, from harnesses to piton hammers. The other was Kristine McDivitt, who assumed operating responsibility for the little company. The operation began to build more and more momentum—a million in revenues, then two, three, five, 10 million…All the while, Chouinard climbed at least six months a year, and other team members kept an active schedule of climbing, hiking, skiing, surfing—all in the name of “product testing,” as they would say.

Then Chouinard’s company made two pivotal breakthroughs. The first was a decision to marry the company to his passion for the environment. Recognizing that pitons left permanent scars in the rock, he reinvented the entire line of climbing gear—replacing pitons with metal nuts that slotted in the crack and could be removed without the use of a hammer. The second was to launch a line of outdoor clothing for serious adventurers, under the name “Patagonia.”

And now you probably know the rest of the story. Chouinard gear and Patagonia clothing became the premium brands and the company took off. It was a classic “20-year overnight success story.” What was once a business out of Yvon’s rucksack became hundreds of millions in revenue out of an office complex in Ventura, California.

Yet even still, Chouinard and other key Patagonia people retained their primary passion for the outdoors. Today, Patagonia stands as one of the most environmentally progressive companies in the world. It even pioneered the use of recycled plastic bottles into super-high-tech fabric for Patagonia jackets. And Yvon Chouinard, now in his 60s, surfs or climbs every week, close to home or in some adventurous location halfway around the world.

I share the story of Yvon Chouinard because he is a perfect example of what Tom Ehrenfeld is writing about in this book. I am excited that Tom has finally come forth with this work as a very practical guide to help those who would like to run their own operation not just as a business, but as a vehicle for their lives.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked by friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, and acquaintances of acquaintances, “I’m thinking of starting a business. Is there a book you would recommend to help me get going?” I’d usually give a list of books and tell them to read selected chapters from each one. Now, finally I have the one book I’d like them to read as a starting point.

One of the most significant changes in the last 20 years is the transformation of entrepreneurship from a mysterious alchemy somehow practiced by superhuman visionaries into a practical discipline that nearly all people can learn. What was missing, however, was a practical synthesis that put all the key pieces into one place. In this book, Tom has synthesized the disciplines into a useful guide. But he has done it with a nice twist. This book is not for those who want to start the next Cisco Systems or Apple Computer—creating Fortune 500 companies from scratch and becoming celebrity billionaires. This book is for the rest of us. It is for those who simply want to create a vehicle for their own lives and that reflects their own personal passions.

I have very few items on the bookshelves at my research laboratory—a few favorite books, a personal photo of my grandfather and father on the day my grandfather died in a test-piloting accident, and a Lost Arrow piton, hand-forged by Yvon Chouinard on his original anvil. I keep it there as a symbol of the best model of entrepreneurship I know. As one of my great teachers, Rochelle Meyers, once told me, “The point of it all is to figure out how to make your own life a creative work of art that no one else could have painted.” Entrepreneurship is about throwing out the paint-by-numbers kit approach to life and starting with a blank canvas. It’s a more ambiguous path, but it is the only way to create a masterpiece.

And that is precisely what Tom Ehrenfeld is writing about with in this book.

Readers (Tom here), as a bonus for reading this far, I am making a special offer to you. Please buy my book, The Startup Garden, directly from me, and I will send you a signed copy, AND I will include a free copy of another business book. I’ve got scores of new business books in my office and would love to share them with readers. To take advantage of this offer: go to Paypal and make a payment of $15 (which includes postage etc.) to me at This will generate an email to me with your address. I will send you a new signed copy of my book, plus a bonus title (I’ll decide what to include.) If you have any questions just email me directly at

Posted by tom at August 14, 2006 10:25 AM
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Book cover



Read or print the Intro and Chapter 1 .

Read some book reviews at Inc, 1-800-CEO-READ, and the Miami Herald.

Read the publisher's press release.

Visit the companies that Tom discusses in the book

Hear a recent lecture by Tom on the Startup Garden


Read about other books and web sites about starting your own business.


Just Managing – articles that Tom wrote for The Industry Standard and some Business Articles written for Inc., Fortune Small Business, Harvard Management Update, and other places.



To buy directly from me, simply go to Paypal and send 15 bucks to I'll take care of the rest. If you have any questions, email me at that address.

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