Launching a business? Great! Read my book to understand some of
the fundamentals of the process. The following books, websites,
and other resources will help you with further details. While this
list includes all the resources from my book, I have added to this
list, and will continue to review and add more tools over time.
I've provided links so that you can click directly on the title,
whether to access the cited website or purchase the book from Amazon.
Getting Started/Finding Your Calling
Your Bags and The
Power of Purpose by Richard J. Leider. While no book can
fully limn your purpose in life, Leider does a lovely job of helping
you think through your most important passions and motivations,
and provides a set of exercises that links your passions and values
to your calling. While Lieder focuses his exercises on jobs and
careers, his fundamental approach applies to starting a company
Amar Bhide essays in Harvard
Business Review on Entrepreneurship (HBS Press). While
many of the essays in this collection are excellent guides to some
of the critical issues you must consider when conceiving your company,
I would pick one above all. Bhide's essay "The Questions Every Entrepreneur
Must Answer" is a classic in which Bhide proposes a simple structure
asking you to assess your personal goals, your strategy for how
well the business achieves these goals, and then runs through how
well you are equipped to execute this strategy. Bhide reminds individuals
that your business will require different strengths and skills from
you as it grows, and illuminates how your role as the founder must
evolve as the business grows. I would also recommend his other essays
in this collection-but start with this one. If you get really excited
by Amar's writing, which I think is brilliant, check out his
Solo by Terri Lonier (John Wiley & Sons) While Lonier's
books focus on the single business practitioner, the core value
of her advice relates to most start-ups. Lonier provides innumerable
tips on everything from how to set up an office to how to incorporate
your business. And she sheds light on the mindset you'll need to
maintain and operate a business on your own.
Up by William J. Stolze (Career Press, Franklin Lakes,
New Jersey) and Beating
the Odds in Small Business by Tom Culley (Fireside).
Two books of wisdom on tactics from veterans who have founded
their own successful start-ups. Each provides the helpful voice
of experience steering you through some of the early events to be
expected at this point in the game. Stolze has counseled thousands
of individuals, and his experience shines through. Culley does a
particularly good job of debunking myths about the start-up process
and rooting the enterprise in the nuts and bolts of running a business
rather than the grand ideas or abstract notions of what it takes.
There are a number of governmental and other organizations that
provide terrific help for entrepreneurs in the form of resources,
mentors, and information.
The federal government makes a great deal of effort to educate
and help small business owners. Information and, in some cases,
financial support are available not only from the Small Business
Administration, but from government agencies as diverse as the Federal
Reserve, the Department of Labor, and the Federal Trade Commission.
The comprehensive guide to government resources is Crossing the
Bridge to Self-Employment: A Federal Microenterprise Resource Guide,
published in May 2001 by the Federal Interagency Working Group on
Microenterprise Development. This group consists of representatives
of thirteen government agencies, including the Small Business Administration,
the National Women's Business Council,
the federal banking and credit union regulators, the Federal Housing
Finance Board, and the departments of the Treasury, Agriculture,
Commerce, Labor, HUD, and Health and Human Services.
The Small Business
Administration is the government's central online resource for
guidance on starting your business, loan programs, and other resources.
The SBA has a terrific, expansive, inclusive site that answers questions,
educates you on the theory and practice of small business details,
lists local offices, and gives you information on virtually every
federal program that may help you out. The site's Starting button
lets you research local legal requirements, essentials of a business
plan, tax issues, and more. Through the site, you can find a mentor
or even find a business opportunity. Better yet, the site has links
to all these resources.
The Financing button is your link to the SBA's seventeen different
loan programs, including specialized programs for microloans, loans
to support pollution control, loans for veterans, and several programs
to support community development enterprises. The link also takes
you to information about accessing the secondary market and about
Small Business Investment Corporations, government-sponsored enterprises
that provide venture capital to entrepreneurs. And, the site contains
kit covering most of the logistics of getting started.
The Service Corps of Retired Executives
matches up veteran executives with new business owners for counseling
and mentoring. SCORE also offers guides on financing, setting up
a home office, online purchasing, and many other topics. SCORE's
online Business Resource Index provides links to dozens of sites
to help you with everything from calculating a loan payment to recruiting
employees to conducting in-depth market research.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
and your local Chamber of Commerce can be good resources for networking
and business development. Local Chambers of Commerce often have
mentoring programs of their own, and may offer members deep discounts
on everything from office supplies to liability insurance.
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Planning, and First Steps
and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker (HarperCollins.)
In this short yet dense book, the preeminent management thinker
of this century shares some of the most insightful thoughts anywhere
on how entrepreneurial companies (or units of companies) operate.
While much of the book is aimed at managers in large companies,
Drucker's understanding of the sources of innovation is invaluable.
Moreover, my very personal opinion is this: Chapter 15, simply titled
"The New Venture," is the single most intelligent and useful analysis
of what ventures need that I've ever read. While this book won't
help you figure out what financing to seek or how to incorporate
your business, it will provide critical guidance in thinking through
the fundamentals of what you are doing.
Some Thoughts on Business Plans by William Sahlman (included
on Entrepreneurship, cited in last chapter.) While this
essay is primarily addressed at people seeking high-growth high-stakes
companies, his framework for analyzing the key criteria in the success
of new ventures is invaluable. Sahlman shares shrewd and lively
insight on the factors that account for success (people first, then
opportunity, then external context, and then the deal,) while debunking
conventional wisdom on the way ("on a scale of 1 to 10, business
plans rank no higher than 2 as a predictor of success.")
Plans for Dummies by Paul Tiffany and Steven D. Peterson
(IDG Books.) In this particular case, the title of this crisp book
couldn't be farther from the truth. Tiffany and Peterson write in
simple language and provide useful exercises. They manage to cover
a great deal of ground, ranging from sophisticated financial instruction
to veiled references to such arcane fields as the diffusion of innovation.
This book serves a helpful role in using the business plan as a
discovery process for readying your enterprise.
of A Business Plan by Linda Pinson and Jerry Jinnett (Dearborn.)
This large-format workbook does a terrific job of explaining the
various elements of a business plan. And it provides several detailed
examples of completed plans by actual companies. This guide serves
as the best resource for constructing a detailed plan that meets
the formal expectations of potential investors, customers, and other
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Time Operator by Bernard Kamoroff ( Bell Springs Publishing)
This is my all-time favorite resource for divining the critical
information needed when it comes to your start-up's basic details.
Kamoroff is an accountant by training, and his best advice comes
from his mastery of the fundamentals of a small business's primary
financial requirements. So while he is crankily insightful on basic
issues such as whether you should start a business in the first
place, he is virtually all-knowing on such key matters as keeping
the books, paying your taxes, and tracking cash flow. This is a
great book for advice on keeping your books-and running your business
in the process.
by the Numbers by Chuck Kremer and Ron Rizzuto with John
Case (Perseus Publishing) This gem limns the theory and practice
of financial management for small companies. Set aside the fact
that some of the basics may apply to larger or slightly more mature
companies than yours. Read this to understand how to use the financial
life of your company as the basis for critical operational decisions.
Kremer et al. show how you need to understand three financial statements
(balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow) to truly evaluate
your company's performance. Moreover, you really start to control
this function when you learn how the three statements fit together.
Great Game of Business by Jack Stack with Bo Burlingham
(Doubleday Currency.) "The best, most efficient, most profitable
way to operate a business is to give everybody in the company a
voice in saying how the company makes money and a stake in the financial
outcome, good or bad," writes Stack. He goes on to explain how his
company, Springfield Remanufacturing, has pioneered the practice
of "open book management," in which employees are taught how the
company makes money and then charged with contributing individually.
Though aimed at larger organizations, Stack's book is an excellent
primer on how to find and communicate the right numbers for your
company; and, more importantly, how to make financial literacy for
all into an operating managerial practice.
Finance for Small Businesses by Wilbur M. Yegge (John Wiley
& Sons) By far the least reader-friendly of the lot, Yegge's dense
primer still merits a place on your shelf. That's because he always
places his financial lectures in the context of how you will use
the tools. So what could feel like an academic text becomes an invitation
to become more financially adept. His appendix on tips for negotiating
justifies the cost of the book.
Investing: Matching Start-up Funds with Start-up Companies-A Guide
for Entrepreneurs and Investors by Mark Van Osnabrugge
and Robert J. Robinson (Jossey-Bass.) A terrific guide for tapping
into one of the most useful forms of investors: so-called angel
investors. While a trifle academic, this book still delivers a wise
lesson to entrepreneurs in how to locate, secure, and use angel
investors. I like the book for two primary reasons. First, it emphasizes
that different companies have different capital needs, and helps
readers understand how to pick the source and amount that are right
for them. And second, the authors provide a comprehensive appendix
of resources to help you locate existing angel networks.
Seven Laws of Money by Michael Phillips (Shambhala) "Do
It!," Phillips says, "Money will come when you are doing the right
thing." That's the first law in this simple, spirited, and hugely
insightful guide to money from the man who developed MasterCard
as a vice president of the Bank of California. Phillips helps reveal
the neuroses and emotions that money triggers in individuals, and
provides a lovely, soulful context to the ways in which people relate
to this intangible force. Above all, Phillips provides nice insight
into the role money should and shouldn't play in pursuit of bigger
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Business by Michael Philips and Salli Rasberry (Shambala
Publishing.) This engaging little book tempers a seemingly blind
optimism about business as a force for good with great examples
of small companies that conduct healthy businesses by following
honest principles. It's a given that the book considers honesty
a good and moral quality for a business. The book goes much further,
however, by explaining how this code becomes an operating set of
rules for running a meaningful business.
Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson (Houghton Mifflin.) Levinson
coined the phrase "Guerilla Marketing" and did a brilliant job of
building it into a brand, a series of books that detail a bootstrapped
approach to marketing, finance, selling, and more. The flagship
book, Guerilla Marketing, takes an extremely broad approach. It
considers marketing to comprise just about every choice you make
in producing your product and getting it in the hands of customers,
from conceiving and naming the product to manufacturing it and then
getting the word out. Within this framework Levinson offers countless
ideas and suggestions for cheaply and effectively cultivating and
serving regular customers.
Bootstrapping packages from Inc. Magazine. You want great stories
and lively tips on leveraging your spirit and resources? Check out
the annual bootstrapping packages from Inc. Magazine, whose annual
roundup of great companies started with less than $1000 is an inspiration
and a recurrent tutorial on how small companies can perform alchemy.
(Go to the Inc. web site and search
for "bootstrapping.") The package is a vivid reminder that most
companies get started with a minimum of capital and a maximum of
ingenuity and hustle. And it provides proof that even billion-dollar
companies can be formed with literally nothing down.
Goal is a Dream with a Deadline by Leo Helzel and Friends
(McGraw-Hill.) This short, quirky book of aphorisms could easily
fit into just about any chapter as a resource. Yet since Helzel
structures his thirty-plus years of insight about starting a company
as a series of short aphorisms on how to think and act like an entrepreneur,
I like to think of it as a guide to the bootstrapping mentality.
A couple of my favorites: "The difference between women and men
entrepreneurs is gender," and "Entrepreneurship is like parenting.
If you wait until everything is right, you'll never get started."
Solo by Terri Lonier (Wiley.) Another great collection
of strategies for making the most of what you have. This book focuses
on the single entrepreneur, a distinction that is particularly useful
in devising ways for you to increase your own productivity and effectiveness.
Lonier is also particularly good at addressing the personal issues
you confront not only in bootstrapping but also simply as a company
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey (Fireside);
Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker (Harper) Some may
find Covey's lessons for becoming more effective too abstract and
moral for their taste (at times I confess to be one of them). Yet
the value of this book outweighs such a criticism. Your personal
productivity is at the heart of your organization. And your ability
to leverage your personal energy pays off both directly (in how
you leverage the organizational capacity) and indirectly (in how
you model effective behavior to employees and other community members).
Covey's lessons may be treacly, but they work.
While Drucker's contribution skews toward executives in larger
organizations, he still provides crystalline insights into how individuals
in any organization can leverage their efforts dramatically. Best
of all, unlike other guides for personal effectiveness, Drucker
tailors his advice to one's behavior as the leader of an organization.
Effective executives do the following: know where their time goes,
gear their efforts to results rather than to work, build on strengths,
concentrate on the key areas leading to outstanding results, and
make effective decisions.
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Managing People (including yourself)
from the Inside Out by Kevin Cashman (Executive Excellence
Publishing.) Cynics will find this book's focus on discovering your
personal areas of mastery and developing the quality authenticity
to be, for lack of a better word, "touchy-feely." And that's a good
thing. For managing and leading others, especially in the setting
of a small business, inexorably deals with the owner's personal
emotional baggage. This book helps you learn to acknowledge your
own feelings and strengths-in the context of leading others.
in the Comfort Zone by Judith M. Bardwick (Anacom.) Bardwick's
book is as "hard" as Cashman's is "soft." I've heard many entrepreneurs
swear by this book, in which Bardwick argues that too many employees
are driven by an ethos of entitlement-an expectation of comfort
and security from their corporation irrespective of how well they
perform. Such an attitude drives their bosses into a fearful defensiveness.
And, ultimately, both parties shy away from an environment in which
individuals earn their keep, take responsibility, and face up to
the consequences of their behavior. Bardwick offers helpful tactics
to move both bosses and employees toward a responsible and mutually
acceptable atmosphere of productive work.
Entrepreneur's Guide to Business Law by Constance E. Bagley
and Craig E. Dauchy (West Educational Publishing Company.) Bagley
and Dauchy's comprehensive guide to the various legal issues you
confront as a small business owner does a nice job of avoiding dry
legalese. They discuss your legal considerations in the context
of specific business decisions you may face, and they have a good
sense of where these legal considerations fit in with the broader
goal of building a business. I cite the book in this chapter because
their chapter on human resources is a great succinct guide to the
various issues you need to monitor as you hire employees.
Ways to Reward Your Employees by Bob Nelson (Workman Publishing.)
I don't care how corny this book may appear to be. Simple and direct,
Nelson's book is one of the most important reminders to praise,
praise, praise your employees for doing good work. Recognition may
be the most important benefit of all. Nelson's plethora of tips,
many of them extremely low-cost, proves that the bootstrapping ethos
applies just as strongly to managing people as it does to any other
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E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber (HarperBusiness) "The
technical work of a business and a business that does technical
work are two totally different things!" says Gerber, who argues
that the vast majority of entrepreneurs who launch companies based
on a technical expertise eventually find themselves hating that
expertise. "Knowing the technical work of their business becomes
their single greatest liability." According to Gerber, technologists
who found companies take on a dozen jobs that they hate, chores
that distract them from their calling. And unless they can find
a way to integrate the function of manager with that of entrepreneur
and technologist, their company will fail. This didactic book has
found a huge and devoted audience through its sensible insight into
how all entrepreneurs must evolve-or step aside.
"Taming the Beast" by David Whitford (Inc.
Magazine, April 1996. It's rare to find a magazine article with
the depth and wisdom of a full-length book. Yet this piece by veteran
journalist Whitford gives a rich account of how entrepreneur Paul
Eldrenkamp made the painful transition from being owned by his business
to owning it. Not just a source of information, this article can
help inspire you to confront the emotional and practical barriers
to growth that are created by your love for your business.
in the Balance by Robert Bruce Shaw (Jossey-Bass.) Managers
develop trust in organizations through achieving business results,
acting with integrity, and demonstrating concern, says Shaw. He
shows how trust grows dynamically when leaders place trust in individuals-who
are given the means to earn that trust through performing. Shaw
skews toward larger companies, yet his advice on cultivating a high-trust
culture is very germane-perhaps more so-to small companies.
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Continued Personal and Business Growth
by Jerry Kaplan (Houghton Mifflin) This book is my favorite narrative
account of someone launching a business. Written by a technical
wizard who became possessed with the idea of creating a company-and
industry-based on handheld computing, Kaplan's tale is instructive
on many levels. Not merely for the nuts-and-bolts material it delivers
on how money gets raised and spent in high-tech circles, but also
for the personal and emotional insights that accompany "The Ride."
So why doesn't it belong, say, in the Resources in Chapter 1? Because
Kaplan charts the emotional journey he traveled as his prospective
company raised $75 million, took baby steps toward viability...and
failed. Wisely, Kaplan scaled a steep learning curve in the process,
and shares the myriad lessons he picked up on the way. A great story
of learning from failure (though some would just call his adventure
a practice run for a successful company).
Corporate Lifecycles By Ichak Adizes (Prentice Hall Press.)
Adizes's target audience of consultants and organizational change
leaders may not match with your early company concerns, yet his
fundamental point represents a cautionary note for the future. Adizes
points out that companies go through a natural growth cycle, which
often runs at a different pace from the learning capacity of the
company founder. By alerting yourself to this phenomenon, learning
to spot the early warning signs, and anticipating your options when
faced with this juncture, you can certainly mitigate some of the
Origin and Evolution of New Businesses By Amar Bhide (Oxford
University Press.) A very academic book that is nonetheless one
of the most insightful about how companies are formed and grow.
Drawing from a wealth of case histories that he has prepared as
a professor at Harvard Business School and Columbia University,
Bhide reveals the varied paths your specific business can take.
Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization
by Peter Senge (Doubleday/Currency.) Some business thinkers joke
that Senge's book is the best-selling classic that nobody has read.
The Fifth Discipline has earned a reputation as a difficult read
because it takes such an ambitious crack at defining the disciplines
necessary for individuals and groups to learn collectively. It can
be a tough book, but I heartily endorse that you read it nonetheless.
At the heart of this book, Senge helps you learn to manage as a
creative act rather than a reactive one. In the context of your
business, he helps you move from simply putting out fires to aspiring
to and realizing higher goals. Managers (and entrepreneurs) can
learn and grow through the process of growing a company. They can
do so joyfully, creatively, for the good, argues Senge. It's a message
I endorse wholeheartedly.
This book has one more great gift to entrepreneurs. At the heart
of practicing organizational learning is the art of systems thinking,
which is the art of seeing how different agents are ultimately related
to one another-how cause and effect are related in the larger picture.
Such a holistic view of a system is naturally afforded to the entrepreneur,
whose system is often smaller and more immediate. While managers
in large companies may have a more complicated set of people and
conditions to integrate, they nonetheless play a similar role as
an entrepreneur: seeing the big picture and helping all the players
create more by understanding how they all fit together.
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Read or print the Intro
and Chapter 1.
Read the book reviews at Inc
Read the publisher's press
this book from Amazon.com.
the companies that Tom discusses in the book
Hear a recent lecture by Tom on the Startup Garden
Buy my book and I will send you a worksheet and list of local
and industry resources for your startup. Simply send me an email
with your zip code and type of company and I will email you the free kit. Thanks!
Managing – articles that Tom wrote for The Industry Standard and some
written for Inc., Fortune Small Business, Harvard Management Update, and other
Read about other
books and web sites about starting your own business.