Top positive review
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Interesting, Motivating, Factual, but Unbalanced
on October 13, 2011
I was debating whether to buy this book or not when a friend of mine lent me one. I would actually rate this book 3.75 stars. There is a lot of good information in it, it is easy to read, and can be widely useful for many people.
The book begins with his life as a child which had a profound effect on his future life. He then talks about building up Softkey which ended up buying The Learning Company. The book then explains how TLC failed under Mattel management. Clearly from other case studies outside this book, Mattel really failed in its management. O'Leary discusses how blame was laid on him and his management staff by Mattel when Mattel was actually at fault.
The book then goes into his life on television including the Dragon's Den, The Shark Tank, and several other stints. The information in this section is useful for entrepreneurs who are somewhat myopic or are thinking of applying to the show. In fact, there are several chapters that will help with this.
Finally he discusses how he feels free by having the wealth he has and provides information about his funds.
The positive points are as follows:
1. The author illustrates, throughout, that money is a tool that can be used to grow more. He places a high emphasis on cash and that it should be carefully managed as a scarce resource. His illustration of dollars being soldiers that are risk adverse and must be employed efficiently was very well done and was a great teaching point. His style of management and investment reflect the underlying concept of market efficiency
2. The main lessons from each chapter are summarized as a review in the back of the chapters.
3. The author presents several questionnaires to help the reader determine if they are a good fit to be an entrepreneur.
4. He provides an excellent background to his life. This important because concepts he learned as a youth have now translated into his investment mentality. The experiences he had reflects in his style. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers has similar thoughts on what happens when people have a bit of luck, some skill, interest in what they are doing, and are born at a suitable time and how it all comes together. That being said, both of these authors highlight the need for personal initiative.
5. It is inspiring to the degree that it motivates the reader to use their money more efficiently.
6. Mr. O'Leary delineates his concept of risk very well. From this, the reader can determine if they have the intestinal fortitude to be a entrepreneur or not.
Some of the main lessons, and there are many more, I took away from the book (many of which I already know and practice) were:
1. There is no substitute for work, hard work and that is what you have to do to get to the top. Nevertheless, effective and efficient work must be done. This second statement is implied throughout.
2. There will always be naysayers and critics that will say "it can't be done."
3. There are opportunities around no matter what the circumstance for those that look.
4. Image is a factor in success.
5. Command ability will make one more successful.
6. Sacrifice is needed to win. In this case, O'Leary's sacrifice included most of his hobbies, friends, and family. The question then remains: Is it worth it?" To him it would appear so.
7. Match your weaknesses with a partner's strengths.
8. Loving what you do is a factor relating to the degree of success you will have. However, hobbies don't make money.
9. Time is precious so use it wisely.
The drawbacks in this book include the following:
1. Although he states that freedom is his ultimate goal, what do you do with it once you have it? For him, and many entrepreneurs, it appears that making money is a game. Perhaps there is no end state.
2. Other wealthy individuals such as Gates, Buffet, Zuckerman, Omidyar, have put a heavy emphasis on philanthropy. Although O'Leary states he contributes to five charities per year, there is only one paragraph in the entire book relating to this topic and by default what freedom can mean for others (he does say he makes his shareholders money, however). In this regard with the next point, the book seems unbalanced.
3. The focus is entirely on money and how he was able to get more of it. Although the lessons learned are good, it seems unbalanced compared to other wealthy persons approaches (e.g., Seymour Schulich) and does not deal with soft touch approaches. He states that the only thing that motivates people is money. I don't necessarily agree based on my own experiences as a businessman.
4. His perspective is very Machiavellian. Perhaps this is his media persona or perhaps not. But is certainly looks that way in this book. In this case, leadership is not a strong focus but quick, decisive action is.
5. Finally, if readers had only this book with which to learn management styles, this would not be a good choice. I have found the Jack Welch biography much better and he seems to achieve the same effect (if not better) using more soft touch techniques with the hard knock ones. This book is good to provide one perspective on a leadership style but should be accompanied by examples from other leaders.
All in all, I recommend this book to readers who enjoy learning about differing leadership styles, people who are in business, people looking to appear on Dragon's Den or The Shark Tank, and people who invest, want to work with, or are or will be associated with Kevin O'Leary.