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on February 27, 2002
"Small Business For Dummies" is a good book to introduce people to the world of small business. The book is filled with solid business advice and information which runs the gamut from managing employees to controlling inventory to building customer relationships.
The book starts with a short chapter asking, "Is Small Business For You?" The authors discuss reasons to start a small business and reasons to remain an employee working for someone else. There is a short aptitude test to see if you have the characteristics to be successful as an entrepreneur.
Tyson and Schell define a small-business owner as a person who owns a business with 100 or fewer employees. To reduce the risk of starting a business, the authors suggest you consider starting a part-time business.
I especially like how "Small Business For Dummies" addresses the issue of risk in starting a small business. When an entrepreneur starts a larger company, the founder might collect $150,000 a year in salary, have a great severance package, and even if the company fails, there probably won't be any personal stigma for the founder. On the other hand, small business failure is much more painful, carrying not only the stigma of personal failure, but also dire personal financial consequences.
The second Chapter, "Laying Your Personal Financial Foundation," gives new entrepreneurs a quick course in personal finance, Tyson's specialty. Some entrepreneurs fail to get their personal finances into shape before launching their business.
Tyson and Schell point out, the more financially sound you are, and the more fully aware you are of your spending and financial needs, the more likely you are to succeed in business. A common cause of business failure is running out of money while trying to establish your new company.
Tyson and Schell suggest building up your cash reserves (or a "war chest") of about three to six months of living expenses before starting your company. The authors also discuss the importance of disability, health, and term life insurance in protecting yourself and your family.
Chapter 3, "Finding Your Niche," dispels the common myth that your "niche" is the key to success. Tyson and Schell write: "[T]he niche or idea won't ultimately make or break your business; the day-to-day running of the business itself is what ultimately determines success- or failure. Stated another way, you show us a crackerjack business person, and we'll show you someone who can get rich in the cookie business whether or not he or she has the foggiest idea how to bake the darn things."
"Small Business For Dummies" gives us the valuable tip that trying to be a low-cost player is likely to lead to failure. Small businesses can't compete on price. They must compete on quality and service.
Tyson and Schell also unveil your most valuable business asset- you. After telling us a short story about Sam Walton (the founder of Wal-Mart) borrowing $1,800 to buy an ice cream machine, Tyson and Schell write: "And so it will be with the rest of us who follow in Sam Walton's footsteps- we alone will either make our company, or we will break it. Sure, the niche will be important but we will select it. And certainly our employees will be important, but we will choose the people we hire (and the people we fire). And, of course, our products (or services) will be important, but we will have the final word in defining them. Everything that happens within our business will have our own personal stamp on it. Nothing will be outside of our grasp."
One option to creating a company from scratch is buying an existing small business. Small Business For Dummies devotes two excellent chapters to buying a business.
The book has an excellent discussion of due diligence and evaluating a business to buy. Some of the suggestions include:
~ Examine the business's tax returns. While many small business owners trying to sell a business will try to overstate earnings and the potential of the business to a potential buyer, the owner will likely try to minimize the profits reported to the IRS to save money in income taxes.
~ Talk to key customers, employees, and other companies in the industry. Try to get a feel for the level of ethics and reputation of the company you consider buying. People of low ethics are more likely to try to sell you a bad business for an inflated price and not care about your future success or happiness with the business.
~ Consider hiring a business appraiser, so that you have information about the prices for which comparable businesses are selling.
~ Get proof showing that all business taxes are fully paid to date. And, make sure that the seller is liable for any existing, undisclosed liabilities.
Many people can't afford to purchase an existing business. How do the cash starved build a company? Bootstrap. The Book points out that one Inc. Magazine survey showed that about 79% of the fast-growing Inc. 500 companies relied upon the founder's personal savings and 16% relied upon financing from family members for funding. In contrast, only 7% received bank loans, 5% received angel investments, and 3% received venture capital.
Tyson and Schell write: "The fact that bootstrapping is so pervasive and works so well makes sense if you think about it. First, what better way to instill discipline and to make things work efficiently that to have a limited supply of funds? Second, because you care deeply about risking your own money or that of family or friends, you have a powerful incentive to work hard and smart at making your business succeed. ... Bootstrapping is the unchallenged king of start-up financing."
Small Business For Dummies is worth reading. It is also available at many public libraries.
Peter Hupalo, Author of "Thinking Like An Entrepreneur"
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on March 23, 2001
First of all, Eric Tyson writes some other great books under the Dummies series, such as "Home Buying for Dummies". This book, on the other hand, is good as a primer. There are a lot of chapters that aren't critical to starting a business. Then the chapters that finally do touch at the core of starting a business, only cover the subject with a light, superficial touch. The best part about this book is that they refer you to read other books related to the subject, such as Nolo Press' "The Small Business Start-up Kit." If you can borrow "Small Business for Dummies" from a local library or friend, I recommend doing so. You can then save your money on other books that cover the various business start-up subjects in more depth. For example, there are a whole series of Nolo Press books about forming a LLC, corporation or limited partnership. They also have books dedicated to trademark registration, writing business plans, buying commercial insurance, negotiating contracts, financial management, hiring more staff, etc. And by the way, I don't have anything to do with either company. Just a guy trying to get a head in business.
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on April 10, 2000
This is a wonderful book of basic business start-up info. The only thing missing was a section or chapter on how to effectively distinguish yourself and your business from the growing community of entrepreneurs. I combined the info in "dummies" with Marion Gold's "Personal Publicity Planner: How to Market YOU." Now that's a winning combination for small business owners with few dollars to spend on advertising and promotion.
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Even if you don't have time to read another book, buy this one and keep it in the office for a reference. As a small business owner, that's what I do. I read the section(s) I need when I have questions about the myriad details of running a small business. Easy to find what you need, quick to read, and it gives you a path to follow! I also know that I'm getting advice from those who have "been there and done that!"
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on August 30, 1999
I was sorely disappointed in this book. Although it did offer some insightful tips and basic business background it failed to offer any appreciation for the small business entrepeneur. The authors lacked a human element and wasted time discouraging the reader with every possible pitfall and disadvantage to starting a business. Reality is welcome, absolutely, dry cynnicism should be left elsewhere.
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on October 7, 1998
After I finished Tyson's excellent Investing for Dummies, I picked up Small Business for Dummies which Tyson, an entrepreneur, personal finance writer and counselor co-wrote with entrepreneur Jim Schell. This book too was outstanding. It's practical, well-written and organized and comprehensive. Filled with anecdotes as well as concrete advice.
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on October 29, 1998
I've read other small business books and while I usually learn something, end up disappointed with how technical and light-weight they are. This book is outstanding - fun to read and filled with good examples and issues to consider. Easily worth double its cover price.
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on July 30, 1999
This book helped me tap into resources i never knew about. It helped me with my taxes and gave me tons of helpful hints about how to get started, and how to stay above water. I would recomend this to anyone who is even thinking about going into business themselves.
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on August 23, 1999
This book is a must read for those who are starting a small business or just thinking about starting a business. Eric Tyson has done it again!
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