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Book Review: The Ugly Truth about Small Business

Book Review: The Ugly Truth about Small Business

The Ugly Truth about Small Business may sound like a click bait title, but in fact it is a straightforward collection of personal accounts of success and failure in the business world, compiled by Ruth King and published in 2005. My husband and I are preparing to start a new business soon, and the subtitle, “50 Never-Saw-It-Coming Things That Can Go Wrong and What You Can Do About It” appealed to my doom-and-gloom personality. I prefer to be forewarned!

Book Review: The Ugly Truth about Small Business

High Points

1. Bite size format: I’m a mom. I am frequently interrupted. Each story in the book is just a few pages long and takes maybe 10-15 minutes to read. Just right for those brief moments between catastrophes.

2. Lucid application: Each anecdote is followed by two short sections, “What I learned” and “Applying the lessons learned to your business”. These sections vary in quality, but it’s a good arrangement. It is a good exercise after reading the book to go back and reread just those sections.

3. Variety: The writers are businesspeople of ALL kinds, successful and unsuccessful, businesses on the big end of small business (40 franchise locations) and very tiny micro-businesses (like the woman who wrote one book and was marketing it herself, slowly but persistently). There is even a pastor who talks about the “business” of church planting. You come away with a sense that perhaps Ruth King cajoled all of her friends who could possibly be considered business people into writing their story, but it works.

Low Points

1. Inconsistent: One person will tell you that you absolutely must have a team you can trust while another says don’t trust anyone at all or you will regret it. One person took too many chances and one didn’t take enough, and so on. Is this necessarily a strike against the book? No, it’s part of the reality. There is no never-fail formula for a successful business. My first business has not been a huge success; for every time I chalk it up to being an amateur or flying by the seat of my pants too often, I meet or read about someone successful who did things the same way I did and succeeded. Divine providence or dumb luck, the unknown in the equation is ultimately what determines the outcome. Still…it would be a more helpful book if the total sum of the lessons learned were compared, as in “usually you can and should trust your team, but be wary nonetheless.” On the whole, the disparity can help develop a balanced sense of things that can go wrong and things that can go right.

2. Advertising: A few of the stories read as though the author merely participated in the book to promote their business. They appear to have done everything right from the start, had extraordinarily good luck, and do not speak with any honest vulnerability.

3. Quality: I like literature. These writers are businesspeople, not word artists. They are who they need to be for the purpose of the book, I guess, but for a person who really loves beautifully put together sentences, it’s a bit underwhelming.

Report Card: B

We will be keeping this book as a resource, but it won’t be on the top shelf.

What’s your favorite book about business? I’m looking for more good reads!

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