Monday, April 26, 2010

Book review: Billionaire in Training by Bradley Sugars

Billionaire in Training (Because Millionaire just isn’t rich enough…) by Bradley J Sugars

As the title suggests, this book is focused on creating and continuously increasing your wealth. The author explains important concepts such as cash-flow and passive income and looks at different stages in business and how people at those stages can improve their wealth situation. The method this book uses is on creating a business and building that business into a profitable one so you can sell and repeat the process. The author looks at ‘five levels of entrepreneurs’ and how each level thinks about money and how they can reach the next level.

What I gained from reading this book:
I had low expectations for this book based on the title. I expected another book on how to use massive amounts of debt and buy foreclosed properties to build wealth. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. After the first few chapters I was worried it was just another marketing hype book focused on selling seminars and other books by the author. While this is partly true, I did find valuable information that really made me think about my current situation and why I need to do something about it.

First, the negatives. In one way, this book is a vehicle the author uses to sell his workshops, business coaching services, books and a board game. Almost every chapter you are reminded that you can contact an ‘ACTION business coach’ to get you on track to wealth. For some people, it will be too much marketing but for me it wasn’t enough to annoy me. It’s actually interesting to read the book to see the techniques the author uses to promote his other products and services. After all, his cross product selling is one of the reasons he is rich! One technique that is commonly (or overly) used is when the author uses uppercase type to highlight certain words. Turn to any page and you will without a doubt find words in uppercase like RICH, LEAD, PASSIVE, WEALTH, MAKE MONEY WITH MONEY, CASH etc. Whenever I see this it puts me off because it has been abused so many times by bad salespeople. If I make EVERY other WORD uppercase, it REALLY gets ANNOYING to read. Also, you begin to THINK that everything you are READING is only HYPE and SALES PITCH. But in this case, I didn’t believe it was hype.

Another thing that bothered me was how many times the author would say something like “Later I’ll show you how to…” “More on this later” “I’ll go into more detail later”. It makes the whole book sound like a sales pitch. Most people will probably be fine with that style of writing, but it bothered me.

Now for the positives. I found most of the points the author made had excellent foundation and really made sense. For example, the author suggests that you do not create a business in a field you excel in, which is something most people would think the opposite. So if you can give a good haircut, you shouldn’t start a hairdressing business. Why? Because instead of working on the business and thinking of ways to increase cash-flow and profitability, you will be stuck cutting hair. Also, because of your skill and knowledge as a hairdresser, you won’t be happy with the other employee’s haircutting skills so you won’t be able to move away from that position yourself. In essence, you will be stuck with a job instead of running a business. Points like these really give insight as to why so many businesses fail. I really felt that most of the points were very logical. Simple observations like how an employee ‘earns’ money while a manager ‘makes’ money really give good insight to how people in different positions think about money.

Overall, I felt I really learned something from this book and will really try to use the concepts in my life.

As a side note, I did notice after reading it that although the title reads “Billionaire in Training”, the word Billionaire wasn’t used once in the entire book. Or at least I never saw it. Which makes me believe the title was chosen for marketing reasons, not to describe the content. Hmm.. Bit misleading but still a good book.

Many of the points make sense. Some of the points are very unique and stand against popular belief, which gives a great way to look at your current situation and how to improve it.

One of the purposes of the book is to promote other products and services. Some people may find this annoying as it does distract from the real information. The use of uppercase to highlight words is overused and cheapens what the author is saying.

Recommended for: People wanting to quit being an employee
This book gives an excellent overview on how to move from being an employee to a self-employed person to a manager all the way to an Entrepreneur. While the book may be light on information, the information it does provide is very thought provoking and logical.

Genre: Wealth

Overall rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:
Billionaire in Training: Build Businesses, Grow Enterprises, and Make Your Fortune (Instant Success Series)

Where to from here:
In this book the author mentions The E-Myth Revisited and I suggest this book after you have read this one. The book also has a recommended reading list of books I have not read yet but would be a good source to continue on the topic. It should be noted that 8 out of 17 of the books listed in this list is by Brad Sugars - another example of cross selling in action.

If you have read this book, feel free to give it your own rating by posting a comment below.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Book review: Good Business Bad Business by Roger Green

Good Business Bad Business (The rules of small business and how to break them) – Roger Green

This book takes a wide view at starting and running a small business. The author splits the book into two viewpoints: ‘good business’ and ‘bad business’. The ‘good business’ character resembles a formally educated businessperson while the ‘bad business’ character can be thought of as a college dropout opening a trendy coffee shop. The book covers topics expected such as planning, recruitment, managing, bookkeeping and others.

What I gained from reading this book:
When I picked this book up I was quite optimistic that it would compare practices that did and didn’t work (what I assumed ‘good business bad business’ meant). I was sadly mistaken. After reading the high quality small business book ‘The E-Myth Revisited’, my expectations for this book was way too high and I was left frustrated after the first few chapters. I struggled to finish the book and the only reason I did finish it was so I could write this review.

My first frustration was with the title. Good Business Bad Business suggests (at least to me) that there is a good way of running a business and a bad way of running it. I couldn’t have been more wrong with my assumption. A more accurate title would be ‘Formal business and Informal business thoughts and practices’, but even that would be misleading. It’s hard to explain the actual difference between the characters.

My second frustration was the actual content of the book. The blurb reads, “[The book] takes the form of an argument, with two characters... ..They yell, abuse, insult and caricature each other as they disagree on all the issues facing small businesses”. That pretty much sums up the quality of the work. Any book starting with a concept like that is doomed to begin with. Instead of being informative for readers, you are given a jumbled conversation with no conclusions. Which do you think you would learn more from, hearing two people argue pointlessly or attending a seminar on sound business practices? It really is pointless rambling. Take this line from the ‘good business’ character: “In Australia there are also business angels, rich people who are looking for an easy investment where some idiot does all the work. They often provide a bit of advice with their capital. They drive old Mercs. It’s a good racket.” Thanks, I learned nothing from that. How are you supposed to learn anything when both of the characters ‘disagree on all the issues’?

My next frustration was the quality of the advice given. Take for example what the ‘good business’ character has to say about the use of debt to fund your business: “Debt is good... Look at that guy driving a Ferrari; he’s borrowed millions... Most of the corporate giants have used other people’s money to buy businesses. You can too. It’s magic.” So this is the quality of the advice the author comes up with? Debt is magic? Most corporations have used it so you can too? I’m sorry but this is just not good enough. It really isn’t. It worries me that some 18 year old straight out of school will read this and think that it’s okay to load up on debt and run a business, buy a Ferrari and everything will be okay. After that little trip on how magical debt is, I expected some warnings on how debt can be bad and how it can ruin people’s lives. Nope. I had to wait until the ‘Bad Business’ character started his rambles on debt to hear any negative on debt. But that still didn’t have any warnings.
Another example of dangerous advice this author gives is when the ‘Good business’ character explains the benefits of using a company structure. He says “If you have run up a few too many debts, just pull the pin and toss the company in the direction of the creditors. It disappears in a cloud of smoke, leaving the shareholder and director intact”. I wish I was back studying company law at university when I read this to show it to my lecturer for a laugh. All corporation law students know it’s possible for a court to ‘lift the corporate veil’ and hold the owners liable. This is just bad information. I could continue to point out all the problems and bad advice this book gives but I think you get the point.

I have many more frustrations but I’ll finish with one more. The use of ‘characters’ to explain the two viewpoints creates a problem. So many times the pages are filled with junk the author has put in so you can get a feel for the characters’ thoughts. The ‘bad business’ character really does sound like a hippie activist with lines like “It’s like jumping into a wild river you’ve never travelled before. Forget the destination. Perhaps one of those waterfalls in the froth of chaos will take you to a beautiful place. Stay calm. Go with the flow.” I’m sorry but how is that remotely helpful in running a business? Rather than the author focus on giving readers valuable information and relevant advice, he is distracted by trying to give the characters a voice.

So in conclusion, what I learned from this book was that if you start with a bad concept (ie: centring your book on two characters rambling and arguing) you will end up with bad results. I’m sure the author feels the book was a success but for me it was just pointless.

Despite my frustrations towards this book there are positives. Normally I try to stay objective in this section and leave my personal opinions in the ‘What I gained’ section. But in this case I’m so frustrated I chose not to list the positives.

Refer to ‘What I gained’ above.

Recommended for: Not recommended
This is the first book I have reviewed that I do not recommend. Normally when I read a book I don’t recommend I don’t write a review for it. But in this case I needed to point out that some business books aren’t worth your time.

Genre: Small Business

Overall rating: 2 out of 10 stars

Where to from here:
Read The E-Myth Revisited if you are considering starting your own business. It blows this book out of the water.

If you have read this book, feel free to give it your own rating by posting a comment below. I was very harsh and negative on this book so if you have read it and thought it was good, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Book review: I will teach you to be rich by Ramit Sethi

I will teach you to be rich – Ramit Sethi

As the title implies, this book is focused on teaching you to be rich. The book is focused on young people (in their 20s). A six week program is explained in detail on how to look at every aspect of your situation and improve it. From optimising your credit cards and bank accounts, to tracking your spending and simple investments. The book also looks at how you can negotiate to get a raise or even get a better deal on a house or car. The book uses plain English without any complicated formulas or number crunching.

What I gained from reading this book:
A more accurate title for this book would be ‘I will teach you to be in control with your money’ and if you follow the steps, you will be in control. This book can make you rich if you do follow the instructions. You won’t get rich tomorrow, or even in a years’ time, but eventually you will. Studies show that people who have a strong control over their income and spending become richer as time goes on. The great thing about this book is it is easy to implement.
This book was straight forward and very easy to read. My biggest gain from reading this book was seeing a fresh perspective on personal finance that I actually enjoyed. I had already implemented the steps that the author suggests, so although I didn’t learn anything new (I’ve read so many books on this subject), I did get much needed reinforcement that I am doing the right thing and one day it will pay off.

This book is extremely easy to read and is enjoyable. Young people will relate to the author and his writing style. The advice given is practical and it works.

I thought that maybe it could go into more detail, but then readers would get bored and not implement the plan. So the fact that the book is short and basic is a good thing. The most important thing here is that the reader takes action, and I think the book will do a great job encouraging it.

Recommended for: All young people
Every young person (from teenage years onwards) should read this book. Even if you hate the word finance and don’t want to think about it, you should check it out. In forty years time you will be so glad you did.

Genre: Personal finance

Overall rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:
I Will Teach You to Be Rich

Where to from here:
If you want to go into more detail on the topics covered, I have reviewed many other books on personal finance that go into great depth. Click on ‘List of book reviews’ at the top of the page to see the ones I have reviewed.

If you have read this book, feel free to give it your own rating by posting a comment below.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Four books you must read before starting your own business

If you are thinking about starting your own business, the hardest part is probably the very start. There is a wealth of information out there on a wide range of topics that business owners must know. Rather than guessing where to start, I have made this list of books that will give you a basic starting point with essential principles and concepts. After you read these books, you will know what needs to be done next.

1. The E-Myth Revisited

This book is an essential starting point for anybody considering starting their own business. The author explains to Susie, somebody who has already started their business, why her results have not been what she expected. A wide range of topics are explained very well from lessons in franchising all the way to the mindset a business owner must have.
By the end of this book, you will have a much clearer idea of what you need to do, and more importantly, how you must think.

2. MBA in a day

For those who don’t want to spend 3+ years studying business at university, this book is a way to gain a basic understanding of the principles and concepts that would have been taught. By no way am I saying that this book compares with three years of study, but it does give a good summary of the topics. Everything from accounting and finance to marketing and strategy is discussed.
After reading this book you will have a very basic understanding of all the topics you will need to understand to successfully run a business. From there you can find more books or even short courses on the specific subjects you want to learn. It is important to be aware of what you need to learn and why you should learn it. This book does a good job in increasing your awareness in business subjects.

3. How to win friends and influence people

No matter what type of business you plan to start, you will be involved with people. Even if you are starting an internet only business, your customer service and networking skills will determine your success or failure. This book teaches essential people skills that everybody in business must recognize and apply. Ever walked out of a store disgusted by the lack of customer service and decided never to go back? Well if you don’t have first class people skills, there is the chance that people will react that way to your business.
This book will teach you everything from improving customer (or supplier) relationships to handling conflicts and arguments. Applying the principles in this book is an easy and effective way to improve your business’ reputation.

4. Getting to YES (Negotiating agreement without giving in)

Like this book states “like it or not, you are a negotiator”. Regardless of your business, eventually you will need to negotiate with somebody. How you handle that negotiation (and all future negotiations) will have a huge impact of your business’ performance. Whether you are hiring somebody and negotiating their pay and benefits, or negotiating with your suppliers, having an understanding of negotiating and how to effectively do it is essential. This book is most effective to protect you from people who will try to take advantage of you or use dirty tactics. The small cost of this book outweighs the raw deals and manipulation you could have encountered had you not read it.
This book will introduce you to what negotiating is and what it is not. Most people don’t really understand negotiating to begin with so reading this book will already put you at an advantage. With starting businesses, the more advantages you can get, the more likely you will be successful. Even if you think you are a good negotiator, you can always improve. Grasp hold of any advantage you can get your hands on. A solid understanding of negotiating is a clear advantage.

I have chosen these books because they are topics that many people would neglect or completely overlook. The main lesson is that the right frame of mind is essential for success. Topics such as accounting or marketing are easy to learn, so after you read these books you can continue to study them as you like. On the other hand, developing the mindset capable of running a successful company is so important, yet many people don’t even consider learning how to do it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book review: The little book that beats the market by Joel Greenblatt

The little book that beats the market – Joel Greenblatt

This book explains an extremely simple strategy that the author suggests will beat the market return. The author starts by telling a story of a boy who sells packs of gum. The story explains in very simple terms, how to correctly value a business. From the first chapter onwards, the author uses very simple story-telling to explain finance concepts and principles. Each chapter adds to the previous ones and becomes more complex and detailed. All this storytelling is used to give the reader an understanding of why the author’s ‘Magic Formula’ works in beating the market.
The ‘Magic Formula’ is a very simple concept in finance but the author holds that it has beaten the market returns from the past 17 years and there is little reason why it will not continue to do so. Towards the end of the book the formula is explained in detail with enough information for the average investor to apply it. The appendix is full of detailed information on the formula.

What I gained from reading this book:
I picked up this book with great scepticism. My finance lecturers told me that people cannot consistently beat the market (the Efficient Market Hypothesis). I decided to give it a read. The way the book is written is very unusual for an investment book. The best way to describe it would be that it was written for a young teenager. No jargon or excessive words. The author doesn’t take himself too seriously by adding little jokes throughout the book. All in all it was an interesting read.
With the actual ‘Magic Formula’, the author does a fantastic job in convincing the reader that the strategy is solid and will continue to give fantastic results in the future. As this book was written in late 2005, we have the ability to see how it has performed since then. After some research I have found quite a few blogs and website where people report their results using the ‘magic formula’. Some people have had poor results as it underperformed while others have held that it has been outperforming the market. At the moment I am doing my own testing but I think it is still too soon to say whether it will continue to show impressive results or not. My instincts tell me this is another ‘too good to be true’, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if it does consistently outperform the market because of the logic behind the strategy.
I will continue to study this method and will report back if I come to any conclusion.

Well written and easy to understand whether you have a background in finance or not. Important explanations on value, price and earnings. Very convincing explanations and results.

May not continue to outperform the market in the future. Seems a bit too good to be true.
Recommended for: Investors
Anybody who is interested in investing in the share market should have a read of this book. Even if you don’t choose to invest by using the method in the book, the explanations on finance concepts are easy enough for a child to grasp.

Genre: Investments

Overall rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:
The Little Book That Beats the Market (Little Books, Big Profits)

Where to from here:
More detailed books on investing that I recommend are:
The four pillars of investing – William Bernstein
Five key lessons from money managers – Scott Kays

If you have read this book, feel free to give it your own rating by posting a comment below. If you have invested following this method, please let me know how it has gone for you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What books do you read?

Hi all,

I hope you have found my reviews useful. If you have any recommendations for educational books or have read one worth mentioning, please leave a comment here on the book and your rating. It would be great to see what books you read and find useful.

More reviews to come,


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book review: Good to Great by Jim Collins

Good to Great: Why some companies make the jump… and others don’t – Jim Collins

Jim Collins and his research team set out to answer the questions, “can a good company become a great company?” and “if they can, how?”. By studying countless articles, interview transcripts and data, the research team came up with a definition of a ‘great’ company. The team would study two companies that started off in similar situations with similar future prospects but in one point in time (what they call the transition point) one company skyrocketed while the other withered. The great company (the one that skyrocketed) is compared to the comparison company (the one that underperformed). The results are the basis of this book. The chapters explain concepts and principles that were consistent among all the great companies but lacking in the comparison companies.
Companies such as Wells Fargo, Gillette and Circuit City (among many others) are analysed throughout the chapters. The book concludes with a very insightful FAQ section and wealth of information in the appendices.

What I gained from reading this book:
I read this book expecting it to be very similar to The E-Myth. It turned out to be very different. I am still undecided if I like this book or not. While I could clearly see that much effort has gone into the research, I’m not too convinced on the value of the results. Some concepts seemed so obvious that it seemed a waste of time to read about them.
The main problem I had with this book is the way the concepts were explained. Phrases such as ‘Getting the right people on the bus’, ‘the hedgehog concept’, ‘the three circles’, ‘grasp the flywheel, not the doom loop’, ‘level 5 managers’ pretty much sum up the type of lingo used throughout the entire book. I was expecting straight forward explanations and was disappointed to find that most explanations followed the lines of ‘make sure you get the right people on the bus in the right seats and the wrong people off the bus’. While using metaphors continuously may work for some people, it sure didn’t work for me.
Most people could probably guess the principles and values the great companies have before even picking up the book. So I was not impressed when I came across the part where the author explains why the company that gave the executives lavish perks in expensive buildings underperformed the disciplined company that cut executive’s pay 75% when times became tough and ran the business in a dental sized suite.
Although I do feel that most of the findings could have been explained better on a single A4 sheet of paper, I did enjoy reading this book (only some parts). For example: hearing about Walgreens and how they crammed so many stores in a small area and why was very interesting.

Provides insight into many great companies and their culture. Very thorough explanations on the principles and concepts. Plenty of information in the appendices.

Most concepts and principles are obvious before even reading the book. A lot of buzz words and metaphors are used that may distract rather than assist. The viability of the study and the results is questionable.

Recommended for: Small business owners
I recommend this book for small business owners to get a better understanding of the types of principles and values they should apply to their business. Although many of the principles are obvious and common sense, it always helps to read up about them to help you apply them.

Genre: Business

Overall rating: 6 out of 10 stars
Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:
Good to Great

Where to from here:
I recommend reading The E-Myth: Revisited instead of this book. Read my review to understand why.

If you have read this book, feel free to give it your own rating by posting a comment below.