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.