The Facts of Business Life, by Bill McBean (Hardcover, 2013)|
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want a hardcopy)
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
If you make a habit of acquiring and reading business books, you would do well
to add this one to your collection. This book didn't dazzle me, and I don't
think the author (Bill McBean) really cares about the dazzle factor. What
struck me is he cares about helping the reader grasp the bigger picture of
business in general and operating a business in particular. Good stuff to
know, and unfortunately most small business owners fail before getting
around to knowing these things.
The subtitle is a bit of a thrown down gauntlet, but given the statistics on
business failures it's likely to be accurate in a random sampling of potential
readers. The title definitely matches the content, and that bucks a recent trend
in book titles.
Now, I want to caution readers that this isn't something along the lines
of an instant MBA. As an MBA myself, I can tell you there is no such thing
as a book that gives you anything even remotely resembling the equivalent of
the knowledge required to earn an MBA. If you don't have an MBA, ask someone
who does about the reading load or go look at the syllabi at various
universities. Much to his credit, McBean does not pretend to condense an MBA
or teach particular skills Cliff-notes style.
I would also like to note that, as an MBA myself, I can tell you that an
MBA does not make you a biz whiz. Somehow, the business press jumped on the
"MBA means success" train and rode it right off the rails. I graduated at
the top of my MBA class, but this didn't make me an expert. It didn't give
me all I needed for success. Most of my fellow graduates, in fact, have
outperformed me in business. Outside the MBA program, they learned some
important things that I still don't know.
Having a mentor, someone like McBean, for example, can make a huge
difference. This book is a distillation of that mentoring committed to
paper. At least, that's how it reads to me.
What's usually missing in the business owner's training is an
understanding of what business life is actually about. In a large
corporation, you may find MBA's churning out mind-numbing reports. In the
nitty gritty world of running a small or medium-sized business, the ability
to do that is of no value. The things you really need to know are the kinds
of things McBean discusses in this book.
I think most businesses fail not because of doing things wrong, but
because of doing the wrong things. This is what I have seen time and again.
It's also worth noting that "doing the right things" was one of the seven
habits in Stephen R. Covey's iconic book.
McBean tries to teach the reader how to get the right mindset and how to
develop the framework you need for successfully running a business through
its major stages. He wants you to be able to figure out what are the right
things to do at a given stage of the life of a business.
McBean enumerates five major stages (which he calls levels) in the
business life cycle:
- Ownership and opportunity.
- Creating your company's DNA.
- From survival to success.
- Maintaining success.
- Moving on when it's time to go.
Prior to identifying these stages, McBean lists "the seven facts of
business life." Starting with Chapter Three, he devotes a chapter to each of
these and discusses that particular fact in the context of each of the five
stages. So, he discusses the fact five times. While this process makes that
discussion precise and highly relevant to where a business happens to be, it
does result in some repetition. Normally, I consider repetition a negative
but in this case I don't see how the repetition is avoidable without
diminishing the value of the book.
This book does have some negatives.
First of all, it would read much better if someone familiar with Strunk
and White copyedited it. Especially for "needless words." An example is
"past experience." Your experience is, by definition, in the past. A few
cliches, such as "at the end of the day" also show up and you'll find misuse
of "impact" a few times. However, these are mere annoyances. They don't
leave the reader confused about what McBean is trying to say. I suppose not
every highly successful CEO is also an accomplished grammarian, and
expecting that is unrealistic. What we can expect is he can speak and write
in cogent sentences so that you understand the point he's making. McBean
Second, there's the repetition I mentioned earlier (gee, I'm doing it
too!). This book gives me the impression it was written as a series of
independent articles. Maybe that can't be helped, considering the structure
McBean chose. A point he makes repeatedly (and I am not complaining about
that particular repetition) is various aspects of business are intertwined.
This isn't a mindless tome like "Who Cut The Cheese" or whatever that little
stinker of a book was called. It's a thoughtful narrative on each of a
structured assembly of business topics. How a business owner exerts control
at level three will have considerable overlap with how he exerts control at
level four. The company isn't a completely different animal as it moves from
level to level, nor are its markets or business in general.
This book consists of 9 chapters across 324 pages. It's nicely indexed and
has a thoughtful Foreword contributed by Ken Fisher. Mr. Fisher is a widely
recognized name in the business literature, so his Foreword is a coup for Mr.