Book Review- The Beermat Entrepreneur, Third Edition
If you are successful in your life and work, you probably know that keeping it simple works (KISS), and this seems to be the wisdom that drives the style of The Beermat Entrepreneur book. So read it, do it, and be a big success!
I met Mike Southon around 2002 when the first edition was coming out and he sold the book to me. Our paths have crossed since then, but although he mentions rubbing shoulders with Ricky Gervaise, I was unable to find reference to my name in the description of his roller-coaster business life!! We share an interest in what makes for entrepreneurial success. My basis for reviewing this book is half a lifetime in large corporates and half a lifetime as a hi-tech entrepreneur.
There is a lot of knowledge needed to be successful in business; more than 1000 MBA’s worth; and a lot of the SME learning you need is not in MBA courses. As every entrepreneur knows, the useful knowledge must be in the context of your business, its product/service and its customers/market, people, etc.. All too granular for a paper back book and all too specific to one business so also not taught on an MBA course. In fact MBA knowledge is designed for people going into corporate life. So Beermat works on a higher plane than the ‘to-do list’ of a business owner. As Mike says; it’s the why?, the who?, and the how?. The book is the key to the stuff you don’t know that you don’t know. Sometimes knowing the right questions is more powerful than somebody else’s right answers!! As Mike suggests, sometimes you need a mentor to leverage what you think you know.
In the early phases of business growth, Mike talks about ‘seedling’ and ‘sapling’ enterprises, labels I had not heard before. With stories and examples Mike develops these phases as different games with different rules. Without this insight I can imagine a quickly growing business crossing growth thresholds without realising that the game has changed. When yesterday’s absolute facts are invalidated by the new game a certain type of flexibility, creativeness, and luck are the only things to save you as you play the re-invention game. Maybe one of your mentors has seen it before?
If you don’t know how to write a Business Strategy now, Beeermat will help you get an understanding of why you need one. You will discover a compelling motivation to find out what kind of strategy process works for you, for the phase that you are in and the type of business you are becoming. Apart from SWOT and PEST, which everybody knows, there is ‘What Have We Become?’ and ‘Where are we going?’ Mike says listen to your mentor.
Finally, as with all great journeys, there is the end game; the ‘exit’. These may be the most important pages of the book. You’ve done the baptism of fire, you’ve talked you bank manager down off the ceiling, you’ve done deals with angels and devils, you’ve possibly ruined you family life, but nothing prepares you for the task of extracting cash payment in exchange for the enterprise that you and your loyal team have created. So as not to put you off the whole journey Mike and Chris do not use rude words to warn you about what lies ahead. Everyone loves a bargain, and M&A lawyers are no different in that respect. Knowing how to use clauses to enhance a bargain is what makes them different.
The logic is simple. Nobody is foolish enough to just hand you the full value of what you think you have created. People with big money got it from somewhere, and judging from reported cases, some of it came from entrepreneurs who did not understand the ‘fine print.’
Chris West’s style is comfortable and not crunchy……It’s a gentle walk through the ‘SME wisdom forest’ that will leave you energised, amused and encouraged. You may also feel that your business instincts and intuitions about the unknowable have been imperceptibly enhanced. Enjoy!!