I just finished reading Start Small, Finish Big by Fred DeLuca.
What I like most about it is that it doesn’t expect you to quit your job, it doesn’t assume you’ve already started a million businesses before (why would you need the book if you had?), and it doesn’t get bogged down in frustrating details.
What’s he mean by start small? Initial investments of no more than $5,000 and often much, much less, that’s what. What’s he mean by finish big? Read on.Fred DeLuca was a poor kid, living in public housing, who wanted to go to college. His dad happened to have a friend named Pete who had some money, so he asked Pete what the best way would be to pay for college, since he couldn’t think of anyone else to ask. Pete loaned him $1,000 and told him to start a sandwich shop. You’ve probably eaten there. It was called Subway.
LeDuca spends the book walking through 15 things he learned over the course of running Subway. He pulls in his own experience, as well as the experience of 14 other business owners.
One of those other owners is Paul Orfalea, a guy who barely made it through college and the only skill he had was making copies. Since he couldn’t think of anything better to do with his life, he borrowed some money and bought a photocopier. His nickname was Kinko. You’ve probably used one of his photocopiers too.
If you don’t have any ideas, this book can help you find one. If you don’t have any money, this book can help you find some. Really–there are 13 pages in the back listing organizations in every state that help small businesses get off the ground with small low-interest loans and coaching.
The book is down to earth and, at times, funny. At least I found it funny when one would-be entrepreneur pitched her idea for a consignment shop to her mother, only to be rebuked with, “That sounds like Sanford and Son. I don’t want to sell used furniture.”
OK, maybe you’ll at least agree with me that it’s down to earth?
A lot of books tell you to get a lawyer and/or draw up a business plan as a first step. DeLuca would rather see you grab a plastic bag and go hunting for aluminum cans to recycle–the only way to learn to make a lot of money is to start by making a little money, and there’s no risk involved in collecting aluminum cans. (I think it does some other positive things to you as well.)
Before I read this book, I pretty much thought the American Dream was dead. So for me, this book was 15 strong arguments why I was wrong. According to DeLuca, you don’t have to be the first guy with an idea–it helps to be early, but that’s not even strictly necessary–and you don’t necessarily have to be the best, and you don’t even have to be the cheapest.
If running your own business has the least bit of appeal to you, this is a good book for you to read.