Books: falling out of fashion, perhaps, but – business books, for sure – still so amazingly practical. What’s an hour of your time worth? How much time can a business book save? I posted here last week, in this context, about John Jantsch’s new book on referral marketing. Book CoverAnd today it’s Melinda Emerson’s Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. I love the book, I’ve got mixed feelings about its title, and I particularly like its real-world common sense.

Real-world common sense like starting at the beginning, not how to go out on your own, precisely, but on whether you want to: Melinda starts with a chapter called “So You Think You Want to be an Entrepreneur.” That’s right, really, and very important in this topic area. So she challenges you to think about what you really want, and whether your idea will work, and do you love what you want to do.

Here’s a great quote from that chapter:

Suddenly becoming a one-salary family is tricky. Make sure that your spouse is behind your decision. If not, your dream can turn into a nightmare.

And another, highlighting Melinda’s offering of real-world hard-nosed “been there done that” insight:

Of course, the best business idea in the world isn’t worth anything if you run out of money. There’s no way around it: starting a business is expensive. It will be a while before you see a return on your investment. That’s why, before you hand the boss your walking papers and box up the personal things in your cubicle, you’d better make sure you and your family are on solid financial ground.

So what don’t I like? Nothing serious; actually, I admit it, these are petty complaints:

  • The phrase “become your own boss” in the title. It’s actually a pet peeve of mine: you start a business, you aren’t going to be your own boss; your customers become your boss. But that really has nothing to do with the book. That’s just me.
  • The 12-months time frame: Sabrina Parsons and I wrote 3 Weeks to Startup (2008, Entrepreneur Press), so I feel like I have to say that. Still Melinda explains the 12 months extremely well in her second chapter (titled “Why Does it Take Twelve Months”). And I really like the way she schedules the tasks through the months, giving things time to simmer. It goes very well with her overall tone of good practical advice.

What do I like? Lots:

  • Melinda is extremely good at keeping the business in the larger context of your whole life. That’s an excellent reminder. Her third chapter focuses on “your life plan” and it’s dripping with good advice, things you really should be considering.
  • Her 12-month plan presents a process very well. At the beginning, three months of getting reading, including your life plan in the first, then financial plan, business model, lawyer, accountant. I’ve been there. This is how things really work. Then nine months of getting set, including focus, niche marketing, of course business planning, financing, building a team, recruiting, branding, and so on. Then comes the actual launch, with good discussions of bookkeeping, maintaining marketing, and so on. Throughout, it’s good advice, well organized, clearly written.

So where do I get to the post title above about 4 essential books? This post is about the newest of the four, Melinda Emerson’s Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. And I’ve already mentioned the one I co-authored, 3 Weeks to Startup. So the other two are two books I like so much I can’t post on this topic without including them. I’ve posted on both of these before: Pamela Slim’s Escape From Cubicle Nation and Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start. Each has a different point of view, each covers different elements.

Starting a business is a big deal. If you’re serious about it, read all four of these books.

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