Good Small Business Guide - How to Start and Grow Your Own Business

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The Independent Culture

It is a little difficult to understand why Bloomsbury sees the need to add to the pile of advice tomes for SMEs.

It is a little difficult to understand why Bloomsbury sees the need to add to the pile of advice tomes for SMEs. One answer is that, like the accountants and the rest seeking a share of the market, the publisher has heard all the rhetoric from Gordon Brown about promoting enterprise and sees an opportunity.

Another is that the company better known for literary fiction and the Harry Potter phenomenon has noted all the other efforts and spotted a way of doing it differently. Certainly, this 558-page work covers everything that an entrepreneur could want to know about - from whether he or she is cut out for running a business, through protecting ideas, to getting out at the end. It could have ended up as a dry reference book. But to the credit of Bloomsbury and the top-rank contributors involved - including corporate governance sage Sir Adrian Cadbury, management thinker Meredith Belbin and marketing guru Malcolm McDonald - it avoids this.

The key to its success lies in the clear lay-out of the "Actionlist" sections. Readers looking at the early section on assessing their entrepreneurial profile can quickly scan between the positive - "Making it Happen" and related aspects, such as "check that you have the right idea", "develop a detailed business plan" and "get financial backing for your idea" - and the negative - "What to Avoid", namely "setting up equal partnerships", "having inadequate people and planning" and "relying too heavily on one or two customers" for starters. This apposite advice is made more powerful by succinct lists of other helpful sources of information and cross-references to other sections of the book.

The "Viewpoints" section at the heart of the book features less well-known case studies than the usual suspects that turn up on such occasions. But they focus on issues or problems that are relevant to growing businesses. Martin Johnson, the man behind the graphic design company Satellite, talks about managing the transition from being a one-man company to having a team and learning from mistakes, while Steven Greenall of music publisher Warwick Music looks at selling online.

The comments of these and other viewpoint contributors are probably more powerful than the supposedly inspirational quotations from generally much more famous entrepreneurs collected in the following section: "50 Pearls of Entrepreneurial Wisdom".

This book is as useful for the established entrepreneur suddenly confronting a particular issue as for the fresh-faced would-be tycoon.