An unusual hybrid work of self-help, business and narrative nonfiction.
Former Washington Post reporter Murphy (In a Time of War: The Proud and Perilous Journey of West Point’s Class of 2002, 2008) admits to his failed attempts to start businesses, but his fascination with entrepreneurship led him to learn more by researching this book. The author focuses on three students who graduated from Harvard Business School in the late ’90s. The chapters alternate between the corporate start-up sagas of Marla Malcolm Beck, Marc Cenedella and Chris Michel on one hand, and each of the ten rules mentioned in the book’s subtitle on the other. Murphy’s explication of the rules is detailed and clear, although at times painfully obvious to the point of cliché. The journalism behind the author’s entrepreneurial profiles is strong, however, and the narrative chapters are compelling even though none of the featured businesspeople is famous, and their businesses, some of which they later sold, are known more to niche consumers than to a widespread audience. The degree of cooperation Murphy received from his subjects—as well as their classmates, professors, business partners and employees—is astounding, and greatly enriches the book. Most of the HBS classmates of the three leading characters did not follow the entrepreneurial path, causing the author to wonder about the specific qualities that made Beck, Cenedella and Michel stand out from the pack. Murphy digs deep into the minds and documents of the three protagonists to delineate the lessons they learned as they launched and nurtured their companies. The author then translates the lessons into a didactic context for readers who want to start enterprises based on HBS teachings.
Worth digesting, whether the reader relies on it for self-help purposes or merely for nonfiction entertainment.