A physicist-turned-entrepreneur shares his experiences and offers advice for making a start-up business a success.
Cunningham chronicles his journey from the secure nest of NASA to the uncertain world of business, where he found personal and financial success. After starting a computer-systems company in the basement of a beauty salon in the mid-’60s, Cunningham sold a spinoff of that entity in 1989 for $44 million. Noting that small businesses drive economies but also have the highest failure rates, the author offers his unvarnished story of trial by fire. He hammers home his â€œNever Give Up!” theme with anecdotes of his small and large failures on the way to the top. Cunningham was a terrible salesman until he learned to stop talking and start listening. He also made mistakes in seeking financing and in making an inadvertent initial public offering of company stock. Instead of retreating, the author repeatedly dusted himself off, learned from his mistakes and pressed ahead. In his first attempt at courting venture capitalists, Cunningham was rejected 50 times. The process, he writes, honed his presentation skills. The author’s hunger for knowledge even led him to pick up the phone and call celebrated business author Peter Drucker for advice. The book suffers from insularity–the memoir format sometimes prevents the reader from being able to draw broad conclusions. Additionally, much of Cunningham’s tale takes place in the ’60s and ’70s, giving the book a dated feel which is furthered by the old photos and documents included. Useful, however, are the workshop-style questions tucked in the appendix, gently probing potential entrepreneurs to define their goals and leadership styles. Buried in the appendix are both a short course on cultivating constructive dissension and Cunningham’s account of his path to consulting and philanthropy work after selling his company. While the author does not break new ground here, he provides a genial chapter in the annals of entrepreneurial guidance.
A motivational success story that’s occasionally mired in data-entry details.