A cheeky collection of thou-shalt-nots for aspiring business owners.
Most books on small-business management offer tips on what to do to increase the likelihood of success. In his debut work, Gous, a South African serial entrepreneur and consultant, takes the opposite approach. He compiles a quirky yet instructive list of don’ts to help owners avoid mistakes that have doomed uncountable fledgling businesses. But don’t expect to find technical advice on budgeting, incorporation or supply-chain management. Instead, Gous believes the life or death of a company is determined more by the owner’s interpersonal relationships than by business acumen. Uncouth behavior by a boss among family, colleagues and customers can lead to disaster if left unchecked, he says. Divided into short, humorous chapters that can be read between staff meetings, the book forces readers to examine their own character. Not surprisingly, the first topic is society’s attitude toward money. “Money makes you ‘free,’ but at a cost,” Gous writes. “Never allow it to control you, because you will become its slave.” Most of the author’s proscriptions amount to common-sense warnings about work-life balance, self-control and dealing with difficult people. A few, however, address emotional issues often overlooked in business literature but painfully familiar to entrepreneurs, such as loneliness and worry. Gous also tackles one of the ultimate workplace taboos: sex. His admonition against office romance is summarized in a prudent, though crude, aphorism: “Don’t dip your pen in the company’s ink pot.” The author admits he wrote from a male perspective, and chapters entitled “High-Maintenance Wives” and “Busybody Wives” may make female readers cringe. While the book encourages ethical behavior, Gous seems equally concerned with the practical implications of an owner’s actions. Ultimately, he advances a philosophy akin to the golden rule yet mixed with a dose of entrepreneurial pragmatism. Tax evasion, underpaying employees and mistreating suppliers should be avoided not just because they are morally wrong, but also because they threaten what the owner has built.
Straightforward, play-it-smart advice for business owners as they cross the minefield laid by their own flaws and foibles.