The Entrepreneur’s Manual: Business Start-Ups, Spin-Offs, and Innovative Management by Richard White, despite being 30 years old and out of print, is the best book I’ve read on how to build a start-up / be an entrepreneur.
There appears to be a small cult following around this book — all who’ve read it, such as my friend Chris Yeh who first recommended it to me, say it’s one of the best on entrepreneurship they’ve ever read. The problem is the book is out of print so not easily acquired (though Amazon has plenty of used copies), and there is virtually no information online about the author, Richard White, or his Bay Area VC firm from which he makes his observations.
Nevertheless, if you want a frank, clear, comprehensive guide to starting a business, I strongly recommend this book. It’s the rare book that outlines all the start-a-business steps and offers original and entertaining nuggets of wisdom on how to be successful and happy. Due to its age, there are a few dated sections and sprinkles of sexism (the author details “the Wife Problem” and how it plagues start-up owners), but these parts can be easily skipped.
I typed up detailed notes over at BookOutlines. I’ve pasted some of his “axioms” below.
Axiom One: In a free enterprise economy, there are always more dollars searching for viable and developed ideas than there are ideas searching for dollars.
Axiom Two: Your company must be the image of what your industry needs…the industry will not conform and be the image of what your company needs.
Axiom Three: Your sales price is totally a function of your product’s value as seen by your customers. In no way is your sales price a function of your costs to produce your product.
Axiom Four: Your company’s objectives must be in harmony with your inner self.
Axiom Five: If the financial communities feel that an industry is a growth industry, they will invest in it heavily enough in years to come to make it a growth industry.
Axiom Six: If the financial communities feel that an industry will plateau and become stagnant, they will withhold essential funds and stunt that industry’s growth so that it will indeed plateau and become stagnant.
Axiom Eight: First rate men hire first rate men, second rate men hire third rate men, these third rate men will then employ the bulk of your company’s employees who tend to be fourth rate people.
Axiom Nine: You need to attract talents, disciplines, and personalities which complement…not duplicate…each other.
Axiom Ten: Regardless of how large, how old, or how established your company becomes, there is room for only one management team. There should never be factions.
Axiom Eleven: You will realize as much from your people as you allow them to produce.
Axiom Twelve: If everyone is responsible for a task, then in truth no one is responsible, and the task will not be completed properly.
Axiom Fifteen: Sales training is a forever thing, an ongoing requirement as long as your company exists.
Axiom Seventeen: Nothing ever happens unless somebody sells something.
Axiom Nineteen: You’re not after all the business. You are after all of the profitable business that you can handle.