In this book Mark Nureddine serves as a business mentor to those who want to build their own business. He describes a mentor as,
An experienced person who delivers knowledge and advice, as well as providing guidance, motivation and emotional support to a mentee.
Mark is the owner of Bull Outdoor Products which provides grills, kitchen islands and grilling components to dealers and distributors and he writes that when he was starting his business in his twenties he had no mentor. So he states that:
In Pocket Mentor, I share my personal knowledge, skills and experiences with you. I share the real-time highs and lows of running a business. I’ll give you some straight talk that’s designed to help get up and running.
He starts out in the book writing about his own entrepreneurial experience and highlighting some of the lessons he learnt as he mowed lawns for cash when he was young, ran paper routes, moved towards being self-employed as an adult, started a graphic design company which didn’t work out and then started a successful grilling related business. In doing all this, Mark learnt some key lessons about business. They include:
- The importance of showing up and being reliable and responsible.
- Working hard to provide value for customers.
- Managing and reinvesting money.
- Never to regret starting business even if it does not work out.
- The fact that you never know where something is going to end but sometimes you have to follow that path and find out.
The book is divided into two sections titled, Pocket Mentor and Startup Toolkit. Below both parts are briefly reviewed.
PART 1 – POCKET MENTOR
This section is focused on inspiring people to be entrepreneurs and also to remove the fear of starting a business. It covers the following areas:
How to recognise you’re an entrepreneur: Here Mark discusses what he believes to be the key traits of an entrepreneur and these include things such as, good morals, good work ethics, great vision, loves to create, decision maker, problem solver, loves to read and good communicator. He also identifies some key elements of running a business. Some of them are:
- Self-discipline is one of the most important attributes you can cultivate.
- Recognize your strengths and weaknesses and then implement.
- The ability to recognize the smart thing to do is just as good as the ability to implement.
- Be humble and don’t let success lull you into a false sense of complacency.
Key business tactics: Describes some key actions to help us succeed in business such as:
- Focus, plan and implement by planning and setting yourself up and paying attention to how you put yourself on track.
- Get feedback from customers. Get all sorts of feedback, both positive and negative and learn from it.
- Take criticism or failure as feedback.
- Connect with other people that you can learn from. These should be people who know you and your business and can be honest and truthful with you.
- Know how to delegate. You can’t do everything.
Defining your leadership style: This is about recognising that we all lead in different ways. Are you a micro-manager or do you give people space to get on with things? Your leadership style is important in getting things done.
Work-life balance: Mark discusses three important points here:
- Establish clear boundaries between business and family.
- Realise that relationships and family will change your responsibilities
- Being in business requires a constant reevaluation and navigation of a hierarchy of priorities.
Taking care of you: This one goes without saying. Building a business can be tough and you need to take care fo yourself. While there will be times when you need to persevere and push through to get things done, you must also recognise when it is necessary to slow down. Also don’t ignore signs that your body is giving you, those signs that alert you to the need to rest, sleep and slow down.
Dealing with challenges: Everyone running a business will face challenges, so how do you deal with them? Here’s some advice from Mark:
- First realise that you will definitely face challenges. How you approach and deal with them is what is important.
- When you face challenges, put them in perspective, prioritize and solve what you can.
- Don’t let the problems and challenges of owning a business drag you down.
- Don’t worry about what you can’t control.
Financial considerations: There are some good lessons here for businesses of every size:
- The more money you put back into your business, the better.
- It’s not how much you save, it’s how little you spend.
- Being finiancially repsonsible is a challenge and it’s a huge potential for disaster unless you master your money skills.
Mistakes – everybody makes them: This chapter is full of great lessons, while I can’t go into them in detail. Here are the headlines of those lessons:
- Recognise that if you own your own business, you are going to make mistakes.
- Don’t stress about the unknown.
- Avoid getting into debt.
- Don’t fail to understand what you do, and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
- Make yourself approachable (you don’t want to be the smartest person in the room) so people are not afraid to tell you about problems.
- Don’t get greedy.
- You have to be ready to take risks.
- Aim to be financially solid.
The design stage of your product: In this chapter Mark discusses the key questions you must answer when designing your product.
Understanding profit margins: Another one that goes without saying. The message here is to understand what goes into creating your products in terms of costs and how you are going to price your product to make a profit. You must take everything into considreation. This is deifnitely a chapter to pay attention to.
PART 2: START UP TOOLKIT
This part of the book focuses on the usual suspects of what it takes to set up a business, what Mark refers to as the nuts and bolts of a business. There are chapters on:
- Dreaming up your idea – coming up with an idea and testing it’s viability.
- Market research – doing market research that is valuable without getting too caught up or obsessed about it.
- Legal creation of the business – putting in place all the necessary legal aspects for your type of business.
- Insurance – getting the right kind of insurance for your business.
- Office essntials – what is required to set up an office (if you need one) for your business.
- Business essentials – this part is about having access to what you need to get your business started, especially financing. It discusses aspects such as sweat equity (working to start your business instead of spending money), investors, giving up part of your business, borrowing money, selling other assets, crowdfunding, grants and ethics.
- Hiring – About hiring the right kind of people who will complement you.
- Non-Traditional Ways to hire – Such as using freelancers and temporary empoyees.
- Human resources services – Here Mark explains why he believes it is beneficial for businesses to use human resources services.
Other areas discussed are the benefits of hiring employees, the importance of suppliers, launching your product, marketing through shows and planning for the future.
This is a good book if you are already running or planning to start a sizable business. It covers a lot of crucial areas. Even people running or planning to start a side hustle will learn a couple of lessons from it, especially when it comes to the areas that discuss managing finace. There are also a number of case studies in the book that bring the lessons being taught alive.
Overall the book does serve as a good pocket mentor.