Book Review September 2006
Reviewed by Patrice Toombs
Each year, individuals who are, or once were, gainfully employed opt for a more fulfilling career in which they can use their skills while being their own boss. Establishing a small business is not an instantaneous act. Rather, it comes after much soul searching, lengthy preparation and strategic planning. Becoming an entrepreneur can be an overwhelming undertaking, considering all the steps you must take in order to operate a successful venture.
Paula McCoy Pinderhughes, former small business editor for Black Enterprise magazine, has written a comprehensive book that should enable would-be entrepreneurs to determine the type of venture that best suits their needs. It also emphasizes the diligence and persistence needed to make the dream of entrepreneurship a reality. How to Be an Entrepreneur and Keep Your Sanity: The African-American Handbook & Guide to Owning, Building and Maintaining Successfully Your Own Small Business begins with the simple question “What Is an Entrepreneur?” Your answer, the author says, should put you in the appropriate frame of mind for working toward becoming one. As you read through the guide and perform the exercises, you’ll find yourself meticulously planning your every move in order to achieve the ownership of your own business.
The book provides precise and detailed instructions for every step toward successful entrepreneurship. Each chapter begins with a motivational quote and ends with a “Key to Success” that summarizes the chapter and serves as an access point for future reference.
But before getting into the nuts and bolts of building and maintaining a small business, Pinderhughes puts your interest and sincerity to the test. In the opening chapters, she instructs you to conduct a self-assessment analysis, rate your skills, draw up a list of things you could do as an entrepreneur and list your strengths and weaknesses. Once this is done, you should re-examine the reasons why you want to venture out on your own, she says.
No matter what those reasons are, Pinderhughes says, a key factor in being a successful entrepreneur is “setting goals for starting your business.”
Questions such as whether to conduct business from home or rent commercial space and whether to start a business from scratch, buy an existing enterprise or own a franchise, are given ample treatment, as are critical issues such as insurance and banking. Special attention is given to the importance of having the right business partners. Specifically, these should be a lawyer who is versed in small business start-ups and an accountant who can provide services other than number-crunching, such as record keeping, auditing, tax planning and advice, and financial planning.
The chapter “Business Structures” explains the differences between a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and limited liability company, with the pros and cons of each described in one of six appendices. Pinderhughes cautions that the choice of a business structure must be made carefully, with tax and other liabilities taken into consideration.
Once you’ve determined the industry you’re interested in, the next step is to find a specific product or service niche. After that comes market research and identifying your target market. Pinderhughes suggests using the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) for business advice, counseling and training. Visiting your local Minority Business Development Center, a U.S. Department of Commerce facility, may also prove useful, she notes.
Pinderhughes describes the tactics that will help the entrepreneur be successful in sections titled “Setting Yourself Apart,” “Branding, Pricing, Naming Your Business,” “Attracting Investors” and “Advertising and Publicity.” The appendices are excellent resources, with valuable information on business structures, financial resources, business organizations, the top franchises, a list of “African-American Entrepreneurs Who Made a Difference” and a condensed, yet comprehensive entrepreneurial workbook.
The entire book sets the tone for and leads the reader to “Opening Day.” It ends as it begins, with the question “What is an entrepreneur?” Before opening for business, the reader is expected to answer that question using all that he or she has learned in the previous pages and consulting a previously prepared checklist.
Pinderhughes is owner and president of Business & Communication Specialists, a firm specializing in writing and editing documents for small and large enterprises. In both her own entrepreneurial endeavor and authoring How to Be an Entrepreneur, she draws from her extensive experience as an editor at Black Enterprise. For those thinking of venturing into entrepreneurship, her book is practical and priceless.