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Its a new year – an appropriate time to reflect on what we accomplished last year. Did we, as managers, operate the business the way we really should have? What were our greatest successes? Where could we have done better? Were there any self-inflicted disasters, and, if so, why?

Those of us who have been around for a while may think that we have seen and heard it all, that we dont need to review our managerial techniques, and that our tried and true approach – which seems to work – is good enough. Well, odds are it isnt as good as we think.

The problem is that most of us dont have time to attend management seminars or to read books by gurus who deal in catchy buzzwords and diagrams designed mainly to sell books or impress other academics. What we need is advice which is practical, timely and easily understood. Now a book by Edward D. Hess and Charles F. Goetz, entitled So You Want to Start a Business, published by FT Press, fills that void.

It would be fair to ask why a book on starting a business has anything to do with our existing businesses, large or small. The fact is that the principles of success are the same. In effect, managers of existing businesses start a new business every single day by coming to work, tackling problems and identifying business opportunities.

The advice given by professors Hess and Goetz is well worth the brief time it takes to read their book. They believe strongly in the old saying, Tell them what youre going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said. Those who are quick will catch their points the first time and wont have to read the summaries and reviews. A real plus is the bibliography, which lists source articles and books under such headings as Building a Company; Business Strategy; Entrepreneurship; Family Business; Finance, Accounting and Measurement; Leadership; Lessons to Learn from Bad Leadership; Management; and Marketing and Sales.

There are so many good quotes in this book that there isnt enough room to cover all of them. These ideas are not new or revolutionary; they are solid, practical suggestions which many of us may have forgotten.

One quote gets down to the basics: We also know that to be successful you do not need a unique product or service, nor do you need to be smarter than your competition. What you have to do better is (1) listen to your customer and help your customer meet their needs, (2) give your customer great service, and (3) deliver a good product – all for a fair price, fair to the customer and to you.

This idea is further amplified in Business Rule #39: Business is not complex; it is pretty simple. Make and sell something that someone needs. And do it defect-free, on time, with great service. Business is the details – the little things all added together that drive success. You need to focus on the details of execution.

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