Make your first million - Martin Webb

Martin Webb started up a bar chain, sold it, made lots of money and then presented a TV show about entrepreneurs called Risking it all. So, this is his book. Why am I reading it? A while ago, Caroline was thinking about setting up a business, and her parents got it for her. She didn't start the business up, and more recently I spotted it around the house and thought it looked fun.

It's a fairly straightforward book. It talks about what he did, and discusses how you might do things, and creates a 'toolbox' of useful ideas and basic techniques to run a business. It discusses everything from starting up to selling out, in about as much depth as you'd expect in a scant 180 pages. I suppose making it much longer might sap the enthusiasm of the entrepreneur.

So, it's basically not bad. It covers the fundamentals of starting up and running a business, tells you what to do, tries to offer frank advice, and the business advice does look pretty standard, even if it's fairly focused on retail, and most specifically bars. Martin Webb's story is interesting, partly because you can see how it colours his advice, and partly because he is quite candid about his mistakes (both on his own businesses and those he's advised). Being always right is apparently not necessary, but knowing when you're wrong and learning is useful!

I thought one of the most interesting stories was about him overcoming a difficulty. He needed licensing for a bar, but objections were raised by a competitor. So, having considered all the options, and how expensive and risky they were, in order to appeal the licensing decision he just bought the competitors out, cancelled the objection, and got the new license, having also taken over their bar, and made a profit on that too! I think this shows that despite his encouragement that anyone can start up a business, to get good you need guts and strategic thinking!

If you want to start up a business, having read a single book, I think you're mad. But if you're going to do that, there are probably many worse books than this one.

Posted 2009-05-21.