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Book Reviews: Unsexy Business and Family Business

Unsexy but inspiringAs it is entitled Unsexy Business – How 12 Entrepreneurs in Ordinary Business achieved Extraordinary Success and how you can too one can pretty much know what to expect from Jamie Waller’s book. Waller built a successful debt collection business – starting with £25k in 2001 and reaching turnover of £1m in the first 12 months. This is the business however that Waller walked away from when he realised that of the three directors of the company he was doing all the work and had a more professional approach. Integrity and determination intact he set up on his own – except for the staff from the original company who left safe jobs to join his start up. To cut a long story short the eponymous JBW debt enforcement business went from a £45k investment in 2004 to a £33m sale in 2017. For inspiration purposes one could stop at Waller’s story. He writes an easily digestible, honest, punchy account of his business success and some of the startling threats to business he had to deal with.

Taking what could be considered business top tips the rest of the book deals with the stories of other entrepreneurs: Mike Clare of Dreams the bed retailer; Matt Storey, wholesale warehousing M&M Supplies; Lara Morgan of hotel toiletries supplier Pacific Direct; Reginal Larry-Cole of Buy2Let Cars, the sub-prime car leasing company; Rami Ranger of food exporter Sun Mark; Thomas Delgado of WeBuyCarsToday.com, the second hand car dealer; Harry Clarke of parking payment company RingGo; Kate Lester of logistics firm Diamond Logistics; Nick Broom of PVL which does high visibility vehicle livery, Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers and Martyn Dawes, retail coffee machine provider Coffee Nation.And the top tips? Get your hands dirty and start small; turn pennies into pounds; stop emailing and phone; don’t take no for an answer; play the long game, replicate don’t innovate. They might sound like clichés but each chapter supports how one successful business entrepreneur has largely achieved what they have by following such rules. Each engaging interview – Waller has gone round to each of his selected business owners himself and interrogated them as to what they did and how – ends with lessons from Jamie inspired by the entrepreneurs and the stories they have told him.Whether you are starting up, investing, looking for an employer, already a success, interested in business or frankly even if you don’t think that you are, you will find this an absorbing read. It’s gritty and exhausting but ultimately inspiring.Waller now runs a private equity firm Firestarters. He knows the questions to ask of business and of owners and has a respect for them and a passion to learn what they do and how and this shows through these pieces.He says: “If I can help others to succeed in business. I have run and grown many businesses over my life and made most of the mistakes anyone can make so if with cash and time I can help others to be as successful as I have been if not greater while making fewer mistakes that can only be a good thing.
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