Very few books related to entrepreneurship really study the subject. Most of the books on entrepreneurship are heavily titled towards stories in hindsight and end up as a good bed time reading books (especially the ones based on QnA with entrepreneur).

The Intelligent Entrepreneur, a book by Bill Murphy walks you through stories of three Harvard MBAs (1998 batch), with different background/different businesses – the only common element being the story of success and failure.theintelligententrepreneur

The three entrepreneurs  Marc Cenedella (TheLadders.com), Marla Malcom Beck (Bluemercury.com), and Chris Michel (Military.com, Affinity Labs) have a unique story (and interesting background, right from McKinsey to Navy).
What’s interesting about the book is the conversational tone and the fiction-styled story telling (for example – Marla’s obsession of working with Ledecky and fears of losing job when she’d tell him about her entrepreneurial ambition).

Chris Michel, on the other hand was doing just fine in Navy and had no entrepreneurial ambition. His story is important from a perspective that he trained himself to think big and found a niche (military) where there was huge demand and no serious player in the space.

Chris is a good example of my point that people aren’t always naturally ambitious. When I asked him when he first began to think big, he didn’t know quite how to respond. “I have to say,” he said, “I was doing really well in the navy. I mean, I don’t think that my career could’ve been going any better, at least not on paper. But for what ever reason, I was not satisfied. I love the navy, but the navy did not seem enough.”

The (real) stories are set in the early days of dotcom era, though business domains haven’t got anything to do with the lessons hidden inside the stories.

Based on his interaction with entrepreneurs, Bill nicely sums up the golden rules

  • Make the commitment.
  • Find a problem, then solve it.
  • Think big, think new, think again.
  • You can’t do it alone.
  • You must do it alone.
  • Manage risk.
  • Learn to lead.
  • Learn to sell.
  • Persist, persevere, prevail.
  • Play the game for life.

Here are a few quotes that are worth sharing:

“And be careful which mountain you climb. God forbid that you climb a mountain, plant your flag at the top, and then look around and realize— What was I thinking? I climbed the wrong mountain.”

“In my mind,” . “I was a very successful guy. Then I met these people, and I was like, oh my God— I get it. There’s a whole other level.”

“had a strong sense of my own opinions. I think to a certain extent you’re born with that. Being an entrepreneur is about saying, I know this doesn’t exist. This segment isn’t being addressed. But I can go do it. I suppose some people might call that arrogance. To me, it’s a matter of self- assurance.”

To cut the long story short, The Intelligent Entrepreneur essentially dwells into the science of entrepreneurship (and hopefully puts an end to are entrepreneurs born or made sort of debates).

In few instances, I found the book to be too descriptive and sometimes a bit boring (especially with stories of HBS), but overall, it’s a must read for early stage entrepreneurs and ones who have been planning to start off on their own.

Unlike several other crunchy books that celebrate entrepreneurship with hindsight stories and try to make their subject look-like-a-hero, The Intelligent Entrepreneur takes an honest shot at it.

Disclosure: We received a sample copy of the book for review.

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