(His 1999 book, Ripples from the Zambezi: Passion, Entrepreneurship, and the Rebirth of Local Economies is really great for understanding how he learned to just "shut up and listen" -- watch his TED talk -- but it's not as pragmatic as this book.)
The main point of this book (subtitle: "a simple guide to combining business wisdom with passion") is that few entrepreneurs succeed on their own. Teamwork is
- A startup product or service needs attention to production, marketing and finance. Pretty much everyone is better or worse at each of these skills.
- Teams share the burden of work as well as limiting (not) brilliant ideas that can derail or distract efforts to produce value for customers.
- Communication among team members forces them to quantify and qualify ideas that may be "obvious" in their head but make little sense when explained to others.
- Passion ("suffering") is important for entrepreneurs, as success is neither quick nor inevitable.
- Outsiders are usually ignorant of what a community needs (the development aid trap), so they should try to find and enable passionate locals with solutions.
- Entrepreneurs often have good ideas but little experience. That's why they may need partners who can speak from experience and/or fill in areas where the entrepreneur is weak.
- Every team must have at least one person with a comparative advantage in each of the big three roles: production, marketing and financial management (P, M and FM). A division of labor improves time allocation, speeds decisions, and drives innovation on each of these critical margins.
- If you don't like (or can't do) P, M or FM, then find someone who can. They may even work for free if they have passion.
- Good production people are always looking to improve but don't let perfection prevent sales!
- Good marketers genuinely want to help people, not dump crap on them.
- Good financial managers can help you understand where you are and where you might go, using only realistic numbers.
- Investors back teams, not ideas. A good team will write a good business plan. A bad business plan means the team is too weak in talent or cooperation.
- "Entrepreneurship is much more a social game than an individual one. The most striking characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is perhaps the ability to identify, cultivate, and use other people’s competencies."
- If you need a partner for P, M or FM, then find someone you like in that area and ask for a referral. They may not be free, but they probably know someone who is.
- "Solitude is the death of the entrepreneur. Just as you must look inward to understand your passion, you must look outward to find others to help you. Success in business rests primarily on these two actions. Never be reluctant or embarrassed to seek assistance, and do so with prudence and optimism. Remember, there are “magical helpers” out there waiting for a passionate “hero” to commit to the entrepreneurial journey."
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