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Biz & Books review: Harness good entrepreneurial buzz with ‘How I Built This’

Terri Schlichenmeyer

Special to the NNBW

Author Guy Raz
Photo: Peter Prato

Learn more

  • The book: “How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success From the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs”
  • The author: Guy Raz
  • The details: c. 2020, HMH Books, $28.00, 320 pages
  • Buy online: amzn.to/3iZCMYj

You have enough material to get you started on this project.

The building plans are finalized, but experience tells you that they’ll be tweaked. Likewise, though you have the tools to begin, you’ll need more as you go. Mostly, this project is ready to roll but are you? As in “How I Built This” by Guy Raz, it’s best to check out others’ projects first.

What do you need to become an entrepreneur?

It’s a question that has multi-pronged answers, none of which are simple. First of all, being an entrepreneur isn’t intuitive. It might not be the best option for your life now — or ever. Then again, you might be burning with ideas and solutions to problems you’ve spotted, bubbling with enthusiasm, but feeling as though you’re utterly rudderless.

Consider that before you take the next step: paralyzing fear is normal, says Raz. It’s probably kept many entrepreneurs from success but there’s a difference between scary and dangerous.

You’ll have your own definition; just understand that scary things can usually be overcome by educating yourself. Know yourself, too, and understand your ability to accept risk. On that note, think twice before giving up your day job too early.

Especially if you are eying an industry in which you have no experience, be sure to do your research, and then do it again. Because it’s rare for an entrepreneur to go it alone, find a co-founder you can work well with and trust.

Know the different ways to raise capital, and add a good lawyer to your toolbox. Always remain flexible. Recognize what your competition is doing and look for ways you can slip into the market through a “side door.” Learn to harness good buzz, deal with buzz that’s not good, and how to create word-of-mouth.

And know how to get through those times when you start questioning your decision to do this entrepreneurial thing. Every businessperson has them. You will, too.

Show, don’t tell. It’s one of the most fundamental things you learn in Entrepreneur 101, and author and podcaster Guy Raz follows that advice: “How I Built This” is constructed almost entirely of business examples that are perfectly told for the newbie.

That doesn’t mean that an established businessperson couldn’t garner information from these tales, however.

Raz starts his book with the very basics of entrepreneurship, answering the hard questions of readiness and willingness through the examples he cites; then, using even more first-person, easy-to-relate illustrative stories, he quickly moves on to the nitty-gritty of bringing a new product to consumers.

The tales here come from businesses both large and small, well-known and niche, and while Raz weaves instructional advice in his chapters, he seems to let the tales do most of the talking.

Even if you’re not an entrepreneur right now, the format of this book is pleasant enough and the tales interesting enough to make this an enjoyable book to read just because. It could entertain, it could spark one idea, or grow another. Any way, “How I Built This” nails it.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the reviewer behind “The Bookworm Sez,” a self-syndicated book review column published in more than 260 newspapers and magazines in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. She can be reached for feedback, ideas and links to reviews of books on a broad range topics at bookwormsez.com.