The title of this book intrigued me enough to pick it up. The title sparks all sorts of questions, more so when it is found in the entrepreneurship section of the store. When I read that the author Ronald Cohen is one of the founders of the private equity industry, the book was an automatic buy. Of late, managing funds and getting further involved with the financial aspect of business, is something I am becoming increasingly more interested in. The book’s tag line is ‘turning risk into opportunity’. The book is written in a semi autobiographical manner and the author essentially talks about his journey as an entrepreneur and all the important lessons he learned along the way. It is an extremely easy and enjoyable read. I finished the book in a couple of sittings as the language used is simple and the story flows really well all the way from his childhood to his retirement in 2005. What happens in between is a fascinating story about perseverance, patience and what has enabled him reach his present state. If you want to read a book that talks about specific strategies on how to position your product/service, setting price points or financial leverage, this is not a book that would be of interest to you. However, if you want to understand essential fundamentals such as niche selection and team development, then this book provides some great material.
One of the key points discussed in this book is his relationship with his initial two partners with whom he started the business. During the first couple of years there was very little work and both partners chose to leave the business. This left the author in a dilemma about what to do next. There was always the option of going back to a job or, he could re-strategize and find a way to get the business to work. At this stage of the book there is a lot of talk about perseverance, evaluating one’s options and ability to trust one’s gut instinct. Deep down he knew that the business he had started (private equity) had a lot of scope, and if he let this opportunity slide away in favor of getting a job, it may pass him by totally. This point really struck a chord with me as well. These inflection points where one needs to make critical decisions is when you really decide whether you have it in you to follow what you truly believe in or bail out when the going gets tough. In the book the analogy used is whether you are a person who wants to climb the north face or, take the easy route? There is no right or wrong answer here. We choose our path according to what we want to achieve in life, and more importantly according to what brings us happiness. However, he makes it perfectly clear, that choosing the entrepreneurship path is a challenging one and one must really assess whether it is a path one really wants to pursue.
A couple of chapters later, there is some great information on calibrating opportunities. He shares many tips which include how to evaluate the market you want to target, selecting the correct business model and getting the right people on board. I often re-read this chapter, especially when I am evaluating a new business, because it provides a most astute perspective of the key elements we should be looking out for. This chapter, enhanced by his 30+ years of experience in the private equity business, is about a line of work that continuously involves assessing businesses and finding opportunities, where, with the help of the right sort of management and capital structure, the business can unlock it’s true potential. Other key chapters in the book that interested me particularly, include the one regarding getting the financial aspect of your business running smoothly and how to select your business partners. The chapter on ethics and values is a must read for anyone who wants to build a business that will stand the test of time.
In conclusion, this book provides profound insight into the life of an extremely successful entrepreneur. One who was truly able to see the second bounce of the ball. Everyone is able to see the trends that dominate our world today. Having the ability to forecast and predict which way the tide is going to turn is something that is limited to those individuals who understand the industry they are in thouroughly, and more importantly, have the courage to go with their gut instincts. One needs great confidence in one’s abilities, an ability to trust one’s gut instincts and make calculated assessments about the level of risks associated with the venture they plan to go forward with. I recommend this book to most entrepreneurs and specially those who have a keen interest in the world of finance.