You don’t need an MBA, you can learn Strategy from small business owners

For those of you who don’t have the time and money to go to business school, don’t worry! You can learn Strategy by reading books and putting the lessons learned into practice.

Three business school professors have travelled through the USA visiting SMEs and small business owners to uncover how they run their business and put strategy into action (http://www.roadside-mba.com/).

Roadside MBA: Back Road Lessons for Entrepreneurs, Executive, and Small Business Owners

written by Michael Mazzeo (Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management), Paul Oyer (Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business) and Scott Schaefer (University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business). The book covers the following contents:

  • Scaling a business
  • Establishing barriers to entry
  • Product differentiation
  • Setting prices
  • Managing your brand
  • Negotiating effectively
  • Hiring
  • Incentive for employees
  • Delegation
  • Battling the big boys
  • Strategy is a continuous process

You will also discover a new law of business, called ‘Mazzeo’s law’:


Mazzeor’s law : The answer to every strategic question is “It depends”.

Corollary 1: The trick is knowing what it depends on.

Corollary 2: If the answer to a question isn’t “It depends”, then it’s not a strategic question.


You’ll find the book on Amazon UK, as well as many other bookshops.

David S. Rose on pitching to VCs

When you pitch to VCs, the primarily product that you are selling is: YOU!

Even more important than the business idea, VCs are investing in people: YOU and your team. So in a very short period of time, YOU have to make them like YOU. They have to be confident that YOU bring the following characteristics:

  1. Integrity (‘Can we trust you with our money?’)
  2. Passion (‘Are you ready to leave what you currently do? put your days, nights and week-ends into the new business?’)
  3. Experience (‘Have you done something similar before?’)
  4. Knowledge (‘Do you have domain expertise?’)
  5. Skills (‘Do you have the skill to run the business, technically, commercially etc?’)
  6. Leadership (‘Do you have a team? If you don’t have the skills, can you find people who are ready to follow you?’)
  7. Commitment (‘Will you be there until the end?’)
  8. Vision (‘How will you change the world?’)
  9. Realism (‘Do you understand how tough it is to change the world?’)
  10. Coachability (‘Can you listen and learn from the experience of others?’)

Here is the video:

FUN! When you start a business, learn from Rocky Balboa

If you are planning to launch a start-up, you need to put yourself into shape. Learn from Rocky Balboa what it takes:

  • you need to believe in yourself, and believe that you will succeed – whatever everybody else (friend or foe) is telling you
  • you need to recognise the opportunity when you see it – and this is unlikely to be the first opportunity that crosses your way
  • you are going to be scared but that’s normal – get on with it!
  • you need to get started – stop the day-dreaming of becoming a champion: get moving!
  • you need to train, fight and become the best – you are unlikely to be the best when you start
  • you need to accept set-backs, learn from them, and get back onto the stage – you learn more from your failures than from your successes
  • you need endurance and build it up step by step, day by day, week by week – you won’t make much progress on a single day, but over months and years, you will be miles away from where you started
  • you need to make sacrifice when you have to – you can’t have it all at once
  • you need to enjoy success when you win!

Watch this video of Rocky and get started now!

The Entrepreneur’s Toolkit

Thinking about launching a new business? Then there is one book not to be missed:

Entrepreneur’s Tookit: Tools and Techniques to Launch and Grow Your New Business

from Harvard Business School Press. In this book, you will learn the following:

  1. Self-Diagnosis: Do you have the right stuff to start a business?
  2. Finding and Evaluating the Opportunity: Is it real and large enough?
  3. Organizing the Entreprise: Which form is best for you?
  4. Building a Business Model and Strategy: How they work together
  5. Writing a Business Plan: The basics
  6. Financing the Business: Where’s the money?
  7. Angels and Venture Capitalists: For serious outside equity
  8. Going Public: Adventures in the capital markets
  9. Entreprise Growth: The challenge to management
  10. Keeping the Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive: The ultimate challenge of success
  11. Harvert Time: Reaping what you have sown

This book is a must read for any new entrepreneur. You can buy it on Amazon.

Last but not least, there is a collection of business tools available on the Harvard Business Essentials companion web site, included a pro-forma financial plan template. Get your own copy!