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 (

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.

The best book ever written on Competition and Strategy: “Understanding Michael Porter”

If you ever thought that you understood what Competition and Strategy are about, then think otherwise.

Understanding Michael Porter: the Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy

written by Joan Magretta, and published by HBR Press (2012), is the best book we have ever read on the topic, and most likely the best ever written.

It is a very, very good summary of Michael Porter’s work and contains many real-life examples (IKEA, Dell, Zara, Southwest Airlines, to name a few). And above all the book is very enjoyable and easy to read. If you have not done so already, then buy it and read it! You will gain a competitive advantage over those in the industry who have not read it so far.

In particular, you will learn that:

  • “Competition is about profit, not market share. There is no honor in size or growth if those are profitless.
  • Vying to be the best is an intuitive but self-destructive approach to competition. Competitive advantage is not about beating rivals; it’s about creating unique value for customers. If you have a competitive advantage, it will show up in your P&L.
  • A distinctive value proposition will translate into a meaningful strategy only if the best set of activities to deliver it is different from the activities performed by rivals. Competitive advantage lies in the activities, in choosing to perform activities differently or to perform different activities from rivals.
  • No strategy is meaningful unless it makes clear what the company will NOT do. Making trade-offs is the linchpin that makes competitive advantage possible and sustainable.
  • Good strategies depend on many choices, not one, and on the connections among them. A core competence alone will rarely produce a sustainable competitive advantage.”

Thanks Joan for writing this fantastic book. You’ll find the book on Amazon UK, as well as many other bookshops.