Book Review: The Best Teacher Is Other People’s Experience

Few things make me crazier than watching people practice the ready-fire-aim approach to entrepreneurship. These are the people who get excited about a business opportunity or personal passion and boldly go where angels fear to tread, starting companies without any real business planning, little or no market research, no involvement in (or even knowledge of) industry associations, or any kind of relationship or interaction with people with more experience in their business area. These are the people who, despite their entrepreneurial passion, don’t see the value of attending business events such as the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference. These are the people whose heads I tried to get into with one of my earlier blogs, “Memo to Entrepreneurs: Learn Before You Launch.”

Well, veteran business columnist Marcia Pledger has written a book that underscores my point: While you can’t eliminate all risk when starting a business, trial-and-error entrepreneurship is not only costly, unproductive and more than a little stressful, it is totally avoidable. Smart aspiring entrepreneurs–and new business owners who’ve taken their lumps and are willing to change their ways (my mom taught me that hard heads make soft behinds)–will make reading My Biggest Mistake…And How I Fixed It: Lessons From the Entrepreneurial Front Lines a top priority.

Pledger’s book, like her column in The Cleveland Plain Dealer that inspired it, is based on a simple proposition: Suppose you could get successful, established entrepreneurs to talk about the biggest mistake they ever made while launching or managing their business, and how they survived that misstep? The result is ample proof of the proverb that the best teacher is not experience, but other people‘s experience. The entrepreneurs profiled in My Biggest Mistake… provide invaluable lessons to entrepreneurs who have figured out that there’s no need to stick their hand in the fire to know that it’s hot–they can take the word of established entrepreneurs who got scorched and lived to tell the tale.