The following is an interview with entrepreneur MJ Gottlieb about his new book, How To Ruin A Business Without Really Trying. Enjoy!
Kevin: What inspired you to write How To Ruin A Business Without Really Trying?
MJ: After losing my second business, I started to write down all the mistakes I made, as I needed to get them out of my head for cathartic purposes. Every night after playing basketball in the gym at Reebok Sports club in Manhattan, I would spend hours in the same spot in the lobby writing these mistakes.
One day, a friend of mine, David Belafonte (the son of the great actor and singer) told me to take all the notes and turn them into a book. He told me it was good that I was doing it to feel better, but imagine how many aspiring entrepreneurs I could help if I took those mistakes and used them as case studies and lessons to help them avoid those mistakes before entering their entrepreneurial journeys. He joked and told me to call it “Everything an entrepreneur should NOT do when starting a business.” Years later I took his advice and here we are.
Please tell us a little bit about your background and what you are currently doing.
MJ: I started my first business, a fashion brand, during my senior year in college after landing my first national account. Over the next sixteen years I owned and operated four clothing brands, a strategic consulting firm and a non-profit foundation for the homeless.
Currently I own Hustle Branding, a strategic consulting firm specializing in the implementation of creative business strategies to help aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses increase their brand awareness. My newest venture, which I am very excited about is a company I started with Jimmy Hamm called Clean Fun Network. Clean Fun Network is the premier community for individuals who are committed to sobriety and seek a clean and fun lifestyle. CFN offers a diverse range of signature services with a goal of bringing together like-minded people through travel, events, meet-ups and dating in a safe, (and yes, fun!) comfortable environment .
Delving into your book now, who would benefit most from your book?
MJ: Aspiring entrepreneurs who are either about to take the leap into the entrepreneurial waters, as well as those who have already started and are finding themselves stuck in the mud. The book, however, I believe to practical for nearly any entrepreneur no matter what level he or she may be, to remind them of some of the most prevalent mistakes entrepreneurs make. It was written to be a very practical guide to go back to repeatedly as it does not at all need to be read every time from front to end.
What makes your book different from other books that cover this same topic?
MJ: Most books tell entrepreneurs what to do. I tell them what not to do. I do this because I believe entrepreneurs are idealistic by nature and simply do not like to be to what to do, which is why they forge their own paths in the first place.
Telling them what not to do, on the other hand by learning from the mistakes of others takes their egos out of the equation which allows them to learn without them feeling they are being taught. How to Ruin A Business Without Really Trying contains fifty-five case studies which reveals the mistake I made (the Wrong) and, knowing what I know now, how I would go about things differently (The Right).
What are the most important elements, messages, or takeaways of your book that you’d like readers to know they will benefit from?
MJ: One important message is to avoid making a decision when you are in an emotional state as it has been the downfall of many entrepreneurs including myself. Emotional decisions don’t allow entrepreneurs to make intelligent decisions as they let their emotions cloud their judgment. This is not to be mistaken with passion, which is a trait that is an absolute necessity for every entrepreneur.
Another big problem is ego. Ego is a killer of businesses. It creates complacency, resentment, and disrespect and always works against the best interest of the company. Great entrepreneurs have humility, which enables them to take part of the most important aspect of their company… the ability to work as a team.
The biggest take away, however, I believe is not doing your due diligence. This is a constant theme throughout the book and appears in a large amount of the case studies. It is absolutely vital to make sure you do your research before doing business with anyone as well as when pursuing the right investor or strategic partner.
What are the major sections of your book? (i.e. how is your book structured?)
MJ: The book is split into two parts.
- PART 1: My Most Infamous Screwups contains 39 case studies that reveal some of the most common, prevalent and destructive mistakes entrepreneurs make when going into business for the first time.
- PART 2: More Case Studies And Some Other Things I Learned Along The Way… Contains 16 case studies which focus specifically on every aspect of the pursuit of capital and finding the right strategic partnerships that will help your company recognize its potential.
What is the best piece of advice from an entrepreneur you’ve ever received?
MJ: God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. To listen twice as much as we speak. People love to hear themselves talk. I think the real value is learning how to shut-up and listen.
Give us an interesting fun fact about your book or the research you conducted for your book.
MJ: The illustrations for the case studies were done by a twelve-year old student, William Roth who was the classmate of the son of a business partner of mine. It was a blast to work with him. Being that the illustrations all are illustrated caricatures of me, it got quite humorous coming up with all of the illustrations.
Where can people find out more about you and/or your book?
Is there anything else you’d like to mention to our readers?
MJ: Don’t ever get cocky and don’t ever get complacent. The road of the entrepreneur contains never-ending peaks and valleys. Know that the valleys will be temporary, as will the peaks. The key is to enjoy the ride and never be afraid to fail. You miss every shot you don’t take. Take the shot.
See more reviews of this book on Amazon.com by clicking here.
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