Tuesday, June 1, 2010


101 Lessons from a Lifestyle Entrepreneur by Jane Pollak

An eatery at a prime retail mall just folded after barely a year of operation. Located at an MRT station, it attracted a steady stream of diners each day, offered full service, and superb value for money set meals at under $6. Perhaps that was the problem - the pricing was not justifiable with the prime rentals they are paying for that location. This scenario makes for a good case study and was pleasantly holding court in my mind when I found this book to while away five hours waiting for accommodation in a local hospital.

‘Soul Proprietor – 101 Lessons from a Lifestyle Entrepreneur’ [1st edition] is an unpretentious read right from its rather unimpressive cover. Inside is a simple and solid guide from author, Jane Pollak, who owns a small but a successful business selling decorated eggshells. Pollak provides readers with 101 brief and down-to-earth advice and warnings in catchy subtitles that draw you into her narrations.

Where an enterprise’s image is concerned, Pollak offers in Lesson 5 ‘It’s best to focus your message carefully in every aspect of your business – written, visual and operational’, Lesson 7 ‘If you’re going to compete in business, your printed materials need to project the statement that you are a serious player.’, and Lesson 8 ‘Words shape your company’s image. Make sure they reflect what you want said about your business.’

What I like about Pollack is that she is a realist and not just some motivational guru who inflates readers with notions that puff up insecure entrepreneurs. She talks about taking necessary time off for other aspects of life [Lesson 28 – Occasionally the planets may line up to force you to take time off] yet persuades you to ‘forgo immediate results for the promise of greater, more lasting gains’ [Lesson 26 – It’s important to know when to discard something you already have for the promise of something better to come.] Indeed, ploughing through adjustments with the goal in mind is often the hardest challenge for business owners! So common to find insecure business owners seek one hype after another (like sugar boost) hoping this will move their business forward.

Pollak wisely reserved the finest advice for last. At #101: ‘Truly understanding your core values will make some choices easier to refuse.’ Kudos to Pollack for the courage to keep a healthy objectivity toward her business.

This book reminds me of a vital question business owners need to answer: What is your business? Bearing in mind that a business lasts beyond products that inevitably face technological, utility, or design obsolescence. If all you can describe are your products and business activities, you ought to search deeper and think harder.

Where you can get it: S$7.90 DU YI Bookshop, NUH Main Lobby
Level of impact: Good dose of sensibility
Timing of book: A time when I feel strongly that business owners need to keep in check their emotional investment for their business or creative ideas and stay objective about prevailing market conditions and the nature and typical lifespan of their businesses.