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8 Patterns of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs [Kindle Edition]

Brent Bowers
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

“As unique as it is valuable, [8 Patterns of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs] achieves where so many business books fail. It provides practical advice for individuals . . . [I]t delivers what few business books ever aspire to achieve—wisdom regarding business and decision making, within a special context: start-up firms.”
—From the Foreword by Carl Schramm, president and CEO, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

At age seven, Cameron Johnson sold tomatoes door-to-door from his family’s farm. Pete Amico quit his job on his first day because he didn’t feel like taking orders from his boss.Greg Herro built a successful business selling diamonds made from the carbon extracted from ashes. If any of these people remind you of yourself, you just might have the kind of personality to take the small business world by storm. In 8 Patterns of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs, Brent Bowers reveals the eight patterns that highly successful entrepreneurs share—and what we can learn from them. In covering small business for decades at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, Bowers has chronicled the rise and fall of hundreds of start-ups. In this book, he draws on extensive interviews and research, as well as on the experiences and expertise of business consultants, venture capitalists, academia, and the entrepreneurs themselves, to describe the key characteristics shared by dozens of successful small-business owners and their companies. Among them:

The ability to spot and seize opportunities
An overwhelming urge to be in charge coupled with a gift for leadership
The flexibility to come up with creative, out-of-the-box solutions to problems or obstacles
Incredible energy and tenacity in the pursuit of their goals
Unwavering faith in their business
The ability to take smart risks
The ability to bounce back from setbacks and see failure as just one step on the path to ultimate success

This book offers invaluable lessons and insights for anyone thinking about starting a business or attempting a start-up a second or third time.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

BRENT BOWERS was a business editor for The New York Times for ten years, and before that a reporter and editor for The Wall Street Journal. He lives in Brewster, Massachusetts.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Seizing Opportunities

Entrepreneurs notice things.

They spot opportunities nobody else has seen and seize them. It sounds simple enough, but it is an aptitude most people lack. Ask yourself: Would you have figured out how to make a windfall out of an aging laundry plant during a construction moratorium in Princeton, New Jersey?

J. Robert Hillier did.

Hillier, the founder of Hillier Architecture, the fifth–largest architectural firm in the United States, is always on the lookout for arcane property deals. Successful as his architecture business is, it accounts for only 10 percent of his income. The rest comes from real estate.

His first big venture was his purchase a quarter century ago of a beat–up cinderblock building that housed a dry cleaning and laundry establishment. The company was going out of business, and Hillier saw right away that once it was fixed up, it might be converted into apartments.

Trouble was, Princeton’s sewer system had reached its limit, and the city had imposed a moratorium on real–estate construction until a new system could be built. Hillier, however, came up with a way around that. “I found out that the laundry pumped out 9,000 gallons of wash water a day,” he recounts. “So I went to the health board and asked, ‘If I buy the building and close it down permanently, could I build eleven townhouses that collectively would release only 2,200 gallons?’”They readily agreed, so he took the proposal to the zoning board, which approved it. “I sold all eleven townhouses before we broke ground, for $97,000 apiece,” he says. (He can’t help adding ruefully that today, they are selling for about $1 million each.)

Hillier is always keeping an eye out for angles. Not long ago, he learned that the guy who ran a repair shop for the town’s garbage trucks was retiring. Hillier knew there was a lot of demand for singles housing in downtown Princeton. He also knew the building in question had big iron trusses seventeen feet high, meaning you could fit two floors in it. He bought the building, got zoning approval to turn it into tiny loft apartments, and built sixteen of them. He rented them for $2,000 a month (an average of $48 a square foot, 50 percent higher than the most expensive office space in Princeton).

“That’s how entrepreneurs make money, doing little things like that, leveraging them by the multiplier effect,” Hillier says. “Maybe the important attribute of the entrepreneur is working at things in an unconventional way and seeing opportunity in doing so.”

You want unconventional? Greg Herro has found a business opportunity in cremated human remains that has to rate high on anybody’s list of creative thinking. Herro and his buddies found a gold mine in them. Or, more accurately, a diamond mine.


Herro's company, LifeGem, in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, extracts the carbon from the ashes of corpses and turns it into diamond jewelry. Macabre? Herro doesn’t think so, and neither, clearly, do his customers.

The way he sees it, LifeGem’s concept is a cosmic breakthrough in the way society disposes of corpses. In the million years or so that our species has walked the planet, humans have mostly either buried or burned their dead. Herro believes his company has come up with another alternative: bejewel your body with them.

Looking for unconventional solutions is an old habit with Herro. In high school, for example, he discovered that one of his teachers always asked questions based solely on captions under pictures. Thenceforth, he always got an A in her class.

In 2000, after selling a computer consulting company he had started seven years earlier, Herro was looking for something else to do. Then a friend, Rusty VandenBiesen, came to him with an interesting proposal. VandenBiesen had been watching a TV show about diamonds and had learned two important facts: Carbon is the building block of life, and diamonds are made out of carbon. So why, he wanted to know, couldn’t they create diamonds from human carbon?

Herro bought into the idea at once. “As Einstein once said, ‘If an idea does not at first seem insane, it has no hope,’” Herro points out.

Each of the four partners sank $25,000 into the venture, but it was Herro who did most of the legwork in the beginning—doing research into the technology of turning human carbon into diamonds, putting together a business plan, raising money, and recruiting a Russian–speaking associate as a contact to Russia’s diamond industry—while the other three continued holding down their jobs. Today, he holds the CEO title at LifeGem (he is seen as the guy who can get things done), while his three co-founders—Rusty VandenBiesen, Rusty’s brother Dean, and Herro’s brother Mike—report to him.


The gift for detecting—and grabbing—unique moneymaking opportunities that have somehow eluded everybody else lies at the center of entrepreneurs’ mental universe, according to academics and other experts. It is the most basic test of anyone’s entrepreneurial mettle. If you lack it, all the drive, passion, quick–footedness, and smarts in the world won’t bail you out of a life of professional servitude.

“The defining trait of entrepreneurs is that they notice things,” says William J. Dennis, senior research fellow at the National Federation of Independent Business’s NFIB Research Foundation in Washington, D.C. “They see opportunity. They smell it. Take the guy who came up with the absolutely simple idea of cargo containers for ships. He had been driving products to the dock and dumping them off. Somebody else would have to load them onto the ship. And he thought, ‘Why not just leave the container?’”

Other examples Dennis cites include the paint roller, invented by Norman Breakey of Toronto in 1940; the Jersey barrier, the concrete separator used in narrow highway medians; and the marketing genius behind the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, who realized that you don’t have to sell teddy bears as toys, you can sell them as alternatives to candy and flowers.

Tim Faley, managing director of the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, has his own favorite examples. One is Henry Ford’s famous inspiration to adapt the assembly line to automobiles. Another, lesser–known example is a Japanese company’s development of a technology that reduced the range of its golf balls by half. This meant that people could give the ball the same energetic whacking on small courses as on large ones—a winner in a country with a dearth of real estate.

It is important to note that the process of exploiting untapped opportunity comes in two parts: perception and action. How many times have you come up with brilliant ideas that never went anywhere beyond dinner–table conversation or idle late–evening fantasies? “A friend of mine coined the phrase ‘Entrepreneurs are dreamers who do,’ and I think that is what sets them apart,” says Judith Cone of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. “Simple desire, or some catalytic event, puts them on this journey of tremendous work that requires commitment, stubbornness, perseverance, and the ability to live within paradoxes.”

Guy Kawasaki, the managing director of Garage Technology Ventures in Palo Alto, California, an early–stage venture capital firm for high–technology companies, has listened to hundreds of pitches over the years. He says it is not uncommon to meet Ph.D.’s “who’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking for years but never actually starting doing anything.” The trick, he says, is to stop thinking and start doing. Tom Peters, the bestselling business writer, he notes, called this “a predisposition for action.”

Like Dennis and Faley, Kawasaki says business innovators often hit pay dirt just by taking a fresh approach to the obvious. “Take Apple’s iPod,” he says. “It had a better industrial design” than earlier–model MP3 players, “but that isn’t rocket science. The product was tightly integrated with online sales, and that wasn’t anything new. Anybody could have done both things at once, but no one did.”

Opportunities like this aren’t always out of reach for the general public. In the early days of the Internet, how many people had the bright idea of starting an online auction house? Quite a few, probably—and Cone was one of them. She and a girlfriend used to sit around and talk about creating an Internet marketplace that resembled today’s eBay. But while they were talking, Pierre Omidyar and his collaborators were out doing: raising money, getting licenses, hiring people, and building a business model.

Faley has witnessed the same distinction between cafe chatterers and down–in–the–trenches doers. “I think of entrepreneurs as gladiators,” he remarks. “They don’t want to talk about the theory of sword wielding. They want to do battle. They want to be down in the arena and making the mistakes and getting dirty.”

Before he came to the Zell Lurie Institute, Faley started the University of Michigan’s technology–transfer office in engineering. Over the course of three years, this office produced ten companies, including an Internet–security company called Arbor Networks that was launched “right at the tail end of the dot–com revolution but before anybody really cared much about security.”

The founder, Farnam Jahanian, was a researcher in computer networking “who could not quit worrying about the issue once ...

Product Details

  • File Size: 390 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; Reprint edition (November 26, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001M60BO6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,158,497 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too many stories not enough substance September 15, 2009
The 8 patterns are nice, and logical, but the book is really short story after short story of successful entrepreneurs. There are some good ones in there, but the author uses the same people over and over again, and the typical story is about 3 paragraph then on to the next story.
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