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A Good Hard Kick in the Ass: Basic Training for Entrepreneurs 1st Edition

4 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0609609507
ISBN-10: 0609609505
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Rob Adams--an ex-Marine and former technology executive who now runs an "accelerator venture fund" that works like an entrepreneurial boot camp--offers A Good Hard Kick in the Ass to wake up and shake up today's would-be business owner. The era when virtually any wannabe could turn an intriguing idea and slick presentation into a hefty bankroll is long past, of course. Adams believes the current environment calls instead for a return to elementary but oft-ignored rules expressed here through blunt admonitions (good ideas are a dime a dozen, you don't know your customers as well as you think you do, you don't need big bucks right out of the gate) meant to counter the "startup myths and misconceptions" many hopefuls still harbor. Each chapter breaks down one delusion-busting assertion into specific suggestions (assemble a team with solid "execution intelligence," validate the market, forge a strategy for getting out there quickly) and is fleshed out with the real-life experiences of both big-name techno-ventures and some of the embryonic participants in Adams's AV Labs. Any time you step up to the plate to start a company, you take a chance on striking out, he says, but following these steps should at least get you into the game. --Howard Rothman

From Publishers Weekly

In brisk, straightforward prose, venture capitalist Adams systematically destroys most of the misconceptions potential entrepreneurs have about starting a company, and tells them how to cover the basics, from knowing the customer to hiring good employees. Adams explains why a good idea is not necessary for success (good ideas are plentiful commodities; he contends; execution is really what matters); business plans are overrated (since most of the investors who give a company funding spend most of their time evaluating its employees); and most people don't know as much about their customers as they think they do (which is why customer research is vital). Adams's no-nonsense, fast-paced, slightly sarcastic style (think drill sergeant meets MTV veejay) makes this an engaging read, especially for Gen-X and Gen-Y capitalists (e.g., "I have nothing against team-building outings they're necessary. But come on: Cozumel? Get real!"). The focus on tech companies (Adams finances startups and began his own career as a technology executive at Lotus) feels dated, but the underlying advice is sound for all kinds of enterprises. He tends to stress the negative, spending more time on what not to do than offering proactive advice. Still, his book offers an excellent checklist of new-business pitfalls, making it worthwhile for anyone thinking of starting a company. B&w illus. Agent, Daniel Greenberg. (Feb. 5)Forecast: The book's "in your face" title and jacket will attract attention, and its straight-up advice will please readers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (January 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609609505
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609609507
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rob Adams is an active investor, author, consultant, and on the staff of the Management Department at the University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business, where he teaches in the MBA program and is the Director of the Global Moot Corp Program.

Dr. Adams is an active angel investor and board member for several start-ups, and is affiliated with numerous venture funds, several of which he started. Prior to the venture business, he was a software operating executive for two decades. Throughout his venture and operating career he has been a founder, founding investor or involved with the merger or acquisition of more than 40 companies, representing more than one billion dollars of capital, and has been involved with the launching of more than 100 products.

Prior to his appointment at the University of Texas, Adams founded Tejas Venture Partners, the second venture fund he has started. Previously he was the founder of AV Labs, a successful early stage venture fund allied with Austin Ventures, starting it after being a partner with TL Ventures. Before entering the venture business, he was a technology executive. He started his career with Lotus (NYSE: IBM), joining the company shortly after its public offering. Adams was instrumental in the development and launch of both 1-2-3 for Macintosh and Lotus Notes. He went on to be founder and CEO of Business Matters, a venture backed developer of financial modeling products and was an executive with Pervasive Software (NASDAQ: PVSW), a company he helped take public in 1997.

Adams holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Purdue University, a Masters of Business Administration from Babson College's Olin School of Management, and a Ph.D. in Management from Capella University. He has taught at the MBA programs of The Acton School of Business, Babson College, The University of Texas at Austin, and St. Edwards University.

He is a nationally recognized expert and speaker on entrepreneurship, company and product strategy, marketing and technology issues. He recently keynoted the Inc. 500 business conference and consults for numerous Fortune 500 companies. He provides expert testimony on technology related business issues, and has consulted on economic development and early stage company development for numerous governments including Chile, Costa Rica, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Thailand. He has been covered in Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, Money, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, on Bloomberg Radio, Public Television, public radio's nationally syndicated "Marketplace" program, and blogs for Inc.com.

He is the author of A Good Hard Kick in the As*: Basic Training for Entrepreneurs (Random House/Crown, 2002), and is currently working on his next book, If You Build It Will They Come? Three Steps to Test and Validate Any Market Opportunity (Wiley, April 2010).

Adams is a Fellow at the IC2 Institute; a University of Texas based foundation that runs the Austin Technology Incubator, on the board of Purdue Research Park, and a volunteer with Austin's Habitat for Humanity. He is an avid downhill skier and marathoner. He was a collegiate rower and graduated from the Marine Corps' Officer Candidate School.

Phone: 512-633-5955
Email: rob.adams@mccombs.utexas.edu

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Like other reviewers have noted, this book is aimed at a very particular audience: successful executives with significant experience, starting a technology company.

I figured I was close enough to that audience that I'd love the book. Turns out, I was wrong. This book is overwhelmingly focused on enterprise companies. I am the CEO of a consumer-focused company, and felt like the book was misleadingly positioned. Maybe "Basic Training for Entrepreneurs selling into the Enterprise" wouldn't have been as catchy... but it would be much more accurate.

I also found Rob's book troubling for softer reasons. For me, probably the most important decision I ever made was my choice of co-founders. Absolutely, you want a smart team just like Rob recommends... but you also want a team of people you can *trust* with your life. I was surprised by Rob's total focus on hard skills/experience in hiring.

But upon reflection, his focus on hard skills makes sense here, since the book is overwhelmingly about making money. If you want to build a team of people who want to change the world... or make a difference... this book is not for you. I'm not talking about non-profits or government; I'm talking about creating products that have an impact on the world (Apple, Sony, Google, Harley, Ben & Jerry's, Intuit, etc.).

This book has zero talk about creating a shared sense of purpose/mission. That's ok, because companies targeting the enterprise rarely have that sort of vibe. That's too bad, because I think that every company can use a "soul". And to be frank, creating a sense of purpose/mission can dramatically increase customer and employee retention. Maybe all this soft stuff can translate into hard dollars after all...
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Format: Hardcover
This excellent book describes the early start up stage of a new business in great detail. The author has experience with pre-funded start-ups and their efforts to validate their markets. There are few books that describe this early stage activity for entrepreneurs, where it's difficult to judge a market. Thus, this book is highly recommended.


- Puts proper weights on crucial start up tasks with an emphasis on the execution team. The author says execution and the execution team is more important than the idea. He makes a good point but I don't think having a good execution team is adequate reason to create a startup. You still need an organizing idea that offers overwhelming advantage.

- Recommends that you apply new technology to existing market to ease an existing pain. He particularly likes applying new technologies to business processes (of course Dell is one of the examples here).

- Asks you to repeatedly hypothesize and then prove/disprove the pain of your prospects. The area of customer need has to have a felt pain. The search for pain increases the likelihood of success, and makes marketing easier.

- Recommends rigorous upfront market research into prospects and influencers. Talk to at least 100 potential customers. After doing this the author says the business plan is easier to write.

- I liked his comments on talking to affinity groups, trade pubs, user groups, trade shows, and industry influencers.

- Get to the market quickly with a product that solves their immediate pain.


- Relies on quantitative market research for initial phase instead of one-on-one. His defense is that our goal is to be doing market research, not selling our solution.
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Format: Hardcover
After starting a couple of businesses, and running into every kind of possible start-up problem. I'm always looking for good practical advice from others who've worked with start-ups to help me avoid making dumb mistakes and wasting precious time. I picked up Rob Adam's book because after reading a few pages at the bookstore, and it became obvious this was not one of those typical "succeed by connecting the right dots" method books for arm chair techno-startup wannabes.
There was a lot of straightforward wisdom in his pages which I hope to draw on when I get stuck in a crisis situation (which is usually every day).
Several things stand out in this book:
1) Validate your market. Very true, common sense advice. He gives a clear guideline for how his company structures this process. Might not work for everyone scrambling to survive, but the point is still there. Do the homework first.
2) Defines what is good money vs bad money.
3) Ideas are easy. It's the execution that counts.
4) People invest in people, not plans.
Some things that didn't really help:
1) Most of us are not connected enough to sip beers with big VC investors on a patio. (If a VC is reading, email me, and I'll fly over from Taiwan immediately to do some sipping with you!)
2) The kind of money that's being talked about is not readily available to most people these days.
3) The straight forward partnering concept that is so prevalent in the US, doesn't often work in other parts of the world.
Well worth taking the time to read, think about, evaluate, and put into action. Can really help you if you are wandering off course in "business plan land¡¨.
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