on January 26, 2011
The following is just my synthesized version of the first chapter.
So you know just what you need to know, gain confidence that business fundamentals are master-able and can be self-taught.
Improve and acquire new mental models to help you understand how businesses work (see Charles T. Munger)
Because the author spent a lot of time synthesizing material from a wide range of sources (there's a lot of junk out there)
Because Seth Godin and Lifehacker.com approve (and you read about it on reddit and digg)
Because a real business degree is usually a bad investment (there's a study that says so)
Because the material taught in most MBA schools is outdated and impractical (think "How to be an Industrial Age Captain of Industry")
Sometimes they even teach you the wrong stuff - see "direct incentives" and the book Drive by Dan Pink
Also, you don't have to build a behemoth to build a viable business
And number-crunching skills are not business-running skills. Create value, flam fraud.
And because small businesses are the new big business, holmes. Small, agile and lean companies are going to make your lunch and eat it.
But don't expect business schools to change until they feel the burn of mass rejection.
The one thing business schools can do is get you an interview
Cue Admiral Ackbar "It's a trap!" anti-college debt rant
Strum that familiar refrain: If you're smart enough to get into business school, you're smart enough not to need it.
What'll you'll learn (p. 32)
- how businesses work (ch 2-6)
- how people work (ch 7-9)
- how systems work (ch 10-12
You won't learn much about managing people (see chapter 9)
You won't learn much about managing money (read Accounting Made Simple and Essentials of Accounting, the McGraw-Hill 36 Hour Course in Finance for Nonfinancial Managers and How to Read a Financial Report)
You won't learn much about crunching numbers (read Principles of Statistics and Turning Numbers into Knowledge)
That's it. You're welcome.
on December 30, 2010
Having graduated from a top business school in Canada, I can safety say that I could have thrown out all my textbooks and used the money I spent on tuition to actually START a business, and used this book as a replacement to my business education.
What makes this book warrant such a strong statement is the fact that it's a comprehensive synthesis of all of the concepts you need to know to understand business inside and out. There are no complex models to learn or outdated theories to memorize just to get marks or pass tests. What you get is a comprehensive set of "mental models" or heuristics on all of the sub parts of creating, operating and working within a business. Why is this important? Because a mental model is like a rule of thumb for any possible scenario you might encounter in running a business - from value creation to delivery to marketing to finance. It helps you look at the world through the lens of what's most important (and thus no fluff to distract you) which ultimately helps you to ask the right questions and ultimately helps guide you to make the right decisions about maneuvering in business. These principles are universal and applicable for small business start ups to Fortune 50 CEOs because they're based on business fundamentals (the mental models) and not just tactics found in most other books.
In addition to a sound business knowledge what this book has is a very extensive section on working with yourself and with others. Achieving great strides in business is sometimes less about knowing the business aspect but more about conquering yourself - either with productivity, with working with people or with overcoming doubts and fears - all things I'm finding out as I work on my own venture. After having read dozens of psychology and self help books I can also say without a doubt that the section on working with yourself trumps them all. Josh delivers a well researched practical guide to understanding how you brain works and how to work with it rather than against it, so you can actually go ahead and apply the concepts in the rest of the book.
Highly recommended if you wish to know more about business, are thinking of starting your own business, or are thinking about joining an MBA program to climb the corporate ladder. Buying this book could end up saving a mortgage worth of student debt, so what have you really got to lose?
on July 26, 2012
As someone who is opposed to higher education for the same reasons the author is against it, I was very excited to pick up The Personal MBA to feed my own opinion as well as learn from someone much more informed than me. After coming across the author's blog I wanted to shout "hallelujah amen!" and shake his hand as he went on about the questionable economic sense of an MBA. When I was finally able to pick this book up and dedicate some time to it, I was very excited as I read through chapter one "Why read this book?". However, I was greatly disappointed when I got about a quarter of the way into it and fully realized how shallow/limited of a view we were taking of each topic.
In chapter one the author writes "The Personal MBA is a set of foundational business concepts that you can use to get things done. Reading this book will give you a firm foundation of business knowledge you can use to make things happen." Unfortunately, I would take issue with the author's claim that after reading this you will have a firm foundation in the topics covered. I felt that the book read more like a Spark Notes encyclopedia or dictionary and did not make me equipped to adequately think or apply any of the topics to my own professional life. It was as if there was a machine gun firing off all of these quick topics that followed the outline of casual story or comment and then one paragraph of depth. When I purchased this book, I was looking forward to more detail than the author presented and I think the first chapter does not adequately set the stage for what the author's goal is.
More examples could be given buy my intent here is not to berate the author. I simply would like to point out that if you have a fair amount of academic or practical business knowledge already, this book may not be as enlightening as you would like it to be. I will not discount my own fault here because I should have read more about the book rather than judged it by the title... shouldn't I have learned that by now?
On a side note, I would like to take some time to mention how impressed I am that the author has responded to many reviews here on Amazon, especially the negative reviews. In one of his responses he writes something that summarizes my feelings regarding this book excellently. I quote him in response to someone on a negative soapbox thinking MBA programs are the greatest thing since sliced bread:
:Quote: "If a reader who isn't familiar with business can learn the essentials in a few hours for a few dollars, the book is a worthwhile investment. For experienced readers, the value is conditional: it depends on your willingness to step back, reexamine your assumptions about how businesses work, and reconsider how you're operating. The biggest barrier to learning something new is usually realizing you still have something to learn." :Unquote:
I cannot help but admire his response and I think it is a very valuable three sentences to read before purchasing this book. If you know nothing/little of business, this is going to be a great read for you. If you studied it in college and like to read business books on occasion, then I would say that spending visiting his blog with an open mind would be just as beneficial in the long run.
At the end of the day, with well over 100 reviews and nearly 5 stars, many acolades from very successful business people, and a successful following on his blog, this book is not going to waste your time. I believe the author is challenging the status quo in a vocal, logical, and well thought out way and for that I wish him the best on his journey to convince people to self educate themselves. It is a powerful lesson that everyone can challenge themselves more on.
on January 3, 2011
Unfortunately, the title may limit the market to "business" people. But we are all in the business of managing and selling ourselves no matter what our occupation.
The president of a major food chain told me, "We hire English Majors. They know how to speak and write. We can teach them all they need to know about our business in six months. The business schools are five years behind what is happening in our marketplace."
Josh Kaufman has produced more than the brightest, shiniest new thing. His book deals with today and the future. Targeted and concise but not too abreviated.
The collection of quotes used to start each section is worth the price of the book.
Find a section you want to share? Each section has a link for forwarding. Some sections offer more detail by logging on to the link given.
on June 19, 2011
I went to college and got a business degree, and was offered the opportunity to get a more advanced degree. I turned it down for several reasons:
1. College is super expensive.
2. Nobody seemed to care that I got my first degree.
3. I was getting A's, yet not learning anything and getting bored out of my mind.
As someone who reads several business books a month, I've had a chance to peruse a lot of helpful material. On the top of the pile sits the Personal MBA.
Kaufman makes a clear argument for personal education, which is everyone's responsibility regardless of whether they are in college or not. From there, he discusses all the major points he has found up to the point of publishing this book that have helped shape his thoughts and become more productive in the corporate and self-employed environments.
If you like reading and hate the fact that you can buy only one book to get all this great material, he includes a list of other useful business books so you can keep studying whatever you like.
Of the many reviews I have written here, writing a review for this text was among the most difficult because "The Personal MBA" has a large target market consisting of a wide variety of potential readers, and the vast majority of reviews here are very positive. Because of this situation, I fall back on my review philosophy, which is to write as objectively as possible, taking into account the claims of the author in terms of their goals, as well as comparing to other materials in the marketplace. What is not necessarily fair is to write solely based on my knowledge or experience, which often times does not match the backgrounds of the target audience.
Admittedly, this text is very well written. The writing style and organization of Kaufman contributes greatly to readability, and I enjoyed this aspect of this book. Many business works have a lot of fluff, and in general most of this text provides substance that will be appreciated by many readers. In addition, the history behind this book is interesting in that it came about as a natural step after the author created a heavily visited blog listing books and resources he had found valuable in his studies, so readers can be assured that this text was not written from an ivory tower perspective but resulted directly from reader interest.
The author writes at length in his first chapter as to why this book should be read. It is not easy summarizing this chapter in a few short sentences, but Kaufman mentions that what he provides here is "a set of foundational business concepts that you can use to get things done. Reading this book will give you a firm foundation of business knowledge you can use to make things happen. Once you master the fundamentals, you can accomplish even the most challenging business goals with surprising ease." Later, the author calls this text "a self-directed crash course in business", and provides an extensive discourse as to why the traditional MBA does not provide significant value.
Neither the author nor myself has an MBA, although we have both gone to business school (and I also have a graduate degree). While I cannot speak for the author, in my opinion there is substantial material in this text to provide to the business neophyte. However, I was unfortunately not overly impressed with the material Kaufman provides after chapter 6, which is midway through the book. The author makes up on this aspect to some extent by providing an appendix entitled "How to Continue Your Business Studies" that lists dozens of texts in a variety of business topics, although this list serves as a reminder that, as communicated in the introduction, what the author provides here is an introductory text.
If you do not have time to read this whole text, I recommend reading chapter 2, entitled "Value Creation" on creating value for customers. The summary that the author provides on the "Twelve Standard Forms of Value" (product, service, shared resource, subscription, resale, lease, agency, audience aggregation, loan, option, insurance, capital), for example, is very well done. The "Ten Ways to Evaluate a Market" is also especially well done. The author obviously summarizes and synthesizes material from disparate sources very well, but the reader needs to be aware that much of the content provided is just that, a CliffsNotes-styled survey of what the author has determined is fundamental to studying business.
From the perspective of a consultant, be aware however that this material is sometimes overly summarized and synthesized. For example, in his 3-chapter presentation on understanding systems, analyzing systems, and improving systems, many important topics are glossed over, and unless the reader understands the substance that is waiting for them within the reading lists the author provides, they may minimize the importance or complexity of the topics. For example, the definition that the author provides for "Return on Investment (ROI)" is limited to "simply dividing the amount of money you collect by the amount of money you spent, then subtracting by 1.00."
However, there would be no need for texts such as "The Consultant's Scorecard: Tracking Results and Bottom-Line Impact of Consulting Projects", by Jack Phillips (see my review), where several ROI calculations are detailed at length, if this calculation were so simple. Fortunately, Kaufman points the reader in the right direction, and presents in an entertaining manner, and so this book is recommended to anyone new to business topics, especially aspiring entrepreneurs. One of the best features of this text are the many quotes from other sources that introduce each of the subtopics in the 12 chapters provided here, and for this reason alone this book is worth a read.
on April 23, 2011
First of all, let me say this, I do not generally review books publicly, partly because I am not that much of a cheerleader type person and secondly, there are not that many books that I come across that have me jumping out of my seat because it gave me a huge "a-ha moment".
I bought this book because I had come across the author's recommended reading list on the web. I wanted to enhance my knowledge base of business means and methods, what I did not realize when I bought the Kindle version was how much information about everyday life I would also be gaining! I have read some disparaging comments regarding how the information is presented or how much is being charged for the electronic version as compared to the hard cover, obviously these individuals are more concerned more with what they have to give up than what they are receiving.
Two reasons I can see for the brevity of the topic chapters, Josh gets right to the point on a particular topic; what it is, why it is important and how best to utilize it. Keeping it short so that we can move on to the next topic of information, he is utilizing the novelty principle to keep the reader engaged. Secondly, with the wealth of information that the author is sharing, if he wasted words to fluff up each chapter, we, the readers would be burdened down by trying to digest and understand a 1200-1600 page encyclopedia tome (I had to look up that the paper book is 416 pages).
This book is one of those great books that you will go back to over and over again using it as a resource to continually streamline and upgrade your personal and business systems. You might even want to flowchart or mind map the book to allow yourself to have a tool that will help you address and deal with any challenge or issue that you may face in the future.
I do not even know how many times I have text, tweeted, told and email my friends and family about this book, it is that good. Just the sections on "Working with Yourself" and "Working with Others" makes it an invaluable tool to smooth out our day to day interactions and head-scratching missteps.
Buy this book, read it and USE it, you won't be sorry.
on January 19, 2011
I was not familiar with the formal movement of "The Personal MBA", but I was curious when I saw this book advertised. I finished my MBA in 2007 and had the good fortune of having my company reimburse me for the costs. This was an experience and process I feel will serve me well. As my MBA education lasted me two years, I finished knowing I did not know everything about business and all of its core elements (I still had a lot to learn).
Since I have finished I have followed the philosophy of personal learning and trying to improve key skills related to the art of business. This book is a good starting point and has some good references and passages I found interesting. I did not find the chapters on Finance, marketing, sales, or the Human Mind overly helpful (probably in this order) as they operate at the highest level and cover the most basic elements of each core competency.
The areas I found most helpful were Value Creation, Value Delivery, Working with Yourself, Analyzing Systems, and Improving Systems. The last passage from B.C Forbes and Appendix B are great. Each short, but I found these to be the most thought provoking parts of the book.
The reading list is good, but some really important books are missing that may help further one's "business education". Think about what you need to learn and create your own list of 100 books (some from Josh's list would certainly be included).
As people have noted this will never replace the value of a formal business education, but will be a value reference for people who need business skills to complement their hard skills and don't need to go through 2-3 years of rigorous training, plus the potential expense and opportunity costs.
I would have liked to see core areas like project management and quality discussed further along with IT and related subjects. Maybe tie together business and IT as the book had this potential, but fell a little short (but in truth, this was not the author's objective).
All in all, the cost of the book was minimal and provided a lot of food for thought and directions to follow and explore. This may even be a recommended read for those entering business school and those who just finished.
on June 14, 2013
To me, 'The Personal MBA' reads more like a series of blog posts, rather than a book.
It doesn't flow well, because after every point the author asks you to 'share this concept' online. By this, he means to click a link and share a webpage from his website. I find this extremely distracting, and it is interrupting my thought process and enjoyment of the book, to the point where I am contemplating returning it.
I did a count of how many times you are asked to share a concept, and it is well over 100! (My Kindle-for-PC lost count after that.) In my opinion, this is kind of tacky, and something that I would expect from a 0.99 ebook, not a 'real' book for $9.99. It also shows little regard for the reader, by putting the author's needs (promotion) ahead of the needs of his audience (to lose themselves in a good book.)
A more subtle mention, maybe at the beginning and end of the book, would have been plenty.
I've had two goes at reading it so far, and will try again, but unfortunately can't seem to get into it. If I wanted to read something in this style, I would go online and read from blogs, not buy a book.
For what it's worth though, I am enjoying the author's other book The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast!
on March 6, 2011
As a voracious reader of business books and cheap skate, I go to torrent sites to look for e-books. So I came across the Personal MBA manifesto pdf. Read it, made sense and didn't contradict other great business sources. So I went to the website. Saw the reading list... every book on the list that I read (many of them), were top-notch definitely could tell time was put into the list, not just thrown together.
If you're thinking about going into business or going to business school to get a MBA, please do yourself a HUGE FAVOR and start your journey with this this book! You will save yourself a lot of money, time, and frustration. The book has the distilled knowledge (hard gained experience) from over a hundred amazing books, that you would would need to cull through thousands to find! So pretty much, Josh and his contributors are giving you a thousand-book head start, thank them for providing that value by buying this book! I bought this with my barnes and noble gift card for double what it is going for on Amazon and it is worth every penny!
If you like this review, please select that it was helpful. Thanks, Luke.