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The Big Book of Small Business: You Don't Have to Run Your Business by the Seat of Your Pants


Your shoes are charred from stomping out brush fires. You have nightmares about UFOs—Unreachable Financial Objectives. All-star interviewees turn into duds. Meetings cause more problems than they solve. The office is a ghost town at 5:01 p.m. Does this sound familiar?

Tom Gegax knows what that is like. Years after running his Tires Plus franchise by the seat of his pants, blissfully unaware of how little he knew about getting the most out of people and managing a world-class ...

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The Big Book of Small Business

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Your shoes are charred from stomping out brush fires. You have nightmares about UFOs—Unreachable Financial Objectives. All-star interviewees turn into duds. Meetings cause more problems than they solve. The office is a ghost town at 5:01 p.m. Does this sound familiar?

Tom Gegax knows what that is like. Years after running his Tires Plus franchise by the seat of his pants, blissfully unaware of how little he knew about getting the most out of people and managing a world-class organization, Tom was faced with a cancer diagnosis and a business at the brink of disaster. Resolved to change things around, he improved his mental clarity, health, and relationships and noticed that the more he profited on a personal level, the more his company profited. Tires Plus grew into a $200 million business with 150 upscale locations. He had learned the first lesson in Enlightened Leadership 101: Focus on the well-being of your employees and customers—as well as your own—and success will follow naturally.

In The Big Book of Small Business, Tom shares his hard-earned lessons on how to become an enlightened, effective leader, and on how to do the small things right so the big decisions work. This all-in-one toolbox for small businesses is jammed with warm-hearted, tough-minded practices and street-smart tips, covering every aspect of a growing business:

  • Starting, funding, and getting your new business off the ground
  • Crafting a mission and growing a corporate culture that works
  • Hiring the best people and maximizing their potential
  • Communicating and negotiating with your employees, customers, and suppliers
  • Creating processes for continuous innovation and growth
  • Protecting your business from unforeseen dangers
  • Planning for growth
  • And much more . . .

As thorough as a textbook and as lively as a news magazine, The Big Book of Small Business is the most comprehensive and practical book on how to take a small business to the next level, and an indispensable slingshot for the millions of scrappy Davids taking on corporate Goliaths.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Schulze
“All the good stuff and none of the fluff”
Business Lexington
A wealth of information to be read and digested, then kept within arm’s reach for further reference down the road.
Miami Herald
Loaded with insights and strategies…dealing with real-world situations and solutions that most small firms face.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061206696
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/6/2007
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 1,075,635
  • Product dimensions: 7.37 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Bestselling author Tom Gegax has been an executive at one of the world’s largest corporations; a start-up entrepreneur; a CEO leading 1,600 employees; a business consultant; and a member of numerous boards. By the time Tom sold Tires Plus to a multinational firm in 2000, it had mushroomed from a sketch on a restaurant napkin to a Midwest market leader with 150 locations. Today, he helps growing companies raise profits and reduce stress through fast and affordable business management coaching.

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Read an Excerpt

The Big Book of Small Business

You Don't Have to Run Your Business by the Seat of Your Pants
By Tom Gegax

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Tom Gegax
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061206696

Chapter One

Make Up Your Mind

Uncommon Factors to Consider Before Quitting Your Day Job

Call me naïve. It never occurred to me that my new business might fail.

Hey, this was me we're talking about. Tom Gegax. Four-sport high-school hotshot. Rising star at Shell Oil--earning promotions like compliments at the prom, tooling around town in a company car, illuminating for service-station managers the finer points of running their businesses. I knew it all.

In reality, I had no idea what I was about to do to myself--and to my family. Oh sure, my wife, Jan, and I had talked it through: Should I stay or should I go? Jan was supportive, telling me that I knew best whether I was up to the challenge. Of course I was. So I took the leap--and landed chest-deep in the proverbial creek, with the rapids rising fast.

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad I went out on my own. I just wish I had better anticipated the toll it would take. If I had been as prepared as you'll be after reading these pages, I would've dealt better with the inevitable crises that flew my way--and dodged many of them altogether.

Entrepreneurial types are apt to jump the starting gun. That pedal-to-the-metal mind-set is one of our greatest strengths. But it can also be our Achilles'heel. In our zeal to conquer the business world, we may disregard or overlook these critical start-up issues.

Consider the impact on your family. In my acceptance speech for Inc. magazine's 1995 Midwest Entrepreneur of the Year Award, I wondered aloud whether the price I'd paid was too steep. In the early years, I was a slave to the business, working miserably long hours. While I did attend most of my kids' activities, and even coached their baseball and basketball teams, it felt as if I was always multitasking, wondering how to replace a key employee who had just resigned or whether I would make the next payroll. My kids, who quickly learned to recognize when I was zoning out, would jar me back into real time by tapping on my shoulder: "Earth to Dad." As the business grew, I had more flexibility for family time, although it took a lot of focus to keep my mind off business when I was off the clock.

Was it all worth it? Would I do it all over again? Yes--under two conditions. First, I'd need to know everything in The Big Book so I could escape the straightjacket stress and strain of running a business. That calmer state of mind would fulfill the second condition: a better balance of work and family.

Face the fear. I was twenty-nine years old, my first day off Shell's payroll, and my wife and two sons were at a Dairy Queen in suburban Minneapolis. We ordered Peanut Buster Parfaits and Dilly Bars. As I handed over a five-dollar bill and took the ice cream, ten words ambushed my mind: Where will the money come from to pay for these? That thought was more chilling than an Arctic Rush brain freeze. No more checks on the first and fifteenth. No profit sharing, no company car, no expense account. Really, I had no idea if my new business could generate enough revenue to support the four of us. That undercurrent of quiet terror was my constant companion for a long, long time.

When in doubt, gut it out. Tell me I can't do something that I want to do, and I'll work my butt off to prove I can. My junior year of high school, there were fifteen seconds left in the last basketball game of the season. We were trailing by one point against a much larger school that my small town hadn't beaten in twenty years. I had the ball. Dribbling down court, I saw an open teammate streak down the sideline. Misjudging how far to lead him with the ball, I passed it behind him and out of bounds--and threw away our chance to take the final, potentially game-winning shot. I was so embarrassed and guilt-ridden that I didn't show my face in school for two days. The only thing my coach ever said about it was, "Don't bother going out next year; you won't make the team." I loved basketball, so his words lit a bonfire in my belly. I practiced five hours a day, every day, all summer long--with ankle weights. Not only did I make the team, I was leading scorer and all-state honorable mention in Indiana, where basketball is right there next to Mom, God, and country.

That unshakable--and, in hindsight, borderline delusional--belief in myself saved my business bacon countless times. At Shell, my manager said I wasn't tough enough to transfer from HR to the field. After a year, he relented and assigned me to the toughest part of Chicago, the near South Side, Bad Bad Leroy Brown's neighborhood. I helped take South Side dealers from worst to first in tire sales. As soon as I started my own business, before the paint had even dried on my store signs, a competitor told me straight to my face, "You're not going to make it, Tom." Even my equipment supplier had no faith. "I wish you the best," he said, "but it's just not going to happen." Oh, and Michelin initially to supply tires to us because we weren't big enough. Perversely, all that only inspired me to build a team that captured 1.5 percent of the U.S. tire market, selling over a million tires annually.

My post-Shell cluelessness did have a few advantages. Had I known how hard it was to launch a business, price and market products, hire and train people, make payroll, and pay off loans, I might have stayed in my corporate cocoon. But leave I did. Head down and plowing through crisis after crisis, I earned a Ph.D. in business management from the school of hard knocks. I can appreciate Winston Churchill's sentiment when he said, "If you're going through hell, keep going."


Excerpted from The Big Book of Small Business by Tom Gegax Copyright © 2007 by Tom Gegax. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Foreword   Richard Schulze     xiii
Introduction: Living by the Seat of My Pants: A Journey from Clueless to Cashing In     xv
Setting Up Shop: What Every Budding Entrepreneur Needs to Know     1
Make Up Your Mind: Uncommon Factors to Consider Before Quitting Your Day Job     5
Research the Market: Analyzing the Data to Determine Your Niche     10
Write the Business Plan: Building Your Blueprint for Success     13
Find Funding: Raising Capital Without Relinquishing Control     18
Position Yourself: Nailing Your Name, Location, and Differentiation     23
Line Up Your Legal Ducks: Protecting Your Business Interests     30
Build a Strong Board: Getting Help, Not Headaches, from Outside Advisers     43
Pouring the Foundation: Laying In Your Mission, Vision, and Values     53
Mission Critical: Embodying Your Mission Statement     57
Vision Check: Composing Your Vision Statement     62
Champion Core Values: The Link Between Character and Higher Profits     64
Accountable Ethics: The Four Pillars of Ethical Leadership     71
Snatching Up Stars: Embracing Your Hire Power     79
Talent Scouting: Finding the Best People     81
Interview Essentials: Stripping the Guesswork Out of Hiring     86
Labor Legalities: The Dos and Don'ts of Employment Law     95
Hit the Ground Running: Welcoming New Hires     102
Growing the Culture: Seeding an Enlightened Environment     107
The Camaraderie Credo: Developing Team Spirit     109
Lead the Charge: The Twenty-one Laws of Cultural Leadership     112
Honor Thy Employee: Putting People First Produces Higher Profits     125
HR Solutions: Shifting Focus from Paperwork to Partnership     129
Fun, Friendly, and Flexible: Loosening Up Keeps Grumbling Down     132
Workplace Wellness: Nurturing Healthy and Productive Employees     136
Get Personal: The Rules of Engagement     139
Building a Systems-Disciplined Organization: Crafting Pitch-Perfect Processes     147
Strategic Planning: Drawing Up Tomorrow's Road Map     151
Execution Is Everything: Ensuring It's Done Right     159
Resolve Roadblocks: Helping Individuals and Groups Solve Problems     161
Add Muscle to Meetings: How to Run Tight, Productive Meetings     165
The Best Never Rest: Continuous Systems Improvement     170
Communicating Clearly: Sending Static-Free Signals     173
Listen Up: Practicing Active Listening     175
Express Yourself: Writing and Speaking Effectively      179
Communicate Expectations: Achieving Airtight Accountability     184
Ask for Advice: Soliciting Employee Ideas     188
Face-to-Face Feedback: Delivering One-on-One Critiques     192
Face Your Flaws: Soliciting Frank Feedback About Your Performance     200
Coaching Others: Cheering and Steering, Not Domineering     205
Dare to Care: Kindness and Empathy Wins Hearts and Minds     211
Set Challenging Goals: Helping Employees to Grow Through Goal Setting     215
The Annual Review: Turning the Review into a Coaching Session     217
Reward Results: Matching Incentives to Outcomes     222
Good-bye and Good Luck: Freeing Up the Future of Underachievers     225
Educating Employees: Riding Employee Development to the Top     229
On-the-Job Learning: Building Your Educational Infrastructure     233
Delegate or Die: Deputizing Your Staff Multiplies Your Impact     237
Teach, Don't Preach: Making Lessons Stick     241
Succession Strategies: Putting the "Success" in Succession     243
Coaching Yourself: Guiding Yourself to Peak Personal Performance     249
Got Mission?: Crafting Your Personal Mission Statement     253
Truth or Consequences: Pitfalls of Unethical Behavior     258
Ready, Set, Goals: Turning Dreams into Destiny     261
Work the Plan: Linking Goals to Action Steps and Schedules     266
Time Wise and Organized: Embracing Enlightened Efficiency     272
Mind-Body Balance: Bringing Your Inner Team into Alignment     279
Spotlight on Self-care: Feel Better, Work Smarter, Live Longer     286
Business Function Dos and Don'ts: Key Concepts and Killer Tips     297
Supply Management: Strengthening Every Link     299
Marketing: Increasing Brand Equity     313
Sales: Increasing Market Share     334
Customer Service: Making Your Guests Feel at Home     347
Finance, Accounting, and IT: Beyond Bean Counting     356
Weathering Worst-Case Scenarios: When Bad Things Happen to Good Companies     379
Relationships on the Rocks: Rescuing Key People Who Jump Ship     381
Natural Disasters: Coping with Catastrophes     387
It's Strictly Business: Dealing with Brutal Bankers and Cutthroat Competitors     393
Conclusion: Growing Pains: Stepping It Up from Small Business to Midsize Company     401
Acknowledgments     407
Index     409
About the Authors     421
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