Book Club #34: How I Built This by Guy Raz

Book Club #34: How I Built This by Guy RazBuilding A Business, Just Like Others Before You

Guy Raz would have you believe that he never intended to become an entrepreneur. He witnessed the hardships of entrepreneurship firsthand, as his parents worked tirelessly to provide stability for their family through their pursuit of the American Dream. He even admits that the decade he grew up through left a decidedly bad taste in his mouth when saying the word business. No, Raz was more interested in stories than business, and perhaps that is why he was able to identify the narrative arc that all successful businesses seem to have in common with a heroic tale. But he wanted to hear more stories and share them with others, not create his own.

Yet, through his successful podcasts and production company, that is exactly what he has done. He has leveraged his love of stories to build his businesses, almost without realizing it, and definitely in a manner that doesn’t leave him in disgust. He has worked to pull together a collection of entrepreneurial heroism, ripe with lessons of hardship, perseverance, and success (as well as failure) and shared them with the world of people who dream of the entrepreneurial path. This journey started in podcast form of the same name but over time, Raz saw the opportunity that a book full of the best examples of business heroes could provide to the dreamers who want to be entrepreneurs, but don’t really know what it takes or what to expect and so may end up being non-starters.

The Call

The entrepreneurial path is not easy for anyone, and those who go in with the idea of it being easy, unfortunately end up learning the hard way that it is decidedly not. To overcome the initial hardships, feinted success, and inevitable learning lessons, you must have the idea that the role of the entrepreneur is your calling. That your purpose in life is to solve the problems of others either through service or product. This is the only way that you can make it through the times when everyone and almost every fiber in your body is telling you that you should quit.

The Test(s)

No business gets off the ground without some tests of the owner’s willpower and stamina. Fear of failure, lack of financing, acts of God even, are but just a small sample of what an entrepreneur can face along their business owning path. With that in mind, Raz lays out the basic challenges that one might face, and goes on to illustrate the varying ways that others have overcome those challenges. He focuses on more than just perseverance in this section, instead giving you real world ideas for how others have overcome their own businesses’ tests.

The Destination

The most valuable part of the book to any newly minted entrepreneur who may read it is the last section, which focuses on getting a business owner to consider what to do when success strikes. In order to keep your success from becoming a temporary win and another example of a startup’s failure, you must understand that there is no end to an entrepreneurial endeavor, short of selling out. Knowing how to build a culture that helps the company grow, knowing when to bring in help, and yes, knowing when to sell and get out, are all questions that a successful entrepreneur may face. 

How Did vs How-To

While the book is built on a treasure trove of wonderful entrepreneurial examples, it  does seem at times as if it is only a collection of unique examples. This is not a book to read to learn the structure of entrepreneurial startup, nor is it a guide on how to be successful by following Steps A, B, and Z. The pages contain real-world examples and good meaning advice, but in the end, the book is more of a feel-good antidote for when the grind gets you down.

And sometimes, that is exactly what you need to remember your calling, and keep going.

If you want a feel-good antidote for your bad business days, we’re always happy to provide a pick-me-up! Give us a call.