Opinion: Become a bookworm

by 02 Feb 2018

Marc Barlow, of Mortgage Broker Melbourne, recommends books that will drive business success 

Like most brokers, I began my career straight out of the bank after realising there was no such thing as a job for life any more. I had survived the most recent round of ‘job spilling’, which sounds innocuous but was actually a fiendish way of controlling the expense budget and keeping everyone on their toes.

Team leaders were pit against each other to secure fewer jobs than there were before, with twice as many team members for only a tad more pay. It was like The Hunger Games. It occurred to me that perhaps being self-employed would bring more stability.

I have previously written about the book that inspired me to take the plunge and start my own business, Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T Kiyosaki. This was truly the catalyst, but it wasn’t the road map for succeeding in business; for that you need to read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E Gerber.

I learned some startling statistics on business failure from this book. About four out of every 10 businesses fail within the first year. And about 80% of those that make it through the first 12 months will fail within five years. Gerber goes on to explain why, and it’s quite enlightening.

I won’t spoil the plot too much, but the book dispels the myth that all businesses are started by entrepreneurs – heroes who are somehow more dynamic than normal people and are willing to risk it all on some wild idea.

The E-Myth talks about the more common case in which someone decides to leave their job and strike out on their own and become their own boss. The book explains the challenges this person will face and the introspection required for them to realise they don’t yet possess all the knowledge they need in order to succeed as a business owner.

Personally speaking, I never considered myself an entrepreneur either. Coming straight out of the bank, I thought: “How hard can it really be?”

It is really a handbook for those who want to set up a systematised business of their own … [one] that functions efficiently and doesn’t swallow up every aspect of your life

Those self-employed mortgage brokers reading this will all have got where they are via slightly different paths, although I’m sure we all started out thinking it was going to be easier than it turned out to be.

The E-Myth travels through the usual growth phases of any fledgling business, starting with the initial honeymoon period when the newly self-employed person is happily managing all aspects of the business themselves, then moving on to the growth stages and the challenges that they bring.

Great suggestions are offered for dealing with these various stages. They involve looking inwards and finding the personal traits needed to deal with these challenges.

Gerber coined the phrase “working on your business, not in it”, and discusses how to focus on the business itself, not just the product being sold.

The book will help those looking to start a business rather than those simply looking to buy themselves a low-paid, high-hours job. It is really a handbook for those who want to set up a systematised business of their own, like a franchise – not necessarily with such Melbournelofty goals as a national network, but a business that functions efficiently and doesn’t swallow up every aspect of your life.

Another book I read very early on that helped me deliver quality service is part of The One Minute Manager series. Written by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, it is called Raving Fans! The clue is very much in the title, of course.
I needed referrals, so I didn’t just want satisfied customers; I wanted raving fans who would shout about my wonderful service from the rooftops to all their friends, family and colleagues.

Ravings Fans! is written in a jaunty, parable style and will not take long to read. I found it was a bit of a page-turner.
It follows a similar theme to The E-Myth, as it asks the reader to look inwards at what they consider to be exemplary service, and then to build a framework around that to create an experience that goes above and beyond the mediocre service most people accept.

That theme needs to be woven through the entire fabric of the business, especially those who work within the organisation. 

The book helps a business owner understand the needs of the client as well as the staff who help deliver the service. Everyone needs to buy into the idea and be rewarded for delivering, not simply penalised constantly for doing the wrong thing.

Raving Fans! will help any business owner to gain a competitive edge through a genuine dedication to the end user of their product, and to change the ethos of their business in order to create lasting change.

Both The E-Myth and Raving Fans! make for great reads and can be useful no matter what stage of the business cycle you’re in.

Marc Barlow
broker, Mortgage Broker Melbourne

Marc Barlow has been in mortgage broking for more than 10 years, after previously working with retail banks in Australia and the UK. He is currently a mortgage broker at Mortgage Broker Melbourne, based in the CBD.