Book Review: 'The Rebel Entrepreneur: Rewriting the Business Rule Book' by Jonathan Moules
The Rebel Entrepreneur: Rewriting the Business Rule Book Jonathan Moules Kogan-Page (2012)
How and why rebel entrepreneurs “create the real growth drivers of an economy”
Rebels are iconoclasts, mavericks, outliers, etc. By nature, their thinking and initiatives are unconventional, unorthodox, and quite often disruptive as they challenge what (in Leading Change) James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” In business, the term “rebel entrepreneur” is a redundancy. In this book, Jonathan Moules focuses on a number of people who have demonstrated that “acting in a way that does not follow the crowd can be a better way of managing your business if you really want to grow bigger and faster – what I call being a rebel entrepreneur.”
Moules suggests that rebel entrepreneurs tend NOT to
o Seek bank loans for financing o Innovate; rather, they imitate [Note: My own opinion is that great entrepreneurs do both.] o Be a hero o Pay “the high cost of success” o Get hung up on the business plan o Downsize their way through difficult times o Waste their time selling [Note: My own opinion is that great entrepreneurs avoid wasting anything but are NOT risk averse.] o View setbacks as failures if valuable lessons are learned from them
Moules devotes a separate chapter to each of these eight. For example, Chapter 01: “Funding is for fools” (“The case for bootstrapping.”) As he explains, “The topics I have chosen for this book reflect the breadth of issues an entrepreneur has to consider when building a company [or department, business unit, wholly-owned subsidiary, or division]. Each is a journey through tips I have picked up during six years of writing about entrepreneurship in the Financial Times.”
Consider these remarks by Jack Welch, shared during a GE annual meeting years ago when he explained the reasons why he admired entrepreneurial companies:
“For one, they communicate better. Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other. Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace. Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone. And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy.”
There is much to be said for rejecting or re-writing the “business “rule book” to which the subtitle of Moules’s book refers” if (HUGE “if”) those rules are irrelevant to the needs, interests, values, resources, and strategic objectives of the given enterprise. However, even entrepreneurs (and especially, “rebel” entrepreneurs) will agree that several rules still have significant value. For example
o There is no business without customers o Waste (of anything) is evil o “Potential” means “you ain’t done it yet” (Darrell Royal) o “Vision without execution is hallucination.” (Thomas Edison) o “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” (Peter Drucker) o “Take great care of your people, they will take great care of your customers, and your customers will then take great care of your investors.” (Herb Kelleher)
There are no head-snapping revelations in this book, nor does Moules make any such claim. Rather, citing dozens of real-world examples to illustrate key points, he offers a wealth of information, insights, and counsel that have substantial practical value. For whom did he write this book? Probably not for rebel entrepreneurs but surely for those who aspire to “build a better company” or “have a go at chasing that idea that [they] have nurtured for an enterprise.” I also recommend this book to those who are preparing for a business career or have only recently embarked on one as well as to middle managers in large organizations. Although they may never launch a new company, they can certainly apply what they learn from Jonathan Moules to drive the growth of their careers.
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.