Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

As a business owner with only an engineering degree I sometimes wonder whether things would be easier if I had formal business education - in other words an MBA. While there's nothing wrong with flying by the seat of your pants, I often feel as though I've worn through too many pairs of britches. In the late 90s I even considered enrolling in a part-time MBA program only to have common sense tell me that homework and exams were well in my past.

Jumping right to the end of The Personal MBA, I'll quote author Josh Kaufman: "Self education is a never-ending process." And he's right. Kaufman's book is the latest in a long string of books I've read in the hopes of bringing some formalism to the business half of my everyday work.

The Personal MBA is comprised of twelve chapters covering topics from sales & marketing, to finance, working with people, and working with systems. In each chapter, Kaufman introduces the various principles and concepts that you'd learn about in the coursework that comprises an MBA. Keep in mind that Kaufman's basis for writing this book (and the website and consulting that goes with it) is his opinion that going to school for an MBA is just not worth the cost and time. Instead of paying $100,000 in tuition and investing two years, there are fundamental ideas that you can learn on your own. For example, the chapter on  sales covers finding common ground, four pricing methods, education-based selling, the three dimensions of negotiation, and more. Each section is rather short and can be read in probably 10 minutes or less. In fact, each section ends with a URL that's convenient for tweeting.

One section that struck a chord with me was The Paradox of Automation which states that the more efficient an automated system is, the more crucial is the contribution of the human operators of that system. My interest in this quote really has nothing to do with business but rather the technical half of my day job. The dictionary definition of automatic is "without human intervention" but letting automated software run wild is a recipe for disaster.

On the down side, The Personal MBA has a tendency to read like one long glossary of business terms. There's nothing truly actionable. But it does accomplish Kaufman's goal of identifying, raising your awareness of, and briefly explaining the significance of business concepts.

Kaufman's website is

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