Bluffer’s Guide To Your Own Business

(n) blufferfour-flusher (a person who tries to bluff other people)

(v) bluff,  (try to deceive someone as to one’s abilities or intentions: “he’s been bluffing all along”; “I am an accredited envoy,” he bluffed.)

What sort of person would buy The Bluffer’s Guide To Your Own Business?  No, hang on, I’ll come back to that question.  Let’s start with the objective of this series, as printed on the back of the books in this series:

“It’s not what you know, it’s what they think you know.”
Hold your own in any situation
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My first problem with the series is therefore that people who want to sound like they understand concepts invariably don’t, and reading a small book is a very poor substitute for acquiring genuine knowledge and understanding.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, as they say.

My second problem is that the author of this book is one John Winterson Richards, who “has degrees in both law (which he has ignored ever since) and business administration (which taught him one valuable lesson: the only people who make money through MBAs are business schools.)”  Apart from the statement being demonstrably false, it implies Mr Winterson Richards has a chip or two on his shoulder about the purveyors of such knowledge, though it does suggest the Bluffers books were written with tongue very firmly in cheek.

Speaking as a man who has run his own business these past 20 years and who has an MBA from Henley Management College, I wouldn’t claim MBAs teach you everything you need to know, but there are few better ways of gaining the theoretical and practical tools and techniques needed to help you through the foothills of senior management.  The fact is that I’ve used the tools and techniques gained on my MBA, including a great many not covered here, on a daily basis, and to exclude that wealth of quality material is to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

Whether or not you make money is down to you, not the MBA, but I would in any case dispute that the sole aim of being in business is to make money.  Were that the case we would all be bankers and – er – lawyers.  Fact is that many people who do succeed in business never need an array management techniques because they possess the instinct to know how to take risks and to persevere, and that many of the issues discussed here would be intuitive and not need to be taught, or maybe would be learned on the job.

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That innate entrepreneurial spirit is not common to us all, though invariably if we want to reach our optimum level and make a bob or two in the process.  What knowledge do we need? Is this book trying to tell you that with a rapid trawl through the basics you will be equipped to make money, and if not then what is its true purpose, or that entrepreneurial skills are entirely practical and that theory is all hogwash?  Quoting from the inside cover blurb:

“Instantly acquire all the knowledge you need to prosper in the heady and cut-throat world of business – especially if you’re a proud business owner.  Never again confuse a mission statement with a SWOT analysis or USP with a POS.  Bask in the admiration of clients and competitors alike as you pronounce confidently on the merits of economies of scale, social media and a clear brand identity.  Most importantly, know when to blame macroeconomic factors if things don’t turn out quite as you hoped.”

At this point you know this is not a book to be taken seriously but one written primarily for entertainment purposes, from which you might pick up the occasional useful fact in its  128 pages (of which 104 offer material to be read and absorbed.)  Sure enough, Amazon files the book under ‘business humour’, though the core material seems a tad short on jokes.

That said, it is much more a practical guide than a tour of SWOTS and mission statements; there is a glossary covering the meaning of these tools, but seldom any information about how they might be turned to the advantage of the reader. There are a few case studies alongside basic tuition in developing a business plan, simple market research, a touch of finance, a soupçon of regulation and a biting and jaundiced commentary.  Since I make a living as a consultant, a few words from the section on consultants will give you a flavour:

“Businesses are increasingly using consultants in every functional area.  Their role is to deliver specialist skills from a different perspective, supposedly.  If you need help in any aspect of your business, then it’s a certain bet that there is a management consultant hanging around in reception who can help.  As a bluffer you might find a consultant rather convenient – someone who can do the bluffing for you.  It not only works quite effectively, but also helps you to learn from a master of the art… which of course is the problem.”

So hardly an objective guide offering a rounded appraisal, then.  Merely a bunch of ill-informed and rehashed opinions written on the back of a fag packet? Or maybe a cynical exercise to make you part with your money for said guide, thus demonstrating people will pay good money for any old baloney?  I’ve heard the series described as “iconoclastic,” “informed” and “funny,” though it definitely sounds like a collection of prejudices you might find down any pub on a Saturday night and certainly not a treatise you can apply to everyday life running a business.

Bottom line is this: I have no idea what the core audience of this book or the series is, though in terms of its own marketing it would appear to be a smaller, even simpler pocketbook version of the very successful Dummies series, presumably to be carried around as the bible by people operating a business on a wing and a prayer?  Maybe it’s something to be read on a train en route to your business meeting, or more likely an extension by another name of Michael Green‘s famous “Art of Coarse…” series, and let’s face it – you wouldn’t go to those books for serious advice.

All I can truthfully say is that for most people much of the material would be faintly patronising and of little value to the average businessman, and that getting an MBA would be a life-changing experience, usually for the better.

 

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