Brand Book Bites from How to Ruin a Business Without Really Trying

the book: How to Ruin a Business Without Really Trying: What Every Entrepreneur Should Not Do When Running a Business – a sometimes hilarious, sometimes hard-hitting book of lessons for entrepreneurs.how to ruin a biz

It’s actually three books in one:  The first section, entitled “My Most Famous Screw-Ups” conveys 39 general rules for starting and running a business; the second part gives advice specific to making deals and includes profiles of different kinds of investors as well as a “Play by Play” of doing a deal; the book wraps with a final section of how-to’s.

the brain: MJ Gottlieb, a lifelong entrepreneur (he’s owned and operated five businesses over the last 23 years) who bravely bares his scars and shares his lessons learned from years of making countless mistakes

the best bits: How to Ruin a Business Without Really Trying is full of specific advice including:

Dot Every I, Cross Every T, Leave No Stone Unturned, Believe Wholeheartedly in Murphy and Go Over Your Checklist Thrice…and Don’t Trust a Soul — Several of the principles MJ lays out deal with the need to pay attention to details, prepare for the unexpected, and do due diligence.


Never Go On a Suicide Mission is a recurring theme. MJ advises, “Always remember to build your own insurance policy in your business.”  In some cases this means diversifying your customer base, sometimes it involves having back-up plans in case promised money doesn’t come through.


Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help – When MJ ran into trouble, he could have called for help from a friend who was very well-connected and quite successful. But he let his ego get in the way and didn’t want to admit he needed help.  Years later, when his friend discovered the problems MJ had encountered previously, he expressed his disappointment that MJ hadn’t reached out and told MJ that he would have gladly lent a helping hand.  MJ reflects, “Though hindsight is twenty-twenty, I remember feeling like an idiot and that I may have had a chance to save the business if I had simply asked for help.”

the brand story: The book’s overarching narrative is the story of MJ’s personal journey through two major failures.  The first stemmed from the BNW brand of apparel that began one evening when MJ and his partner Gary walked into a club giving away t-shirts for MJ’s band and ended the night with several thousand dollars in case in their hands from having sold all of the t-shirts out of their trunk.  Within a few short years, they built a pretty sizable business.  But it ended just as quickly when the factory that made their product went out of business and they had no back-up plan.  A few years later MJ and Gary got a second chance and started a second company, Entrig.  But once again their overnight success turned into a big flameout because MJ trusted the wrong person to run their production.

MJ observes,

“The funny thing is that I lost the second business for the same reason I lost the first business. You would think after suffering so miserably the first time, I would have at least learned never to make the same mistake twice! But that is the nature of the beast (or the biz.)  Most entrepreneurs get lost in running the day-to-day affairs of their business, and they don’t have the patience or guidance to step away from the war for a moment to analyze the battle.

He wrote this book to help others do just that.

the bottom line: I have been recommending this book to all the young entrepreneurs I know. They don’t know what they don’t know about the day-to-day of running a business and it will be a valuable guide.

Listen to my conversation with MJ to learn:

  • why you must have passion but you can’t let your emotions cloud judgment
  • what are “hip pocket” clients and why you need them
  • how “ego is a killer” – as MJ says, “The only way we learn is to raise our hands”

other brand book bites:

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