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Paul Hawken demonstrates that the answers to small business problems today cannot be solved by college degrees, training or money—but only by you. Nearly everyone harbors a secret dream of starting or owning a business. In fact, a million businesses start in the United States every year. Many of them fail, but enough succeed so that small businesses are now adding millions Paul Hawken demonstrates that the answers to small business problems today cannot be solved by college degrees, training or money—but only by you. Nearly everyone harbors a secret dream of starting or owning a business. In fact, a million businesses start in the United States every year. Many of them fail, but enough succeed so that small businesses are now adding millions of jobs to the economy at the same time that the Fortune 500 companies are actually losing jobs. Paul Hawken—entrepreneur and bestselling author—wrote Growing a Business for those who set out to make their dream a reality. He knows what he's talking about; he is his own best example of success. In the early 1970s, while he was still in his twenties, he founded Erewhon, the largest distributor of natural foods. More recently, he founded and still runs Smith & Hawken, the premier mail-order garden tool company. And he wrote a critically acclaimed book called The Next Economy about the future of the economy. Using examples like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, and University National Bank of Palo Alto, California, Hawken shows that the successful business is an expression of an individual person. The most successful business, your idea for a business, will grow from something that is deep within you, something that can't be stolen by anyone because it is so uniquely yours that anyone else who tried to execute your idea would fail. He dispels the myth of the risk-taking entrepreneur. The purpose of business, he points out, is not to take risks but rather to get something done.


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Paul Hawken demonstrates that the answers to small business problems today cannot be solved by college degrees, training or money—but only by you. Nearly everyone harbors a secret dream of starting or owning a business. In fact, a million businesses start in the United States every year. Many of them fail, but enough succeed so that small businesses are now adding millions Paul Hawken demonstrates that the answers to small business problems today cannot be solved by college degrees, training or money—but only by you. Nearly everyone harbors a secret dream of starting or owning a business. In fact, a million businesses start in the United States every year. Many of them fail, but enough succeed so that small businesses are now adding millions of jobs to the economy at the same time that the Fortune 500 companies are actually losing jobs. Paul Hawken—entrepreneur and bestselling author—wrote Growing a Business for those who set out to make their dream a reality. He knows what he's talking about; he is his own best example of success. In the early 1970s, while he was still in his twenties, he founded Erewhon, the largest distributor of natural foods. More recently, he founded and still runs Smith & Hawken, the premier mail-order garden tool company. And he wrote a critically acclaimed book called The Next Economy about the future of the economy. Using examples like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, and University National Bank of Palo Alto, California, Hawken shows that the successful business is an expression of an individual person. The most successful business, your idea for a business, will grow from something that is deep within you, something that can't be stolen by anyone because it is so uniquely yours that anyone else who tried to execute your idea would fail. He dispels the myth of the risk-taking entrepreneur. The purpose of business, he points out, is not to take risks but rather to get something done.

30 review for Growing a Business

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roland

    When I decided to start my own business, I have bought a couple of books on starting a small business. I did not expect that reading books will solve all my problems, but I have figured that they will answer some questions, and give some ideas. Growing a business was so far my favourite. Plain language, no jargon, no buzzwords, simple examples. The fact that it was first published in 1987 should not scare you away. The ideas and concepts are so basic and so eternal that time will hardly change them When I decided to start my own business, I have bought a couple of books on starting a small business. I did not expect that reading books will solve all my problems, but I have figured that they will answer some questions, and give some ideas. Growing a business was so far my favourite. Plain language, no jargon, no buzzwords, simple examples. The fact that it was first published in 1987 should not scare you away. The ideas and concepts are so basic and so eternal that time will hardly change them. First of all, the title. Growing a business. Not building, creating, but growing. It makes it clear that a business needs constant care from the moment you plant the seed, even when - or if - it grows into a mighty tree. Then come the chapters, filled with common sense, anti-hype titles and contents. Be careful,you may succeed. Too much money is worse than too little. Size is no longer and advantage. If it's a good idea, it's too late. Plan to fail. The book looks at different and important aspects of business: the business idea, ownership, how to get funding, business plans, and more. A full, complete book, one that you can read more than one time. And all in plain, everyday English.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    Great book - my fave outakes: The innovative mind is nurtured by experience Being a good human being is good business Entreprenurial ideas spring from a deep immersion in some occupation, hobby, or other pursuit. Spurred by something missing in the worls, the entreprenuer begins to think about and envision a product or service, or a change in the existing product or service. The entrepreneur is often the first one to spot the opening, and if things work out that person will have a successful busine Great book - my fave outakes: The innovative mind is nurtured by experience Being a good human being is good business Entreprenurial ideas spring from a deep immersion in some occupation, hobby, or other pursuit. Spurred by something missing in the worls, the entreprenuer begins to think about and envision a product or service, or a change in the existing product or service. The entrepreneur is often the first one to spot the opening, and if things work out that person will have a successful business. ...a good business enhances the lives of all who work within it, and enriches the lives of all those who are touched by it. Being in business is not about making money. It is a way to become who you are. To find the beginning, reduce your business idea to it's apparent essence...when proper order is correctly identified a business is almost failure proof. Don't cut a since corner along the way....the beginning determines all that follows. The moment you enter the world of business - as a provider, not merely a consumer - you will have a hundred opportunities a day to act beneficailly or wrongly, to deal with people fairly or otherwise, to enhance your social environment or pollute it. Business is people. Expect the unexpected. A good school makes learning into a game, engaging everyone, excluding no one, honoring all, ridiculing none. Meaningful involvement in the function. informed. change.learn. practice. ideas. intelligence. creativity. imagination. dreams. hunger.. quality, trust. with most activities there is no presumption of excellence in the begining.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lena

    I first read this book shortly after starting a small business in the late 80's. At that time, I found it wonderfully encouraging. While not a memoir, Hawken excels at clear-eyed sharing of many practical lessons he learned along the path of starting his own first company, Erehwon Natural Foods, as well as his more famous later business, Smith & Hawken, which grew into a multi-million dollar gardening supply company. In addition to his own experiences, Hawken tells educational tales of success s I first read this book shortly after starting a small business in the late 80's. At that time, I found it wonderfully encouraging. While not a memoir, Hawken excels at clear-eyed sharing of many practical lessons he learned along the path of starting his own first company, Erehwon Natural Foods, as well as his more famous later business, Smith & Hawken, which grew into a multi-million dollar gardening supply company. In addition to his own experiences, Hawken tells educational tales of success spawned by the creative thinking and customer focus exhibited by then upstart companies such as Patagonia and Ben & Jerry's. His theory that there will always be room in the American landscape for people who create products out of passion and who chose to genuinely care for their customers still holds true 30 years later, as corporate America still struggles to maintain authenticity and quality service in a landscape dominated by mass market malls. While the book was inspirational to me the first time around, it was less practically useful for the small scale service industry I was in at the time. Now that I am the co-founder of a company that makes minimalist footwear and has multiple employees, however, I found many of his ideas more directly applicable. His discussion of how too much money is more dangerous to a small business than too little was particularly interesting, as were his thoughts on building a company that cares for its employees as well as it does its customers. Originally written in 1987, the book does show its age in places. The strategies and systems Smith & Hawken set up to deal with a pre-internet catalog company with minimal PCs will seem quaint to some and totally foreign for younger readers, but many of the lessons still resonate - the technical details of the issues may have changed, but the principles of the solutions they put in place have not. In other areas, however, the age of the book casts a shadow over some of the stories Hawken highlights. I am old enough to remember the original Banana Republic stores Hawken sings praises of, but there isn't the slightest hint of those original creative theme park environments that so successfully invoked the mystery of travel in the current, minimalist sea-of-beige version that is so well camouflaged by corporate conformism I didn't even notice there was one in our mall for years. Smith & Hawken itself lives on only as a Target brand acquired after the corporate owners who gained control of the company after Hawken's mid-90's retirement oversaw its slide into bankruptcy in the following decade. The sobering perspective offered by knowing the less than happy endings to these stories leaves me, at the current stage of my own company, with as many questions as the book answers. Despite that, I would recommend it, as it remains an encouraging and realistic guide to anyone looking to take the plunge into starting a business, and also offers many useful lessons to those who are already far enough in to have realized they may have gotten more than they bargained for.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    I found a lot of what he writes to be obvious (but maybe it's not to other people). If you think that running a business is impossibly complicated or something you could never do, or that you have to have tons of capital to start one, reading this will put those kinds of fallacies in perspective. Yes, you can do it. People who build businesses are just people, they don't have special powers. They just want to build a business and learn what they need to know to do it. You don't need tons of money I found a lot of what he writes to be obvious (but maybe it's not to other people). If you think that running a business is impossibly complicated or something you could never do, or that you have to have tons of capital to start one, reading this will put those kinds of fallacies in perspective. Yes, you can do it. People who build businesses are just people, they don't have special powers. They just want to build a business and learn what they need to know to do it. You don't need tons of money - in fact, he makes a good point which is that most businesses are worse off with too much money than too little, because they don't gain wisdom about how to spend it. Witness the dot-com bubble start-ups that were floating in dough but never became profitable. It's like how trust fund kids often don't learn how to manage their money. So, if you want to start a business, and don't have your own common sense about it, then this is probably a good book for you. Mostly it confirmed stuff that I already knew though, and he was successful at something that I don't entirely want to be that successful at. I don't really want a big business - I have no interest in being the next Patagonia. I started my business to make a living and I'm happy to have it grow very slowly. So it wasn't like, the most fascinating book to me. But it could be for you. It's definitely honest and genuine which I liked.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sonja

    Wow, lots of others have felt as clueless and discombobulated starting a new business as I did. Wish I'd known about this book when Mom and I started Friends Fabric Art ...late is better than never! Wow, lots of others have felt as clueless and discombobulated starting a new business as I did. Wish I'd known about this book when Mom and I started Friends Fabric Art ...late is better than never!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rick Wilson

    Read this instead of pretty much anything else about starting a small business. Real honest advice from people who have done it without mythologizing or blowing smoke.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lamec Mariita

    Such an amazing book. It's a must read if you are starting a small business. It will help you build value and profitability. The book has marvelous insights made all the better because its author is the owner of a well-known business, Smith & Hawken. By focusing on the inner business, Hawken helps any business person create an enterprise that is ideally suited to its owner. The author ,Mr. Hawken, gives some great advice and makes it seem like anyone can succeed in business if they treat people Such an amazing book. It's a must read if you are starting a small business. It will help you build value and profitability. The book has marvelous insights made all the better because its author is the owner of a well-known business, Smith & Hawken. By focusing on the inner business, Hawken helps any business person create an enterprise that is ideally suited to its owner. The author ,Mr. Hawken, gives some great advice and makes it seem like anyone can succeed in business if they treat people right.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Sort of a how-to book for someone who owns a small business and wants to make it grow larger. Well written, with good anecdotes and solid advice about what works and what doesn't. Reading books like this make me want to run out and start a business. Sort of a how-to book for someone who owns a small business and wants to make it grow larger. Well written, with good anecdotes and solid advice about what works and what doesn't. Reading books like this make me want to run out and start a business.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Lund

    A pleasant, reassuring, common-sense book about "small" business (anything from a small grocery store to Patagonia) with some interesting ideas. Focuses more on general approaches than specific recommendations, and has aged fairly well. A pleasant, reassuring, common-sense book about "small" business (anything from a small grocery store to Patagonia) with some interesting ideas. Focuses more on general approaches than specific recommendations, and has aged fairly well.

  10. 4 out of 5

    srutherford81

    Great account of how to start and grow a business intelligently, slowly and organically. The do's and dont's in plain language. No business school jargon or hard to read advise. Great account of how to start and grow a business intelligently, slowly and organically. The do's and dont's in plain language. No business school jargon or hard to read advise.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    This book was included in my book: The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. www.100bestbiz.com This book was included in my book: The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. www.100bestbiz.com

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carol Palmer

    Interesting read, but it was written before the internet so much of the material is out of date.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Great book about the ethics and framework around running a successful business. Loved the definition of "tradeskill" and the 5/15 reports and Go-For-Brokes. Great book about the ethics and framework around running a successful business. Loved the definition of "tradeskill" and the 5/15 reports and Go-For-Brokes.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robert King

    Great book. Paul breathes life into a subject that all too often is boring a dull. All in all a great down to earth look at business and how to set your self up for a win in both life and business.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Randy Stapilus

    First read this back in the late 80s. It was the first thing I read that made me think I might actually fit doing some kind of business. It is human level and feels real, the kind fo commentary you seldom hear from people about business, even small business. And while a few bits and pieces haven't held up (mainly in the way of predicting trends), nearly all of it has. What Hawken has to say here is timeless. First read this back in the late 80s. It was the first thing I read that made me think I might actually fit doing some kind of business. It is human level and feels real, the kind fo commentary you seldom hear from people about business, even small business. And while a few bits and pieces haven't held up (mainly in the way of predicting trends), nearly all of it has. What Hawken has to say here is timeless.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Glover

    Excellent book. Though most of the ideas it contains were things that I’d learned from others already, hearing them reaffirmed alongside amusing anecdotes was quite welcome. This is a must-read for folks just getting started in business and running their own things. It’s far less of a practical, step-by-step manual and more of a mindset-shaper; a set of moral and ethical guidelines that will indirectly help you find success in business.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    This easily read and highly accessible book presents a kinder and gentler approach to creating and running a successful business. Though it was published in 1987, much of the author's advice is doubly important these days. This easily read and highly accessible book presents a kinder and gentler approach to creating and running a successful business. Though it was published in 1987, much of the author's advice is doubly important these days.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This book still holds up (despite references to the corporations of the time of writing). It is refreshing to read of business people still focused on the value-add to society, rather than a singular, naked focus on pure profit.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shanti

    Inspiring book. A great read to doing business with authenticity, sincerity, effort, and patience. It gives a different feel from the often heard message that ambition and shrewdness are utmost importance in doing business.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary Kelly

    not much to it

  21. 5 out of 5

    Luqman

    The book is quite dated, but the business advices still relevant till today

  22. 5 out of 5

    DeLaney

    An older book, so some of the descriptions are out-dated, but the over-all mindset and strategies are ageless. Not a must-read, but not a waste of time.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Costin Fasie

    Business explained in plain and straightforward language. A truly valuable experience on growing a business with ethical attitude.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Julian

    I read this book at least fifteen years ago and its messages about entrepreneurship stuck with me: if you are skilled but unhireable, small business may be the best way for you to create a niche for yourself; business is as much about giving people fulfilling work as it is turning a profit; there is an alternative to growth at all costs. After reading many other business and entrepreneurship books in the intervening decade(s), coming back to this one was refreshing. It is in re-reading it that I I read this book at least fifteen years ago and its messages about entrepreneurship stuck with me: if you are skilled but unhireable, small business may be the best way for you to create a niche for yourself; business is as much about giving people fulfilling work as it is turning a profit; there is an alternative to growth at all costs. After reading many other business and entrepreneurship books in the intervening decade(s), coming back to this one was refreshing. It is in re-reading it that I am amazed at how relevant it remains, even to today's software startup world. All the ways in which I've watched great companies fall apart are depicted clearly in Hawken's book, and much of his advice (particularly around how opportunities for new businesses, hiring, and fixing things) I thought I had rediscovered, not realizing I must have read it here first. I guess seeing it all in practice, again and again, has made it much more true. As I was reading it, I wondered what happened to the business he was growing at the time of the book, Smith & Hawken. Of course, it was a success under his leadership, then he stepped away, the company got acquired by a much larger one, and was gradually destroyed. The unfortunate modern cycle of the otherwise-sustainable small business. Apparently this is associated with a PBS series but I've never seen the series. The book stands on its own. If there is a single book anyone considering starting a business should read, it's this one.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Curtismchale

    This is an ‘older’ book which doesn’t even come in a digital format. I actually didn’t realize this and ordered it an a spree of book ordering only to forget about it and then get a paperback book from Amazon. Unfortunately much of the time physical books end up sitting on my shelf unread due to the fact I can’t easily carry them everywhere with me as I can a Kindle book. I already carry lots of stuff while bike commuting to my office so adding a book to the mix doesn’t happen. I am so happy that This is an ‘older’ book which doesn’t even come in a digital format. I actually didn’t realize this and ordered it an a spree of book ordering only to forget about it and then get a paperback book from Amazon. Unfortunately much of the time physical books end up sitting on my shelf unread due to the fact I can’t easily carry them everywhere with me as I can a Kindle book. I already carry lots of stuff while bike commuting to my office so adding a book to the mix doesn’t happen. I am so happy that I decided to start this book and read it every morning before I started working for the day. The insights found within are awesome. Paul Hawken has started a number of businesses in his life. Everything from whole/organic food stores to mail order garden tool supplies. He’s also invested in a number of other successful companies and advised them. He has a very unique down to earth perspective on running a business and growing it. Contrary to our current tech bubble Paul advises that simple money doesn’t solve problems it only allows these non-profitable companies to continue to loose money and become a bigger problem. He’s not opposed to taking investment, but it’s not the magic pill it’s often made out to be. Execution of a good idea by the right team is really what’s key. Growing a Business is on my list of books to read again because I’ll be ready for new bits of the awesome advice.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Well, first off Paul Hawken seems like a great guy - I'd love to sit down and have a conversation with him. That being said, I wasn't able to really get into this book (although I did appreciate it's humor). I might have enjoyed it more if I had picked it up myself, but instead it was recommended work-related reading. While most of the principles he discusses are fairly universal, a lot are also fairly obvious or things I've picked up elsewhere and it is completely outdated as far as technology Well, first off Paul Hawken seems like a great guy - I'd love to sit down and have a conversation with him. That being said, I wasn't able to really get into this book (although I did appreciate it's humor). I might have enjoyed it more if I had picked it up myself, but instead it was recommended work-related reading. While most of the principles he discusses are fairly universal, a lot are also fairly obvious or things I've picked up elsewhere and it is completely outdated as far as technology is concerned (it was written in 1987). If you're interested in starting a small business and are not sure where to start it's probably a great read, but it just didn't feel super relevant to my current interests as far as expanding my business-related knowledge.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eric Lawson

    Was looking for a book about starting my own business. Have read several but when I began reading this book I was amazed at what Paul Hawken realized about business back in 1987 when he wrote this book. The principals he lived by were way ahead of his time. His thoughts regarding employee empowerment, being completely customer-focused and working with your employees versus managing them make complete sense. When I start my business I am re-reading this book as it is a template for starting out s Was looking for a book about starting my own business. Have read several but when I began reading this book I was amazed at what Paul Hawken realized about business back in 1987 when he wrote this book. The principals he lived by were way ahead of his time. His thoughts regarding employee empowerment, being completely customer-focused and working with your employees versus managing them make complete sense. When I start my business I am re-reading this book as it is a template for starting out successfully.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    Paul Hawken's gives you plenty of great advice when starting a business. Although it's primarily a motivatonal tool, he gives you plenty of useful tips to put into action. It would have been great if he went into more detail about writing the business plan, but other than that, great book! Paul Hawken's gives you plenty of great advice when starting a business. Although it's primarily a motivatonal tool, he gives you plenty of useful tips to put into action. It would have been great if he went into more detail about writing the business plan, but other than that, great book!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    Contains timeless business principles on how a business should be conducted.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian Stewart

    The best book on business I have ever read.

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