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Book Review: What’s Stopping You? Shatter the 9 Most Common Myths Keeping You from Starting Your Own Business by Bruce R. Barringer and R. Duane Ireland

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The days are over when the average American could count on staying with a large corporation until he or she turned 65 and could enjoy a comfortable retirement. Many Boomers expect to go on working as long as they’re able to do so, not only for economic reasons (who could live on Social Security these days?) but also by choice. But older workers face active discrimination both on the job and when they try to get hired. Workers of all ages no longer have job security, as large corporations ruthlessly downsize their payrolls (the number one way for a large company to make its stock prices jump is to announce a round of layoffs).

One solution for many older or frustrated workers is to start a business of their own. Small businesses are responsible for the majority of new jobs created in the United States, and these are jobs that don’t get outsourced overseas. A multitude of small, diverse businesses creates a far healthier economy than a few huge employers or single industries that can leave an entire region crippled if they fail or relocate. Given all the personal, social and economic advantages that small businesses offer, why don’t more people start them?

I could wax cynical about the education and conditioning that “the system” inflicts on Americans to keep them good consumers and employees for the megacorporations. I’m happy to say that the authors of What’s Stopping You? do no such thing. Clear, straightforward, and one hundred percent hyperbole-free, What’s Stopping You? debunks nine “myths,” or common assumptions, about small businesses that intimidate average people from making the effort to break out of the employment rut and launch their own start-up. Authors Bruce R. Barringer and R. Duane Ireland probably know exactly where these “myths” come from and why so many people believe them, but they don’t waste their time on that point. They just give the reader the plain facts, backed up with references and examples.

Unlike some books of this type, the authors aim to be realistic rather than inspirational. Barringer and Ireland don’t proclaim that “everyone” has the aptitude or qualities needed to run a business. But they do argue that far more people could be successful entrepreneurs than actually take the plunge. Along with practical advice, What’s Stopping You? addresses topics such as motives for starting a business and “determining what you want out of life.” In calm, logical style, the authors explain why passion is so important, how major decisions can be triggered and why we fear taking risks.

But for the most part, What’s Stopping You? is a practical, level-headed guide that is packed with useful resources, especially online websites and directories. Each chapter presents topics that could fill whole books on their own, such as getting financing, utilizing the Internet, promotion (“getting noticed”) and strategizing how to compete in the marketplace. But What’s Stopping You? provides scores of websites, books and other sources of information for exploring each topic in greater depth.

Barringer and Ireland have both authored textbooks on small business and entrepreneurship, and this experience is evident in What’s Stopping You? Each chapter concludes with a summary of the points covered and a list of end notes, and there is a comprehensive index. Anecdotal examples are set off in shaded boxes. The layout is clear and attractive throughout and I didn’t spot one single typo.

The only aesthetic aspect of the book that puzzles me is the cover design, which simply doesn’t do the book justice. The red and black on plain white invokes an industrial safety poster, and the image on the front cover is just plain odd. The title is printed on a photo of a sign hanging from a doorknob, like the “do not disturb” signs in hotels. The relevance of this image to the book’s theme completely escapes me. This is a comment for the publisher, not prospective buyers — it has nothing to do with the quality of the book’s content. But I would hate to think that people who would benefit from What’s Stopping You? might miss out because the cover image is so obscure.

What’s Stopping You? is an excellent book for people who think rationally and mistrust the more colorful pitches so common to the “motivational” genre. The authors are passionate about entrepreneurship, and What’s Stopping You? presents their expertise in a highly accessible form. If you’re wondering just what the “nine myths” are, buy this book. It’s worth the price.

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About Vyrdolak

Inanna Arthen (Vyrdolak) is an artist, speaker and author of The Vampires of New England Series (http://vampiresofnewengland.com): Mortal Touch (2007), The Longer the Fall (2010), and All the Shadows of the Rainbow (2013). Book 4 is currently in progress. Inanna is a lifelong scholar of vampire folklore, fiction and fact, and runs By Light Unseen Media (http://bylightunseenmedia.com), an independent press dedicated to publishing vampire fiction and nonfiction. She is a member of Broad Universe, New England Horror Writers, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE). She holds an M.Div degree from Harvard and is an outspoken advocate for the Pagan and LGBT communities. She is minister of the Unitarian-Unitarian Church of Winchendon, MA.