Birthing the Elephant

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Authors: Karin Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman

Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Reviewer: Goke Ilesanmi


Starting a business constitutes a great challenge and the thought of it alone frightens most people into inaction. This is especially so because they lack knowledge of what it takes to begin, not to talk of how to cope when the goings get tough. If men are afraid to start a business; women are overwhelmed by fear of starting. That is why this book has been written to especially wake women up to the idea of entrepreneurship.


“Birthing the Elephant”, which has the long subtitle “The woman’s go-for-it! guide to overcoming the big challenges of launching a business”, is co-written by Karin Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman. Abarbanel runs a marketing communications firm and served as the spokesperson for Avon’s Corporation to Cottage initiative. She speaks frequently on entrepreneurial women and small-business trends.


Freeman, known as the “Small Business Professor”, is a syndicated columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. He is the president of ProLine Communications and adjunct professor of Business at Seton Hall and Kean universities.


Abarbanel and Freeman say surviving the ups and downs of entrepreneurship takes more than a great business idea. These authors point out that it requires that you face a slew of challenges that will test your resolve – from giving up a steady paycheque to working long hours.


They add that while other books focus on writing a business plan and getting funding, this text charts the psychological and emotional aspects of launching a start-up. Abarbanel and Freeman stress that by presenting a roadmap of the first two years of your enterprise, this text guides you as to how to think and act like an entrepreneur; anticipate problems and overcome barriers to success; manage the four key stages of your launch; and avoid the ten costly mistakes that new business owners often make.


As regards structure, this text is segmented into 10 chapters. Chapter one is entitled “design your destiny”. Here, Abarbanel and Freeman educate that though it is true that being your own boss offers many potential rewards, it will also make some startling new demands on you such as the need to do more with less, assume unfamiliar risks, wear many hats and at least for a while, give up the trappings of success.


They add that in making this decision, you have set an ambitious but totally achievable goal. “All around you, women are reinventing themselves as entrepreneurs and transforming their personal visions into fulfilling work. Every sixty seconds, five women launch new ventures somewhere in the United States,” disclose Abarbanel and Freeman.


These experts educate that business success takes more than courage and business savvy as it also takes a whole new mindset.


According to these authors, unless you can cultivate an entrepreneurial approach, even the strongest business plan and rock-solid expertise will not be enough to ensure that your enterprise survives and thrives. Abarbanel and Freeman add that unless you can find the inner strength to rebound from the setbacks you will meet, you will find yourself down for the count no matter how promising your new venture is. Moments of doubt can be triggered by the loss of a client, a product disaster or the incredible shrinking bank balance that plagues most start-ups, reveal these experts.


They say how you respond to these challenges makes all the difference to your success or failure in your business. These authors illuminate that for some entrepreneurs, the brass ring is business growth and financial reward as they measure success in fairly traditional terms of performance and profitability.


According to Abarbanel and Freeman, many women business owners come to rethink their notion of success by making a shift from valuing themselves based on their net- worth to focusing on their self-worth, by paying themselves in non-monetary ways that make them feel good about themselves, such as giving back to their communities. But success in one form or another is a cherished and sought-after value, add these authors.


Chapter two is tagged “real stories behind real start-ups”. Here, Abarbanel and Freeman say your work histories are often more the product of circumstances and chance and it may take time for your callings to ripen and command attention. They add that the same holds true for starting a small business.


In their words, “For every woman who satisfies the image of the classic entrepreneur – a bold, risk-embracing, convention-bucking innovator with a burning idea – there are at least two or three others whose drive to launch their own ventures takes longer to surface. We call these women ’emerging entrepreneurs’ because it takes a while for them to settle on a start-up concept.”


Abarbanel and Freeman explain that emerging entrepreneurs are not born but made; or, rather, they create themselves. These authors say the ideas for their businesses do not spring into life full blown, like Athena from the head of Zeus.


Chapter three is christened “substitute brains for bucks”. They stress here that wherever you are on the money meter, how you handle it will affect every other stage of the launch cycle. They add that their goal here is to help you cultivate the best possible attitude about the hydra-headed money monster. “We want to give you the tools you need to cut it down to size so that it won’t stand in the way of your start-up,” volunteer these experts.


They assert that if you are like most aspiring female entrepreneurs, then money is not the key driver behind your decision to start your own business. These authors submit that your quest for control over your own destiny, flexibility and personal fulfilment is likely to be as important to you as money, if not more important, especially during the start-up phase of your business.


Abarbanel and Freeman say whatever your money-management strengths and weaknesses are, they will be intensified when you launch your venture. “And whatever amount of money you start with, you’re probably going to feel that it’s not enough and that you’d have a better chance of beating the odds if your bank balance were larger,” submit these authors.


In chapters four to six, these experts examine concepts such as taking the leap; starting your start-up and running your own show.


Chapter seven is based on the subject matter of turning breakdowns into breakthroughs. Here, Abarbanel and Freeman assert that your first months of entrepreneurial life probably have been exciting, confusing, hectic and even more than a little bit surprising. They stress that if you have used your time well, then you have taken some important steps to achoring yourself, both professionally and emotionally.


These authors say, right now, your personal life may be on the lean side, but the days are certainly flying by and more interesting than ever. They add that all things considered, you are beginning to think that you might just be out of the start-up danger zone. The sense of freedom is really intoxicating, say Abarbanel and Freeman, adding: “There’s no way you can go back to being a nine-to-fiver now – or ever. You are really hooked.”


In chapters eight to 10, Abarbanel and Freeman discuss concepts such as finding your business rhythm; avoiding the ten pitfalls and welcome to your new life.


As far as mode of presentation is concerned, the text sails through. Its language is simple and the concepts well articulated. Abarbanel and Freeman include “Quick Tips” segment at the end of every chapter to highlight major points. They also use allusions, especially at the beginnings of the chapters to lend credibility to the concepts discussed.


On the outer front cover for instance, the images of an elephant and a woman are used to achieve visual communication and harmonisation of the major title and subtitle of the text. Different sizes of elephant images are used on page 81 to graphically communicate emotional roadmap to start-up success.


However, error of “graphological” deviation is noticed in the structure of the title of the text on the outer front cover where capital letters are used for the word “Birthing”; small letters are used for the definite article “The” and capital letters again are used for the word “Elephant”. Probably these authors deliberately employ this deviation to achieve visual distinction and radiate word importance.


Generally, the text is a masterpiece. To end with the endorsement of Leslie Grossman, co-founder of Women’s Leadership Exchange, “It takes three Gs to succeed in your own business: guts, get-up-and-go, and growth! The stories and insights in this book will not only get you started as an aspiring entrepreneur but also keep you on course on the road to business success.”


GOKE ILESANMI, Editor-in-Chief/CEO of https://www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng and Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is a Certified Public Speaker/Emcee, (Business) Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker, Career Management Coach, Renowned Book Reviewer, Corporate Leadership Expert and Editorial Consultant. For business discussion, reach him on +234(0)8056030424; +234(0)8187499425


Email: info@gokeilesanmi.com.ng; gokeiles2010@gmail.com


GOKE ILESANMI, Editor-in-Chief/CEO of www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng and Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is a Certified Public Speaker/Emcee, (Business) Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker, Career Management Coach, Renowned Book Reviewer, Corporate Leadership Expert and Editorial Consultant.



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