Book Review: My Biggest Mistake And How I Fixed It

My Biggest MistakeA few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a book event for The Plain Dealer columnist Marcia Pledger to promote her new book “My Biggest Mistake and How I Fixed It.” The book is actually a compilation of stories and case studies of local Cleveland small businesses that Marcia had written about over the last five years in her columns.

It’s a shame that most of you will only meet Marcia through the printed or electronic page because her enthusiasm and energy are contagious. Being a multi-mistake-maker myself, the first thing I said to Marcia was “I bet you have a long line of small businesses who want to be in your column.” When Marcia told me that she literally had to beg companies to share their ‘Biggest Mistake’ I couldn’t believe it.

“Let’s just say I have no problem doing my part to convince people. I’m not too proud to beg,” she said with a big smile and sparkling eyes. She was undaunted by the multitude of rejections she’s received over the five years it took to pull together over 260 small business lessons, from which just over 120 stories made the book.

Another highlight of the event I attended was that some of the featured business owners shared a bit of their story, their mistake, what they learned, how they fixed it. Out of the handful of presenters, only one said that he had called her and asked to be a part of the column! He also said that the week his story was featured in the column, his phone was ringing off the hook.

The lesson here is — if a columnist wants to feature you and your business in the paper — you’re supposed to say “YES,” even if they want you to talk about a mistake!

The book is an easy read. It’s only 272 pages. All of the stories are grouped into easily referenced small business issues like Start-up, Growth, Financing, Marketing, Clients/Customers, Employees, Family, etc. So you can easily pick up the book, think about the issue you’re having and turn right to the series of stories that address that topic.

What I enjoyed most was that each story was told in the first person in a very friendly “from-me-to-you” tone. I also liked that each story was very short without leaving out any of the important details that take away from the mistake, the lesson and the results.

Here are just a few of my favorites:

  • Start-up Story: Brenda O’Toole from Signs PDQ learned that you have to locate close to where your customers are.
  • Technology Trip-Up: Lusso Cosmetics owner, Louis McClung learned that online sales won’t take the place of personal face-to-face time.
  • Employee Challenge: Bob Schepens, CEO of Champion Staffing learned that sometimes you have to fire your dad to help the business grow in a new economy.

If there’s anything that comes through in this book, it’s that small business owners have the same issues no matter where they are. They all make mistakes and the ones who learn from them grow.

This book is ideal for the small business owner and entrepreneur. I would also recommend this book to suppliers who sell to and service small businesses. I gained a surprising amount of insight as to what was important to small business owners and how they solved problems and made decisions.

A Harvard Business Review Study found that only 22% of first time entrepreneurs succeed. That means that 78% ‘fail.’ That same study also found that the more they try, the more successful they become. The issue isn’t whether they fail or not. Failure is almost a given. The issue becomes, did they learn from their mistakes? That’s why you need to read “My Biggest Mistake.”


Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

12 Reactions
  1. Hi Ivana, As you know, I was unable to attend Marcia’s book event due to being out of town. But I had the chance to meet her for lunch afterwards, and was amazed when she said she had to beg business owners.

    I love your line:

    The lesson here is — if a columnist wants to feature you and your business in the paper — you’re supposed to say “YES,” even if they want you to talk about a mistake!


  2. The issue isn’t whether they fail or not. Failure is almost a given. The issue becomes, did they learn from their mistakes? That’s why you need to read “My Biggest Mistake.” — Ivana, I love that statement. You know what, I feel quiet sad for those entrepreneurs who rejected Marcia’s proposal to include their story of mistakes. They are a clear indication of not accepting their mistakes or maybe they accepted their mistakes but weren’t able to solve it and until this day haven’t learned.

  3. You got your successful entrepreneurs percents wrong 😉 Thanks for info about interesting looking book anyway :-).

  4. Martin Lindeskog

    Marcia Pledger had been very welcome to visit me in Gothenburg, Sweden! 😉 I have to get the book at some point. I see lots of activity in the blogosphere from businesses located in Cleveland? Is it like Drew Carey says: “Cleveland Rocks!”? 😉

    Have you read my piece, Five Lessons Learned from my Startup — And why I’d Do It Again, on Open Forum? If not, please click on “Martin Lindeskog” Says:

  5. Martin Lindeskog

    Petr Kalis:

    Don’t you know that it is an extra 10% in the business world?! 😉 “Giving 110%” attention to your business?

  6. Wow, I can believe she had trouble getting people to contribute. They must have been afraid their mistakes would look stupid in print. 🙂

    I like reading about other people’s experiences, even the bad ones. That’s how we learn.

  7. PK, I fixed the numbers in Ivana’s post. I hope I got it right!

    If 22% succeed, then 78% fail, not 88%. Is that the way it’s supposed to be, Ivana? 🙂


  8. You are right Amanda. If you were approach by Marcia? Would you say yes outright? Or no?

  9. I’m sure there are stats available somewhere that say that you learn more from your mistakes than from any other education. Sounds like a good read!

  10. Ivana, this is a terrific review. Several things come to mind — this is not meant to be self-promoting comment, but I do some of these things in a pay-it-forward initiative I do through my company and a team of volunteers. Most people are willing and we’ve not had to beg, but several have told us — “no, i don’t want you reviewing my site and hanging it out there for all to see…” I just say okay and move on to the line of people waiting.. I’m sorry that she had such a hard road, but I’m sure her work is more in-depth than mine.

    Second, I think your review is stellar and you should include it or cross post this into the review system for her book. Would help her and Anita and you!

    Third, I can’t wait to get my copy in the mail!!! Thanks Ivana.