A 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.”