Carrie Wilkerson, also known as the Barefoot Executive, didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur or small business owner. She was a high school teacher. Changes in her life circumstances “forced” her into starting a business.
This is the backdrop for her new book, “The Barefoot Executive: The ULTIMATE MANUAL For Being Your Own Boss & Achieving Financial Freedom.”
“When I started working at home in 1998, it was because we had adopted two toddlers and overnight, literally, I had become a mom. We had twenty-four to thirty-six hours to prepare. I was teaching high school at the time and really loved it, but this adoption adjusted my priorities instantly.
I did not start my business beacause I had a big passion for what I was doing, because I was chasing a big idea, or because I wanted to make big money. I started my business because I refused to leave my children in the care of someone else. I didn’t want them to question who their mom was and, frankly, I still needed a paycheck. Period.”
Those two paragraphs give you a vivid preview for who this book will appeal to, and the author’s approach to giving advice for those starting a new business. This is NOT a book for high tech entrepreneurs dreaming of venture capital money and becoming the next Facebook.
This is a book for those whose goals are grounded in the realities of living, i.e., those who wish to start a business to help make a better life for their family, and to have more control over their workday. It’s a book for those who may have lost a job or fear losing a job, and turn to entrepreneurship as a better fit for the next stage of their career. It’s a book for those who wish to work at home … and may never want to grow their businesses beyond a certain comfortable point.
Working to Live, Not Living to Work
I had the pleasure of meeting Carrie Wilkerson (@barefoot_exec on Twitter) last year, when we worked together on a project for Google’s Get your Business Online initiative. Carrie is a warm, kind and giving person, who sent me a small gift of hand lotion afterwards. It didn’t have her brand plastered all over it as a marketing ploy — it was simply hand lotion with a handwritten note. How many people do that these days? That kind humanness of her personality comes through very well in the book.
This is a very personal book. It’s a business book written in the first person (“I”). You get quick snapshots of Carrie’s life and business sprinkled throughout. She illustrates her advice by using personal examples drawn from her own experiences. Life and business are interwoven, often in the same sentence or paragraph.
You realize that for someone like Carrie it’s impossible to separate her personal life from her business, or her business from her personal life. Business and life are well integrated in her universe — just as they were centuries ago before the Industrial Revolution forced us to separate the two each day.
What emerges is a rich tapestry of a purpose-driven life and purpose-driven business. This is about working to live, not living to work.
What Barefoot Executive is About
The Barefoot Executive book is part motivational book, part “how to” for business, part workbook, and part self-help. You will find advice, mistakes to avoid, case studies, short exercises for you to complete, links to videos for you to watch.
I purchased a Kindle version of this book. The electronic version is ideal for clicking through the links to watch the videos Carrie has created for readers. But the URLs are short enough that you can type them in from the hard-cover version of the print book, if you prefer to read it that way.
Above all, you will get Carrie’s warm brand of confidence-building inspiration.
You get inspired with frequent quotes from famous people offered to reinforce key points — people such as Leonardo DaVinci and super-entrepreneur Mary Kay Ash. But I get tired of reading about famous over-achievers all the time. They can make you feel inadequate.
To combat that, Carrie includes numerous case studies of successful small business owners many of whom you probably never have heard of. Many of the case studies relate how they overcame great odds: serious health issues, heavy debt, bankruptcy, lack of confidence, lack of education. Or how they started from humble beginnings or with a modest business idea. These case studies are all the more inspiring because they are “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” The reader can’t help but think, “if they could do it so can I.”
For most people it’s far more realistic and rewarding to measure success in the context of earning a comfortable income for your family — you don’t need to become a billionaire to be successful. The case studies prove it.
Who This Book is For
The motivational and self-help portions of the book apply to any entrepreneur — anyone can get value from them. In fact, I consider motivation and inspiration to be where this book shines.
Beyond that, the practical business advice is definitely focused towards home-based businesses, and especially: online businesses, solo entrepreneurs such as authors, marketers and relationship-based businesses, and professional services businesses.
But what if you’re not sure what business you could start? There’s also a very good section how how to identify a market and a business to start. The chapter “Who Wants What You Have?” is one of the most practical discourses I’ve seen in a business book about how to identify a startup opportunity.
This is not a book for an experienced, established business owner with employees and a schooled business background. Rather, it’s for startup newbies and those who are pretty much solo operators working from home. If this describes you, you will get value out of this book.
I highly recommend the Barefoot Executive if you are thinking about starting a home-based business, or recently went out on your own and need a boost of inspiration and focused coaching to get to the next level. It’s especially appropriate if your goals for starting a business are primarily to earn a comfortable living for your family, and live a good life.