Roadside MBA Offers Lessons for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners


An educational and entertaining books that uses real cases studies from around the country.

roadside mba

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Well, Roadside MBA is refreshing!

Usually I’m reviewing books that take examples from big business and teach them as case studies or stories for small business.  But, this time, dear reader, the tables are turned.

I just received a review copy of Roadside MBA: Back Road Lessons for Entrepreneurs, Executives and Small Business Owners by Michael Mazzeo, Paul Oyer, and Scott Schaeffer and I have to say that I’m really enjoying these real-life small business case studies. I think you will, too.

The authors are a group of business professors who teach MBA students; Paul Oyer, a professor at Stanford, Scott Schaefer, a professor at the University of Utah and Mike Mazzeo, a professor at Northwestern University.  These guys met at a conference in Boston.  But their book writing future was sealed on a trip to a shoe store while killing time before a flight.

They have taken a unique approach by going around the country and interviewing a variety of small business owners, collecting their stories and lessons, and pulling them together into this informative book.

10 Business Lessons From 45 Small Businesses

Roadside MBA has ten chapters, with each focused on a common business theme.

Chapter 1: Scaling A Business

Chapter 2: Establishing Barriers To Entry

Chapter 3: Product Differentiation

Chapter 4: Setting Prices

Chapter 5: Managing Your Brand

Chapter 6: Negotiating Effectively

Chapter 7: Hiring

Chapter 8: Incentives for Employees

Chapter 9: Delegation

Chapter 10: Battling The Big Boys

Inside each theme they’ve pulled together stories from the more than forty small businesses they visited on their road trip.

Here are just a few of the lessons that you’ll find inside Roadside MBA:

  • How to negotiate: The Deadhead owners of Eko Compost in the hippie town of Missoula, Montana who don’t negotiate recycling contracts until they know what the city’s next best options are.
  • How to hire:  A windsock manufacturer who uses a reverse hiring strategy that focuses on discouraging the wrong applications and not just attracting the right ones.
  • How to compete: See how a small bookstore succeeded against big box stores by focusing on what the big guys couldn’t do.

Because the businesses featured in Roadside MBA are small, you’ll find the way they create, implement and manage a variety of business strategies is inspiring and surprisingly doable.

Roadside MBA is a fun book to read and an even more practical book to put into practice.  As the authors say in the introduction:

“We learned far more about business strategy from our trip to the shoe store than we did at the conference.”

I think you might find yourself saying the same thing – you’ll get an MBA’s worth of knowledge from Roadside MBA.

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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."