Wednesday, November 14, 2018
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Dealing with the Tough Stuff Book Review


Patricia Faulhaber

There are thousands of business books available at any local bookstore or online that offer just as many theories for success.

A new book by Margot Fraser, founder and former CEO of Birkenstock, USA and Lisa Lorimer, former CEO and president of Vermont Bread Company sets itself apart from other business books by offering real-life, hands-on solutions.

Real-life True Business Confessions

The authors have written a book, Dealing with the Tough Stuff Practical Wisdom for Running a Values-Driven Business (Berret-Kohler Publishers, 2009), that they describe as “true confessions of the business world.”

The authors have been involved with the business world for many years and they relate their problems and solutions to common areas such as cash flow, everyday stressors, dealing with forces beyond one’s control, and managing mistakes.

There are also case studies from five other business leaders including Stonyfield Farm, The Ms. Foundation, Putney Pasta, Creative Machines, and Northeast Delta Dental.

Fraser and Lorimer focus on working towards solutions with a triple bottom line, people, planet, and profit.

“We want to align our passion and values with work in our communities so that we can achieve positive change in the world. The only way we can do that is to tell the truth,” wrote Fraser and Lorimer.

They wrote the book so that others in business will know that when they face tough situations like running out of cash, losing a valued employee without warning, or being dropped by a dominate customer, that they are not alone. There are few problems that others have not experienced and worked their way through.

Telling the truth about successes and failures is the true power and the real way to inspire a vibrant ecosystem that “feeds our leaders rather than eats them, we need to find ways to be even more self-reflective and compassionate.”

Lessons Learned for Business Owners

Each chapter has a lessons learned section that summarizes the problems and the solutions related by each of the business owners. For example, the lessons learned section for the Conquering Cash chapter includes the following:

  • Negotiate payment terms with vendors and suppliers.
  • Be frugal when possible. Buying used furniture is one example that doesn’t affect the product or service but can save the company money.
  • Standardize product lines. Customizing can add costs but not necessarily income.
  • Own the numbers. Watch the financial statements and cash flow numbers daily.
  • This book is well written and fast and easy to read. It is packed full of case studies from the five contributing businesses. It is real-world and according to the authors, truthful. The authors show the readers their own vulnerability at different stages of growing their successful businesses.

    The book provides little theory and lots of practice. Every new or seasoned entrepreneur can learn from the valuable lessons provided throughout the pages.