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John Holliday
Toughing It Out
It started as a boyhood dream to own and run his own business. But it didn’t come to him directly and, as with so many men and women in the workforce, his route to entrepreneurship demanded the apprenticeship of working for others, usually as a small cog in a huge corporation. Then, one day, he cut away the corporate safety net and hanging on, Tarzan-like, to a vine in the tall and dark forest of self-employment, he joined a few like-minded, ex-corporate colleagues and leaped into the entrepreneurial river flowing with uncertainties. That was his tenuous start and, by the time he neared the end of his career as an entrepreneur, he had created and built nine businesses, working across three continents, with varying degrees of success. Read about John Holliday’s entrepreneurial adventures and the lessons he has learned from them. In sharing a life filled with the business decisions unique to self-employment, you will see that the experience of the entrepreneur brims with, not only the impostors of near-ruin and the triumphs of success, but a parade of fascinating characters that give a business life its colour and its pleasures. This network of business personalities, former partners and employees, many of whom remain friends till today, is what spurred John to keep trying new ventures and take on innovative challenges. This book will appeal to budding entrepreneurs who are contemplating the voyage into the unknown of starting a business and seeing it become a success. Every one of John’s business ventures yielded lessons that, for anyone trying to establish or build up a small-to-medium-sized business, offer some valuable insights into the life of an entrepreneur and propose experience-tested guide posts to success.
Entrepreneur John Holliday (Clara Colby: The International Suffragist) delivers a combination memoir and collection of advice about what he’s learned during decades of worldwide business ventures, from his first job as an 18-year-old to his 10th business endeavor. In his recounting, he displays a seemingly insatiable hunger for new projects and opportunities: regardless of risk, he frequently makes career shifts to avoid the boring life of what he terms an “office worker straight out of a Dickens novel.” In his own words, he “never stop[s] thinking about business opportunities, even those that might not be very realistic.” These experiences are the springboard for Holliday’s reflections on the pursuit of success, and he adds entertainment value for readers by sprinkling in stories of the colorful characters he has met along the way. To Holliday, “life is one, long networking event,” and every connection and idea is worth pursuing.

At times, Holliday’s intended audience becomes unclear: while those who know him will appreciate the attention to detail in personal stories, the average reader focused on learning about business could find them extraneous. These moments are saved, though, by the nuggets of wisdom and positivity peppered throughout his narrative, such as “I always think that every problem has the potential to be turned around into an opportunity.” Holliday also presents interesting reflections on corporate culture and the ways in which upbringing and status can hinder social mobility in certain countries (“IBM United Kingdom was modelled on the American way of doing business, creating a refreshing and motivating environment that was absent from the staid British organisations I had worked for. Hiring and advancement within the company was based on merit, and not on your accent or what school you had attended”).

Holliday does not take the stance of an untouchable billionaire hyperachiever; he willingly acknowledges his many failures, presenting them as helpful learning tools for readers. He accentuates the merit of “hard-knocks experience and working things out for oneself,” cautioning against procrastination as an enemy of business success. Though his guide drags in some areas, he ably regroups to enlighten his audience with fresh ideas, including the concept of building a business as “part science and part art.” Aspiring entrepreneurs will be inspired by this account of one man’s adventurous career.

Takeaway: Aspiring entrepreneurs will be inspired by this account of one man’s adventures in a variety of occupational roles.

Great for fans of: Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail, Ray Dalio.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A-