The Complete Idiots Guide to Starting Your Own Business

Ed Paulson, Alpha Books – $24.95 – 292 pages

It may seem strange to be reviewing a book in the "Complete Idiot's" series because, for many, the Complete Idiot's moniker might leave the impression that the content is dumbed-down for its intended audience.

While there is no shortage of books for those considering the plunge into self-employment, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting Your Own Business" is the right book for a prospective business owner because of its overall thoroughness and lack of agenda.

When I say lack of agenda, I'm referring to author Ed Paulson's well-presented nuts and bolts approach that is unlike many start-up primers, full of self-promoting stories that say more about the author's ego then business. Paulson counters this trend with a solid overview that is honest about the risks and rewards of starting a business, while providing the details on how it can happen successfully.

The book begins with sections on assessing if you are the type of person well-suited for starting a business. Choosing the right type of business is discussed at length, but is also made clear that it's not just the type of business that will work for your personality and lifestyle that's important. Rather, quantifying the potential market for the concept is key, along with assessing if that market can generate the sales to make it work financially.

This is where so many aspiring entrepreneurs make their fatal mistake, falling in love with the product or concept and charging full steam ahead before realizing the market is not large enough. Dalton explains all of this in a logical, well thought out manner that doesn't overwhelm.

For those who shy away from numbers and financial analysis, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting Your Own Business" does a tremendous job with estimating start-up business costs (and yes, they are always higher than you think), explaining the essentials of income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements.

And then there is the business plan. Another one of my complaints about start-up business books is their immediate urge to have one sit down and write a business plan. Business plans are important for guiding a business, attracting investors, and long term success, but making it an initial priority isn't always best. The author understands this and instead works in a more concise way to see if the business is feasible. Again, are there enough customers to sell to, and will the product or service produce enough in revenue to be successful?

When it does come time to write that business plan, this book has that covered. Perhaps that is the strength of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting Your Own Business"- its detailed approach that contains the Idiot's Guide trademark definitions, examples, and anecdotes. The book also describes challenging situations that occur once a business is off the ground such as hiring employees, securing funding, and other growing pains.

The book's only downside is its shallow dive into exploring financial resource options and the lack of reference to private and public resources that exist throughout the U.S. to help small businesses. Locally, these include SCORE, Small Business & Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC), chambers of commerce, and Northwestern Michigan College, all of which have a strong presence in the Grand Traverse area. The assistance of these organizations is the perfect complement to the material presented in "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting Your Own Business."

Despite the minor imperfections, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting Your Own Business" is an excellent starting place for those considering the plunge into business ownership. Once read, it becomes a valuable reference guide to come back to, again and again.

Chris Wendel serves the Grand Traverse Region as a business consultant and lender with Northern Initiatives, a private, nonprofit community development corporation that provides rural entrepreneurs with access to capital, information and markets.