GoodBusiness Monday: Paul Hawken, Breakfast, a Link

business tradeskill, small business success story, performance improvementPaul Hawken started my small business success story.

The year was 1994 and I had a big problem.  I’d worked for several professional engineering services companies and wasn’t happy with any of them.  Then, one day, walking the halls of a large corporation (now defunct), I realized why I didn’t want to be there.  Truth was, nobody wanted to be there.  Everyone looked tired, worn down, and going though the motions.  Like the furniture and the equipment.  Like the work too, in fact.  I said to myself “this can’t be all there is.”  And I started dreaming about the place where I wanted to work.

I started reading, too.  Business books, or course.  Some of it was interesting, and some was even inspirational.  But almost nothing was helpful.  I realized that writing about starting the small business of your dreams was either (a) a good way to sell very few books or (b) something no one knew anything about.  Enter Paul Hawken and his book ‘Growing a Business’.  This is Monday morning, we’ve all got lots to do… but I want to give you bit of Paul’s wisdom, just for small startups like yours and mine:

I believe that most people in new businesses, and some in not-so-new businesses, have the same problem.  They don’t feel connected to the conventional wisdom of the books, TV shows, videocassettes expensive training seminars and consulting services that compete for our attention.  Much of the material is self-evident – be honest, find a gap in the market, the customer comes first, hire well, and so on – an other advice seems to be diluted from the experience of big business, as if a small business is just a flake chipped off the larger corporate world.

That leaves you and me out, but we are the people who run most of the businesses in this country…

The entrepreneur can more easily produce products with a higher ration of information – quality – because she is more nimble.  Small businesses can think faster, change more quickly, establish better internal communications, and tailor their products and services to smaller markets.  …. Imagination and creativity are more useful than aggressiveness.

‘Growing a Business’

How durable is Paul’s wisdom?  It served me well for 18 years, from the day I opened the doors of my small business until I walked through them for the last time.  And it’s still serving me, right here and right now.

I want to talk about breakfast.  Especially Monday’s breakfast.  In the time it takes to read this post you actually have time for a brewed cuppa and a bowl of honestly made oatmeal.  (No, I’m not going to talk about making oatmeal.)  Please think about the pattern you set yourself.  Your first meal on the first business day of the week should be something you made.  For this first meal, give yourself two things of value: enough time to read something useful, and nutritious food made with your own hands.  In business-speak, learn something and start your day by bootstrapping.

Paul Hawken’s ‘Growing a Business’ can be found new or used, in paper or electrons, and even for free at your local library.  If you’re saying to yourself “I absolutely refuse to give up on my dream” and your dream is small business-sized, then Paul can help you.  GoodBusiness can help too, because we’ve spent some time writing about business tradeskill.  As Paul explains in his book, business tradeskill is that collection of know-how that’s at the bottom of every (and I mean every) successful small businessperson’s toolbag.

Have you drained your cuppa and finished your oatmeal?  Then you’re ready to join the rest of us in business… we’re delighted to see you this GoodBusiness Monday.  Competition?  Bring it on!




  1. Daniel Varbanov says:

    This blog is one really GoodBusiness. I am glad that I found it. Most importantly for the management of a business is good preparation. GoodBusiness helps me to get knowledge about many important things for my future business. Knowledge is power. Thank you for the power you give me!

  2. Good morning, I have my cup of coffee in my hand at the moment, as I type. Nothing like waking up with a cup.

    To me, if you’re not happy going to work, you won’t be successful. You have to enjoy what you’re doing even if you are tired. But working hard and persistence, like you said in TradeSkill will pay off. There are a few books that really get you where you want to be. Sometimes experience is all you have.

  3. Small businesses should always be ahead of the curve with new ideas and innovations since they don’t have anything stopping them. Don’t understand why there aren’t enough small businesses making big moves.

  4. I have had Tea, Coffee and now Breakfast. Really wonderful website! Keep working!

  5. Very inspiring read. Paul’s writings made some great points. A small business can get a lot done quicker and it certainly can adapt well. It would take forever and a day for information to trickle down through a corporation compared to weeks, even days for small businesses to quickly adapt and change for the revolving market. That’s due to the simple structure of a small business compared to the endless loops of a larger one.

    • Chris Chadbourne says:

      Thomas, you’re right. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in both environments. Not only does it take time for information to trickle down a hierarchy, it takes a goodly while for approvals to get signed going up the same hierarchy. Add in some time (actually, a lot of time) for multiple meetings, and that simpler small business structure begins to really appeal.

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