Book Review: Young Guns, by Robert Tuchman

by Krishna on August 23, 2009

I recently had a chance to read “Young Guns”, a semi-autobiographical book about entrepreneurship by Robert Tuchman. Usually, such books make one fundamental mistake, which is to try to be “inspirational” and make inaccurate sweeping claims. But Tuchman avoids this by getting more detail-oriented and explaining the tough choices faced by entrepreneurs. young guns book robert tuchman

Whether intentional or not, “Young Guns” is not for the faint of heart. While providing encouragement to budding business owners, it clearly outlines the hard work, difficult decisions and mindset that is required to be successful. I liked the fact that the author makes no attempt to be comprehensive, but instead touches on a few important themes of business management.

Tuchman talks about who is ready to be entrepreneur and when? The title “Young Guns” reveal one part of it. Start young if you can, because the older you get, the more you have to lose and the greater difficulty it is to break from your current situation. But it is not enough to be young in years; Tuchman explains that you have to be young at heart because entrepreneurship is about taking risks and requires “passionate energy”.

Tuchman explains how entrepreneurship is being able to say, “I can’t believe they pay me to do this” because if your business idea feels like homework you hate, then you are on the wrong path. You are also not ready if you are doing this to fulfill someone else’s dreams when you are not thrilled about doing the work.

Young Guns” specifically calls out business books who do not explain the role of fear in the life of the entrepreneur. Businesses are about risk. And risk is scary because at times, the business has to make choices that skirt close to disaster. The way to deal with this fear is to remember why you went into business in the first place. Tuchman also says, “You cannot be afraid to fail and also be successful at business — it’s that simple.

Tuchman spends a significant part of the book explaining how important it is for the company to maintain its integrity and service to customers. A powerful example was a story where Tuchman had to cover up for a huge mistake by one of his vendors by spending out of his own pocket. He reminds us that sincerity is not cheap. Sometimes you have to lose something to build and keep a great reputation.

The book covers a lot of ground: having partners that complement you, delegating properly, building the right team, using technology wisely, learning from mistakes, choosing the right vendors, understanding the right finances and so on. What surprised me is that the book is less than 200 pages long, but it explained many of those concepts very well. Each chapter read like a well-written blog post in that respect.

In a way, Tuchman’s “Young Guns” reminded me of “The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki, another excellent book. Kawasaki’s book was a little more bombastic and more skewed towards technology startups. But in general, both books provide excellent practical advice. And Tuchman’s book goes one step further and lets you know if you are qualified to become a good entrepreneur.

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