The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

July 31, 2007

Bad Business Books

I’m reading Sam Calagione’s “Brewing Up a Business”, a story about the success of Dogfish Head brewery. So far I’m enjoying it. It’s definitely interesting to understand exactly how he got to where he is today, and how his business grew.

But I’ve got a complaint. The book is designed to be a primer to aspiring entrepreneurs on how to start their own businesses, but the overall tone of the book seems to be “be as unique as Dogfish Head, and for all the same reasons”. There are definitely good points there, and I’m starting to think less about “I want to be a brewer” and more about “What will I be able to to do to distinguish my beer from other brewers’ beer?” I think this is one of the typical problems with books written by entrepreneurs, though, where they write about what made their successful and market it as a description of what will make other businesses successful.

A book about the experiences of other entrepreneurs is still quite helpful, specifically since it was written by someone in the industry I’d like to enter. I’m learning lessons left and right, and count it as a useful tool in getting me to my goal.

But I want something more. Learning from experience can be very helpful, but too often people focus on learning from the success of others. Books written from the perspective of a successful entrepreneur tend to be biased towards how well the decisions worked out, rather than how difficult the decisions were at the time.

So I’m looking for other books. I don’t want books written about successful entrepreneurs. I want books about failure. I want to hear case studies of unsuccessful businesses, and learn as much from the “what not to do” stories as I can learn from the “what to do” stories. There are a lot of reasons why businesses fail, and understanding those pitfalls, written honestly from the perspective of the person who made the wrong decisions, has to be a great tool.

I know these books are out there. While my readership on this blog is pretty tiny, I know some of you have probably read them. So let’s hear some suggestions. What books do I need to read?

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 9:25 pm || Permalink || Comments (3) || Trackback URL || Categories: Beer, Books, Business, Personal Life


  1. The Brooklyn Brewery guys wrote a book called “Beer School” that does a little bit better of a job of talking about the decision-making process. Still focuses a good bit on the outcomes like these books usually do, but definitely less cheerleady than the Dogfish book.

    Comment by chris — August 4, 2007 @ 4:45 am
  2. You should find a copy of “How To Build A Small Brewery: draft beer in ten days” by Bill Owens. He opened one of the first brewpubs, and it looks like his approach could reduce your start-up costs significantly. The book is old enough that it doesn’t consider the issue of competition.

    Comment by triticale — August 5, 2007 @ 5:27 pm
  3. I read Beer School. Enjoyed it… though it still did a lot to toot the Brooklyn Brewery horn. And it doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of their beers. I would recommend Ambitious Brew:

    I’m almost done with it. It’s actually not about starting a business (or brewery) at all, but a historian’s chronicle of beer in America. The historian (Maureen Ogle) had no knowledge of anything beer-related before doing the research, so I think you get a pretty fair critique from her. There are so many things in the book that I find fascinating… Unfortunately I have yet to discover the relevance of them to building my own brewery. But I know it’s in there somewhere.

    Comment by Jonathan — August 11, 2007 @ 9:00 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.