No Experience Necessary

Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the September 1997 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

Contrary to its slacker image, Generation X may ultimately prove to be the most entrepreneurial generation in history. Surprised? Don't be. As author Jennifer Kushell explains in No Experience Necessary: The Young Entrepreneur's Guide to Starting a Business (The Princeton Review, $12 paper), starting a business while still in your teens or 20s isn't the anomaly it once was. Indeed, statistics cited by Kushell in-dicate that those 25 years old and younger launch businesses at the highest rate in the nation.

As a Gen X entrepreneur herself (presiding over a membership organization for young business owners), Kushell seeks to inspire and inform others wishing to follow in her footsteps. "If you look at the skills and experience that create a solid foundation for entrepreneurship," Kushell says, "it is not uncommon to find that younger people are probably the best equipped for self-employment."

Which isn't to suggest that it's easy. Prepare to sacrifice; prepare to show initiative. "What you will read here is what really happens to you, and what you really need to know when you start a company," Kushell writes. "From what I have seen, no other book has ever taught a young entrepreneur how not to starve when they are broke, how not to get carded while entertaining clients, and other very important, yet seemingly trivial information about dealing with your life as a business owner." Written in a straightforward style, No Experience Necessary seeks to fill that gap.


Few companies graduate from success to cultural icon, but Microsoft is clearly such a company. Under the helmsmanship of Bill Gates, Microsoft dominates the ever-changing world of computer technology to such an extent that the launch of its Windows 95 program triggered frenzy--and long lines of customers--throughout the world.

And yet, to read Overdrive: Bill Gates and the Race to Control Cyberspace (John Wiley & Sons, $24.95 cloth) by James Wallace is to be reminded of just how difficult it is to dominate in an ever-changing world. With the cautionary example of IBM's decline looming at all times, the Microsoft Wallace describes is keenly aware of its smaller--and perhaps, nimbler--competitors. " `We are scared all the time,' [Gates] had told an audience celebrating the 25th anniversary of the University of Washington's computer science department,' the author reports. " `We're always saying, Is this the day we've reached our peak?' "

You'll realize after reading Overdrive that this isn't the rhetorical question it might at first appear to be. Largely centered around the battle to rule the Internet, Wallace's highly readable account of the triumphs and travails of Microsoft is bound to pique the interest of techies and nontechies alike.

Churchill On Leadership

Anyone who knows even a little world history knows of Winston Churchill. The acclaimed prime minister of England during World War II, Churchill seemed to epitomize the very essence of strong leadership. Can the traits that so effectively transformed the political arena play out in a business setting, though? Author Steven F. Hayward answers in the affirmative in Churchill on Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity (Forum, $20 cloth).

"Paradoxically, it is precisely because a politician lacks the clear bottom-line standard of profit that public office requires superior leadership skills," Hayward maintains. "While the business executive can look to the bottom line as to a North Star, the political executive confronts a Milky Way of competing and shifting priorities, requiring a full measure of judgment, vision and persuasive skills."

So yes, perhaps Churchill can contribute to your arsenal of entrepreneurial knowledge. By way of example, consider the legendary statesman's dual ability to take great risks and recover from failures. "Churchill himself once quipped that `success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm,' a worthy credo for an entrepreneur," Hayward writes. Churchill also boasted decisiveness, self-discipline and attention to detail. Need it be said that these qualities, too, are to an entrepreneur's advantage?

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