by Paul Hawken

From the Cover

Nearly everyone harbors a secret dream of starting or owning a business. In fact, 1,000,000 businesses start in the United States every year. Many of them fail, but enough succeed so that small businesses are now adding millions of jobs to the economy at the same time that the Fortune 500 companies are actually losing jobs.

Cover Growing a Business

Paul Hawken—entrepreneur and best-selling author—wrote Growing a Business for those who set out to make their dream a reality. He knows what he’s talking about; he is his own best example of success. In the early 1970s, while he was still in his twenties, he helped Erewhon to scale up and become the largest distributor of natural foods. He also co-founded Smith & Hawken, the premier mail-order garden tool company. And he wrote a critically acclaimed book called The Next Economy about the future of the economy.

Paul Hawken

Using examples like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, and University National Bank of Palo Alto, California, Hawken shows that a successful business is an expression of an individual person. The most successful business, your idea for a business, will grow from something that is deep within you, something that can’t be stolen by anyone because it is so uniquely yours that anyone else who tries to execute your idea would fail. He dispels the myth of the risk-taking entrepreneur. The purpose of business, he points out, is not to take risks but rather to get something done.

“The purpose of business is not to take risks but rather to get something done.”

Paul Hawken


(Excerpts from “Chapter 8. The Lemonade Stand” in Growing a Business by Paul Hawken.)

“. . . running a business does not require a brilliant mind . . . . another quality is more important than brainpower for running a business: “tradeskill,” the most accurate term for the attribute I know of, coined by Michael Phillips and Salli Rasberry in their book Honest Business.

“Tradeskill is really the set of skills that spell the difference between success and failure in business. It is the knack of understanding what people want, how much they’ll pay, and how they make their decision. It is knowing how to read the signals of the marketplace, how to learn from those signals, how to change your mind. Tradeskill gives you a canniness about how to approach a given product, market, or niche. . . .Tradeskill becomes a sixth sense that gives those who have it the ability to make decisions quickly, cutting through months of meetings, brainstorming, market studies, and bureaucratic shuffling. Tradeskill is knowing how to handle money, how to buy and how to pay.

“Tradeskill cannot be learned from this or any other book. It is not for sale in the best M.B.A. programs in the country. 

“Most of us know whether we possess tradeskill. If you haven’t got it–if you’re uncomfortable haggling at a street market where the prices are negotiable, as an example, or if you’re uncomfortable with strangers–the best thing to do is recognize this, just as you have recognized you’re not a nuclear physicist and plan your life and career accordingly. Going into business is not something to take lightly.

“Consider going into business with a partner who has [what you lack].”

Key Tradeskill Behaviors 

  • Persistence
  • Facing the Facts
  • Minimizing Risks
  • Hands-On Learning
  • Ability to Work with Numbers (or, at least, no fear of them)

A Dozen Key Principles

  1. Begin at the Beginning.
  2. Expect Uncertainty, Expect Fear.
  3. Business Tests Character.
  4. Business is Play.
  5. Make it Fun.
  6. Business is Practice.
  7. Too Much Money is Worse than Too Little.
  8. It’s just us. There is No One in Charge.
  9. Business Will Always Have Problems (aka Opportunities).
  10. Size is No Longer an Advantage
  11. Consumers are Becoming Customers
  12. Plan to Fail!

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1. Something You Live to Do
  • Chapter 2. Be careful, You May Succeed
    • Begin at the Beginning
    • Entrepreneurs are Risk-Avoiders
    • Business is Frightening
    • Business Tests Character
    • Business is Play
    • Business is Practice
    • Too Much Money is Worse Than Too Little
    • No One is In Charge
    • Business Will Always Have Problems
  • Chapter 3. Small, Fat, and Happy
    • The Informative Economy
    • Size is No Longer an Advantage
    • Consumers are Becoming Customers
  • Chapter 4. If it’s a Good Idea, It’s Too Late
    • Re-create Something That Has Been Lost
    • Enhance the Commonplace
    • Raise the Ante
    • Reveal a Business Within a Business
    • Restore a Business
    • Be the Most Complete
    • Be the Low-Cost Provider
    • Being Rather Than Doing
    • Make if Fun
  • Chapter 5. The Art of the Incremental
    • Don’t Plan Someone Else’s Business
    • The Plan is Not the Business
    • Plan to Learn
    • Plan to Fail
    • Business is the Art of the Incremental
    • Plan to Stay
    • Plan to Succeed
    • Writing the Plan
  • Chapter 6. The Company You Keep
    • Sole Proprietorships
    • Partnerships
    • Corporations
    • Who Should Own Your Company?
    • Be Divisible
    • Don’t Pay Retail
    • The Living Structure
  • Chapter 7. Money
    • Start Small
    • Finance Before You Need the Money
    • Borrowing From Friends
    • The Peru Syndrome
    • Borrowing from the SBA
    • Borrow A Lot or None
    • Consistent Growth
    • Informed Investors
    • Cultivating New Investors
    • Creating a Market
    • No Surprises
    • Raising Money in Advance
  • Chapter 8. The Lemonade Stand
    • Luck
    • Facing the Facts
    • Minimizing Risks
    • Hands-On Learning
    • Working with Numbers
  • Chapter 9. If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Sell Him
  • Chapter 10. You Are the Customer, You Are the Company
    • You Are the Customer
    • You Are the Company
    • Customers Want a Long-Term Relationship
    • If I Doesn’t Feel Right, Make it Right
    • A Job Isn’t Done Until It’s Checked
    • Do It Once and Do It Yourself
    • When In Doubt, Ask. When Not In Doubt, Ask.
    • A Mistake is Not a Mistake. It Is a Chance to Improve the Company
  • Chapter 11. In Good Company
    • Hire the Person, Not the Position
    • Hire People You Look Up To
    • Don’t Use Personnel Managers or Headhunters
    • Create Hybrid Vigor
    • Don’t Grow Faster Than Your Employees Can
    • 5-15 Reports
    • Go For Brokes
    • Titmouses and Robins
  • Chapter 12. The Verger
  • Acknowledgements
  • Index