I'm teaching a course in entrepreneurship for liberal arts students this semester and I've been immersed in books about start-up businesses. And there are a lot of books to choose from. So when I found one that is particularly useful and helpful, I wanted to share it with you.

Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port (Wiley, 2010) is well-written and organized, and contains valuable practical advice and genuinely helpful information that can be applied immediately. While applicable to almost any small business, I think it would be particularly helpful to professionals (psychologists, instructors, lawyers, chiropractors, etc.) who want to develop or enhance their private practices.

I'm one of those readers who marks up her books—the more highlighting and notes in the margin, the better the book. And my copy of this book is bursting with post-it notes, highlighting and stars in the margin to remind myself to adapt and implement his ideas.

The book begins with what Port describes as the foundation of your business: the customers or clients. He warns against taking a scattershot approach to finding clients or trying to be everything to everyone. Instead, he has you develop a clear picture of your ideal client. Now that is not a unique idea—you can find "ideal client" exercises in many business books—but I like his method for uncovering and clarifying your thoughts about your clients. He uses the metaphor of a "red velvet rope" that an exclusive club would use: whom do you want to let in? He presents some of his own criteria for clients-- "creative", "engaged", "willing to change," etc. He also has you analyze the types of clients/customers that make you crazy: the "dud" clients as he calls them.

He then goes into the mechanics of building trust and credibility with your clients, and presents a very helpful "sales cycle process" which I particularly found appealing considering marketing and sales are probably my least favorite business activities. The way he presents the information could make anyone (even an introvert like me) a better salesperson. His chapters on pricing are very helpful as well.

Finally, he presents seven core self-promotion strategies that allow you to promote yourself and your business through your preferred form of communication: networking; outreach; referrals; keep-in-touch; speaking; writing; and websites. Like everything else, the suggestions in these chapters are thorough, helpful and practical.

My favorite part of the book was his new way of dealing with that tired concept of the "elevator pitch." My students are always trying to sell themselves to an employer, and I have never been comfortable with the traditional elevator pitch—it always seemed a little fake and awkward. But Michael Port puts a fresh take on it, and provides an extensive example of the way to present yourself and your business efficiently and effectively. He wisely turns it into a conversation rather than a monologue.  I plan to teach his method to my students who are job-searching as well as those who are starting their own businesses.

One of my tests for a book is my energy level: do I feel more or less energized after reading the book? The exercises in this book are so natural and easy, I absolutely found it energizing, and just the jump-start I needed to apply what I've learned to both my full-time job and my part-time consulting business. I hope you find it helpful too.

©2012 Katharine Brooks. All rights reserved. Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

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