Be A Rebel, Own a Business
My latest foray into reading around the bookstore led me to the business case, where I picked up a book I had been planning to read for a while, "Rebel Bookseller, How to Improvise Your Own Indie Store and Beat Back the Chains" by Andrew Laties.
Andrew founded several independant bookstores, the most recent being the bookstore at the Eric Carle museum in Amherst, Mass. He was active in the American Bookseller's Association during the time when the big book chains like Border's were on the rise. And he succeded in keeping his stores vibrant and open, when the popular wisdom said that he was crazy to do what Laura and I have decided to do with our lives, own a bookstore that our customers would treasure.
You can understand the appeal of this book to someone like me, who owns a bookstore. But I wanted to see if it would be something that would apply to businesses outside the bookstore field.
The answer is yes. Laties has no set formula, no specific plan of attack. But he is firm in his belief that it is possible to succeed as an independant store no matter who the big competitors are.
Laties goes back and forth between his story of sucess, failure and rebirth and small "rants" where he lays out his thoughts on how you can succeed in the face of competition. His three rules of Rebel Bookselling (Adapt Don't Adopt, Sell More of What's Selling and Buy Low, Sell High) are things that you know as a busness owner but need to be reminded of, often. And Laties is strident in his belief that the large chains are unable to innovate, and the fact that you can innovate is your greatist strength.
I will end with a quote that as soon as I read it I read to our staff. This follows a section where he is discribing how tough it can be to run a business and how conventional wisdom has you doomed to failure, so you should never start. And when I was finised with this book I knew that I could recommend it to anyone who wants to better focus their business to compete, no matter what their field.
"The point is, you can focus on the fact that your independant bookstore is doomed and then let this reality prevent you from launching the thing. Or you can focus on your doom and use this foreknowledge to help you plan for your business's reincarnation.
That's what the Buddhists call death energy. Every moment, you think about your possibly imminent death. This gives you the courage to take chances. After all, what's the point in fear or delay? You might not live ten more seconds" (p. 33)