The Beermat Entrepreneur

‘This book, for me, says it all. It should become standard reading for all employees, managers and founders of start-up businesses.’
Professor Sir Christopher Evans, OBE, Founder, Merlin Biosciences

‘Refreshing and very readable.’
Richard Donkin, Financial Times

This is where my business writing career began – and it’s still my most successful book. It’s sold 60,000 copies in the UK, which won’t make JK Rowling envious but is outstanding for a business book, and has been translated into 10 other languages.

Beermat essentially tells the story of how to build a successful business. It isn’t just a narrative, however. It is more a set of models and techniques, introduced in narrative order, and set against my co-author’s experience of founding and building a company called The Instruction Set back in the 1980s.

The co-author is, of course, Mike Southon, who has gone on to build a career as a speaker and newspaper pundit on matters entrepreneurial.

There are loads of books on entrepreneurship: what makes Beermat special? I like to think that the writing style has something to do with it. Most business books are badly written by the subject-matter expert (not surprising; they are not professional authors), then made a bit less bad by an overworked editor with not enough time to really transform the text. Beermat is a pro job.

Mike very kindly says I ‘turned his ramblings into a set of logical models’. There is some truth in this, but actually he had worked out a number of models already – I just tidied them up a bit and improved the nomenclature. These models are very powerful, and were when I first heard them, at a lecture at Cass Business School that Mike had invited me along to back in 2000.

The models were also very radical at the time, or at least contrarian (as Beermat is essentially a restatement of basic business common sense). This was dotcom time, and people were wandering around saying that the whole notion of business had been reinvented. Even respectable journals like Management Today were drooling over companies like boo.com (which later went bust to the tune of about £100m). Get real, we told people. Get back to basics: customers, financial prudence, listening to the market rather than lecturing it to ‘get up to date’.

The book has lived on beyond this initial shock value, however. It’s still selling well – I’ve just done a revised Second Edition (the publishers asked me to prepare a Third Edition, but there was so little in the manuscript I wanted to change.) Why? I think it’s partially because a lot of what the book says is timeless and right. It also captures the feel of life in a dynamic start-up, which is an exciting place to be. Beermat is about making business fun, while keeping a clear head about realities of commercial life. It’s about avoiding pretence and bullshit. These things don’t change.

‘What I really liked about this book was that it was easy to read. There are too many half-finished books around my bed that would have helped me get there years ago if only I’d finished them. I read Beermat in one sitting, enjoyed the book and related to it.’
Simon Woodroffe, Founder of Yo! Sushi


The Beermat Entrepreneur