In Alan Webber’s new book, Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self, the Fast Company co-founder probes broad, profound concepts like, strengths, weaknesses, change and failure in short, digestible chapters, all with a design-friendly tone. The “rules of thumb” actually are derived from a stack of note cards Webber carried around with him to document pivotal life and business lessons. I’m a big fan of Fast Company and have been since its early days, and I find that the fresh, conversational vibe of that publication comes through in this very readable book. At times, though, I wish that he would actually dive a bit deeper on certain topics, and one of these topics is the theme of Rules #9 and #37: Money.
I’ve written many times about my frustration with the queezyness designers seem to feel whenever the subject of money is raised in a serious business context. Frankly, I haven’t quite figured out why this is the case, but the plain reality is that whether your motives are blatantly capitalistic or purely humanitarian, you must find a way to raise enough money to make your vision viable. In Rule #9, “Nothing Happens Until Money Changes Hands,” Webber hits the topic of money head on and reveals “one fundamental fact of life that every entrepreneur needs to internalize: nothing is real until somebody hands you a check.” He goes on to state, “that money isn’t the be-all and end-all for entrepreneurs. But it is the start-all.” Refreshing candor about a touchy subject.
Webber revisits the topic of money later in Rule #37: “All Money is not Created Equal,” which expands on the process he and his partners went through in the original round of funding for Fast Company with some practical advice about whom you should ask to invest in your concept and why. “We wanted people who had more than financial capital; we wanted people with reputational capital—people whose credibility would give us credibility.”
The book is a quick read that occasionally strikes a resonant tone; certainly worth adding to your summer reading list. Here’s a clip of a presentation Alan Webber recently gave at Google HQ (which is part of a series of videos from Google that are quite insightful).