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Roadside MBA: Back Road Lessons for Entrepreneurs, Executives and Small Business Owners

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While playing hooky from a conference in Boston a few years back, three former colleagues from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management hopped in a car and headed on a road trip. They pulled into a shoe store in Maine and noticed that the sales help was unusually pushy. After a few questions, they discovered the store had a "secret shopper" program, in which employees w While playing hooky from a conference in Boston a few years back, three former colleagues from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management hopped in a car and headed on a road trip. They pulled into a shoe store in Maine and noticed that the sales help was unusually pushy. After a few questions, they discovered the store had a "secret shopper" program, in which employees would be marked down if they were not sufficiently aggressive with customers. A lightbulb went off. Instead of teaching the tried-and-true case studies involving GE and Microsoft, these three wise men decided to pull their heads out of their ivory towers and go in search of insights about product differentiation, pricing, brand management, building a team, and a host of other topics. Why take your cues on employee compensation from Wall Street when you can learn from a Main Street company like Couer D'Alene's best crime-scene cleaner? Want to learn about scaling a business? Come meet Dr. Burris, the flying orthodontist, who operates multiple, profitable practices in rural Arkansas. The book isn't all egghead; the chapters are spiced with the type of vehicular mishaps and Maalox moments that are common on any road trip.


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While playing hooky from a conference in Boston a few years back, three former colleagues from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management hopped in a car and headed on a road trip. They pulled into a shoe store in Maine and noticed that the sales help was unusually pushy. After a few questions, they discovered the store had a "secret shopper" program, in which employees w While playing hooky from a conference in Boston a few years back, three former colleagues from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management hopped in a car and headed on a road trip. They pulled into a shoe store in Maine and noticed that the sales help was unusually pushy. After a few questions, they discovered the store had a "secret shopper" program, in which employees would be marked down if they were not sufficiently aggressive with customers. A lightbulb went off. Instead of teaching the tried-and-true case studies involving GE and Microsoft, these three wise men decided to pull their heads out of their ivory towers and go in search of insights about product differentiation, pricing, brand management, building a team, and a host of other topics. Why take your cues on employee compensation from Wall Street when you can learn from a Main Street company like Couer D'Alene's best crime-scene cleaner? Want to learn about scaling a business? Come meet Dr. Burris, the flying orthodontist, who operates multiple, profitable practices in rural Arkansas. The book isn't all egghead; the chapters are spiced with the type of vehicular mishaps and Maalox moments that are common on any road trip.

30 review for Roadside MBA: Back Road Lessons for Entrepreneurs, Executives and Small Business Owners

  1. 5 out of 5

    shanghao

    Might be useful for students in Econs or Business 101 to enrich their lessons. This economist trio aren't as funny or amusing as they thought they are, but they tried their best in giving structure to the case studies. Despite taking to the road their very academic style is still too dominant for this to be as fun as the freakanomics series. Rather than break out of the box, they try to fit the cases into their theory boxes. But in this way it makes the book easy to digest and as I've mentioned, Might be useful for students in Econs or Business 101 to enrich their lessons. This economist trio aren't as funny or amusing as they thought they are, but they tried their best in giving structure to the case studies. Despite taking to the road their very academic style is still too dominant for this to be as fun as the freakanomics series. Rather than break out of the box, they try to fit the cases into their theory boxes. But in this way it makes the book easy to digest and as I've mentioned, probably well-suited for students looking to add relevance to their classroom theorems. Perhaps for the sequel (yes they're continuing this) they can shift their attention to pitfalls and mistakes small businesses are prone to make using the same case study format. Although from the notes it seemed as though they'd be doing the same things, just in different locations. If you must do so, professors, maybe try Europe or Asia. At least we'd have the cultural shock jokes to spice things up, and you'd have more fun too, guaranteed!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hank Waddles

    I loved this book. I was an English major, not an Econ major, so I was surprised that I found this book so fascinating. To illustrate their points, the authors use case studies that are more anecdotal than scientific, and that certainly appealed to me. The personalities of the three economist-authors shine through as brightly as the dozens of small business owners they profile, but this book is first and foremost about the challenges and rewards of operating a small business. This should be requ I loved this book. I was an English major, not an Econ major, so I was surprised that I found this book so fascinating. To illustrate their points, the authors use case studies that are more anecdotal than scientific, and that certainly appealed to me. The personalities of the three economist-authors shine through as brightly as the dozens of small business owners they profile, but this book is first and foremost about the challenges and rewards of operating a small business. This should be required reading for anyone considering a step in that direction, and highly recommended for everyone else.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Raybon

    Great title. Great content. I enjoyed, indeed, the dozens of lessons, principles and tips highlighted during this road trip by three university economists who agree to hit America's back roads and towns to discover the best business practices of several small to mid-size American companies. Taking many notes, I appreciated every stop along the way--gleaning one of my personal business goals for this upcoming new year: centralize all back-office operations. Exciting? Not necessarily. But for entre Great title. Great content. I enjoyed, indeed, the dozens of lessons, principles and tips highlighted during this road trip by three university economists who agree to hit America's back roads and towns to discover the best business practices of several small to mid-size American companies. Taking many notes, I appreciated every stop along the way--gleaning one of my personal business goals for this upcoming new year: centralize all back-office operations. Exciting? Not necessarily. But for entrepreneurs and startups, Roadside MBA lots of solid, timeless business wisdom, with a generous dose of good common sense. Highly recommended for small business owners, and those just interested in seeing best business practices put into practice in real-time business situations.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Schembri

    Good book for entrepreneurs. Their approach is simple, fun and instructive whether you have a mind for business or not. I do like the idea of sharing lessons learned from small businesses who have figured out how to do business--and not only that but well. Insightful examples from guys who got degrees and broke it down in a digestible way for their readers.

  5. 5 out of 5

    C

    Nice quick way to learn about different business models

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joe Oaster

    Loved this book. The banter between the professors and the lessons they learned. It is nice to see academics spend time in the real world with real people who employ real people. I found myself laughing at their internal banter and encouraged by some great small business owners from around the country, most of whom just learned lessons the hard way, not from a text book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jay Yeo

    An easy, light read full of dad jokes and references. It's basically a compilation of tips and tricks used by small businesses in the US. Probably not enough to make you want to copy or revamp existing business models, just some smart perspectives to consider when working out your own business ideas. An easy, light read full of dad jokes and references. It's basically a compilation of tips and tricks used by small businesses in the US. Probably not enough to make you want to copy or revamp existing business models, just some smart perspectives to consider when working out your own business ideas.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aisyah Samuin

    I love the stories and case studies presented in this book. Thank you for sharing your visits. This was laid-back and informative. Quite funny at times.

  9. 5 out of 5

    BLACK CAT

    1/3 road "adventures", 1/3 interesting business things and 1/3 "kid" fights between the authors. 1/3 road "adventures", 1/3 interesting business things and 1/3 "kid" fights between the authors.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    I enjoyed the stories about the various businesses... but I didn't feel I really learned anything about business. I enjoyed the stories about the various businesses... but I didn't feel I really learned anything about business.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gugu Maduna

    Good read about the pros and cons if business strategies and sustainability. Though not that rigorious as i expected it to be.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Walter Weston

    Interesting, but nothing revolutionary. Concepts that I felt I already understood. But it was interested in learn about different small businesses.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josselyne Nyapola

    Insightful book. I liked the case studies.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sophiacoming

    Interesting cases, especially the first 4 chapters. It is a little bit wordy, but some jokes are quite funny;)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Artemis

    The book read faster than I'd expect, I was often pleasantly surprised to realized I'd read 50 pages in what I thought would be 10. That being said, there is near-constant "mild" racisms/sexisms throughout the book ("powwows" are not meetings) and it gets old fast, having to deal with small microaggressions of 3 divorced men sharing a roadtrip together. That being said, overall it seems like they're a decent gaggle, racism/sexism aside and it did genuinely feel more benign/unintended than most ot The book read faster than I'd expect, I was often pleasantly surprised to realized I'd read 50 pages in what I thought would be 10. That being said, there is near-constant "mild" racisms/sexisms throughout the book ("powwows" are not meetings) and it gets old fast, having to deal with small microaggressions of 3 divorced men sharing a roadtrip together. That being said, overall it seems like they're a decent gaggle, racism/sexism aside and it did genuinely feel more benign/unintended than most other books that do it. I'll leave it to you to decide if that's better or worse. I have learnt a lot, the writing was wonderful aside from the above, I just wish I could have enjoyed the read without having to sidestep the sexist and racist commentary.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Julian Douglass

    This is a good book if you have that business mindset and are probably thinking of going to get a MBA one day. The lessons that are resented in here are pretty good and one should definitely take into consideration if starting a small business, but shouldn't be the bible or anything. Based on the book itself, I was kinda disappointed. It was put together weirdly (some chapters had them on the same trip, other had them jumping from area to area), the humanizing parts of the story kinda seemed for This is a good book if you have that business mindset and are probably thinking of going to get a MBA one day. The lessons that are resented in here are pretty good and one should definitely take into consideration if starting a small business, but shouldn't be the bible or anything. Based on the book itself, I was kinda disappointed. It was put together weirdly (some chapters had them on the same trip, other had them jumping from area to area), the humanizing parts of the story kinda seemed forced, and the way it was written was just odd. It seemed like one (if not all) of the authors were refereeing themselves in third person. Certainly not something I would pick up again, but I enjoy reading a variety of stuff.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Casper

    A book about 3 professors going on a roadtrip and trying to give lessons about basic economics. When i picked the book I loved the concept they will pass by A LOT of companies and giving fun lessons by doing that. Well, They did pass A LOT of companies. And they introduce every single company in the exact same way. Causing the book to be super repetitive, boring and hard to get through. I would not recommend.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sam Motes

    An interesting book about 3 College Economists who take to the road to validate the concepts and strategies they are teaching in the classroom carry over from Wall Street to the small business on Main Street. The stories of how the small business compete and thrive that the Author shares are inspiring.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dana Probert

    Cripes just noticed it took me five years to finish this Audible. It was good for learning about small and medium business strategy outside of Silicon Valley and the east coast bubble. Also, chock full of Dad jokes.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Principles & concepts were a 10, presentation lacking, don’t be discouraged by net rating.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Xi Xi

    got some basic lessons on business but some of the bantering among the authors are not that insightful.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Cool to listen to their takeaways from each company. Also cool to get halfway in to find out your brother is in the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Roger Scherping

    This book uses real, small businesses to demonstrate the ivory tower concepts that are taught in the big MBA schools. The conclusion is that these lessons apply to small businesses the same as they do to large businesses. I liked the approach. The points were well made and impactful. The book illustrated some surprisingly complex economic concepts in simple terms. I liked the book despite the annoying banter between the authors. I'm sure that they were trying to demonstrate that they're economist This book uses real, small businesses to demonstrate the ivory tower concepts that are taught in the big MBA schools. The conclusion is that these lessons apply to small businesses the same as they do to large businesses. I liked the approach. The points were well made and impactful. The book illustrated some surprisingly complex economic concepts in simple terms. I liked the book despite the annoying banter between the authors. I'm sure that they were trying to demonstrate that they're economist nerds, but frankly they went way overboard and didn't really pull it off. The book would be considerably improved if all of the personal aspects were removed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chao Li

    A fun read, depends on your need The book is written in a casual tone, and is very accessible for non-professionals. I like the book in a sense that it offers many real examples of small businesses, which brings the knowledge I cannot expect from academic papers. However, the vast amount of examples also mean shallow analysis for each case. While you can see basic economic theories are widely employed in the real world, there are few things you can really learn from it if you have had some knowled A fun read, depends on your need The book is written in a casual tone, and is very accessible for non-professionals. I like the book in a sense that it offers many real examples of small businesses, which brings the knowledge I cannot expect from academic papers. However, the vast amount of examples also mean shallow analysis for each case. While you can see basic economic theories are widely employed in the real world, there are few things you can really learn from it if you have had some knowledge about economics and strategy. I consider it as a fun read, but not something impressive.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Lu

    If there is one word that I could choose to describe this book, it would be "quirky" - fitting as per the persona of the authors (or at least the author that I know). Wise lessons drawn from micro scale examples serve as an effective means of storytelling, while providing insight into the lives of both the elite (the authors) and the entrepreneurial americans that formed this country. I thoroughly enjoyed this reading which I would classify as more towards the educational side of edutainment - n If there is one word that I could choose to describe this book, it would be "quirky" - fitting as per the persona of the authors (or at least the author that I know). Wise lessons drawn from micro scale examples serve as an effective means of storytelling, while providing insight into the lives of both the elite (the authors) and the entrepreneurial americans that formed this country. I thoroughly enjoyed this reading which I would classify as more towards the educational side of edutainment - not quite freakonomics, but probably more useful

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hubert

    Very effective advice on strategy management of a wide variety of small business types. Maybe a bit too simplistic for those with business backgrounds already, but certainly inspired me to investigate further.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Divesh

    Brilliant ideas, fantastic action, and presented in a very clear and concise manner. Excellent writing although I did not understand many of the dad jokes

  28. 4 out of 5

    Pancho Pickett

    A refreshing way to review key business concepts.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hamza F. Al-Sheikh

    i didn't finish the book, not that interesting i didn't finish the book, not that interesting

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sutich

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