Reviewed by Holly Madison
In order to properly review this book, I should probably start with a tiny bit about myself. I am a self-made entrepreneur, and I started my business almost four years ago.
Back then, my husband and I were at an all time low. He had just been laid off, and we had exactly $220 in our bank account. One day, out of pure luck, I stumbled across a fantastic business opportunity and a chance to buy a bunch of left over fiber from a nearby farm. After a lot of convincing, I finally talked my husband into spending $200 to buy the entire stash of alpaca…convinced that I could prep it myself and sell it on Etsy to make money. That left us with $20 to live off of.
Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that the fiber we bought was extremely raw and dirty. The fleeces were fresh off of the animals’ backs, and my great idea was that I would wash the fleeces, comb them out and prep them, and then sell them for a profit. This is because a lot of people like to felt with fiber and spin it into yarn, but very few people know how to actually clean a fleece and take the time required to pick through it and prep it properly.
It was a huge gamble, and an insane amount of work. But it worked. Within a week, we had more than made back our investment, and we finally had food on our table again. The business continued to grow as spinners were drawn to the quality and effort put into cleaning and prepping our fiber, and our reputation began to grow with it. Four years later, that hail-Mary effort at making a tiny bit of money to keep us afloat temporarily has become our whole world, and a successful home-based business that sells a huge variety of different types of fiber.
I’m certainly not rich, but I am able to work from home running a business that I love. I am not like the author of this book. I don’t have board meetings or employees, and I certainly have never had any investors in my business. I usually prep orders in my pajamas, and most of my brainstorming is done on my couch with my husband. And it works for me.
Here is the reason why I have given you my backstory. Although I am completely different from the author of this book and have a completely different type of business, I still found great value in reading it.
This book doesn’t focus on the business aspect of things, though it does bring up Sheryl O’Loughlin’s personal experiences with really interesting stories about situations she has been through. She really touches upon what goes on behind the curtains–what makes the entrepreneur tick, and what is required in your personal and business life in order to be successful. And she goes over all sorts of different problems that you might encounter in your life, and gives really valuable advice about ways to approach them.
A lot of people have no idea how difficult it is to run your own business. In four years, I have not taken a single vacation, and I don’t remember the last time I truly took a day off. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart…it is a lifestyle all its own. It’s nice that the author understands this and reminds the reader of just how special and unique this lifestyle is. In the book, she said, “You don’t have to love every moment, but you do have to love enough of them.” This is so incredibly true. If a time ever comes when I no longer like what I’m doing and I no longer get joy out of it, then it will be time to do something else. Some days are harder than others, and that is OK. But with all of the sacrifices and effort involved in being an entrepreneur, it’s important to gauge whether or not it is worth it in the end. For some people, it always will be–but it’s not for everyone. I appreciated that she talks about knowing when it’s time to stay with it and fight through the hard times, and when it’s time to let go.
She also talks about things dearly important to me: being a wife, a (future) mother, balancing friendship with business, and more.
As someone who works with my husband full time, I can attest to how difficult it can be balancing the business side of things with the personal relationship. When there is tension within the business, it carries over to everything else. This book really gives some fantastic advice about how to talk through issues (letting them fester is never OK and only causes more problems) and how to not take yourself too seriously. It also talks about business partnerships and how you can transition from dreaming up an idea to actually following through with it and making it a reality. This is something that my husband and I have been doing for years, but it’s really helpful to get some advice about ways we could go about it differently and more efficiently.
The book also reminds us that when we need to hire help (for example: sometimes we need a few extra hands at a festival to help us sell our products for a few days), we need to make sure to hire people who can mirror our passion for our products and represent us well. Settling for someone who is not up to the task only makes our business look bad. To be the best, you need to be willing to surround yourself with the best help possible.
Another really important point that she touched on was the line between a business contact and a friendship. One of the best parts of my business is that I become friends with many of my customers. I love getting to know the people that I sell to, and I have close relationships with many of them. That being said, it would be super unprofessional to me to go to a customer and vent about another customer, or talk about how I have too many open orders and I’m feeling overwhelmed. This would make me look less professional in their eyes, and it would make them doubt my ability to run my business, which could make them buy from a competitor in the future. I have also made mistakes in the past where I freely let slip some of my sources, and people who once were my customers took that information and became my competition. I may work at home in my pajamas a lot of the time, but I still am running a business, and need to remain professional when I interact with my customers–no matter how friendly we are with each other. It’s nice to know that other people sometimes make mistakes, and we are all human. It’s also nice to be reminded of what NOT to do!
I think the biggest part of this book and the thing that I got the most value from was the author’s emphasis on recognizing your own self worth. She touches upon this issue many times within the book, and brings it up again at the very end. If you undervalue yourself, then other people will as well. If you settle for an unhappy business partnership, or a sub-par supplier, you are ultimately the one who will suffer in the end as well. You need to realize that you have something special, and put your heart and soul into it. And that is what I try to do every day with my own business.
Overall, I think Killing It was a really great book. I have a feeling that I might consult it from time to time as issues come up within my own business…if for no other reason than to be reminded that I am not alone and there are other people out there who know exactly what I might be going through. Obviously, if you are running a business more similar to the author’s, you might get even more value out of it, but it certainly has something for everyone. This is definitely a book I would recommend to any entrepreneur.
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Holly has a Bachelors degree in Environmental Science and owns a small business with her husband selling fleece and hand-spun yarn. When she is not spinning yarn, she does freelance work as a graphic design artist and is highly involved in animal rescue.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by HarperCollins. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.