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book review: Family Business

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 16, 2009

Title: Family Businessbook-cover-250

Subtitle: The Spirit of an American Entrepreneur—Mark Nelsen

Authors: Paul Higbee and Ken Steinken

Number of pages: 100

Reading time: Two hours

Publisher: Maximum Promotions

How Acquired: Purchased

I wrote about Mark Nelsen a few days ago after he made a sales call for his business, Maximum Promotions. I was impressed by Mark’s enthusiasm for his company and for entrepreneurship, so I bought a copy of his book, Family Business.


I was hoping to find a continuation of Mark’s passion for business because it is contagious. Talking to Mark is exciting because you know he loves what he does. A conversation with Mark makes you want to do something important.


The book delivers that passion in small chunks, but it doesn’t deliver the constant excitement talking with Mark does. That doesn’t mean the book is a disappointment. It just didn’t meet my hopes and expectations. It’s still worth reading.


The first half of the book tells the story of Mark’s family and how it helped craft Mark’s personality and his view of business. This section of the book is strongest when the anecdotes clearly and directly apply to doing better business. Examples:  

  • “‘But in our family issues got swept under the rug,’ he relates. ‘There’s a lesson there, for individuals and for businesses, too. Procrastination kills.’”   
  • “‘An issue is still and issue until it’s addressed. If you’re seriously ill, you can get dressed up, but you’re still sick.’”

The remainder of the first half of the book may not help an entrepreneur build a business, but it does help show Mark’s attempts to make things right with his family, which has been plagued by serious disagreements, fights, and estrangements. Mark’s ability to stick with his goal of trying to bring family members together is as admirable as the task is difficult. It also helps explain Mark’s success in business. 


The book switches focus for the second half, and it’s here that readers will find help becoming better and more prepared entrepreneurs. This is an intentionally short book, so don’t expect a detailed roadmap about how to get from here to there, but you will find Mark’s useful perspective on what it takes to be a successful business owner.


Marks lays out eight characteristics of the successful entrepreneur and includes explanations of each. According to Mark, successful entrepreneurs are: 

  • Opportunistic
  • Hopeful yet realistic
  • Independent yet able to work with others
  • Self-confident
  • Flexible and able to adapt to changes in the marketplace
  • Can stay focused yet can see markets before they emerge
  • Knows his/her strengths and weaknesses
  • Can move beyond thinking and talking and “pull the trigger” after running a risk/reward analysis

Mark’s explanations are short and simple and use solid examples. That makes them very useful.


The book then describes the entrepreneurial concepts that, according to Mark, are crucial for business owners to understand. Some of the 12 concepts you have read before, but several are completely unique and alone make the book worth reading. Those items include “airplane avionics,” “capitalism with a conscience,” your house and reputation are on the line,” and “how to live modestly.”


As the book winds down, Mark delivers advice about successfully mixing marriage and business, and he tells a story about work gloves. The story wraps up what Mark believes all entrepreneurs must do:


“Mark has a standard graduation gift for students: a pair of quality, leather work gloves. His own children got them. So have family friends and even a few graduates Mark didn’t know well, but who told him he inspired them. The gloves are a reminder that good ideas, talent, and the right direction aren’t enough. ‘In business you have to work hard—sometimes insanely hard in the eyes of others,’ says Mark. ‘You have to expect and maintain an intense work ethic for years.’”




Mark has taken his American Entrepreneur show on the road, speaking to high school and college students about becoming business owners. Spreading his message is clearly a passion, and I have no doubt that he puts on a useful, entertaining show. The book is a peek at the seminar, but it isn’t a good substitute for the real thing.


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