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The Martha Rules

 
12/12/2005

Although many handbooks tell entrepreneurs how to be successful in business, Martha Stewart gives us more.

The cultural icon’s first book, Entertaining, was all about recipes, tips, and appealing photographs. The Martha Rules aims at a wider audience, and Martha is convincing as she describes how valuable it is to try different lines of work before finding your real passion. She herself sampled finance and real estate before realizing that she could popularize and profit from activities she truly enjoyed: cooking, creating a comfortable home, entertaining, and gardening. “When work is based in passion, it does not feel like work…. For me, planting and maintaining a garden is not, is never, working in the garden.”

This book covers her top ten rules in less than two hundred pages. One lesson that hasn’t been broached elsewhere is “Teach so you can learn.” Only by talking with customers and colleagues and soliciting their active feedback can you best learn what works and doesn’t about the product or service, she says. Another Martha pointer is the importance of the “right attitude”: engaged and positive. She also complements practical guidelines with anecdotes about the ups and downs of friends and acquaintances in business, from Bill Gates to Eva Scrivo, her hairstylist. Her stylist, for example, listened to clients describe their “pain points,” and decided to expand her salon to offer spa services.

Martha matter-of-factly reflects on her recent experiences in Alderson Federal Prison Camp and her conversations with fellow inmates. Two of them approached her with a good, though perhaps impractical, idea for establishing a venture once they were released—complete with a business plan and sketches. This experience led Martha to offer a talk to other incarcerated women about the key elements of launching a business. It also led to this book: “I decided to write The Martha Rules as a practical and inspiring manual.”

Whether you are a budding or serial entrepreneur, fan of Martha or not, her book delivers practical advice and a personal perspective on starting, building, and managing a business. She tells her story persuasively and with style. What else would we expect from Martha Stewart?

- Sarah Jane Gilbert

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