Book Club – The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

So it is my turn to review a book for the HMA book club. Stopped into Abbie’s office – she has a ton of books. She suggested The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, a book about starting your own business. The author, Mike Michalowicz, is speaking at the upcoming Counselors Academy conference that she is chairing and thought I’d enjoy reading it. And she was right.
The book begins by asking what do you do when you’re in the bathroom and realize you are all out of toilet paper? Do you yell for someone to help? Walk to the closet to get more? Or do you find a way to turn the cardboard roll into something you can use? If you are a toilet paper entrepreneur (TPE) you would go for option C. Why? Because a true TPE knows how to manage with what they’ve got.
The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur teaches you to make the most of what you’ve got and, not to steal a line from Charlie Sheen, turn “tin cans into gold.” In this book, Michalowicz takes you through the trials and tribulations of starting your own company. Not just any company, but multi-million dollar companies. Along the way, he shares stories of other toilet paper entrepreneurs (TPEs) and how their rise to success started with sometimes only just $20 in their pocket.
This book teaches you a lot of things, but one of the most important things I took away from it, was learning the difference between a want and a need. This is something my dad has been trying to teach me my entire life and up until now has gone in one ear and out the other. Now that I’m older, I’m finally starting to grasp this concept. In fact, Michalowicz, in an effort to pinch pennies while his business was up and coming, moved his wife and young son into a retirement community. I’m sure the neighborhood was as safe as can be, but not exactly a “want” for a young family.
Throughout the book, Michalowicz offers tips and advice for new business owners. Some of these tips include rummaging through garage sales or thrift stores for office furniture, hosting virtual meetings online using sites like and using free word processing and spreadsheets offered through Google, to name a few. All of these TPE tips are designed to help you save money and time, which is always key, but particularly during those trying start-up years.
Michalowicz also offers his three “sheets” to live by when starting a new biz (and no, he doesn’t mention a business plan as being one of them). A Prosperity Plan, the document that describes what your company is all about. It establishes the foundation of beliefs for your company and generates excitement. A Quarterly Plan, a list of goals and tasks that need to be met each quarter in order to achieve what is written on your Prosperity Plan. And finally, Michalowicz suggests we use daily metrics system to monitor the ongoing conditions. Basically, numbers that identify the day-to-day health of the company.
One of my favorite examples of a TPE, was that of Fred DeLuca, founder of Subway. As you may know, Subway has been an HMA client for years. As the story goes, then 17-year-old DeLuca opened his first store in 1965 with a $1,000 investment. DeLuca didn’t even know how to make a sandwich on opening day. But since he’s a TPE, he took action and made it work. Fast forward to today, where Subway has now expanded to 34,443 restaurants in 97 countries. Just goes to show you that anything is possible
Deluca’s story, among the other TPE stories that Michalowicz shares with us in The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, will convince you that anyone can achieve these successes and that not all great companies started from traditional by-the-book standards. It will give you hope and make you laugh. A great read for anyone interested in starting their own company or maybe just shifting the direction of their current business.

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at Apr 21, 2011

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