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Everything I Needed to Know About Business I Learned from a Canadian

by Leonard Brody and David Raffa

Entrepreneurs and authors Leonard Brody and David Raffa want you to know: Canadians are more entrepreneurial than they think they are.

Using the success stories of 16 Canadians from diverse fields – everything from cosmetics to helicopters to cheeky men’s underwear – the authors aim to shatter the notion of Canadians as docile, risk-averse clock-punchers who would rather just mow the lawn and watch reality television.

It’s difficult to argue with the authors’ thesis if you’re using examples such as editor with a Midas touch Bonnie Fuller, envelope-pushing architect Moshe Safdie, and Joel Cohen, co-executive producer of The Simpsons, the longest-running prime-time animated series in television history. Part profile and part blueprint for aspiring businesspeople, Everything I Needed to Know is a primer on some of the more compelling Canadian business success stories.

The authors take a creative approach by focusing on one aspect of business with each profilee. For example, Newfoundland helicopter magnate Craig Dobbin talks about growth through mergers and acquisitions, Fuller talks about knowing what her readers want, and former CN Rail and Bombardier CEO Paul Tellier talks about management during times of crisis.

Each chapter begins with a thumbnail introduction to the person in question, followed by a breezy summary of his or her “five key points.” For example, Goldcorp founder and chairman Rob McEwen’s range from “Take a good look around, then take a good look in the mirror” to “Play a little hardball and a little softball.” The points are then fleshed out in more detail, forming the body of each chapter. It’s all very orderly, if a little repetitive.

The book is both more and less than the sum of its parts. It is comprehensive in a way, since it touches on many aspects of business: growing one, selling one, managing one, thinking in new ways, etc. Yet the advice starts to sound similar, or even contradictory. Listen to others; don’t listen to others. Diversify your business; stick to what you know. Have a plan; don’t have a plan. The net result is a fun book whose provocative title will guarantee short-term buzz, but may have a difficult time staying on the radar for long in the crowded world of business books.

Stephen Knight, a Toronto-based writer and editor.