Entrepreneurs are a notoriously optimistic lot: they focus on inspiration and perspiration and often share failures only with insiders. Carol Frank, a serial entrepreneur herself, persuaded some American CEOs and small-business owners to dish about their non finest moments in Do As I Say, Not As I Did: Gaining Wisdom in Business Through the Mistakes of Highly Successful People. This how-not-to guide begins with an agonizing look at the debacles Frank orchestrated while building a multimillion-dollar birdcage business. Readers may want to scream look out for the monster behind you as she relates a string of boo-boos, big mistakes and bad judgment calls.

The other entrepreneurs in the book the founders of Monster.com, the Container Store and CiCi's Pizza, among others also analyze when things went wrong, how they bounced back from near-fatal mistakes and what they learned from the experience. The interviews all fascinate with the same train-wreck tension. But true to her name, Frank sees these failures and eventual recoveries in sharp 20-20 hindsight. The meta-lessons from the book feature the common business sense that isn't so common anymore: perform due diligence before the deal; know the business you're in; success can be the biggest enemy; get a naysayer on your team; verbal contracts are worthless; and no matter how many of these rules you forget or ignore, quitting isn't an option.

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