Book Review: #GIRLBOSS

Every once in a while a book comes along that speaks to me on all levels: business, personal, and — dare I say it? — spiritual. Kelly Cutrone’s If You Have to Cry, Go Outside was one such book. Nasty Gal’s Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS is another.

In some ways, Cutrone’s and Amoruso’s books are similar.

IMG_6751

Both women were fashion outsiders turned insiders: one is a fashion publicist who runs her own firm and the other runs the online retail business she created. Both women use the “I’m in charge”, hands-on-hip stance on their book covers and they both seem to favour the rocker-chic look. Neither woman has a typical business background and became successful through intelligence, crazy hard work, good instincts and moxy. Cutrone was born in 1965. Amoruso was born in 1984. I’m a 70s baby, wedged neatly between the two. I read Cutrone as a wiser, older sister, letting you in on the secrets of life. Amoruso – pre-kids, pre-wrinkles – is the wild-child baby cousin who is absolutely fearless. Her book reads like a giant kick in the rear, which we all need from time to time.

I still read physical books and I dog-ear the pages I like. This is what the book looked like when I finished reading it and, yes, it was that good.

IMG_6739

Here were some of the standout quotes for me.

There are secret opportunities hidden inside every failure.

How true is this? I’m not a big fan of the fail fast movement because, except in areas like industrial design where you need to throw a lot of things against the wall to see what sticks, failure should not be too easily embraced. But I do believe that failures can often be salvaged and always present learning opportunities. The key thing is to learn from one’s failures and not repeat them.

Money looks better in the bank than on your feet.

Now isn’t this a surprising statement from an online retail queen? But it’s true, in business and in life. Having money gives you choices. By building up a war chest of cash in the bank and taking on no debt in Nasty Gal’s early days, Amoruso had a lot of flexibility. She was able to choose her investors, choose the timing of investments, and grow the company as she wished. So many companies (and people!) are eager to find investors, take out loans, or go public based on the lure of Other People’s Money. As a former banker, I can tell you that Other People’s Money comes along with other people’s terms and conditions and you do not want a less-than-ideal covenant structure or demands from shareholders limiting what you can do. When you own the bus, you get to drive the bus.

Each time you make a good decision or do something nice or take care of yourself; each time you show up to work and work hard and do your best at everything you can do, you’re planting seeds for a life that you can only hope grows beyond your wildest dreams.

Amoruso believes in magical thinking. No, she does not think that by putting a picture of a car on your wall, the car will manifest itself, but she does think that with a vision, a positive attitude and — here’s the key — lots of hard work, you can make magic happen in your own life and business. I tend to agree.

In business, a disproportionate amount of importance is placed on the ability to network.

Yes! Like Amoruso, and about 50% of the population, I am an introvert. (The common notion is that only 30% of the population are introverts as this statistic seems truer than the reality, based on our more quiet nature!) Extroverts have shinier skills such as the ability to build a large network and create a pipeline of potential clients. Also, they tend to talk about their accomplishments. But, as Amoruso points out, introverts have valuable skills as well and a successful organization makes sure they are not overlooked. Introverts are often great at deepening client relationships and building loyalty. As Amoruso discusses in the book, both types of people are needed for an organization to succeed.

You can be entrepreneurial without being an entrepreneur.

Absolutely. If you treat the company for which you work as your own company and are willing to work hard, safeguard the assets, and take calculated risks, you’ll do better and have more fun on the job.

What no one seems to talk about is that business is creative.

Amoruso argues that any job can be creative. You can use creativity to arrive at a new algorithm for a software program. You can use creativity to choose the auditing company that will best support your business’s stage of growth. You can be creative in choosing how to finance your company. Don’t let the designers and marketing people have all the fun.

If you are looking for a fresh voice giving out some good advice for business and life, Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS is well worth your time.