Book Review: A brisk guide for the social entrepreneur

Andy Hillier reviews The Social Entrepreneur's A to Z by Liam Black, an attempt to impart lessons learned over the course of more than 20 years

Liam Black is a serial social entrepreneur best known for running Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant chain. The Social Entrepreneur's A to Z is Black's attempt to impart the lessons learned from more than 20 years of experience to would-be social entrepreneurs and those who are already experienced in this area.

As the title suggests, Black eschews the usual chapter form and instead divides the book into an A-to-Z format where each letter is used to discuss a different aspect of leadership – for example, A is "Anxiety" and T is "Team". He dedicates only a couple of short pages to each letter, making for a brisk read, easy to complete in one sitting.

Despite the brevity, Black manages to recount all manner of mistakes made in his career and pass on some pearls of wisdom he has learned along the way. Under the letter C, for example, he relates the tale of how he opened a second-hand furniture shop in the centre of Liverpool only for customers to stay away because, it transpired, no one wanted such a shop in the city centre.

Many themes will be familiar to readers of business books – accept the need for failure, learn the business basics, don't neglect your love ones and so on – but it is the personal anecdotes and use of humour that make the book eminently readable. Among Black's most memorable pieces of advice is the need for social entrepreneurs to "book a holiday and get laid" – too many of them, he believes, work long hours, to the point where they are no longer productive.

Don't buy this book expecting a comprehensive walk-through of how to set up a successful social enterprise; but do buy it if you are looking for some handy hints or want a whistle-stop, warts-and-all account of the challenges faced by today's social entrepreneurs.

The Social Entrepreneur's A to Z by Liam Black, Pioneers Post, price £15

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