“I am a massive wanker” – Business for Punks by James Watt

bfpjwI am a massive wanker. (The cynical part of my mind chips in: “Finally!” every reader of Bookmunch cries out in unison. “Our Pete has finally achieved a measure of wisdom!”; the hopeful part of my mind, which is much smaller, given to being bullied by the cynical part of my mind but hopeful nevertheless, has the Bookmunch audience saying, “What? No!” like Frankie Howard). That’s right, a massive wanker. For a number of reasons. (“You can say that again!” Shut up you.) First of all, I ummed and aahed about reviewing this book because it’s not the kind of book we normally review on Bookmunch. (“And what kind of book is that?” Well, cynic, it’s kind of a self-help book for business start-ups. “Sounds horrible!” I know. That’s what we thought, or at least what part of us thought. It kicked in like a gag reflex and we fought against it.) I ummed and aahed and that’s part of what makes me a wanker. Then, when I started reading and discovered that this is in part, the story of Brewdog, the craft beer business that has taken the world by storm, written in a sort of blokey anti-authoritarian way, the gag reflex re-occurred because it says things like “Spreadsheets! Yeah, that’s punk! Understanding spreadsheets! Punk ROCK!”* (*THIS IS NOT A DIRECT QUOTE FROM THE BOOK, THIS IS ME BEING A WANKER). At the start of the book, though, it reads, at times, a little bit like Ben Elton’s satire of youth TV from The Young Ones (I know there are probably those reading this who only know Ben Elton as THE ENEMY WHO HAS NEVER DONE ANYTHING GOOD but once, and briefly, he was ALRIGHT – once, and briefly, I’d go as far to say he was GOOD). Me using Ben Elton (who is also a MASSIVE WANKER) to make a point about my sense of the book NOT being punk IS ACTUALLY REALLY PUNK OF ME. But that’s beside the point. We are talking about why I’m a wanker. So: to recap: didn’t think I’d like the book and when I started it all rang a bit false and a bit LOOK AT HOW HARD WE’RE TRYING TO BE PUNK (MAN). And then. And then I started enjoying the book and GENUINELY started worrying that instead of just milking the review for cheap laughs as if I was an economy Simon Munnery, I’d have to say NICE THINGS ABOUT IT – AND I DIDN’T WANT TO BECAUSE I’D ALREADY GOT IN MY HEAD THAT I’D WRITE A SNARKY REVIEW. As I said: massive wanker. (“There are lots and lots of other reasons why you’re a massive wanker.” I know. Thank you. We’ll stick a pin in those for now eh?)

So: Business for Punks. Easy to dismiss things like this, I know, but one fact you should know up front: Brewdog started with £30,000 and now have a turnover of £50m, employing 500 people at 50 locations across the world. They are undoubtedly a massive success story and there’s an infinitesimal part of Business for Punks which thrums with the satisfaction of YOU SAID WE COULDN’T DO IT AND WE DID. You know the emoji which is colon and the letter P (:P) – that lurks in the leading of the book. You can tell a great many hours and a great many sleepless nights and a whole lot of risk got them to where they are now. They learned fast and they learned hard and they share what they learn. And yes, there is a little bit of spreadsheets are punk but only in the sense of your man James Watt encouraging new business start-up peeps to be all over their finances because a basic lack of financial knowledge will kill you (and as just about every one knows, most new businesses fail – the ones that don’t fail are by far the exception, the ones that transform the way people do a thing – like drink beer – rarer than rocking horse shit). So: you know that history is a tale written by the victors? There’s an element of that to this book. These guys have done well. They’re crowing a bit. But you know what? They should. They took on the big boys and they won massively. So kudos to them.

More importantly, though (and this warrants a few more of those caps) THIS BOOK ISN’T ONLY FOR PEOPLE STARTING UP A BUSINESS. That feels important. Take me, for instance. I’m not starting up a new business. I’m one of those people who work in the kind of corporate environments that James Watt despises. (Man, does he despise those corporate environments.) I wear a suit. (Booooooooo!) I have meetings. (Hiss!) I occupy a creative space but in a corporate environment that renders said creative space effectively null and void! (Booo! Hiss! Third sound composed of Boo and Hiss squared!). And I still found lots here that challenged the way I thought, or supported the slightly rebellious voice that is my inner default, or – MOST IMPORTANTLY – made me think ORIGINAL THOUGHT IS STILL POSSIBLE / I’M NOT DEAD YET / I’M NOT BEAT / THE WORLD CAN GET BETTER etc. Thus (and who knew I was going to use that word here?) I arrive at the almost end of the review finding myself saying just about the unthinkable: this business self-help book is, bewilderingly, quite life-affirming and full of genuine, surprising thoughts that may make you look at the world in a different way. Who fucking knew, right?!?

Any Cop?: You might have reached this point and be sitting, wherever you are, scratching your chin and shaking your head thinking, the way this guy writes makes him sound like a massive wanker. You may even be right. But that doesn’t stop Business for Punks from being a surprisingly alright read.


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