What good are long, dark winter evenings? Well, if you or someone you know are interested in starting or growing that small business you've promised yourself, pick up a copy of "Campus CEO" by Randal Pinkett. It's one of the most concise, up-to-date introductions to business start-up available today.

But don't take my word for it. Carl Schramm is president and CEO of the entrepreneurial powerhouse, the Kaufmann Foundation. He writes "Pinkett has authored an invaluable reference for students of all ages who want to start their own business. ..."

Donald Trump wrote "Campus CEO is based on experience, and I would recommend it to anyone in school or out of school." He should know. Pinkett took top prize on Trump's show "The Apprentice, Series 4."

What makes this book a great choice? First, it's well researched and written. There are gazillions (OK, maybe just billions) of business "how-to" books, but this one is short on opinion and long on evidence. For example, lots of authors point out "Bootstrapping (using personal money) is the most common way to finance a business." But Pinkett proves it using detailed "Inc." magazine survey statistics.

Second, the book is well organized, written and edited. The 16 chapters are presented in four groups: starting, financing, balancing and growing. This is roughly the same approach taken by the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network Web site www.bizcenter.org. That doesn't make it perfect, it just makes use of proven steps for entrepreneurs. It also makes "Campus CEO" not only authoritative, but easy to read.

Third, Pinkett incorporates good learning tools right into the book. There are 13 "Campus CEO Checklists" for all but the introductory chapters. Answer these checklists carefully and you'll wind up with most of the material you need to write a pretty decent business plan.

Like me, you may find a few surprises on your way through "Campus CEO." One is a Kaufmann Foundation study that found the highest interest in entrepreneurship among students of fine and applied arts. When that light came on, I realized my two daughters (both business owners) are living evidence of the research.

Another eye-opener is the Milken Institute study showing successful technologies take from seven years (Internet) to 54 years (aircraft) to reach just 25 percent market share. So much for "get-rich-quick" fantasies. Welcome to the careful, patient, steady, real world of successful business.

So there it is ... "Campus CEO" by Randal Pickett. It's a quick read, an invaluable reference and a guaranteed great use of a couple of your long winter evenings.

Best wishes for happiness and prosperity throughout your New Year.

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Art Hill is VP for economic development and director of Small Business Development Centers at Blue Mountain Community College. He can be reached at (888) 441-7232 or through ahill@bluecc.edu.

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