The Boardroom Entrepreneur

by Mike Southon and Chris West
ISBN: 1-8441-3818-6, Publisher: Random House
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

This book is a good read: full of simple clear advice for building an entrepreneurial spirit in even the largest of companies. It is for executives more than board members. I was a bit disappointed as the title led me to believe it was either about:

  • how to survive as an entrepreneur on a board where the other directors are more ‘corporate’ or
  • how a board can build an entrepreneurial focus in their company.

It is, however, a very good book for aspiring directors who are mired in middle management and seeking a productive way of getting noticed and, possibly, building an operation within the company that they can then direct.

A unique aspect of the book is that the key points are summarised on ‘beer mats’. Anyone who can fit their knowledge onto a card the size of a coaster, complete with a ring-mark (presumably from the beer glass) and decorative border has distilled their wisdom to its essential purity. This may have worked well in their first book ‘The Beermat Entrepreneur’ but sits uncomfortably in a corporate environment. Some of the beer mats are very large (3 pages? How much do these guys drink?); which spoils the effect.

The chapter on leading innovation from the top is most relevant to boards. It is full of simple actions that can be easily directed and monitored from the boardroom without usurping management. It is not mentioned in the book, but these actions could help a board to gauge the quality of talent in the middle ranks which would help with succession planning (it is always difficult to see past the CEO’s direct reports).

Appendix C – The public sector entrepreneur is fantastic. It should be recommended reading for every public sector executive who reaches governance levels. These 2.5 pages put the challenge into context. It is a clear call to action for the entire public sector, especially as the current economic situation requires the government sector to play an enhanced role in society. The book is worth reading just for that!

The ‘Here be Dragons’ chapter summarises the obstacles that crush entrepreneurs in our companies. It is easy to forget, when you are on the board, just how hard change is when you are elbow to elbow with the ranks of box-ticking rule-followers who see their purpose in life as thwarting yours. Fortunately it contains good tactics for getting round, over or through them. I recognise a few of these from my own past. They worked for me. It is good to see them passed on in such a clear and actionable format.

To sum it up: this book was not intended for company directors but we should all read it.


* Julie Garland McLellan is a governance and board consultant. She is a professional non-executive director and an AICD NSW Councillor. She is the author of “All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector” and is currently working on her second book “All Above Board: Great Governance of Strategy and Risk”.



Julie Garland McLellan to judge 2011 Global eBook Awards