Book Review – Jul./Aug. 2011

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Army of Entrepreneurs: Create an Engaged  and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business GrowthArmy of Entrepreneurs: Create an Engaged
and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business Growth

Author: Jennifer Prosek
Publisher: Amacom, 2011
Pages: 209
ISBN: 978-0-814416-73-0
Reviewed by Terri Schlichenmeyer

It’s a battle to stay in business. You see the daily skirmish as your employees go hand to hand with the competition. Sometimes they capture new clients; sometimes they’re just not strong enough to withstand other forces. The troops are getting tired and morale is low. Should you deploy more people, or stay the course?

In the book Army of Entrepreneurs: Create an Engaged and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business Growth by Jennifer Prosek, you’ll learn a whole new way of doing battle in business. To grow during a recession is an impressive feat for a business, and Prosek’s PR and consulting firm did just that — twice. A few years after Prosek took over her firm, she began to notice that she was doing all the work at the office and her employees were missing opportunities that she could clearly see. She talked with other businessowners and realized that those in other industries were seeing the same problems. She recognized that she needed to train her employees in entrepreneurial skills and she had to show them what she wanted. She created an “army of entrepreneurs” (AOE) by instituting what she calls “commission for life,” which is a way for employees to increase their paychecks with one simple action. By giving her employees this “personal stake” in the company, Prosek says, morale improved, too.

How can you draft your own army? First, create a core culture in your business. Adopt transparency in all aspects and “strive for overcommunication” because it keeps people informed and it squashes rumors. Celebrate with your team and institute regular off-site fun. Offer cross-training, professional development and mentorship programs. Encourage autonomy and make your employees fearless in the office and out. Present rewards often. Develop zero tolerance for “deal breakers.” Use social media and employee strengths. Always be aware of talent in need of a workplace like yours (but learn to interview prospects to choose wisely). Be a good boss. 

Think about it: Employees love autonomy and hate micromanaging. Bosses love that the work gets done, on time and without fuss, which makes them look great. Company owners love business growth without having to worry about a revolving employment door. But will the AOE program work for a company of your size?

Prosek offers ideas and tips for larger corporations wanting to give this method a whirl and for smaller companies with very few employees. She uses anecdotes and quizzes to keep managers of any size business on the right track. If you’re taking a walloping from the New Economy, why not try something different and read Army of Entrepreneurs. At the very least, it will give your business a fighting chance.      

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones; book coverSilver Sparrow
By Tayari Jones
Algonquin Books, May 2011
$19.95, 340 pp.
Dana Yarboro is the secret daughter of James Witherspoon, owner of a limousine service who is married with a wife and a daughter. Sadly, Dana and her mother, Gwen, are the “other” family, and they are repeatedly admonished to keep out of sight. As the girls grow older, Dana and the unsuspecting sister Chaurisse eventually strike up a friendship; only Dana is aware of the bigamist father they share. The teenage girls’ friendship has moments of joy and truthfulness. However, destruction is not far behind. Set in 1980s Atlanta, Jones weaves together a story about unconventional family relationships, told in the voices of the two young protagonists. Through honest dialogue and incisive prose, Silver Sparrow focuses on family devotion, the desire for attention and teenage curiosity about the complex behavior of grown-ups.

if i bring you roses book coverIf I Bring You Roses
By Marisel Vera
Grand Central Publishing, August 2011
$13.99, 346 pp.
Marisel Vera’s debut novel is a romantic tale with an immigrant story at its heart.  As a young girl, Felicidad Hidalgo leaves her impoverished family in the mountains of Puerto Rico to live with and work for relatives in their bakery in town. As Felicidad matures, notions of love fill her dreams. Aníbal Acevedo, a carefree soul who has moved to Chicago to find work, returns to visit his family in Puerto Rico and becomes strongly attracted to Felicidad. The two marry and move back to Chicago, where they face a surprising situation. Through it all, Felicidad  undergoes a soul-satisfying transformation. Vera moves the reader along in a gentle pace as she offers a sensual and well-crafted story about courage and passion that brims with vivid descriptions and characters.
— Reviewed by Clarence V. Reynolds