The Engine of America – Book Review

by Ryan Guina

I recently received a copy of the book The Engine of America, by Hector Barreto. I love reading about entrepreneurship and people who create their own path, and I was excited to receive this book. I was not disappointed when I read it.

Author’s Qualifications: Barreto is an authority on the topic of small businesses – he worked in his father’s businesses while growing up and later ran his own businesses. Through his hard work and desire to contribute to the small business community, he joined the Latin Business Association and later became the commissioner of one of their chapters. During this time he met (then) Governor George Bush, served on the presidential campaign to help elect President Bush, and was eventually asked by President Bush to be the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. Barreto then served over 5 years as the Administrator of the SBA, the second longest tenure for an in the history of the organization.

The Engine of America: This book differs from many books of its type because it offers both tips and resources, and motivating stories and anecdotes from people who have succeeded. In my opinion, Barreto is both an optimist and a realist, and including both perspectives adds depth and value to the book. The Engine of America is very easy to read, and is well organized. It is divided into the following 3 parts:

Part 1 – The Journey Begins: This is Barreto’s background. As I mentioned earlier, he is well qualified to write this book! However, his background is interesting and I recommend reading it.

Part 2 – The Principles of Success: The second section covers the principles of success and gives applicable examples from both successful and unsuccessful start ups. The chapters are broken down by the following principles:

  • Plan – Don’t Just Wing It.
  • You Must Know What You Don’t Know.
  • Challenge the Conventional Wisdom.
  • No Guts, No Glory – Mistakes, Risk and Change.
  • Seek an Edge by Finding Your Niche.
  • The Key is the People Around You.
  • Disaster Always Looms – Survive the Potholes.

Part 3 – The Tools For Success: The third section of the book has many great references for finding necessary information vital to the success of a small business startup.

  • Where to Get the Critical Answers and Help.
  • Government and Big Business Want to Help.
  • Overcoming the Intimidation Hurdle.
  • Demystifying Capital and Getting Financial Help.
  • Summing Up.
  • The ABC’s of Success.
  • You Can and Will Succeed.

Who should read The Engine of America? I think everyone who is thinking about starting their own business should read this book. Barreto’s insight and knowledge to the process of starting, maintaining, and growing a small business will be very helpful to anyone who is considering starting their own company. You may even read this book and decide that starting your own company is not for you. If so, then Barreto accomplished something, and probably saved you thousands of dollars by convincing you not to start a venture that was destined to fail.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes by Barreto:

In regard to businesses failing: “They never plan to fail, but often do because they fail to plan.”

Why do Small businesses fail? … it is often that small business owners, especially those starting a business for the first time, simply do not know what they do not know.”

Sometimes people glamorize the idea of being in business for themselves, but most people should not work for themselves. Not everyone has the discipline, energy, or long term commitment it takes.”

Some people may think it is irresponsible for Barreto to make the statement that some people should not own their own business, but I think this statement is the truth, and he is responsible for writing it. It is very important for people to realize their strengths and weaknesses, and this book does a good job of spreading that message.

Buy or Don’t Buy? I thought the book was very insightful as both a starting manual and as a motivational resource. If this book was built solely on the principle of motivation, I would recommend borrowing a copy from the library. But, in my opinion, the tips and resources alone make this a valuable book to own if you are considering starting a small business.

Would you like a free copy of The Engine of America? Stay tuned, because next week I will give away my copy! Update: I gave it away! 😉

Published or updated November 1, 2010.
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