I just finished reading the four hour work week book. It was gifted to me by a friend who said "Let me know what you think." So, I figure a blog post review is in order and this is it.

The Good

The focus of the book is to organize your life so that your income is on autopilot and you don't have to slave away at hours on end. There are a ton of business books I've read that focus on similar topics. This is the holy grail of business ownership. Build the business up so that it can work without you and generate enough profits so you just sit back and let the money roll In with no worries.

The book talks about cheap ways you can introduce a product with high sales margins, but low cost. It provides cheap ways to experiment with different sales approaches before you even have a product; and change things to see if you can optimize your conversion rates. Such experimentation is good. Figuring out what works at low outlay is also good.

The Bad

Much of the books talks about how travel can help you live cheaper. I haven't decided if this is the author stroking his own ego or useful information to some people. I hate to travel! With a passion! The portions of the book that focus on the authors travel success did not capture my interest.

One of the tenants of the book is to realize what you are doing and how much of it is unimportant. The next step is to then outsource the important stuff. I believe this is the right approach taken in moderation; but I do not believe that every aspect of a business should be outsourced. For a tech business-like mine-to offer some value, there needs to be some internal core competency. Our knowledge and experience is part of the value we bring to the table. Not everything should be outsourced.

The Ugly

A lot of the book's suggestions seem to fall into a morally gray area. I feel many of his suggestions are to operate under the letter of the law and not in the spirit of the law. Abuse the system instead of trying to improve it.

As one example, the author speaks about how he won an athletic competition-wrestling or kickboxing or something like that-by going on a water diet to lose weight during the weigh in. Once he was entered into a certain weight class; he then started doing things to bulk right back up before the competition, putting his competition weight in a higher class. It is easy to push someone out of the circle when you're a weight class above them. Such actions are not in the spirit of the competition.

In a different part of the book he provides a way for you to convince your boss that you should be able to work from remotely. During a trial period, you'll be working in part at home and in part at work. He explicitly recommends that you do everything in your power to make sure that your off-site time is significantly more efficient than your on-site time. He stops short of telling you to goof off at work; but that is the insanitation. He also suggests that you work harder while at home to help highlight the differences in output.

The suggestion to purposely skew output in order to highlight the differences between off-site and on-site time gives me a nervous discomfort. When I'm working for a client, or for myself, I always like to put my best foot forward. I'd like to think I was the same when working as an employee-so many years ago.

On the flip side; I find it hard to imagine that many people have to do any "fudging" of the numbers to make work from home look more efficient. I almost always work remotely from my home office, but a current client has negotiated some on-site time. At one of the recent on-site days, instead of spending 10 hours doing "real" work for them, I spent 6 hours in transit, 6 hours in meetings, 1 hour at a group lunch, and 1 hour of doing real work. The hour of work wasn't even contiguous; driving down efficiency. You can improve productivity significantly by avoiding the busy work; but there is no need to be underhanded about it.

Where do I fit in?

I can't figure out if I'm living the dream or building my own prison. I love spending my days building Flex Components for Flextras; and I specifically tried to orchestrate that business so I could spend more time coding. I don't even mind helping clients with their problems and fixing bugs. But, I haven't been able to grow the business to a point where I can turn down every consulting gig. I want to get the business to the point where I can hire staff to help get things going. It's not there yet. I believe that the business model needs some morphing to grow and we're working on making that happen now. 2011 is a year in transition.

All in all, it's a lot of hard work to get things to the point where they can work on autopilot. This isn't denied in the book, but it brushes over that fact; and alludes to the fact that the jump from "Wage Slave" to "The New Rich" is going to be smooth.