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Book Review: Three Guys Walk Into A Bar: How To Thrive As A Creative Business

written by - Ben Ravilious

Firstly, a declaration of interest: Jim Shields is the boss of Twist & Shout who are one of our clients and fellow tenants here at Leicester’s LCB Depot.

Three Guys Walk Into a Bar is a succinct (and somewhat autobiographical) account of how creative industry firms can discover their true calling.

If you’re a bit cynical of self-help books, don’t worry, this is a a zero-tree-hugging exploration of the things creative practitioners can do to take full control of their destinty.

The central premise is that there are three types of “guy” (and we’re assured this is meant in a gender-neutral way) that people look to when commissioning creative work:-

A Guy: The skivvy who is owned by their clients, produces average work and doesn’t acheive anything like their full potential.

That Guy: A person or firm that has earnt a reputation amongst peers as being good at their job and who is respected if not lauded.

The Guy: The industry posterboy/girl who has found their true niche, who can choose their jobs and name their price and whom everyone uses as a benchmark

Amongst other principles, the book touches on how to work out what you’re really good at, how to identify the jobs that give you most fulfilment and when to sack a client that isn’t working out for you. It’s all very practical advice – no hubris or superficiality about it – yet it tackles taboo ideas like sacking clients which you dont hear in lesser business advice efforts.

If I had one relatively minor criticism of the book it is that it only briefly touches upon the idea of capitalising on intellectual property as opposed to selling one’s time for money. I think it’s really important for creative/innovative businesses to try to break through the glass ceiling of daily rates as creativity has a number of unfair advantages when it comes to intellectual property.

I’ve lost count of the number of creative industry people I’ve met who desperately needed this book like ten years ago and I’ll happily admit there have been times in my past when I’ve been just “A Guy”.

It gives me no end of pride to review Jim Shield’s “Three Guys Walk Into a Bar“, I’ve heard how well he speaks on this subject so it was great to discover that he’d published a book on the subject.  It’s also great that someone from Leicester has penned something which I think stands up well to household names like Seth Godin.