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Chance of a Lifetime by Bill Adler (Warner: $15.50; 212 pp.)

October 20, 1985|Allan Cox | Cox is a Chicago-based management consultant who founded his own firm in 1969. His latest book, "The Making of the Achiever," was published this spring by Dodd Mead. and

Bill Adler, whose book jacket photo shows him to be bald, says, "Money is the long hair of the eighties."

These words come at the end of Chapter 1, "The Second Golden Age of Entrepreneurialism," to tell us that even the young people who shunned material wealth in the '60s are now in hot pursuit of it as stand-alone members of a burgeoning power-capitalist class.

Adler's reputation as a book packager won't be damaged by this book; it's well timed. Employment in our smokestack industries is in for an extended decline, during which time numbers of people needed for services (mainly "low-tech," by the way) will expand.

The vast majority of the service businesses cropping up are small, started by average folks without sophisticated business backgrounds, and begun on a shoestring. Child-care centers for working mothers and franchises of various types are quick examples.

"The Chance of a Lifetime" is written for people who yearn to start such a business, or wonder if they're cut out for this taxing-yet-alluring livelihood. Overall, it succeeds. Early on, the book is informative on the entrepreneurial spirit of the times and engrossing as Adler cites cases of people who have taken the plunge. The lessons to be drawn from their varying fates are valuable.

Moreover, Adler quotes entrepreneurs themselves--and those who work with them--on their opinions (some of them contradictory) of what it takes to be one of their number. The attitudes, abilities, characters and habits of entrepreneurs make good reading. One entrepreneur says, for example, "But whether I make it or not, the important thing is that I put my arms around something and brought it to life."

I expect most readers will find Chapter 3, "Finding Your Entrepreneurial Quotient," holds greatest fascination. It represents a 14-item quiz to determine one's suitability for ultimate career independence.

From there on, the remaining two-thirds of the book become a manual for the step-by-step operation of a small business. Though this will be useful to the person who plans to go into business, it will be boring for anyone who doesn't. The topics dealt with are raising money, promotion, choosing between proprietorship and incorporation, bookkeeping and pleasing the IRS.

In the afterword, Adler offers a $25,000 prize to the reader who submits (for a $1 processing fee) the best new business idea incorporating the principles of "Chance of a Lifetime." Ostensibly, this is to provide the winner with seed capital to start his or her own business.

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