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Summary: The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman

Do I need an MBA to be a successful businessperson?

“Here’s the answer: five simple words that will save you years of effort and hundreds of thousands of dollars: Skip business school. Educate yourself.” – Josh Kaufman

3 Disturbing Truths about MBA School

  • MBA School debt takes the average MBA student 12 years to pay off.
  • MBA Schools teach out-dated business practices that are worthless by the time you graduate.
  • Getting an MBA degree doesn’t guarantee you a high-paying job or make you a skilled manager. One Stanford University study analyzed MBA graduates for 40 years and found that having an MBA had zero correlation to career success and salary increases.

After learning these disturbing facts about MBA School, author Josh Kaufman decided to skip MBA School and teach himself the fundamentals of business. After reading 100’s of business books, he realized that business was far less complicated than he initially thought. In fact, every successful business could be explained using the following 5 part system:

Book Summary: The Personal MBA - Master the Art of Business

5 Part Framework to Evaluate Any Business

Value Creation

Is the business creating something people actually want to buy? In the book ‘Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t,’ Kevin Maney identifies two primary characteristics of products and services that people are willing to pay for: convenience and high-fidelity.

  • Convenience means quick, reliable, easy, and flexible.
  • High-fidelity means high aesthetic appeal, high emotional impact, and a high degree social status.

“If you’re craving pizza, a table at the original Pizzeria Uno in Chicago is high-fidelity; Domino’s home delivery is convenient. Accordingly, Pizzeria Uno benefits more from making the dining experience remarkable, while Domino’s benefits more from delivering decent pizza as quickly as possible.” – Josh Kaufman


Is the business attracting and holding people’s attention? When Apple announced the first iPod, they told the world that the new device would be “1000 songs in your pocket.” This headline was remarkable at the time, and it violated people’s expectations. The goal of every marketing team should be attracting attention through remarkable and unexpected messages.

“In the classic marketing book Purple Cow, Seth Godin uses a wonderful metaphor to illustrate this principle. A field full of brown cows is boring. A purple cow violates the viewer’s expectations, which naturally attracts Attention and interest. If you design your offer to be Remarkable— unique enough to pique your prospect’s curiosity— it’ll be significantly easier to attract attention.” – Josh Kaufman


Do people believe and trust the business enough to make a transaction? If a stranger were to walk up to you at the bus stop and offer you $20 in exchange for $10, would you make the transaction? Probably not, because you don’t believe or trust the offer is legitimate. However, if your friend standing next to you could vouch for this stranger, you’d probably make the transaction.

Sales is all about making a customer believe and trust the business can deliver on it’s promise. The quickest way to build belief and trust is social proof. Examples of social proof include one hundred 5-star Amazon reviews, or getting a recommendation from a key influencer like Oprah. Thousands of people trust Oprah, and that trust is transferred to any product she recommends, leading to thousands of sales.

Value delivery

Is the business exceeding customer expectations? Customer expectations have to be high enough for the customer to make an initial purchase. After the purchase is made, however, if the performance of the offering surpasses customer expectations the customer will be more likely to buy again and recommend the business to friends.

Zappos, the online shoe company, provide their customers with free expedited shipping, despite not advertising free expedited shipping; the surprise that comes from exceeding customer expectations is far more valuable. The best way a business can reliably exceed customer expectations is building efficient systems of delivery, and providing excellent customer service.


Is the business making more money than it is spending? The final part is straightforward: ensure more money is coming in than going out.

“It’s really not any more complicated than that. Yes, there can be fancy models and jargon, but ultimately you’re simply using numbers to decide whether or not your business is operating the way you intended, and whether or not the results are enough…to justify all of the time and effort that goes into running the operation.” – Josh Kaufman



“The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business” by Josh Kaufman is a lucid and engaging book that delivers on its promise of providing a comprehensive business education. The book is designed to help readers develop a robust understanding of the fundamental principles of business, enabling them to navigate the complex landscape of modern business with confidence. In this review, we’ll explore the book’s strengths, weaknesses, and overall impact, providing a detailed analysis of its content, style, and effectiveness.


The book is structured into 12 parts, each focusing on a specific aspect of business, such as marketing, sales, finance, and leadership. Kaufman uses a conversational tone to present the material, making it accessible and easy to understand for readers with varying levels of business acumen. The author skillfully distills complex concepts into actionable strategies and frameworks, ensuring that readers can apply their newfound knowledge in real-world scenarios.

The book covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • The basics of business, such as value creation, marketing, and sales
  • Financial literacy, including accounting, finance, and profitability
  • Leadership and management, including communication, decision-making, and team building
  • Strategy and innovation, including market analysis, competitive advantage, and entrepreneurship
  • Operations and logistics, including supply chain management and process improvement
  • Career development, networking, and professional growth

Throughout the book, Kaufman reinforces key concepts with case studies, anecdotes, and examples, allowing readers to connect theoretical concepts with practical applications. He also provides actionable tips, checklists, and resources, making it easier for readers to implement their new knowledge and skills.


Kaufman’s writing style is clear, concise, and engaging. He uses relatable analogies and metaphors to simplify complex ideas, making the book an enjoyable read for both beginners and seasoned professionals. The author’s conversational tone creates a sense of familiarity, making readers feel as if they’re learning from a knowledgeable friend or mentor.

The book’s layout is well-organized, with each chapter building upon the previous one. Kaufman uses headings, subheadings, bullet points, and visual aids to create a scannable and easy-to-follow format. This makes it simple for readers to navigate the book’s contents and find specific information.


“The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business” is an effective book that delivers on its promise of providing a comprehensive business education. Kaufman’s approach to teaching is based on the idea that business is a skill that can be learned and mastered with practice, and he provides readers with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed.

The book’s greatest strength lies in its ability to demystify complex business concepts, making them accessible to a wide range of readers. Kaufman’s use of relatable examples and anecdotes helps readers understand how to apply theoretical concepts in real-world scenarios.

The book also excels in its emphasis on practicality. Kaufman provides actionable tips and strategies that readers can implement immediately, helping them see tangible results in their personal and professional lives.


The book’s greatest weakness is its breadth of coverage. While Kaufman does an excellent job of covering a wide range of business topics, some areas may benefit from more in-depth analysis. For example, certain aspects of finance, such as financial modeling or advanced accounting concepts, are not explored in great detail. However, this is a minor criticism, as the book is designed to provide a broad overview of business, rather than an exhaustive examination of any one topic.

Target Audience:

“The Personal MBA” is designed for individuals who are looking to gain a comprehensive understanding of the art of business, but may not have the time or resources to pursue a traditional MBA program. The book is ideal for:

  • Entrepreneurs and small business owners: The book provides essential knowledge and skills for entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to grow and scale their businesses.
  • Aspiring managers and leaders: The book is a valuable resource for individuals looking to advance their careers and develop their leadership skills.
  • Professionals looking to expand their knowledge: The book is suitable for professionals in any industry who want to gain a better understanding of business principles and practices.


“The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business” by Josh Kaufman is an excellent book that provides readers with a comprehensive business education. The author’s conversational tone, relatable examples, and actionable strategies make the book an engaging and practical guide for anyone looking to improve their understanding of business. While some areas may benefit from more in-depth analysis, the book’s broad coverage and accessible style make it a valuable resource for both beginners and experienced professionals.

In conclusion, “The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business” is a highly valuable resource for individuals seeking to enhance their business knowledge without committing to a formal MBA program. Josh Kaufman’s approachable writing style, practical insights, and well-organized structure make this book an excellent choice for anyone looking to develop a strong foundation in business concepts. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a professional aiming to improve your business skills, this book offers a wealth of information that can be immediately applied in real-world scenarios.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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