William E. Heinecke ran his first business selling lemonade to his nursery school mates when he was just two-and-a-half-years-old. By the time he was 16 he was living in Thailand with his parents and advertising manager of The Bangkok World newspaper--while still at school. At the age of 21 he was a millionaire employing 200 people in his own wildly successful advertising agency and contract cleaning firm. If ever a person was born to be an entrepreneur it must surely be Heinecke who is now the most successful businessman in Thailand with a string of interests ranging from hotels to pizza parlours to manufacturing.
Although clearly bright and energetic, his main strength is that he is a gung-ho, "just do it" kind of guy who knows no fear except for the prospect of not living one moment of his life to the full. In between running several major businesses, flying his own plane and occasionally touching base with his "saintly wife" Kathleen, he found time to condense the secrets of his success into the 21 golden rules, which each forms a separate chapter of his book The Entrepreneur. Now it has to be said that his insights are not startling in their originality. Rule one is "Find a vacuum and fill it". Rule Two: Do Your Homework, and so on. But that is to miss the point. The point is that he sees everything very simply and therefore clearly and approaches every problem with exuberant energy and determination. That comes across abundantly in this practical, highly readable, entertaining and cheering little ra-ra session of a self-help manual. Typical is his advice on getting into new markets. "If you are first you don't necessarily have to be brilliant; there will be time to develop and fine tune things as you go along. But the minute that others start competing for your market share, you had better be sure that you are the best." It's a rollicking great read, like a half-time pep talk from the manager, that anybody would benefit from, but especially those planning a business. --Alex Benady
This text comes from the heart of a man who has seen and done it all in one of the toughest markets of them all. Bill Heinecke started his own business when he was still in school, was a millionaire before he was 21 and now runs a business empire that straddles Southeast Asia. In his spare time he races cars, flies aeroplanes and dives with sharks. American-born and now a naturalised Thai, Heinecke has spent 25 years defining his 20 Golden Rules for entrepreneurs. They make compulsive reading for anyone who wants to follow in his footsteps.