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Fatal Attraction

Considering just how macho you are, it will not be easy to admit that you’re scared by a book. But trust me — Jim Muehlhausen’s “The 51 Fatal Business Errors and How to Avoid Them” will have you shaking in your boots. It isn’t the title of Muehlhausen’s book that will fill you with dread. After all, you easily commit 51 fatal errors every day before lunch, no problem.

What will freak you out about Muehlhausen’s opus is the warnings scattered throughout its first few pages. I’m pretty sure you don’t want a “harsh lesson in reality.” Your reality is already harsh enough. And I’m 100 percent positive that you don’t want a “Mule Kick.” That’s when Muehlhausen, aka “Mule,” delivers “a kick in the butt to make a point.” Nor will you want to spend quality time with an author who provides, “Warning No. 1: I will get in your face.”

I’m sure Mule has your best interests at heart, but in this world and in this economy, nobody needs more pain. There’s already more than enough to go around.


I don’t have enough space to examine all 51 fatal errors, which may be fatal error No. 52, but here’s a sampling:

Fatal Error No. 1: Hiring Your Competitor’s Rejects

If you run a business and you’re looking for experienced workers, you’re making a big boo-boo. Chances are, those experienced people got their experience working for one of your competitors. So, why are they coming to you? Probably because they did such a bad job that they’re about to get fired.

The smart move is to hire people with absolutely no experience. Of course, if your business is running an airline and you’re hiring pilots, or you’re running a hospital and hiring surgeons, you may want to demand a smidge of experience.

Fatal Error No. 4: Too Few Meetings

If your employees can’t get anything done because they’re in meetings all day, here’s the solution — have more meetings. Then, meet to decide whether your meetings are meeting your expectations. No matter how many meetings you have, Muehlhausen believes it’s important to get “people to show up on time.”

To motivate employees, he suggests you “make them sing a tune if they are late.” It’s a good idea! What could fill a conference room quicker than the threat of the tardy IT staff crooning the Justin Bieber songbook?

Fatal Error No. 26: Turning Racehorses into Plow Horses

“The title is designed to make you visualize a sleek, tall and strong horse tied to a plow,” Muehlhausen writes. I don’t spend a lot of time at the track myself, but I think what the author is trying to suggest that putting a Kentucky Derby winner behind a plow is a waste of horsepower. It’s the same with people. Why put a highly motivated, highly paid employee to work doing a mundane, mind-numbing job like yours?

And while we’re at it, how can you get a job pulling a plow? Frankly, it sounds a whole lot easier than what you’re doing now.

Fatal Error No. 36: You Snooze, Your Checks Bounce

The best time to borrow money, Muehlhausen suggests, is when you don’t need it. That’s why you would be making a fatal error (No. 36 to be exact), if you don’t immediately rush out and get a bunch of money from your bank. “Get a small $100,000 line of credit,” the author suggests, which makes me wonder how he would describe a “large” line of credit. No matter. Hit your favorite bank up for a few hundred thousand just as soon as you can.

You might make the request when they call you to foreclose on your house or when they send their thugs to repossess your wide-screen TV. If your bank seems reluctant, remind them that you are a taxpayer, and without taxpayer money, they wouldn’t be in business. And don’t forget to bring a big basket to help you carry home all the greenbacks.

The final fatal error — No. 51 — is to not put into practice the other 50 fatal errors. The only reason you might be so foolish, Muehlhausen muses, is that you “are out of attention units.” It’s like a plate full of food,” he suggests. “If you put more food on it, different food just falls off.”

Now, that’s truly a fatal idea! The idea of a mountain of muffins, or a pile of pastrami, going to the floor instead of going to your mouth is definitely enough to kill you dead.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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