Bob Gorton’s book Boosting Sales (Bloomsbury, £9.99) available on Amazon, gives the owner of every business a lasting insight into the simple rules that will help you make more money than you are today. The success of the book is not because it is full of new ideas but because it presents simple business rules in a way that is easy to grasp and easy to follow.

“I once tried sport parachuting,” Bob writes, “and when I had stopped trembling for long enough to listen to him, the jump master taught me a very important lesson. He said: ‘Once you are out there, look at the white cross on the ground, because people generally hit what they are staring at.’ So those people who look hard and constantly at the competition…seem to find a lot of it. Look hardest at your customers, you will better understand their wants and needs and find more customers.”

The book is organised logically. Bob is an engineer and he is sharing the rules for business success, rules that he has used in his own companies. In his introduction, he demonstrates an empathy with small business owners that underpins the whole book and notes three issues that most operators face:

  • lack of cash
  • profit margins under pressure
  • not knowing where the next order is coming from.

His book sets out to identify the underlying relationships between growth, risk and profitability that “impact on the imperative for a business to grow”. And he provides practical techniques that “will deliver that growth in a low-risk affordable way”.

The first question he deals with is do you want to grow. “So why do owners want to take on increased risk in exchange for growth, especially since the chances of failure seem heavily weighted against them?” he asks.

“Frankly, some don’t,” he answers. Most UK businesses (74.1 per cent) don’t employ anyone and the owners are content “just to earn a living that maintains their lifestyle”. If that is you, then this review is not for you and this book is not for you.

However, if you want to grow then this book will help you work out how to do it. You will have to get out a calculator and do some sums but Bob shows you how to work out the margin that you need to make in order to be successful. Armed with this number, Bob shows you how to focus your sales efforts profitably. He shows you how loss leaders work. He shows you how to identify the right customers for your business.

Every business has at least one critical resource limitation that controls the amount of trade that you can undertake and the amount of money that can be made. Identifying this is essential if you don’t want to sell too much of the wrong stuff.

For small shops, Bob says the critical resource limitation is the amount of linear feet of shelving. I disagree with him, suggesting it is the footfall that you can generate. I called him up to argue this point and he said that he could see my point of view but pushed back: and thinking about linear feet of shelving is higher on my agenda. Is it high enough on the agenda of local retailers? Looking at assortment selection through this prism changes the way I think about retail success. It may do this for you too.

Like many business books, this one demands that you spend some time with it. Bob has developed many of the themes promoted by the late Brian Warnes, who believed that most company owners and senior managers have a poorer understanding of how their businesses work than a barrow boy. The rules are simple but working them out may be hard work. It is hard work that will give you an edge and Boosting Sales is a very helpful book for this.