Travels with an Inflatable Elephant: Attempts to
make things happen and not happen
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THE clue to the very likeable nature of Jerry Marshall's book on
entrepreneurial leadership is in the subtitle: Attempts to make
things happen and not happen. It can be taken at face value:
he initiates ambitious projects to create something, such as a call
centre in Palestine, and campaigns in oppositionto things such as,
notably, HS2, the high-speed rail link between London and
But failure is also embodied in those words. The outcome of both
these initiatives is, to date, not what he had striven for.
Entrepreneurs take risks: you win some, you lose some, and
sometimes you have to accept being the catalyst. God, he declares,
honours those who step out in faith.
It is a disarmingly honest autobiography and handbook, from a
Cambridge economics graduate who confesses that his first seven
years in engineering management were not a success. On the personal
front, he admits to having had little self-control with women, and
had pondered, therefore, whether his best strategy might be to hold
off becoming a Christian until after he was married.
The book is full of sound advice born of sheer hard work and
experience, and tempered with a lotof humour: say yes to every
opportunity unless there is a good reason to say no; don't
undercharge, butbe generous with your time. Goals where you have
not agreed the price are merely daydreams. Do not throw your
business discipline away because of your compassion for the poor.
Naming a rat after a girl you like is not recommended.
He went into independent consultancy, developing research-based
marketing strategies and practical action-plans for small and
medium enterprises. A family man with a passion for sailing and
adventure, he lives life at a gallop, working on projects all over
The inflatable white elephant (above, with author) that
became the symbol of his campaigning group, HS2 Action Alliance,
and which featured on the memorable "Euston, we have a problem"
billboard, still commands attention. Someone once told him that
everyone should do one audacious new thing every year - a maxim
that became his favourite guideline for the life he wanted to