Jack DeBoer • Founder of four successful hotel brands


Success in Business Without Risking Family, Friends and Reputation

A Review of Risk Only Money


Review by Sarah Bagby
Watermark Books & Café

Business books come in all sizes, shapes, and forms. Some mandate a point-by-point plan; some provide measuring tools for benchmarking; others are simply books published when a business is on the up side, capitalizing on the headlines of the moment. “Risk Only Money” is a refreshing departure because Jack DeBoer–an entrepreneur and founder of four successful hotel brands–emphasizes how all the other stuff in life is just as important as wanting to succeed in business.

In three parts and twelve chapters “Risk Only Money” is not a blueprint for success, but rather the very personal odyssey of a man of humility and redemption. DeBoer outlines each segment of his life on the road to success through personal anecdotes of triumph and failure. He shares his lessons learned and suggests ways for others to use his experience to avoid making their own similar mistakes.

In part one, “Striving,” DeBoer goes back to his first job mowing lawns with severe allergies (would you hire him?) when he discovered his “Midas touch” in sales.  After serving in the Army he learned to surround himself with those having strengths he did not, he realized that the proscribed organizational life in the service was not for him. So he branched out, built apartments with his name on them, and finally, after falling as fast as he rose and about to lose his friends, he learned that satisfying one’s ego is not a good business plan.

Part two, “Success,” is the soul searching section. Jack’s illustrious story of humility dovetailed with his thoughts on how to look realistically at assets–liquid, fixed, or human—while building a successful business. This led him to his mantra: Risk Only Money. When a crisis hits is not the time to build your resources. Not every idea will work, but it is always worth the risk if you focus on how the money will help you get to where you want to be, if you have the discipline to be patient, and if you can always tell the truth—whether it is painful or not. Finally, the lesson he learned in the Army to build an effective team of many strengths is critical.

Part three is the reflective section of the book. Discovering one’s passion is the key to a well lived life, no matter where you are in your business life. Once Jack retired, he and his wife began to travel, and after a trip to Burma, they were profoundly inspired to become involved in philanthropic work. Rather than start from the ground up, Jack and Marilyn developed a partnership with World Vision, a private organization with a budget of two billion dollars and no endowment. After discovering that there was no non-governmental aid in Burma, Jack and Marilyn became involved in helping to provide a private platform for aid projects in Burma.

The DeBoers have been as successful in giving as they have in business. Their involvement with World Vision in Burma has supported more than 40,000 children through sponsorship programs, improved health care for women and children, and even provided fly-proof latrines in school. Through their efforts Myanmaran doctors and hundreds of midwives have been providing access to those in need, the quality of water improved, a microfinance loan program has been established, and more than 40 NGO’s are now operating in the country. Jack is also generously donating proceeds of “Risk Only Money” to World Vision.

Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” In “Risk Only Money” Jack DeBoer shares his own examined life, in his own shoot-from-the-hip voice, to help others examine where they are in their personal and business lives so that they too can be on a path to fulfillment and success.

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