Things did not look promising at the online educational start-up that John Lincoln was spearheading in Japan.
Mr Lincoln had just left his high-paying job there, moved back to the United States, and invested US$600,000 (Dh2.2 million) in cash and kind for the enterprise in Osaka.
That was more than a decade ago and Mr Lincoln, now vice president for enterprise marketing at the telecoms company du, based in Dubai, says he failed to take the steps that ensure an enterprise is successful.
"Flat rate and high-speed internet access was nascent in Japan at that time," he writes in his book Connect the Dots: A Playbook to Help You Connect to Your Customers and Profits.
Mr Lincoln's company did not run beyond one-and-a-half years, but the experience laid the foundation of his book, released this year. Connect the Dots is designed as a guide for small business and start-up owners that gives a step-by-step guide on topics such as price wars, marketing to women and funding sources. But anyone looking for an insight into a specific marketplace, such as Dubai, will be disappointed.
The book is written for "a cross-geography, multicultural, multiracial and multi-sector audience", writes Mr Lincoln.
One of the more curious chapters is concerned with how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can engage in price wars. Normally associated with book prices at bigger corporations such as Wal-Mart and Amazon, this "war of deception" is actually feasible for SMEs depending on their pricing objectives and market trends, writes Mr Lincoln.
The book tackles the usual issues that SMEs face and that business gurus discuss: exit strategies, cash flow, funding and branding, among others. But its usefulness lies in its detailed and practical tips, and a touch of humour raises it from being a dry business lecture.
"We need to check that our value propositions give our customers the opportunity to succumb to temptation and commit as many of the consumerist sins as possible," Mr Lincoln writes in a chapter on marketing.