Ready, Fire, Aim is a book about taking your business to the next level by Michael Masterson (pen name). I had my doubts about this book prior to reading it. I have subscribed to and read many different articles from the same publisher who published this book and they usually provided carrots of information to entice you to subscribe to an newsletter or to buy some other product. I’m happy to report that this book in no way does this.
Through Michael’s writing, you can see how passionate he is about business. This is his criteria when considering whether to take a job, or in this case, whether to start a business.
Demanding the Best from Your Job
1. What you do
2. Where you do it
3. With whom you do it
4. When you work and when you don’t
There are five areas that a business must be very good at to achieve desirable results.
1. Coming up with new and useful product ideas
2. Selling those products profitably
3. Managing processes and procedures efficiently
4. Finding great employees to do work
5. Getting people, procedures, products, and promotions going
Four Stages of Business Development
Once you have a business up and going, according to Michael Masterson there are four stages of development that have their own problems, challenges, and opportunities:
Stage One: Infancy – zero to $1 million in revenue
Main Problem: You don’t really know what you are doing
Main Challenge: Making the first profitable sale
Main Opportunity: Continuing to sell until you have achieved a minimum critical mass of customers.
Stage Two: Childhood – $1 million to $10 million
Main Problem: You are only breaking even or may even be losing money.
Main Challenge: Creating additional, profitable products quickly.
Main Opportunity: Becoming a business of innovation, increasing cashflow, and becoming profitable.
Additional Skill Needed: Coming up with a constant stream of new and potentially tipping-point ideas.
Stage Three: Adolescense – $10 million to $50 million in Revenue
Main Problem: Your systems are strained, and customers are noticing.
Main Challenge: Turning the chaos into order.
Main Opportunity: Learning how to establish useful protocols and manage processes and procedures.
Additional Skill Needed: Running your business with just three or four simple management reports.
Stage Four: Adulthood – $50 million to $100 million in Revenue and Beyond
Main Problem: Sales slow down and may even stall.
Main Challenge: Becoming entrepreneurial again.
Main Opportunity: Getting the business to run itself.
One of the most important points from this book for you:
Without sales, it is very hard to sustain an ongoing business.
Although this is may seem like common sense to some, this is an important point to remember. There are a lot of important functions of a business such as product development, customer service, accounting, operations, and marketing, but nothing beats marketing. Ditch the idea of leasing an office space and purchasing furniture and focus on selling your product.
I really enjoyed this quote:
Don’t go out and sign a lease. Rental contracts are like marriage licenses. They feel good when you are heady in love, but after reality sets in they may feel expensive and restricting.
I think one of the most important features of the book is what Michael calls the Optimum Selling Strategy or OSS. While these may seem like common sense guidelines, I think you’d be surprised at how many people don’t ask themselves these questions:
1. Where are you going to find your customers?
– Michael suggests imitating the competition, initially.
2. What products will you sell them first?
3. How much will you charge for it?
4. How will you convince them to buy it?
Once you’ve determined your OSS and you’ve gotten the ball rolling, ask these questions to optimize your OSS:
1. What other products can we sell?
2. How can we make the offer more enticing?
3. How can we make the advertising copy more compelling?
4. What other media should we test?
Another nugget that Michael gives is that you should not play the cheap game. Cheap price means to the customer that the quality is also cheap. If you want to have a lower priced item to attract customers, surround it with more expensive items to give it perceived value.
In regards to other products that you may introduce in the future, Michael explains that you should make sure you remain only one step removed from your original product or something that you know well. The further away you get from your original product or what you are familiar with, the less likely you are to succeed. This makes perfect sense to me and will certainly help me narrow potential business ideas in the future. Michael isn’t saying that starting a new business in a market that you are unfamiliar with won’t work or succeed, but your chances for success are proportional to your experience in that market.
What is meant by “Ready, Fire, Aim”?
The title of the book, Ready, Fire, Aim is definitely a catchy title and is probably a big reason I picked the book up from the library. There’s a lot to be said with this technique in building a business and can be applied throughout your life. The “ready, fire, aim” approach comes from the premise that some planning is involved, but before you spend hours upon hours of work on a business plan, you should make sure someone actually wants to buy your product. You can have the coolest widget in the world, but if people aren’t willing to buy it, there isn’t much of a reason to pursue it, is there?
Ready, Fire, Aim gives you the ability to come up with a short plan (basically your OSS) and then try it out! If it works, great! If it doesn’t, move on and try something else. The aim of Ready, Fire, Aim is to accelerate failure to figure out what works. In shortening the amount of time spent on planning, you are able to try many ideas quickly and at a low cost. Both of these benefits are music to my ears! Once you do find an idea that works, Michael suggests that you work on and improve that product. Don’t fix something unless it isn’t broken!
Throughout the book, Michael mentions many of the luxuries that he has such as how much money he made from a job or client or how clients pay for him to fly around the world. This is mentioned early and late in the book, but not at length. This usually signals a red flag for me, but despite that, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone with an entrepreneurial pulse. In fact, I’m definitely going to be adding his other books to my queue!
I give this book a 4.6 out of 5 stars.
Photo by: B. Sandman
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The Art of The Start is by Guy Kawasaki. Guy is an accomplished author, venture capitalist, but prior to all of that, he was an accomplished innovator in Silicon Valley who began his roots at Apple before Apple was big.
You can tell from the beginning that either Guy has been around Silicon Valley for quite a while. His book offers great nuggets of information if you are looking for pitch your company to a Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist.
I really enjoyed his ideas for “starting something” (note that Guy is big into Karma):
1. Make Meaning – “The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning – to create a product or service that makes the world a better place.”
2. Make Mantra – “Forget mission statements; they’re long, boring, and irrelevant. No one can ever remember them – much less implement them. Instead, take your meaning and make a mantra out of it.”
3. Get Going – “Don’t focus on pitching, writing, planning:.
4. Define Your Business Model – “No matter what kind of organization you’re starting, your have to figure how to make money”. You can have the greatest product ever, but it you don’t plan and you can’t make money from it, your company won’t last very long.
5. Weave a MAT (Milestones, Assumptions, and Tasks) – “The final step is to compile three lists: (a) major milestones you need to meet; (b) assumptions that are built into your business model; (c) tasks you need to accomplish to create an organization.
The hardest thing about getting started is getting started. Remember: No one ever achieved success by planning for gold.
I also enjoyed Guy’s Key Principles for Getting Going:
1. Think Big – While I think most entrepreneurs would agree with this statement, it’s always nice to hear it over and over and then a few more times.
2. Find a Few Soulmates – Guy empathizes that although history likes to point to one guy has having invented this or that, many companies or inventions are discovered by a few people.
3. Polarize People – I’m not sure if I agree with this, but Guy is basically stating that you should get people to really like or really dislike something. Perhaps, this is my non-confrontational side speaking.
4. Design Different – Guy states that there are at least four different approaches.
(a) “I want one” – This is when the designer and customer are the same person. This also implies that people also want what the designer wants which isn’t always true.
(b) “My Employer Couldn’t (or Wouldn’t) Do It” – This assumes you have an idea for a product that your employer can’t or won’t pursue so you decide to pursue on your own. This is probably a better way to go since you probably have an idea what the customer’s desire.
(c) “What the Hell – It’s Possible” – As Guy points out, this could be a tough road if the market isn’t ready for it.
(d) “There Must Be a Better Way” – “They simply got an idea and decided to do it”.
Overall, I thought there were a lot of great resources and books I hadn’t heard about prior to this book. It was a quick read which is always a positive. However, I really thought that this book missed the objective that was placed on the front cover: “The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything”. I didn’t really find this to be true. If I were a Silicon Valley guy looking to pitch my idea or business to a Venture Capitalist, then I think this book is for you. I’m not that person. I am interested in starting businesses. I have an interested in starting many businesses for that matter. A good portion of the book was spent on pitching to venture capitalists and I didn’t think that “Anyone Starting Anything”, as indicated on the front cover, was really applicable. Given Guy’s background, I understand where he is coming from and think it’s a must read for a Silicon Valley entrepreneur looking for pitch an idea to a Venture Capitalist firm.
I give this book a 3.0 out of 5.0 stars.
Case Study: My Adventures in Forex Trading (Update: 2/16)
The TED Spread and What It Means to You
Book Review: The One Minute Entrepreneur
Carnival of Personal Development – February 2, 2009
I recently read The One Minute Entrepreneur by Ken Blanchard, Don Hutson, and Ethan Willis. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I suspected it would be short given the “One Minute” in the title.
The story is about Jud McCarley, a fictional character, and his entrepreneurial adventures. The book is an interesting twist between fiction and non-fiction characters. It’s a quick read and guides you through Jud’s life as he acquires and perfects a skill at his first job, meets the love of his life, and starts a business based on his ability to give speeches. Throughout the book, there are a number of lessons learned about starting a business that are applicable across the business spectrum:
– Bring in more money than the expenses for your business
– Dream BIG. You’ll never achieve more than you think you can
– Take care of your employees
– If you only focus on managing costs, your business will never flourish
– Create raving fans
– A strength taken to an extreme can become a liability
– Everyone in your organization should be encouraged to be a leader
– The best management system includes day to day coaching that acknowledges when people do things right and redirects their efforts when they are off base
– “To live a happy and fulfilled life, be generous with your wealth, time, and talent”
I think these are all good things to strive for when starting a business. The story line also stressed the importance of a work-life balance which I think is vital if you want to keep your friends and family close.
Overall, I thought this book was a good read. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5. It’s has a neat story and teaches a few basic principles about business. I think it’s worth your time to read it, but it’s not a book I’d suggest keeping on your shelf for future reference. I suggest getting this book from the library (that’s where I got my copy).
Have you read this book? What did you think about it?
Carnival of Personal Development – February 2, 2009
Book Review: The How of Happiness
Interview: Financial Independence Through Dividends and Thrift
Interview: The Franchise King
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” -Aristotle
The How of Happiness was written by Sonja Lyubomirsky. This book took me a while to get though, but not for the wrong reasons. One of the major appeals for me to this book is that it’s chock full of references and data. I’m not normally an avid note-taker while reading a book, but I took 14 pages of notes due to the volume of useful information.
Sonja begins by clearly demonstrating that you have a lot to do with how happy you are in life, 40% to be exact. This number is of course backed up by references and data so you don’t have to take her word for it. I particularly enjoyed the happiness myths that she detailed in her book. In fact, I think one of the most significant things I learned from this is that happiness can’t be found. I knew that, but it didn’t really click with me until I read her book. For example, my wife and I have often fantasized that moving out of the country or to Austin, TX would make us happier, but that is certainly not the case. She then lays out a number of happiness activities that you can employ in your life to become happier. Some of the happiness activities were common sense for me, but others were not, such as developing strategies for coping, learning to forgive, meditation, and increasing flow. I actually didn’t know what flow was prior to reading this book, but it is “the complete absorption in what one does”. She gives examples like painting, reading, fishing, and other activities people tend to lose track of time while doing. To ensure that you are efficiently applying your time wisely towards becoming happier, Sonja provides a person activity fit diagnostic test. I really like this diagnostic test. In a world where people are running around 24/7, we need efficiency and Sonja realizes that. Based on this score from the diagnostic test, you will be able to prioritize which happiness activities best suit you in your pursuit of happiness. I have to say my happiness activities were spot on, but that is for a future post!
1. Expressing Gratitude
2. Cultivating Optimism
3. Avoiding Overthinking
4. Practicing Acts of Kindness
5. Nurturing Social Relationships
6. Developing Strategies for Coping
7. Learning to Forgive
8. Increasing Flow Experiences
9. Savoring Life’s Joys
10. Committing to Your Goals
11. Practicing Religion and Spirituality
12. Taking Care of Your Body (Meditation)
12a. Taking Care of Your Body (Physical Activity)
12b. Taking Care of Your Body (Acting Like a Happy Person)
Before beginning your happiness journey, you need a starting point. In other words, you need to know how happy you are right now. There’s actually a way to give this a value and one method is by taking the Oxford Happiness Questionaire. The scores range from a 1 to a 6. The average is a 4.30. I actually scored a 4.10. That makes me unhappy (just kidding).
Once you have found out the happiness activities that best suit you and your happiness score, it’s time to begin your journey to a happier you. I like that she goes into each of the happiness activities in detail, but not too much as to bore the reader. There is a wide variety of activities within each happiness activity so there is bound to be something that suits you best.
One of the more interesting references in the book was that religious or spiritual people tend to be happier. Sonja addresses that there is no definite conclusion as to why this is the case, but I found it interesting nevertheless.
From my perspective, the book is laid out in a logical and useful manner. It’s probably one of the more useful books I’ve read in terms of being a good reference guide. It was not a quick read for me, but not taking notes would have helped speed that along. If you want to learn how to be happier, this is the book for you. It gives you a step by step plan on how to increase your happiness level. A lot of books give you a few tips, but I haven’t seen a guide like this. It’s comprehensive and gives many references with great data, should you want to explore a topic further. In fact, there are over 40 pages full of references in the back of the book.