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