BookYap’s Review: The college entrepreneur classes or MBA courses might have taught you how to start and operate a small business. But that information was just a scratch on the surface compared to what the book ReWork will teach you. This book is insightful, cuts to the chase and points out things that really matter. You’ll get a new perspective on what’s critical to the success of a business, especially in this fast-changing environment for entrepreneurs.
Many business books explain theories at great length and point out some examples to make their points convincing, but not very actionable. ReWork gets straight to the point with realistic and actionable recommendations which you can start on right away. In short, this book shows you today’s smart, fast and easy way to success in business.
Each chapter in this book is short and focused on key factors that really matter. They are each divided into 10 mini-chapters: Takedowns, Go, Progress, Productivity, Competitors, Evolution, Promotion, Hiring, Damage Control and Culture. In fact, while writing this review, I’m reading this book for the second time to review as well as remind myself of the things I should continue to improve in my businesses. The next book I would recommend you to read is Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman.
This book is unique in the way the author divided up the chapters. Each chapter has a name, instead of a number. So, I will list them in the same way here.
IGNORE the REAL WORLD
This section contains less than 500 words, but it covers a vital concept everyone involved in a startup should know. It’s about how you should think as an entrepreneur, and how that can open up new opportunities. In short, what you think (of the possibilities) is your reality. And another great book that covers much detail about this topic is “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.
FAILURE is not a RITE of Passage
I agree with the author on the first part, but somewhat disagree on the latter part of this section where the author cites the reported statistic (on page 17) that states “…But entrepreneurs whose companies failed the first time, have almost the same follow-up success rate as people starting a company for the first time: just 23%. People who failed before have the same amount of success as people who have never tried at all. Success is the experience that actually counts.”
Here are a few characteristics of a real entrepreneur:
- They always try more than once after their first failure.
- Even if they lose with one businesses’ success, they never lose the lessons learned.
- They always question the statistics, even if those stats were from top schools like Harvard.
The lessons learned from failure are key contributors to future success, and not just the success experience alone. If the statistic above was taken from a group of people who tried their business the first time and failed, but didn’t learn anything from their mistakes to help them in their next business idea, then they are not real entrepreneurs, but “wantrepreneurs,” as successful entrepreneur Mark Cuban often says.
You can ask any successful entrepreneur whether his or her early hard-learned lessons in business contributed to their future business successes. A majority of them will acknowledge their importance. In short, the startups who learn from their failures are the real entrepreneurs, and their success rate on the second business venture should be much higher than those who are trying for the first time, providing the second business idea related to the first one to some extent.
By the way, here is the article the author cited from: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/22/business/22proto.html, and in it a Harvard business school professor Paul A. Gompers stated that “for the average entrepreneur who failed, no learning happened.” Or you can put it plainly: those “average entrepreneurs” are just “wantrepreneurs.”
Planning is Guessing
When it comes to the “business plan” for a new venture, I agree with the author’s point of view about planning. You don’t need to spend a few weeks writing up a 30-page business plan. In the startup phase, you need to be flexible and adaptable to changes as well as new, learned information. Your 30-page business plan will be out-of-date by the time you get some real traction.
In addition, how often do you or other entrepreneurs review your 30-page business plan? Almost never, because you’re too busy, it’s boring, or both. Instead, I recommend you use the mind-map plan, which is the process of drawing out your plan visually like a piece of artwork for the tasks and goals you want to accomplish right now, which align with your long-term goals. Here are books I recommend you read about Mind Mapping: The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan and Mind Mapping by Kam Knight.
Grow Grow GROw GROW…Why?
I agree with this concept 100%, especially today when the survival of businesses depends much more on its ability to be nimble and adaptable. Today, new and ever improving technologies enable businesses to be more productive and efficient. Any company that does not optimize its operation well by leveraging these tools, will put itself at a disadvantage as time goes on.
It’s not good to work all the time. You need to have a work-life balance. But, during the early stage of a business venture, sometimes you may need to pull an all-nighter once in a while to get a breakthrough or an important accomplishment. Just read the stories of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg etc., and you will see a similar pattern in their early startup years.
Be a Starter
Yes, look for an unsolved problem that people face and if you find that you enjoy tackling that problem and can get paid with it, then start your venture centered around that. Remember, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” — Lao Tzu.
Make a Dent in the Universe
To become successful, I think entrepreneurs often go through 3 stages. The first stage is where you try things and make lots of mistakes. This should happen when you are between 20-30 years old. The second stage is where you’ve learned from past experience and have achieved a certain level of success, and you’re making fewer mistakes. This should happen between age 30 and 40. The third stage is when your hard work has paid off (or is slowly, gradually paying off) as you’ve become wiser in your investments of time and money. This often happens when you’re between 40 and 50 years old.
Entrepreneurs have about 30 years to bet on themselves to achieve a big payday in a life, which can lead to easier, and bigger, paydays down the road. How big a bet you want to make on yourself is up to you. The size of the dent you want to make in the universe, is up to you. Norman Vincent Paele once said “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” You should think big, but also remember to be realistic as you work smartly toward your goals. I agree with this chapter, great entrepreneurs should aim to make a dent in the universe.
Scratch your own itch
This chapter is about creating a product or service you want to use yourself. When you are solving your own problem, you can provide first-hand feedback on whether your solution works or not, and (hopefully) some aha moments will arise along the way. I highly recommend new startups take this approach in their first business venture. One of the common mistakes startups often make is, they first try to come up with a product or service, and then they look for the problem to solve; this is backwards. If you identify an “itch,” make sure other people also encounter the same issue and would be willing to pay to get it scratched. If they would, then you may have something.
A great idea is just that, no matter how many ideas you have. You need to act upon an idea to see it come to fruition. No one accomplishes success without adjusting their original idea along the way. Thomas Edison is known for trying a thousand times (while continually adjusting along the way) to find the solution for his light bulb. If you think you have a good idea, do your due diligence in terms of research, and then if it looks good, start as soon as possible.
Draw a line in the sand
Startups often make the mistake of catering their products or services to everyone, with this common thought, “If I only get 5% of that market, I’ll have a billion-dollar company.” In reality, that is a false assumption because, with a market that size, the competition would be so fierce that their startup’s fund would probably not be enough to even get them geared up, let alone to compete. Just take the soft drink industry for an example, if a startup with a limited budget tried to get 5% of that market, it would be virtually impossible.
To increase your chance of success, you should find a niche. The smaller the market, the better. Then draw a circle around what you believe will differentiate your business from others. Your business will be more stable, revenue-wise, if you have a small group of core fans paying you, rather than trying to win on price alone, waiting to see whether you or your competitor goes out of business first. An example of a great niche is Water Field Bags, a small business that specializes in high-quality designed bags, made in the U.S.A. They serve a small group of passionate customers, and they stand firmly for what they believe in.
As more and more startups around the world join the marathon of entrepreneurship, carving out a niche for your business is the best way to position your business and give yourself a better chance of success. So, be the mouse that topples the elephant with your niche business venture.
Make a Dent in the Universe LIVE IT or LEAVE IT!
As we move into a world of fast technological change where more and more tasks are automated by robots and software, personal customer service is becoming more valuable. If you say your business strives to provide the best, most-personalized services, you better back it up with real action. This chapter touches on a point which I think is becoming more important; intelligent businesses need to know when to use automation in their customer service to control low cost and when to use real people.
This chapter explains 6 negative impacts that can happen to a business if it relies on outside investor’s money:
- You give up control
- “Cashing out” begins to trump building a quality business
- Spending other people’s money is addictive
- It’s usually a bad deal
- Customers move down the totem pole
- Raising money is incredibly distracting
Some people who watch SharkTank might disagree with these points, but I advise new startups to heed these warnings. You should know that for all the business pitches on SharkTank, only a small percentage of businesses actually make it to the success level they set out for.
Do You Really Need?
This section points out to startups what really matters to help the business survive in the early stages and what doesn’t matter. Most successful startups know how to utilize their resources most effectively, while retaining most of their equity and control over the company. There are many tools today that can help you handle tasks which used to be performed by many people. Leverage them to keep your operating cost low for as long as you can, while not overdoing it with automation. You need to always retain the human touch in your services; because after all, we are dealing with people on the other end.
This chapter focused on what I call “The Startup’s Syndrome,” which arises from some software business ventures that do not follow the traditional way of evaluating a business. The potential upside of a software business can be hard to quantify, and this makes it difficult to assess the real value of a business. Companies like Google, Facebook, DropBox, Twitter, and others, used to burn through piles of cash with negative profits for a decade or two before going public.
There are valid reasons to evaluate these type of companies differently, but most startups doesn’t have this type of “DNA”, and cannot take the same approach. The safest way is to think like the traditional business which should be thinking about profit and loss realistically.
You Need A Commitment Strategy, Not An Exit Strategy
The author worded it so well, I can only add one thing: The journey is what makes it exciting to be an entrepreneur, not the destination after you sell off “the ride,” or your business. Also, it’s rare to land a good ride, so if you’re fortunate enough to get on a good ride, enjoy it for as long as you can because you might not get that lucky again. Besides, an exit strategy is for investors who like to cash out, then move on to the next investment, not for those looking for a long-term ride knowing you are the one who built it.
Lease, Long-term Contract, Inventory, Meetings
Anything that you can do to keep your overhead costs low, stay innovative and nimble will increase your chance of success among cumbersome competitors. A good book I recommend on this topic is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.
Less is a Good Thing
There are a fair number of people who have great ideas, but what hold them back are often their sayings “I don’t have enough time, budget, capitals, etc.” They don’t know that “Constraints” are one of the key ingredients in the recipe toward success. It’s like crop needs fertilizer to fully grow.
This section of the book gives you a different frame of mind which entrepreneurs should look at the constraints differently. With limited resources, it forces you to be creative and careful with your resources. In another word, it forces you to think twice before you act, which is the important factor in business decision making.
You’re Better Off with a Kick-Ass Half than a Half-Assed Whole
Well, the title of this page said it all.
Start at the Epicenter
Focus on one core thing at the beginning will increase your chance of success much more than juggling too many things.
Decisions are Progress
Decisions followed by executions bring results which lead to modifications that bring about progress. You should get into the habit of making decisions to do something quickly, then write them down in priority and get to work. Planning alone will get you nowhere. Here’s a real example of what I train myself to do. At the beginning of the month, I list out the goals I want to achieve at the end of the month, then prioritize the works which are required to achieve my goals in four weeks, then list out a to-do list for each day. At the end of each day, I write out the tasks I need to start on the next morning to keep me on track toward my weekly goals.
I recommend writing those daily tasks down because the act of writing things down increases the chance those tasks get done by 50%. With strong determination, you will get 80% to 98% of those tasks done. If you don’t write them down, your chance of getting those tasks done will be very slim. So, make the decisions, write them down and get to work.
Be a Curator
Whatever product or service you provide, it should help solve an existing problem in a unique way. In another word, curate a few factors that make your product or service unique while eliminating many unnecessary things. Here is a real example. There are many directory websites that will list any real estate agents who want to enroll. But HOMEiA.com is different. This website curate to list only the best real estate agents in each city. These agents have proven great customer service with many existing customers’ testimonials.
The team at HOMEiA.com researches and interviews each real estate agent carefully before allowing each agent to have a member profile on HOMEiA’s local listing. One of their goals is to select and list the type of real estate agents that will give people like you and me a much better chance of having a pleasant real estate transaction. HOMEiA.com is setting a new standard in customer services among real estate agents.
Throw less at the problem
Trim off things that not very important (which can be added later) and focus on your energy on a few key things will show you a more impactful result in a shorter time. Less is more.
Focus on what won’t change.
The ultimate benefit of this approach is that the content or product you create is very slowly out of date. The book review content on BookYap.com is one good example. The majority of the self-improved books on this site have survived the test of time as well as the reviews we write about them. People benefited from the teachings of these books many years ago, and many years to come. Overall, BookYap’s content is not following the trend, but following reality-tested reviews of proven professionals who already gained by learning from best practices in those books.
Gear Doesn’t Matter
Many people get hung up on the idea of waiting for the perfect gear, team, and condition to start a business, which in reality that will never come. If you think you have something worth showing, get to work on it with what you currently have. Again, limited resources will force you to be creative and careful, which are key ingredients in the recipe for success. The advice in this section is the reality of life which startups should keep in mind.
You Can’t make Just One Thing
This section pointed out the idea of looking out to see whether you can also gain from your “by-product,” which is something naturally created in the process of building your primary products. This happens often more than we know of because those who recognize the “by-product” often were those from the outside looking in.
Here is one good personal example. I often like to read practical books and implement what I learned to help my businesses and clients. While reading, I highlight insightful points in each book, and right after finish reading each book I gave a score from 1 to 10 to remind myself of how good that book is. These actions alone are the “by-product” of my consulting business, which gives rise to the idea of a Books Review blog website BookYap.com which you are reading right now.
Get it out there
Agree. When your product is just good enough, get it out there, then be ready to filter users’ feedback to iterate your product quickly and often as needed.
Will be continued…