If you have that entrepreneurial itch and want to change the world, this is a book for you.
Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start is in his own words a “time tested, battle hardened guide for anyone starting anything”. The book tips are based on what he should have done, and occasionally did do during his career.
Who is Guy Kawasaki. Guy Kawasaki has made a name for himself as an evangelist for Apple and as a VC in Silicon Valley. Kawasaki has produced more than 12 books, has over 1.4 million Twitter followers, and established himself as a author, entrepreneur and venture capitalist.
Lets take a look at our 7 takeaways from The Art of the Start
To have a successful business make meaning
Successful businesses make the world a better place, increase the quality of life or right a terrible wrong. Creating meaning doesn’t guarantee success but it is a key motivator for overcoming all the obstacles that any entrepreneur faces on a daily basis. It is also important from the perspective of engaging and inspiring potential customers.
Don’t bother with crafting a mission statement that no one can remember not alone live by. You need a Mantra which is a verbal incantation, something that evokes inspiration and emotion. A mantra has to be short, no more than 4 or 5 words e.g. Fun family entertainment (Disney)
Get started now.
The key message here is no one ever achieved success from planning for gold. Don’t procrastinate worrying about developing the perfect product, just get a prototype out there and start iterating. It’s very much the approach of the Lean Startup by Eric Ries which we previously reviewed.
Define your business model
How are you going to make money? Guy has a nice way of describing this as “Who has your money in their pocket?” It involves defining your customer and what’s their pain you’re solving. Be specific in the niche you’re targeting. Keep it simple. If you can’t describe your business model in ten words or less, it’s too complicated.
MAT (Milestones, Assumptions, and Tasks)
Anyone starting a business faces seven common milestones that a new business goes through. The milestones are proving your concept, completing the specifications and launching a prototype, raising capital, shipping testable and final versions to customers and achieving break-even.
These are the key assumptions that you make about how the business functions like the gross margin, payment cycle, conversion rates etc.
Tasks are the major tasks necessary to build the business and to achieve the seven milestones such as registering domain names or developing a website, etc.
Communicating what you do
Developing a good answer to the question “What do you do?” is crucial.
Being able to answer this question involves establishing how it differs from the mass competition. Your answer needs to be concise, specific, positive, customer centric and states its case unequivocally. A good answer can be inspiring and energizing. It shouldn’t sound like your competitor’s, so think about why you founded the business in the first place and why customers should patronize it.
Finally, ask yourself, did it catch my attention and make a point.
When F. W. Woolworth opened his first store, a merchant on the same street tried to fight the new competition. He hung out a big sign: “Doing business in this same spot for over fifty years.” The next day Woolworth also put out a sign. It read: “Established a week ago: no old stock.”
by Peter Hay, The Book of Business Anecdotes
Focus on a small niche first, establish a beachhead, and then move onto the next niche. You’ll soon have a whole bunch of niches that add up.
Lower barriers to adoption
If it is not simple, it won’t work. A customer should be able to get the basics right out of the box without turning to a manual.
I recently experienced this when recently buying a Concept2 rowing machine. I was expecting this to be another nightmare like assembling an IKEA wardrobe. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I opened the huge box when it was delivered and found there were only two parts to join together with four bolts. It couldn’t have been easier. Job done in 5 minutes and I was delighted. No wonder you see Concept2 in so many gyms, they’ve got such an understanding of their niche.
Guy has a wonderful example of what not to do. A Chinese pharmaceutical company made a childproof aspirin bottle that was so complex that customers couldn’t open it. Ironically the company discovered that adults were buying the pills and giving the bottles to their kids as a puzzle.
If you’re looking to raise capital for your startup you should definitely read the chapter in this book on pitching. Guy is a VC and is on the receiving end of hundreds of pitches each week so he knows a thing or two about effective pitches.
First lesson, tell your audience what you’re startup does in the first minute and make it short and sweet: We provide social media coaching.
Second lesson. Do your research and answer you’re audiences most important questions. Ask your sponsor before the meeting, something like what is the three most important things you would like to cover.
Third lesson, answer the “So What” question with “For instance,” and then discuss a real world use or scenario of a feature of your product.
Fourth lesion, take notes. The visible act of taking notes says: I’m willing to learn, I think you’re smart and what you’re saying is worth writing down.
Guy has the idea of the 10/20/30 rule which is principles of a good pitch: Ten slides / Twenty minutes / Thirty point font size
One of the things I liked about The Art of the Start is that is there is no over complicating things and no BS. Guy’s The Art of the Start has the sound practical advice you’ll appreciate. The advice is applicable no matter whether you’re selling your work online part time, jacking in your job to work for yourself full time, or looking at your own startup.
If you want to get a taste of the book, I recommend this highly entertaining YouTube video of Guy delivering his talk on The Art of the Start. Look out for the bit towards the end when the poor conference organizer tries hurrying him up as he’s running a few minutes over.
It’s worth getting and spending time doing the exercises on your own business and as Guy states just get started as no one makes it by just planning for gold.
There are a load more great ideas and tips from other successful entrepreneurs in the other 9 ebooks on our list of top 10 ebooks on entrepreneurs and startups. Check them out and let us know what you think.