Well I’m a big fan of the Kindle and Blogging so I thought I’d combine a few posts with some insights that struck me from some great little books I’ve been reading. These clippings might make great quotes for speeches, staff meetings, or just thoughts to inspire clearer thinking to run your business. I’ve added my observations after each clip.
Background to Rework
This is the second book from Jason & David, the founders of 37 Signals, a software company with over 1 million users, focused on the art of getting stuff done.
#1 Clipping: Ideas are cheap and plentiful the original pitch idea is such a small part of a business that it’s almost negligible. The real question is how well you execute.
This will be commented on again and again as we move out of recession. It’s a game of inches. Relentless follow through, measurement and accountability are the keys to success.
#2 Clipping: Anyone who takes a “we’ll figure out how to profit in the future “ attitude to business is being ridiculous that’s like building a rocket ship but starting off by let’s pretend gravity doesn’t exist. A business without a path to profit isn’t a business it’s a hobby.
So I’m dead against freemium models, because for every Twitter there are a million failures. It’s true that a well financed VC backed business can ignore profits for a while to grab market share but they will have worked out a profit path in the not too distant future.
#3 Clipping: Decisions are progress. Each one you make is a brick in your foundation. You can’t build on top of we’ll decide later but you can build on Done.
Be relentless about done. Think ship dates. Demand action oriented meetings with responsibilities. Seek value achieved for clients not value promised.
#4 Clipping: Be a curator. Stick to what is strictly essential. Pare things down so you are left with only the most important stuff. Then do it again. You can always add stuff back in later if you need to
Simplify your business. Understand the key financial drivers behind the economics of it – volume and yield. Force staff to write one page reports with clear actions identified. You can push details to appendices.
#5 Clipping: What really matters is how to get customers and make money.
It’s so easy to forget this as you get sucked into running your business, recruiting staff, holding meetings, obsessing about competitors, or executing a social media strategy. Are you going to the bank at a profit?
#6 Clipping: If I’d listened to customers, I’d have given them a faster horse – Henry Ford.
You need to listen carefully to feedback but be careful of unprofitable customers. Be careful of one hit wonder ideas that have no interest to other prospects in your market. I’ve known customers to come up with great ideas but then never actually issue a PO!
# 7 Clipping: I have never let my schooling interfere with my education – Mark Twain.
As you grow your business and recruit the best talent – think of fit not IQ or best academic achievement. Visualize that person performing the role in your company. Now your best fit may have come from a world class college.
# 8 Clipping: Culture is the by-product of consistent behaviour. Culture is action not words. You’ve got to give it time to develop.
As companies grow, execute, and reach out to customers, there is a great opportunity to differentiate yourself in the marketplace not just by building great products but by interaction, by action, by the way you speak and move.
I’ve always liked the discussions around #2 paraphrased “figuring out a profit model” early. As I recall the first 37 Signals product that we used was in fact free and we did eventually upgrade and still use it today. Of course today they no longer have a free version.
I think what still challenges people in the lower end product market is how to bring people into the fold early on (during your first few releases, when if you follow Guy Kawasaki’s release early release often strategy can be a bit messy still). Do you have a single user (free) product that helps you gain feedback and iterate or do you go right to charging, which means you better have a pretty good first offering.
Thanks Ed, more clippings on the way soon. I like the idea of a free small part of your offering as a teaser but not as the main thrust of your business.