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The Art of the Start

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Guy Kawasaki cuts to the chase in his book, The Art of the Start.
It is no-nonsense, easy to read, and entertaining.

Kawasaki divides his book into 5 basic sections:

  • Causation
  • Articulation
  • Activation
  • Proliferation
  • Obligation

PART ONE - CAUSATION

I had to look up causation in the dictionary… it is one of those words that doesn’t really pack a punch - I wondered if it even really had a meaning. Turns out, it does! Go figure.

I found, “the act of causing something to happen.â€

Well, okay. I guess that would be the art of starting. Still seems like a weak word to me, why not CREATION? Sounds too anti-darwin maybe.

At any rate, there are 5 points highlighted for the act of causing something to happen.

  1. Make Meaning - let you motivator be something other than money; make the world a better place.
  2. Make Mantra - scrap the boring and mundane mission statement… keep it simple with a mantra. This section points out the obvious and perhaps unconventional thought that mission statements are boring and ineffective. Compare March of Dimes mission statement,

    “March of Dimes researchers, volunteers, educators, outreach workers and advocates work together to give all babies a fighting chance against the threats to their heatlh: prematurity, birth defects, low birthweightâ€​
    to a Kawasaki’s hypothetical mantra,
    “Save Babiesâ€​
  3. Get going - if you wait for perfection you will die waiting.
  4. Define Your Business Model - while the venture should not be motivated by money, it is dead without it.
  5. Weave a MAT (Milestones, Assumptions, and Tasks) - A new venture is built a day at a time - step by step. Use your MAT to guide your actions.


In this first section, we aren’t bogged down in analysis and overwhelming tasks such as writing business plans and conducting market research. Kawasaki jolts you out of analysis paralysis and into your venture.

In one of my favorite quotes, Kawasaki states,

“What you should do is (a) rein in your anal tendency to craft a document and (b) implement.â€

Next up… ARTICULATION.
 

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PART II - ARTICULATION

The section on Articulation is divided into three catagories:

  • Positioning
  • Pitching
  • Writing a Business Plan

POSITIONING

Great down-to-earth common sense tips on choosing a name and a niche. He encourages you to take the high road and keep your statements personal.

PITCHING

The tips offered here should be taken to heart, considering the author is a venture capitalist. He tells you what he (as a VC) likes to see and what he does not like to see. He advises that you abstain from putting your bio first, shut-up and take notes, and do your homework before you get there. There is also a distinction made between pitching for capital, a partner or to a customer.

WRITING A BUSINESS PLAN

I confess. I didn't read this chapter. I'm not a big fan of business plans.... atleast not the 20 page books full of information I will never actually use or apply. Someday, sigh, I know I will have to write a business plan again and will, sigh, come back to this chapter.:(
 

andviv

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could you please post some quotes from this last section? Specially if he presents examples for Positioning and Pitching.
 
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sure...

ON THE HIGH ROAD

Keep it Positive - "Entrepreneurship isn't war, so you don't describe your enterprise in warlike terms."

Customer - Centric - "Positioning is about what you do for your customers - not about what you want to become."

Empowering - "Employees must believe that what you do (that is, your positioning) makes the world a better place."

In addition to walking the high road, good positioning should be: self-explanatory, specific, and long-lasting. Aim for positioning that will last 100 years.

ON THE NICHE…

“You might think that to build the next Microsoft, you’d have to launch a multiprong attack. Nothing could be further from the right approach. To build the next Microsoft, you have to start in a small niche, establish a beachhead, and (with luck) move out from there.â€â€¦â€¦.“put one niche in your basket, hatch it, put another niche in your basket, hatch it… and soon you’ll have a while bunch of niches that add up to market domination.â€

ON YOUR NAME….

“In a perfect world, your name enters the mainstream vernacular and becomes a verb. For example, people “Xerox†documents – as opposed to photocoy them. More recently, people “google†words instead of “searching from them on the Internet.†Names that work as verbs are short (no more than two or three syllables) and not tongue twisters.â€

SAY NO TO THE BIO

“â€I’ve never sat through a pitch by an entrepreneur trying to raise money… … and thought I wish the speaker had spend the first fifteen minutes explaining his life story. While you’re busy warming them up, your listeners areinevitably wondering, What does his organization do?â€
 

andviv

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hey, your review is going to make me want to read that book!!!
I probably will read it as soon as I finish with the one I am reading right now and after posting here the review for the other one I am about to re-read (the Vollucci one about apartment buildings).
Thanks for the post... what's next????
 

Rawr

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Great book, easy to read, straight to the point.

You will read it many times over. Highly recommended.
 
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PART III - ACTIVATION​

THE ART OF BOOTSTRAPPING

Manage for Cashflow - not profitability.

You have to survive ... and in the early days this means CASHFLOW.... You may have to turn down a profitable account - if the money in is delayed... instead do the deals that pay quickly.

Build a Bottom-up Forecast...

3 sales reps each making 10 calls a day times 240 days times a 5% conversion rate will give you a more accurate revenue figure then 2 million people in your market times 1% market share.

Ship - Then Test...

Don't wait for perfection to ship. Get it out there NOW. Get feedback. Fix it. Then ship again. This gives you immediate cashflow and real world feedback. Rome was not built in a day.

Forget the "Proven Team"

The "proven" people expect a higher salary, and won't admit what they don't know.
An "unproven" person will work for less, ideally be highly energetic, and doesn't know what they don't know.... so they will try anything!!

Start as a Service Business...

It will bring your initial cash in the door.

Get a "Reality" person...

The realist in the company needs to keep you grounded... is the design flawed? Can the system handle business? Are you spending too much or too little? Are you inculcating the wrong values?

Other tips.... understaff and outsource, build a board and sweat the big stuff (developing, selling and collecting money for product and service.... not buying office furniture)

The Art of Recruiting

Hire A people... if you shortcut this, you are shortcutting your company.

Kawasaki gives some down to earth tips on recruiting and hiring...

Ignore the irrelevant... experience in a big successful company does not necessarily work. Different skills are needed in a bootstrap start up.

Tips are given on questions to ask and ways to interpret answers. He also urges you to pay attention to your intuition.

The Art of Raising Capital

Considering the source, (a venture capitalist) this is a great chapter...

Clean up your act by eliminating as many problems as you can before you pitch. If problems remain, disclose them early. Never try to hide them because the VC will find out about it eventually and if it isn't from you early on - you have lost all credibility.

He gives a list of "common" lies told by entrepreneurs - and advises you don't tell them.

You are not the center of the universe.... just one of three or four appointments that day. If you have the best, most innovative product and amazing team - so did the guy before you and so will the guy after you.

Kawasaki finishes this chapter with a great quote:

'Albert Einstein was on a train. He couldn't find his ticket after searching through all his pockets and bages. The conductor approached him and said something to the effect of, 'Dr. Einstein, everyone knows who you are. We know that Princeton can afford to buy you another train ticket.'

To which Einstein replied with something along the lines of, 'I'm not worried abou the money. I need to find the ticket to figure out where I'm going.'

Like Einstein, you shoud worry not about hte money, but about where you are going. If you figure out where you're going, the money will come."
 

kimberland

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I SO agree with the bottom up forecast.
If I hear one more time "The market for this product is..."
I'll scream.

Especially with Kawasaki's target readership
(the bootstrappers),
top down is not appropriate.
The average entrepreneur doesn't have the resources
(not simply money but management skills)
to target the entire known universe day one.

That's what I love about The Art Of The Start,
it drives focus.

Great review Sonya!
: )
 
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PROLIFERATION

The Art of Partnering

Here you find common sense tips about forming a partnership - and making a partnership work...

  • Make sure the "middles" and the "bottoms" like the deal
  • Find Internal Champions... One person in each organization that will WORK for the deal.
  • Accentuate Strenghts rather than cover weaknesses
  • Cut Win-win deals
  • Know Your Exit

The Art of Branding

Lower the barriers... the consumers will be less likely to try if it is too hard or foreign.... so write a great manual, flatten the learning curve, include picutes, and test it on your parents!

Recruit Evangelists and foster a community... customers or members of a community that love, love, love what you've got. (my own comment: like forums... all those moderators are evangelists. They are willing to work for free - because the believe in the product, message or company. RD has (or had?) evangelists... Once MJ's book comes out, I assume he will too.) Kawasaki goes into more detail about how to recruit and support evangelists that will in turn support your company.

He also has a little mini-chapter here on designing T-shirts and using them to assist in branding. Thought there were some great practical tips.

The Art of Rainmaking

A rainmaker.... in the world of business is a person that can generate LARGE quantities of business.

The key point here is... FLEXIBILITY.

Plant 100 seeds and see which ones turn into flowers. They may grow in unexpected places. Have the ability to observe where the flowers grow and the flexibility to shift your direction and nurture what is growing.

Also...

Go for Grass Roots Lead Generation. Consider:

  • Small-scale seminars
  • Giving speeches
  • Getting published
  • Networking in a proactive way
  • Participating in industry organization

Here is another point that I LOVED. In fact... It will inspire another post - to follow.

LISTEN to your Prospects

They will tell you how to sell to them. They will reveal what the needs and wants are.


Also.... make it easy for people to make the leap. Let them take a test drive, and don't force them into a leap of faith... help them make their transition into your product an easy one.

When you do get rejected - and you will - learn from it. Listen to what they say and adjust as needed.

Up next.... the final section, OBLIGATION
 

Poudda

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I think I will be purchasing this book. These samples beat the poop out of all the Marketing stuff I leared in college... And they're giving me ideas.
 
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AroundTheWorld

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Obligation

Part IV - OBLIGATION

And the final section…. OBLIGATION

This is short, sweet and too the point. It is also, I believe, the most important part of the book.

HOW TO BE A MENSCH.


“Mench is the Yiddish term for a person who is ethical, decent, and admirable.â€

There are three cornerstones to the character of a mensch – and they don’t require much in the way of explination.

  1. Help Many People
  2. Do What is Right
  3. Pay Back Society

Menches do not do these things with a self serving purpose or agenda. They do it for the joy and fulfillment of doing it. If this is not the foundation of your business…. you will eventually crumble.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for... well... for anyone starting anything!
 

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andviv

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ATW, thanks a lot for the review. Seems like one that needs to be added to my personal library.
 
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AroundTheWorld

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ATW, thanks a lot for the review. Seems like one that needs to be added to my personal library.
It is definately a book that one would want to pull of the shelf now and again to refer to.
 

Russ H

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Great review, Sonya.

It brought to mind a story about being a Mensch.

I'll post it.

-Russ H.
 

joshkaufman

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It is definately a book that one would want to pull of the shelf now and again to refer to.

The Art of the Start is part of the Personal MBA reading list for exactly this reason - not only is it an eye-opening read the first time, it's really great to re-visit over and over again.
 

djs13

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I read this book and enjoyed it thoroughly. I think his section on business mantras is awesome. It made me think of start-up ideas as something way more simplified with more meaning.
 

andviv

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Thanks for sharing the video, very good info there.
 

servicefly

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ATW, wow, I have now read this book after reading your 1st post. It encompasses almost everything I am forming on my EntrepreneurInspired.com website.

I am very happy to see other resources out there that preach the right stuff. Thanks for the post.
 

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littlekingaz

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I have read it several times and applied a lot of it to my life.

good to see that it is getting the recognition it deserves, I thought I was the only person who knew of it (well so it seemed) haha
 

Kak

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I have read it too. Unless you are planning on pitching to a VC firm I wouldn't read it. It is a very systematic approach to appeal to investors.

Definately read it if you are. :) worth a read also if you have exhausted other options.
 

Kak

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I have read it too. Unless you are planning on pitching to a VC firm I wouldn't read it. It is a very systematic approach to appeal to investors.
 

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