“The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki is a book for anyone considering starting anything. Not all the material will be helpful for you, particularly on recruiting and raising capital, but most of it will hit you interests and needs dead on.
The art of starting 01: What are the most important things an entrepreneur must accomplish? Make meaning, make mantra, get going, define their business model, and weave a MAT (milestones, assumptions, and tasks). Kawasaki says vision statements are out and mantra’s are in. Lets face it nobody remembers vision statements but mantras when they’re crafted well like Nike’s “Just Do It” are unforgettable.
What does it take to make meaning? Mantra’s important but so is putting shoes to pavement, Get Going: Think big, get a few soul mates to buy in financially and with their personal time, and polarize people to what you’re doing (either they should love it or hate, otherwise its just not that important). People should see something different in what you’re doing, be able to see something of what it will be in its entirety (usually prototypes come in here).
The art of positioning 02: “The art of positioning really comes down to nothing more than answering one simple question: What do you do?” (pg. 30). Good positioning is inspiring and energizing: ie its positive, customer-centric, empowering, self-explanitory, specific, core, relevant, long-lasting, and differentiated. Every new project needs to niche itself. When you share your niche with others position it as personally as possible, which means avoid technical language, and make sure even a 5 year old would understand your pitch.
The art of pitching 03: Kawasaki says its not “I think, therefore I am,” for entrepreneurs its “I pitch, therefore I am!” Can you explain yourself in a minute, if you’re a pitcher you should be able to. You should also know your audience inside out, pitching is not a one-size fits all kind of job. Kawasaki says remember the 10/20/30 rule (10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font text). “The purpose of a pitch is to stimulate interest, not to close the deal.” (pg. 49). Here are three great questions for you to ask before you pitch: how much of your time do I have?; what are the three most important things I can communicate to you?; May I quickly go through my presentation and handle additional questions at the end?.
The art of writing a business plan 04: “…write a plan, and write it well, but don’t convince yourself that its the Holy Grail. Organizations are successful because of good implementation, not good business plans.” (pg. 67) Kawasaki says pitch, then plan. A good business plan is a detailed plan of a pitch. A pitch is not a business plan summary, the difference is huge. Things that will set your business plan apart are keeping it clean and concise, providing true numbers and projections rather than pie in the sky dreams, conveying things deliberately enough so that people can sense you’re acting.
The art of bootstrapping 05: You have to realize that in the early days you’re managing your idea for cash flow and not for profitability. Kawasaki takes a leap in this chapter and asks you to take it with him. He says ship, then test. You need immediate cash flow and it will help generate that but be careful because a tarnished image due to poor quality on the product is hard to come back from. Because your bootstrapping you also need to rethink you’re recruiting strategy, “…forget about recruiting the well-known industry veterans and building a dream team. Focus, instead, on affordability – that is, inexperienced young people with bushels of raw talent and energy.” (pg. 84) With this team in place focus on function more than form in the early days. Pick your battles and go directly to those you’re trying to reach. Lastly execute well, which means: set and communicate goals, measure progress, establish a single point of accountability, reward the achievers, follow through until an issue is done or irrelevant, heed your wiser counsel, and establish this culture of execution across your organization.
The art of recruiting 06: Here are three simple questions to ask of everyone you’re considering hiring: can the candidate do what you need?; does the candidate believe in the meaning your making?; and does the candidate have the strengths you need instead of the weaknesses you have?. Kawasaki says, “...make the effort to “recruit” your employees every day – to make sure they want to come back the next day.” (pg. 101) Be careful as you recruit, correlation does not equal qualification for what you’re looking for; don’t confuse big-0rganization skills with new-organization skills; dramatize your expectations as you review, and check references thoroughly. Kawasaki says the best thing you can do is hire people who are infected with your company, people who just can’t stop thinking about it. Remember “In actuality, recruiting never stops. Every day is a new contract between a startup and an employee.” (pg. 114)
The art of raising capital 07: Outside investors may be one of the three F’s: Friends, Family, or Fools. How can you connect with investors? Find an intro and once you have it show them that your company has traction in making meaning. If you’ve got problems own them but also clean up your act so you can show them transformation in those areas. Kawasaki says disclose everything. “What’s important is not that you failed – it’s that you learned from your failures and are eager to try again.” (pg. 125). Acknowledge or if necessary create an enemy and explain why you’re better. Make sure in the end that you portray that you know where you are going, if you do the money will follow.
The art of partnering 08: “The gist of good partnering is that it should accelerate cash flow, increase revenue, and reduce costs.” (pg. 151) Good partnerships are built on clarity, clarity on deliverables and objectives. This helps ensure that the middles and the bottoms of each organization like the deal. Its from them that you need to find internal champions. Kawasaki says eventually you’ll see weaknesses in each other, accentuate strengths but don’t cover those weaknesses. Always have an “out” clause in your partnership, it helps each party feel like they can leave which ironically makes them want to stay. Don’t play down schmoozing, a lot of great partnerships are developed out of it.
The art of branding 09: Branding, Kawasaki says, is “a simple matter of applying the classic P’s of marketing: product, place, price, and promotion. To this list, some people have added another P: prayer. They are not far off – but instead of prayer, I prefer proselytization.” (pg. 167). Branding means presenting your product in a contagious way, but if its already contagious branding is a lot easier. Branding should lower the barriers to people adopting your product into their plausibility structures. Good branding needs good evangelists for the brand. Even better a community of evangelists. Your brand should talk the walk, but the product must be able to walk that talk. “The starting point for branding is inside your organization, so make sure that every employee can “talk the walk” and enthusiastically proselytize the organization.” (pg. 182) One easy way to publicize your brand is through T-shirts. Mac did it, nuff said.
The art of rainmaking 10: Plant a thousand seeds and water more those that seem to grow. ie spend yourself on that which is going to yield rather than that which you have planned to have success. Don’t miss the growth right in front of your eyes merely because you have made “plans.” Kawasaki says go after the areas that are growing and stay far away from atheists to your product, stick with the agnostics because they’ll likely turn. One of the best things you can do is talk to those who seem to be most excited about your product and find out why. Enable people to test drive the positives those people have told you about and see if there is a greater contagion there. A lot of people provide easy, safe first steps. Its a great idea. Don’t forget rainmaking is a group activity for your organization.
The art of being a Mensch 11: Here are three simple principals Guys Kawasaki has lived by: Help many people; Do what’s right; and Pay back society. Helping people means not helping those who can merely help you back someday, but helping those who may never help you in return. Always no matter what do what’s right in a deal: observe the spirit of the original agreement; pay for what you get no matter if someone has made a mistake in giving it to you; and focus on what’s important. Mench’s, says Kawasaki, “pay back – that is, for goodness already recieved – rather than pay forward in expectation of return.” (pg. 214)
And now for your moment of Guy: