Mongezi Mtati | @Mongezi
Speaker | Writer | Digital Media Strategist

The Art Of The Start : Lessons from Guy Kawasaki

 

After reading most books, I would review them. That is, comfortably write about what I got, yet The Art Of The Start was different. It goes in depth about starting an organization (whether for profit not), and running it successfully. If you are running a successful organization, then it’s a book you wish you read before starting – and a hardback you want to own.

Guy Kawasaki had me gripped in his introduction, where he wrote:

“When telescopes work, everyone is an astronomer, and the world is full of stars. When they don’t, everyone whips out their microscopes, and the world is full of flaws.”

Granted! We all start organizations to cause – some much needed – change in the world. More important than change, if you take away one thing from this post – it should be go out there and make meaning. Guy warns entrepreneurs against “being solutions looking for problems”, which most experts won’t tell you.

Carve a niche

An entrepreneurial organization that serves, and targets everyone, is a solution looking for a problem. A well defined business model quickly resolves this issue and helps you cut your losses. Here are Guy Kawasaki’s guides to defining a business model:

  • Who has your money in their pockets?
  • How are you going to get it into your pockets?

Tips to develop your business model

  1. Be specific – Know who your customer is, serve them and grow outwardly.
  2. Keep it simple – Narrow your business model down to ten words.
  3. Copy somebody – Many people have innovated business models, you can copy what exists and innovate in technology, markets or customers.

Have you ever had a great idea, one you knew that was sure to be the proverbial cash cow, but you never acted on it?

Well….ideas by themselves are worthless and Guy Kawasaki advises that you create a prototype to end the uncertainty and get it to market immediately. Most of us want to perfect our offer, as though that is the final version of the product, when our customers will need us perfect and change it.

The Art Of Bootstrapping

Having read (and lived by) Seth Godin’s, Bootstrapper’s Bible and being eager to reach Guy Kawasaki’s chapter about it. It seemed to take me too long.

I admit, the possibility of raising capital, building an organization that quickly gets acquired by a conglomerate and “living happily after”, crossed my mind. Sadly, happily afters are great before bedtime and 8pm romance thrillers.

From being an Evangelist at Apple in the 1980s, to starting Garage Venturesa venture capital firm. Guy Kawasaki himself emphasizes how the odds of raising capital are slim to non-existent.

In the beginning stages of this chapter he states that “entrepreneurs can bootstrap any business model”, because bootstrapping is managing for cash flow. And when done correctly, it will be a stage in the life of your business.

Here are some excerpts to note about bootstrapping:

  • Build A Bottom Up Forecast – Know the minimum achievable goal, then build your cash and sales forecast from there.
  • Ship, Then Test – Get your product to market immediately, fix problems that may arise, ship again and alter product till you’ve perfected it.
  • Forget The Proven Team – Forget about hiring well-known industry veterans. Build a case for your team.
  • Start As A Service Business – You can making cash immediately and pay for further research and development.
  • Focus On Function, Not Form – When selecting service providers, pick them based on your needs – not their size.
  • Pick Your Battles – Make money from you magic, not things anyone else can do.
  • Go Direct – The more middlemen there are between you (the seller) and your customer, the longer it takes to know what to fix.
  • Position Against The Leader – Your competition has done you a huge favour by establishing themselves ahead of you. Use known equivalents to describe what you do.
  • Take The Red Pill – As in The Matrix, rid yourself of fantasy and face reality.
  • Get A Morpheus – As in The Matrix again, this is the person who sees to it that you achieve your objectives and is realistic.
  • Understaff and Outsource – Run with a lean team, it’s better than laying off people you didn’t need in the first place. Outsource everything else.
  • Build A Board – Not only for funded businesses, it helps with evangelism and maintaining innovativeness.
  • Sweat The Big Stuff – Looking big and fancy are less significant than developing your product, selling and getting paid. Focus on what matters

As you can tell, bootstrapping is one of the lessons I had to learn again. It keeps you on course and definitely differentiates you from everyone else. That, like romance thrillers, leads to a happily after.

This chapter, which also quotes Seth Godin, drives home the idea of making meaning and strengthening your business model.

These, as said earlier, are just some of the highlights and lessons I had to learn. You’ll be seeing a lot of quotes from The Art Of The Start, going forward. It spoke to areas in my startup that need perfecting and improving and testing. Other things that also ring true from the book are the Art Of Pitching and the Art Of Selling.

What is the most significant lesson you’ve learnt in business, lately? Care to share?

Let us know what you’ve read as well. If you’d like to share it, you could write a guest review.

    • I’ve read the summary of this. Guy Kawasaki manages to captivate me from the opening intro. This book is amazing “The bit that i’ve read” – Would love to read the whole book.

    • mongezi

      It’s great. There are bits that appeal to every level of your business, even pitching and selling.

    • An excellent book for those starting a business or non-profit, stressing function over form and action over planning. The lessons apply to organizations whether they’re bootstrapping or seeking funding from venture capitalists or angel investors. Kawasaki includes plenty of historical examples and firsthand experience, making this a practical real-world resource that’s more valuable than a simply conceptual textbook.

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