What would most entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs like to have access to?
Wouldn’t it be to get advice from a fellow entrepreneur who has started and successfully grown businesses to hundreds of millions of dollars of revenues again and again?
Michael Masterson has accomplished just that. (One of his best-known enterprises is Early to Rise – an email newsletter for business and personal success.) He put on a seminar, charging $10,000 a seat, to share his experience and brainstorm with the participants on how to move ahead with starting or growing their businesses. Then Masterson put most of the contents of that seminar into this book.
The seminar was primarily developed for businesses other than professional practices, but most of the material can also be adapted to professional practices.
In Ready, Fire, Aim, Masterson explains the different stages of business growth and what the tasks are to focus on for the entrepreneur in each stage.
The title of the book reflects Masterson’s emphasis on action. Remember, it’s not Fire At Will! Some preparation is still involved. Masterson says it’s important to move ahead with product introductions and marketing campaigns even when they’re not yet perfect, because customers will then give you the feedback needed to make them closer to perfection or tell you whether you should abandon them altogether. (Are you wasting your time?)
The primary task of the entrepreneur throughout the life of the enterprise is to be the master marketer and salesperson. If you don’t like marketing and sales or don’t have a reliable business partner who is good at marketing and sales, being an entrepreneur probably isn’t your calling. Sales and marketing are learned skills, so you can certainly learn them as you go and seek guidance from experts in these areas as you become a master marketer.
The first stage of a business is infancy. (Up to $1 million in sales.) During this stage you develop your initial product offering. You develop a “critical mass” customer list. You develop your optimum selling strategy that can be used again and again to make sales.
The second stage of a business is childhood. ($1 million to $10 million.) During this stage you focus on rapidly developing new products while continuing to expand your customer base. You are selling products to new customers and additional products to your existing customers. Speed is very important in this stage in order to develop new products faster than your competitors can knock them off (copy them or create substitutes).
Stage three of a business is adolescence. ($10 million to $50 million.) During this stage, the company is showing signs of stress. Customer service problems are developing because of the growing corporate size. The main task at this size is to establish a workable corporate structure. Professional management is needed to manage production and administration. Formal operating procedures must be developed. The entrepreneur must delegate management tasks while developing three key statistics in each area to maintain some management control. Meanwhile, product development and marketing initiatives must continue.
Stage four of a business is maturity. ($50 million +.) At this stage, the business owner must step back almost entirely from “doing it” to become a leader. The key activity at this stage is finding, hiring and developing great employees. The business owner is seeking “intrepreneurs”, people who love working in organizations to make them work well and grow, and won’t leave to start their own business and steal your customers and employees. The owner will also be seeking and negotiating joint ventures, acquisitions and spinoffs. The concern of the business owner should be with the big picture, not the details. Your great employees should be more than capable of handling the details. At this point, you might be able to cut back your work schedule considerably.
Masterson gives considerable information along the way, such as how to develop a marketing plan, how to develop copy for an effective marketing message, how to test product and marketing ideas, how to rapidly develop new products, and how to avoid a political environment.
Reading this book should give the reader an appreciation that starting and growing a successful business is a lot of hard, challenging work. It’s not for the faint of heart or people who don’t like other people.
Studying Ready, Fire, Aim should help you avoid common mistakes when starting and growing your business, and become clear about what your priorities as a business owner should be.
Buy it on Amazon: Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat.
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