You don’t have to work miserable 60 / 80 / 100 – hour weeks to make it work. You don’t even need an office.
Ignore the real world. It’s a place where new ideas , unfamiliar approaches , and foreign concepts always lose .
Learn from your successes. Failure is not a prerequisite for success.
Long-term business planning is a fantasy. You have to be able to improvise. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t think about the future or contemplate how you might attack upcoming obstacles. That’s a worthwhile exercise. Just don’t feel you need to write it down or obsess about it. Working without a plan may seem scary. But blindly following a plan that has no relationship with reality is even scarier.
Why grow? Why is expansion always the goal? You’ll need a better answer than “economies of scale.” Grow slow and see what feels right. Premature hiring is the death of many companies. Once you get big, it’s really hard to shrink without firing people, damaging morale. Runs a business that’s sustainable and profitable.
Workaholism is stupid. Working like crazy just isn’t sustainable. Workaholics try to make up for intellectual laziness with brute force. Workaholics create guilt and poor morale among their coworkers. You end up just plain tired. No one makes sharp decisions when tired. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.
Instead of entrepreneurs, let’s just call them starters.
To do great work, you need to feel that you’re making a difference. This doesn’t mean you need to find the cure for cancer.
Scratch your own itch.
Start by making something, now. What you start is what matters, not what you think or say or plan to start. Ideas are cheap and plentiful.
The most common excuse people give: “There’s not enough time.” There’s always enough time if you spend it right.
Keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. A strong stand is how you attract superfans, not just customers. Also, when you stand for something, decisions are obvious. Ex: Whole Foods.
Be authentic with your mission statement. Having an authentic mission statement means truly standing for something.
Outside money is Plan Z. When you take outside money, you give up control. The pursuit of “cashing out” begins to trump building a quality business. Spending other people’s money is addictive. Customers move down the totem pole. Raising money is incredibly distracting. You start having meetings with your investors and / or board of directors.
You need less than you think. There’s nothing wrong with being frugal. Great companies start in garages all the time.
Start an actual business not a startup. Actual businesses worry about profit from day one.
You need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy. You’ll be able to focus on getting customers to love you, instead of getting acquired.
Be the smallest, the leanest, and the fastest. Avoid: excess staff, meetings, thick process.
Constraints are actually advantages in disguise. Southwest — unlike most other airlines, which fly multiple aircraft models, flies only Boeing 737s. Because of this, Southwest has lower costs and a business that’s easier to run.
You just can’t do everything you want to do and do it well. Sacrifice some of your darlings for the greater good. Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that’s merely good .
There’s the stuff you could do, the stuff you want to do, and the stuff you have to do. Find out what’s essential and focus all your energy on making it the best it can be.
Ignore the details early on. Nail the basics first and worry about the specifics later. We sketch out ideas with a big, thick Sharpie marker, instead of a ballpoint pen.
Long projects zap morale.
Be a curator. Constantly look for things to remove, simplify, and streamline.
Gordon Ramsay’s first step is nearly always to trim the menu. When things aren’t working, cut back.
Focus on what won’t change. The core of your business should be built around things that won’t change. Things that people are going to want today and ten years from now. Those are the things you should invest in. Eg. Amazon and Japanese automaker focus on core principles.
It’s not the gear that matters. Content is what matters.
Launch now. Once your product does what it needs to do, get it out there. When you impose a deadline, you gain clarity.
Instead of describing what something looks like, draw it. Get to something real (a prototype) right away because people need to see something to start working on it.
Sometimes abandoning what you’re working on is the right move.
Interruption is the enemy of productivity. Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive. Use email, over chat/meetings/call, as much as possible.
Meetings are toxic. The true cost of meetings is staggering.
If you must have a meeting, follow these simple rules: set a timer, invite as few people as possible, always have a clear agenda, meet at the site of the problem, end with a solution.
Good enough is fine. Aim for maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Problems can usually be solved with simple, mundane solutions. When good enough gets the job done, go for it.
Quick wins. Momentum fuels motivation. No one likes to be stuck on an endless project. The longer something takes, the less likely it is that you’re going to finish it. Small victories let you celebrate and release good news. Ask: “What can we do in two weeks?”
Don’t be a hero. If you already spent too much time on something that wasn’t worth it, walk away. You can’t get that time back.
Forgoing sleep is a bad idea.
We’re all terrible estimators. Estimates that stretch weeks, months, and years into the future are fantasies. The solution : Break the big thing into smaller things.
Start making smaller todo lists. Prioritize visually. Put the most important thing at the top.
Make tiny decisions by breaking up big decisions. Smaller, attainable goals like that are the best ones to have .
Don’t copy. Copying skips understanding — and understanding is how you grow. When you copy, you never lead, you always follow.
Make you part of your product or service. Zappos sets itself apart by injecting CEO Tony Hsieh’s obsession with customer service into everything it does. Polyface sells the idea that it does things a bigger agribusiness can’t do .
Being the anti – ______ is a great way to differentiate yourself and attract followers. Having an enemy gives you a great story to tell customers, too.
Underdo your competition. Solve the simple problems and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to the competition.
It’s not worth paying much attention to the competition. Focus on competitors too much and you wind up diluting your own vision. Focus on yourself instead.
Say no by default. Use the power of no (to certain customers) to get your priorities straight. Recommend a competitor if you think there’s a better solution out there.
Let your customers outgrow you.
Don’t confuse enthusiasm with priority. The enthusiasm you have for a new idea is not an accurate indicator of its true worth.
To create a product that exceeds expectation, you might need to promise a bit less. Over-promising and under-delivering is like a one-night stand. You don’t want a one-night stand with your customers, you want a long-term relationship.
Being obscure is a great position to be in. When you’re obscure, you can try new things. No one knows you, so it’s no big deal if you mess up.
Build an audience. An audience can be your secret weapon. Every day they come back to see what we have to say. When you build an audience, you don’t have to buy people’s attention — they give it to you. Share information that’s valuable and you’ll slowly but surely build a loyal audience.
Teaching probably isn’t something your competitors are even thinking about. Etsy teaches. Gary Vaynerchuk teaches. Teach and you’ll form a bond you just don’t get from traditional marketing tactics.
Give people a backstage pass and show them how your business works. People love finding out the little secrets of all kinds of businesses.
Don’t be afraid to show your flaws. Imperfections are real and people respond to real.
Press releases are spam. Instead, call someone. Write a personal note.
Forget about the Wall Street Journal. You’re better off focusing on getting your story into a trade publication or picked up by a niche blogger.
Marketing is something everyone in your company is doing 24 / 7 / 365.
The myth of the overnight sensation. Dig deeper and you’ll usually find people who have busted their asses for years. It’s hard, but you have to be patient. Starbucks, Apple, Nike, Amazon, Google, and Snapple all became great brands over time, not because of a big PR push upfront. Start building your audience now.
Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first.
The right time to hire is when there’s more work than you can handle for a sustained period of time.
Pass on hiring people you don’t need, even if you think that person’s a great catch. Don’t worry about “the one that got away.”
Hire slowly. Hire a ton of people rapidly and a “strangers at a cocktail party” problem where everyone tries to avoid any conflict or drama. No one says, “This idea sucks.”
We all know resumés are a joke. The cover letter is a much better test than a resumé.
There’s surprisingly little difference between a candidate with six months of experience and one with six years. How long someone’s been doing it is overrated. What matters is how well they’ve been doing.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need someone from one of the “best” schools in order to get results.
With a small team, you need people who are going to *do* work, not *delegate* work. Avoid hiring delegators. Delegators love to pull people into meetings ,
Hire managers of one. They don’t need a lot of hand-holding or supervision. They’ve run something on their own or launched some kind of project .
Hire great writers. If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking .
It’s crazy not to hire the best people just because they live far away. To make sure your remote team stays in touch, have at least a few hours a day of real-time overlap. Meet in person once in a while .
Test out employees. You need to evaluate the work they can do now, not the work they say they did in the past. Hire them for a mini-project.
Own your bad news. When something bad happens, tell your customers.
Getting back to people quickly is probably the most important thing you can do when it comes to customer service.
A good apology accepts responsibility. If you’ve built rapport with customers, they’ll cut you some slack and trust you when you say you’re sorry.
Put everyone on the front lines. Good restaurants sometimes have chefs work out front as waiters for a stretch. Listening to customers is the best way to get in tune with a product’s strengths and weaknesses. The more people you have between your customers ’ words and the people doing the work, the more likely it is that the message will get lost or distorted along the way.
After you introduce a new feature , change a policy , or remove something , knee – jerk reactions will pour in. Ride out that first rocky week. Make sure you don’t foolishly backpedal on a necessary but controversial decision. Let them know you’re listening .
You don’t create a culture. It happens .
Culture is the byproduct of consistent behavior. If you treat customers right, then treating customers right becomes your culture. So don’t worry too much about it. Don’t force it. You can’t install a culture. Like a fine scotch, you’ve got to give it time to develop.
Don’t make up problems you don’t have yet. Most of the things you worry about never happen anyway. Optimize for now and worry about the future later. The ability to change course is one of the big advantages of being small.
Skip the rock stars. The environment has a lot more to do with great work than most people realize. Rockstar environments develop out of trust, autonomy, and responsibility.
When everything constantly needs approval, you create a culture of non-thinkers. Realize that failing to trust your employees is awfully expensive .
Send people home at 5. You shouldn’t expect the job to be someone’s entire life.
Policies are organizational scar tissue. Don’t create a policy because one person did something wrong once. Policies are only meant for situations that come up over and over again.
Talk to customers the way you would to friends. Avoid jargon. Don’t talk about “monetization” or being “transparent;” talk about making money and being honest.
Write to be read, don’t write just to write. Whenever you write something, read it out loud. When you’re writing, think of the person who will read your words.
Four-letter words you should never use in business: need, must, can’t, easy, just, only, and fast. Need: very few things actually need to get done. Can’t: you probably can. Easy: people rarely say something they have to do is easy.
Stop saying ASAP: when everything is high priority, nothing is.