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Review of Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start

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Recently I received a review copy of Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start. I’ve been a big fan of Guy Kawasaki for a while. I’ve written about his columns and books several times, and I would have purchased this newest book anyway.

The reason I admire Kawasaki so much is his down-to-earth advice, delivered with wit and bluntness. I don’t have time for people pushing fad ideas — or conceptual fluff. The more buzzwords-du-jour anyone uses, the less confidence they inspire in me.

So, that said, here is my review of The Art of the Start:

Read it. The book is worth your time.

You can pick it up and read sections of it quickly (on a plane or in a doctor’s waiting room), put the book down for a few days, and come back to it for another 20 minutes. It’s that kind of book. In this day and age when distractions are endless, that’s the only kind of book many of us have time to read.

And don’t let Kawasaki’s day job as a venture capitalist throw you off.

I am not a big fan of venture money. I’ve been there, done that. I know that venture capital is available only to a tiny percentage of businesses with high growth business models, and the allure of it is fool’s gold to everyone else. In fact, I have spent a lot of time trying to convince entrepreneurs not to go after venture money, but to develop their small business by bootstrapping (i.e., without outside financial help).

Despite being a venture capitalist, Kawasaki has an entire chapter on bootstrapping a business. That chapter alone is worth the book. Of course, there is a lot of good stuff in the rest of the chapters that bootstrappers can use, too.

Let me give you a preview of some of what he writes about bootstrapping:

  • Understaff and Outsource. This part was really interesting because Kawasaki admits he made a mistake in hiring too many people during the dotcom boom. Now he says “Do as I say, not as I did.” Outsource as many functions as possible. Except don’t outsource strategic functions like research and development. Outsource functions like processing payroll, which are not core to your business (unless you happen to be Paychex).
  • Ship, Then Test. What he means is for a startup to get a product out the door and into customer hands as fast as possible. That way the company can start bringing in money and start getting customer feedback. No matter what he talks about, he always comes back to what I call the first rule of startups: cash is king.
  • Build a Bottom-up Forecast. This is some of the best advice you could give an entrepreneur in a startup, but it is advice few people want to hear. Entrepreneurs have so many things to think about that it’s tempting to do a broad swag for sales numbers. But unless you take the time to think through where your sales will come from on a weekly, even daily basis, your numbers won’t be realistic — I guarantee it. Kawasaki suggests a formula for how to build a bottom-up forecast, by calculating how many sales a sales rep can actually close in a given day, week, month, year. It’s a handy formula — and great advice.

I could go on, but for the rest you’ll have to read the book.

And as Guy Kawasaki said when I emailed and asked him for the one piece of advice he would give any bootstrapping entrepreneur over all else: “Double the time you think it will take to ship and divide your sales projection by two — this is what is most likely to happen.”

This review first appeared on the author’s weblog, Small Business Trends.

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  • Understaff and outsource…as long as you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. It is sad how often struggling statups and small companies shut down or outsource R&D and innovation…there goes the baby

  • Sure, Aaman, tell us about them! Send me an email when you have something up, so I don’t miss it. Email link is over at my Small Business Trends blog.

  • Very funny, Anita – bomb diggity advice – that’s a great catchphrase!

    Perhaps I should post my own experiences with building and defining companies – no names, but they incl a CRM product, a certain search engine, a SAN startup. The CRM prod co almost flamed out. This might be useful for others

  • Hey, Aaman, I can think of a few companies, too!

    And Steve, everything I’ve learned in business I owe to my mistakes. I just hope I live long enough to be able to capitalize on all of them.

    Now for a little fun. I ran this review through the Snoop Dog Shizzolator, and here is a snippet in Snoop’s voice:

      Build a Bottom-up Forecast, know what I’m sayin’? This is some of da best advice yo’ ass could give an entrepreneur in a startup, but that shiznit is advice few muthas want hear.” Entrepreneurs has so many things think ’bout that that shiznit’s tempting do a broad swag fo’ sales numbers.” But unless yo’ ass take da time think through where yo’ sales will come from on a weekly, even daily basis, yo’ numbers won’t be realistic — I guarantee that shiznit.” Kawasaki suggests a formula fo’ how build a bottom-up forecast, by calculating how many sales a sales rep can actually close in a given day, week, month, year, know what I’m sayin’? It’s a handy formula — ‘n bomb diggity advice n’ shit.
  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Anita, great job – Aaman, we are involved with a project to disseminate the Kawasaki book throughout the blogosphere, there will be a master post up shortly collecting all that has been done on it thus far

  • Speaking as one who has just closed a business after two years of unsuccessfully trying to start a consulting business, that the book would have been valuable to me 2 years ago. However, I am not sure I would have paid attention, I thought I knew best how to make it work. Only now am I more open to learning how to maybe do a start-up better.

  • Point taken, thank you indeed for the review. I am sure there are many companies who need advice of this nature, in fact perhaps most companies could do with some advice.

  • Hi Aman, first of all, Blogcritics is a review site. I managed to secure a review copy and so I reviewed it. That was the point of getting a review copy. In fact, reviewing artistic works is more or less the point of this site.

    Second, if you want to get a business started, you’d better get something into customer’s hands and start bringing some money in the door. If you wait until it is perfect it probably won’t get off the ground. I don’t know that he meant “ship then test” literally. He was overstating the case in order to make a point — a good point.

    Besides, there are all manner of other businesses out there to start up that have nothing whatsoever to do with software to which the same advice applies.

    I think his advice is pragmatic for business people. And I think it is good advice.

    It’s really a good book all around.

    Anita Campbell

  • What’s with this Kawasaki obsession on bc? There are many more geniuses out there?

    “Ship, Then Test” is a stupid way to run a business – it is possibly the reason for every bug out there – I speak from experience. Bad code is never respected . Anyone who recommends this should be tossed into QA Hell and then given a stint in Marketing.

    Bottom-up forecasting is a great idea, though. Any forecasting is good, in fact, for a business, as long as it’s somewhere on track.

    Thanks for the review:)