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Book Review: ‘Improve Your Odds: The 4 Pillars of Business Success,’ by Alan Yong

Alan Yong is an entrepreneur of the best kind: brimming with ideas, unafraid of change or technology, and passionate about sharing his experience and acumen with others. He’s also level-headed about what really makes a business survive — at least 70% of startups tank within ten years. Yong’s essential business strategy involves the necessity of sharing with others, which resulted in Improve Your Odds: The Four Pillars of Business Success. The book draws on Yong’s decades of experience to lay out a surefire, commonsense approach to tending to a business. It’s educational, sobering, and inspiring.

According to Yong, no business can be strong if it’s not set squarely on four distinct pillars: its leader, the quality of its leader’s ideas, its employees, and its customers. Whatever the industry, this winning formula is the same, he notes — and he speaks from experience. Before diving into digital currency he built a flower growing firm — daylilies, to be precise — into a major success; it remains the largest grower of its kind. He also created the world’s first personal tablet computer, the DTR, and is behind some massive contracts with heavyhitters like IBM and the Pentagon.

Yong was actually heading towards a quiet retirement when he was given the opportunity to get involved in cryptocurrency. He co-founded DNotes as an alternative to Bitcoin — and quickly recognized that in the wild west of this nascent industry, there were no blueprints for business success. He reasoned that entrepreneurs and, for that matter, everyday people all needed to be far more familiar and comfortable with business of digital currency, and that a book would not only teach but provide the confidence for a cultural shift that embraces this innovation. Just as no human is an island, no organization can survive in a vacuum.

Yong argues that startups crash and burn due to a whole range of fundemental flaws, but key among them is near-sighted leadership. It’s not enough to have an amazing idea: for every Wal-Mart there will soon be an Amazon, as we all well know, and competition is always built into the equation. If leadership also combines self-awareness and careful stewardship, the odds begin to improve.

If the idea takes all manner of possible competitors and market pressures into account, even better. But it takes a great inner team to transmit the leader’s mission and method — and then hiring great employees who can, in effect, act as “clones” on leadership’s behalf.

And then, of course, comes the final ingredient: customers. No matter how amazing your vision or your team, if you can’t attract any customers, never mind. Part of that is knowing how to adapt and innovate, which is what brought down Blockbuster Video. Part of that is knowing how to provide an incredible customer experience, or you’ll start losing your place in the market.

We’re seeing examples of that with United Airlines, certainly; but also with Snapchat — the hungry and shiny social media channel that took a couple of missteps and incurred the wrath of not one, but two social media influencers: Kylie Jenner and Rihanna. What does a pop goddess have to do with a business book? Everything: she’s the customer — and without her, it doesn’t matter how spectacular the business plan was.

There are countless lessons to be had in the pages of Improve Your Odds, and Yong’s seasoned wisdom shines through from the beginning. As he points out, it’s easy to mistake an idea for a true vision, and all too easy for businesses to create a model that any competitor can not only duplicate, but surpass.

To succeed, leaders have to hold themselves and their vision to incredibly high standards, and then perpetuate that same drive to be the best throughout every single component of the organization. “In business there are ways to effectively manage and exercise a large measure of control over the odds you face each day. That is, if you have aspirations of achieving something more than mediocrity,” writes Yong. Certainly this book is aimed at those with great ambitions — and will help anyone make the kind of strategic decisions that decrease the risks and — yes — transform your dream into dollars (or DNotes).

For more about Alan Yong and his new book, visit his website

About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.

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