Here’s an unsettling statistic: 80 percent of all new enterprises fail within five years. So much for the American dream. The reasons for failure may not be clear to those who fail, but to business advisor and former CEO Rich Allen, there’s no mystery. He uncovers the reasons for failure as well as how to succeed in his new book, The Ultimate Business Tune Up: A Simple Yet Powerful Business Model That Will Transform the Lives of Small Business Owners (Morgan James, 2017).
Failure happens because business owners don’t embark on their venture with a clear strategy, according to Allen. They have no focus or plan, and they don’t step back to look at the whole picture. Allen spent years in the trenches of corporate America, forging a style of leadership that mixed pragmatism and innovation. But he had a personal legacy to contend with even before he made his mark — and how he dealt with it is a key part of this very readable, very interesting, very useful book.
Allen’s father, a small businessman, had so many peaks and valleys that the rest of the family came to anticipate the next failure. It was a heartbreaking way to grow up, Allen notes, because he realized that his father simply did not have the strategic vision to solve his own business challenges. Instead, his father hewed to the myth that if you work hard enough, you’ll make it. Profits happened on occasion, notes Allen, but just as often, they didn’t happen, and his father, exhausted, would be running in the red once more.
Allen decided to devote the post-C-suite phase of his career to helping small business owners. There’s an endearing quality to how much he cares — understandable, certainly, given his Dad. He has an empathy for this particular breed of entrepreneur. And he’s developed a model that applies to the constant monitoring and recalibrating small business needs. The surprise? It’s a bicycle.
It turns out that if we think of our business as a bicycle, a moving machine that requires some parts to be in balance and other parts to move independently, requires air in the tires and needs frequent tune-ups, we can forge a sustainable business and keep moving forward. It’s an apt metaphor. Take the frame — which supports the rest of the business like your organizational structure supports its employees. Or the handlebars, which have to be aligned to steer the bike accurately, similarly to the way you steer your organization with a specific vision.
Allen is diligent and thorough — the reader gets the sense that he wants people in business to approach their endeavors with the same specificity. The back wheel compares to the service and delivery arm: if you over-deliver, you overdrive the bike. But he also looks at each component of a business as its own challenge, and provides wise guidance on how to approach it. He’s a proponent of transparency, of not only informing your employees of your vision, but inviting them to participate in honing it — creating a dream team to support you. He talks about the importance of a long-term strategy — and how to work backwards from your vision of the business in a decade to better focus on the path just ahead.
This book is not a lightweight package filled with jargon or the new corporatese. You’re not going to find the latest buzzphrases (not one “ideate” or “incentivize”) or find a complicated theoretical assertion that makes you prick up your ears but doesn’t quite add up. The Ultimate Business Tune Up is a straight-shooting, plain speaking, nuts and bolts but upbeat guidebook that can help businesses of all shapes and sizes. It contains an immensely appealing and accessible mix of great strategy, time-tested tips, and an authentic voice besides. It’s the kind of welcome business savvy that can only come from experience, and Allen certainly has that in spades. And if after reading the book you’re wanting more, Allen also hosts a weekly radio show and has an iOS App titled, “Ultimate Business Tune Up.” His father would be proud.
Learn more about Rich Allen at tourdeprofit.com