When I was a sophomore in high school, my biology teacher offered up the following gem: “A little bit of knowledge is dangerous.” He then told us the story of two of his former students, who thought it would “be cool” to make and explode a pipe bomb. Now, these two weren’t terrorists; they were apparently real-life examples that in retrospect bear a strong resemblance to Beavis and Butt-head. They found a threaded piece of pipe, capped one end, filled it with gunpowder, capped the other end, and then realized they didn’t have a place for a fuse. Rather than unscrewing one end first, they elected to save time and effort by drilling through the cap- with highly predictable results. Hopefully, if you have a little bit of knowledge in an area, you won’t end up with a nickname like “Stumpy”, and hopefully you can benefit from some of the resources below. At worst, you’ll end up with the same number of hands you started with.
How Successful People Win by Ben Stein. We all know Ben Stein as the incredibly bland teacher in Ferris Buehler’s Day Off (“Buehler……Buehler…..Buehler….”) Now imagine him as a cowboy on a cattle drive. He uses a concept called “Bunkhouse Logic” to address the issues of difficulties you will encounter in business and life. Save yourself hours of therapy and years of frustration by buying this book and keeping it handy for when frustrations occur. I think this book contains the most relevant and important information you will find, and I’ve read several thousand business/career books. This should be required reading for all graduates (high school, college, and grade school) – it’s that good.
Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends on It by Mitch Joel. Start with the subtitle of Chapter 11 (page 214 of the hardback version). Spoiler Alert: The key words are “YOU ARE ABOUT TO LOSE YOUR JOB.” There. I’ve warned you. It’s just a matter of timing. Now the question is how you’re going to adapt to it. Ideally you will have your next move ready and will be abandoning your existing job but life doesn’t always work out that way, so you have to change your mindset to always be looking for the next opportunity. This applies to employees and business owners – sometimes you have to reboot. Be prepared.
How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins. It doesn’t matter if you’re an attorney, a real estate broker, a landscaper, or a dry cleaner – if you don’t have sales, you won’t succeed. Even if you’re an employee who will never see, hear, or smell a customer – you had to sell someone on your ability to do the job you have. Too many techniques to mention but his approach to selling as a series of steps and the word choices he would use to close a sale have made a world of difference. Tom Watson described business as “First, someone makes a sale…” That’s what you need most.
The Answer by John Assaraf and Murray Smith….is on page 256. And oddly enough, it’s not “42”(see note below). The Question, by the way, is how do you grow your business- by Vision, Focus, and Action. You need to read this book- while reading it, it helped me clarify my unique selling proposition- something I’ve struggled with for several years. And note this passage (yes, from page 256) “When you start our building a business, there is so much to do: production, design, legal, finance, sales, marketing, customer support, and on and on. As the business grows, it’s easy to fall prey to the subversive notion that you still have to do it all. This is a critical error, often a fatal one. Many businesspeople who start out well are not able to build on that success, because they never master the art of delegation. This is one of the biggest secrets of millionaires and billionaires in business: Surround yourself with the best people you can find, and then get out of their way and let them do their job.” This, of course, leads to a Dave-ism: “Don’t do your own dentistry, and don’t do your own taxes either.”
The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch. 80% of your profits will come from 20% of your customers, and the other 20% of your profits will consume 80% of your time. He lists a wealth of evidence to support this axiom, and prompts your self-examination “Ok, but which 20%?” (If you struggle with that question, I know a CPA who can help you with that.) When you focus on the customers that make you money, you make lots more with less frustration. Timothy Ferriss (next) uses this principle as the basis for his lifestyle.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. Ok, I know, it sounds like the old Steve Martin routine of “How to make a million dollars and pay no taxes.” An interesting read due to the variety of his life experiences, and while his model of minimal working pays off well for him, it might not necessarily work for you – if you’re a dentist, you’re the only one who should be sticking sharp objects into someone’s mouth, not the lowest-cost outsourcer. But, even if the rest of the book only provides credence to the links in chapters eight through eleven (which are incredibly useful), it’s still worth the purchase price. His website is also fun reading- check it out at http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/.
Your Marketing Sucks by Mark Stevens. Someday I want to hear Dr. Phil ask him “Well, Mark, how do you really feel about it?” His approach to evaluating marketing is very simple: Does the gross margin produced from the marketing program exceed the cost of the program? If yes, your marketing is good, if no, it sucks. From there, he shows you how to create an effective program and also to tell if someone’s blowing smoke at you. Really a fun read as well.
I’ll add more resources later……
“42” is the answer to the question “What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything” according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I predict in 30 or 40 years, after millions of hours of computer time, the DaVinci code will be deciphered – and the answer will be “42”. Please bookmark this page now so you can tell your friends “I told you so”.
*In accordance with Texas State Society of CPAs ethics rules, I have to disclose if my recommendations will result in a commission or fee to me if you purchase according to my recommendation. So – to be perfectly clear – if you purchase via one of these links, I will receive a commission. Your price will not increase, the commission will come from the vendor’s margin.