Start With Why

Do you know why you are in business? And “to make money” isn’t the answer I had in mind. At the core of your business, what is there that drives your company? Simon Sinek has a fantastic book out about just this, Start With Why. The book goes over some common pitfalls that businesses fall into and why focusing on the WHY of your business will bring greater success.

One of those common traps many businesses fall into is focusing on being the “lowest priced” option in the market. The problem with doing that is that if/when someone else comes along and offers the same (or comparable) product cheaper, your clientele will switch in a heartbeat. Instead, if you focus on the WHY of your business, you will build a much great loyalty. What wakes you up in the morning and makes it so you can’t wait to get to work? What makes you one of the people who doesn’t hate Mondays? That is the WHY we’re looking for.

Knowing your WHY works great not only for building great relationships with clients, but also with employees. Employees who know why the business they work for is in business, they can buy into that why, they become a part of it. If an employee is simply working a job, they will be gone as soon as a better option comes their way. Instead, if their passions match up with the companies WHY, they’ll be a much more loyal employee, through thick and thin.

I can’t do justice to what Simon Sinek all covers in Start With Why in a blog post or book review. If you’re starting a business, looking to grow, or looking to stay on top of your industry, read Start With Why, and then most importantly, starting incorporating your WHY into your business and your marketing.

Book Review – Eat That Frog

Have you ever noticed that some people seam to get a lot more done in a day than others? It almost seams as though they have a magical extra hour or two in their day. I always wondered how those people got so much more done. I also wondered how or if I could become one of those people. The answer was of course, yes! The first step to becoming one of those highly effective and productive people is to read Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.

I have read Eat That Frog several times over now, and each time there is always something new that stand out to me. The book is broken down into 21 ways to quit procrastinating and get things accomplished, with each of the 21 techniques being a chapter. One of my favorite parts of the book is that at the end of each chapter there are a set of action steps to help put that technique in place in your own life. When I first read the book I learned for the first time about putting together a proper to-do list for the day, about writing it out on paper the night before, and organizing the different tasks with the ABCDE method.

This most recent time reading through it, the technique that stood out to me the most was about the salami slice method of getting tasks done. With each task, break it down into smaller and more manageable pieces, and then get started on them. As author Brian Tracy points out in the book, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That’s that same way to approach many of the different tasks we have each day, one little bit at a time. Sometimes a task on my to-do list will be “Code website XYZ.” Problem is though; there are a lot of little tasks that go into coding that site. So by breaking it down into little manageable steps such as coding the core structure, header, body, footer, I can get a better grasp on the project and get to work much more quickly and efficiently.

If you haven’t read Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog, I highly recommend picking up a copy today. And if you have read it before, I recommend re-reading it again. Eat That Frog is one of the books that I always recommend to my students in class, it is a great book to help you learn some very valuable work skills and really set you apart from anyone else in your company and can help lead to better and quicker promotions.

Book Review – Take the Stairs

Some “self help” books really aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Many of them seam to focus on theory and end there. One of the reasons I really enjoyed “Take the Stairs” by Rory Vaden, was because he didn’t just end on theory, he followed through to application. “Take the Stairs” is about self discipline, taking the stairs instead of the escalators. Two things that stood out to me in this book were the action items (the application part that is missing from so many books) and the Rent Axiom.

The Action Items are the application part of the book. There are some simple questions and ideas for how to put the ideas covered in the chapter into play in your life. There are a set of questions and an action item for each of the chapters in the book. Throughout the chapter, author Rory Vaden speaks of the theory of the topic, but also has some points of putting things into action. The Action Items at the end are really the fuel for the fire in my opinion that helps the read to start using the things discussed in the book.

One interesting thing about these Action Items, they’re at the end of the book. At first I thought it was a little odd that these were left for the very end of the book, but then I remembered something mentioned in the Introduction section of the book – Rory Vaden says very simple “Most people won’t finish this book.” Sadly, many people who buy a book like this never read it or even open the book. By saving the Action Items at the very end of the book, it served as a sort of reward for those who have shone the dedication to “take the stairs” and read the whole book (and it’s only about 150 pages, a fairly quick read).

The other part of the book that really stood out to me was what Rory Vaden calls the Rent Axiom. The Rent Axiom states that “Success is never owned, it’s rented. And the rent is due, every day.” The really powerful point about the Rent Axiom is that the “success” part can be taken out and replaced with anything and the statement is still true. For example:

  • A happy marriage is never owned, it’s rented. And the rent is due everyday.
  • A strong skill set is never owned, it’s rented. And the rent is due everyday.
  • A successful business is never owned, it’s rented. And the rent is due everyday.

The idea behind the Rent Axiom is that just because you’ve attained something, doesn’t mean it’s there to stay. Just because you have a happy marriage doesn’t mean that it will last if you don’t work at it. Just because you have the best skill set of any employees in your company doesn’t mean you always will if you don’t keep learning. Just because you have a successful business today doesn’t mean you always well if you don’t continually mange it. The Rent Axiom reminds you that even though we may have achieved [you fill in the blank], we must keep working at it and improving it and keep earning it.

Every semester I provide my students a list of books that I recommend they read if they want to be successful in any given field. After ready “Take the Stairs” I quickly added it to that list. We live in an era when everyone is looking for the escalators or the micro-wave dinner. If you’re looking to get things turned around in your life and build some self-discipline skills and get more accomplished, I highly recommend “Take the Stairs” and adopt a take the stairs mindset.

Book Review – EntreLeadership

To bring 2013 to a close, I re-read EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey. Even though Dave Ramsey is known as a financial expert and has authored many books helping people get out of debt, this book is about how he grew his business, or as he says, it is “20 years of practical business wisdom from the trenches.”

One of the points that Dave makes many times over in the book is the Golden Rule. It sound so elementary – treat others the way you would want to be treated – but when you apply it to a business it makes perfect sense and is something that business leaders need to keep in mind. For example, if you have to reprimand or fire someone, how should you handle it? Simple, the same way you would want someone to handle it if the roles were reversed. How should you set up payment and compensation plans for team members? The same way you would want to be compensated.

One of my favorite chapters is the second chapter, Start with a Dream, End with a Goal. In the chapter he talks about defining the dreams you have for your business; then turning those dreams into a vision that you can share with your team members; and then setting up the goals for how to make those dreams come true. Start with the dream, define the vision, and then set up the goals. As he says in the chapter, “Goals are visions and dreams with work clothes.” For me, the chapter really helped me view my company not as a job, but more as a mission that I’m on.

As you’ve possibly noticed, I haven’t mentioned employees at all, instead referring to Team Members. As he mentions in the book and frequently on his radio show, “employees show up late, leave early, and steal while they’re there.” Instead, you need to find Team Members, people who will share in the vision and dreams of the company and work to carry out the mission.

I recommend this book to any manger or business owner. I would especially recommend it to anyone who is just starting a business or if you’ve been in business awhile but need to get some things turned around. Dave has described this book as the playbook to how he built his business from just one person up to over 400 team members. Whether you implement all or just one of the lessons covered in this book, it will provide great strategies for how to change your leadership, and how to change your business.

Book Review – Rhinoceros Success

I first heard of this book through Dave Ramsey. I have read a couple of Dave’s books and always found great value in them. So when I read that he required all of his team members to read Rhinoceros Success in the first 90 days I figured I’d give it a read. While the name of the book might conjure up memories of the Berenstain Bears, I can assure you this book deserves its spot on my book shelf next to books like Napoleon Hills “Think and Grow Rich” and many other classics.

One of my favorite chapters in the book is chapter 8, “Work.” In the beginning of the chapter he says that “no one should be working. Work means drudgery and monotony.” Looking back over the jobs I’ve had, I can certainly understand what he means. I’ve had jobs in the past that were definitely “drudgery and monotony” and those jobs always felt like work. But on the other hand, I’ve had jobs that were fun and enjoyable and I never dreaded going in to work those days. When people hear me say I really enjoy my job, they sometimes look at me as if I’m crazy. I think those people should invest in a good mirror.

Possibly my favorite part of the book is when author Scott Alexander has you make a declaration that you are a rhino and write out on a 3×5 card “I am a rhinoceros! I have a damn-the-torpedoes spirit! I am full of energy and I can’t wait to get up in the morning to start charging!” I know it sounds a little odd, maybe even cheesy, but saying that every night before bed has really given me the jolt I need at times to wake up and start charging through the day.

Rhinoceros Success has truly pointed out a lot of great ways to take control of my life and get the most out of it. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to get more out of life. If you feel like you’re lacking some focus and driver in your life, read Rhinoceros Success, and then most importantly, start CHARGING!