Getting to the Top Is Optional … Getting Back Down Is Mandatory

October 31st, 2009 by Rich Christiansen
Ed Viesturs and Rich Chrisitiansen

Ed Viesturs and Rich Chrisitiansen

Last night I was able to spend a few minutes with Ed Viesturs. As you know, Ed not only endorsed Bootstrap Business, but he was also the center of content for the Chapter Climb High Sleep Low.

Ed just released a new book titled K2 Life and Death on the Worlds Most Dangerous Mountain.

I will be traveling to Japan and China next week with one of my companies FrogHair, I looking forward to reading this book on the trip.

The fun part of our discussion last night was having Ed explain his mindset as well as show the route he used to get up Annapurna ….. Which was his 3rd attempt and last of the 8,000 meter peak summits he climbed. Keeping in mind that 100 people in the world have climbed Annapurna, 50 have died.

Those of you who have seen my presentations or attended the Boot Camps know this story and the reason why I gained such respect for Ed after observing this experience.

If you don’t know why Ed Viesters is one of my heroes, READ THE BOOK ALREADY!

Getting to the Top Is Options Getting Back Down Is Mandatory both in business and in mountain climbing.

Fire Alarm, Pandemonium, and Bootstrap Business

October 30th, 2009 by admin

This past weekend Rich was invited to present Bootstrap principles at the Book Publishing 2.0 event held in Calgary.  The conference went really well and left the attendees jazzed with excitement to begin chasing their own bootstrap businesses.

Upon returning home, Rich shared with our office a fun experience he had at the conference.  After finishing up one of the day’s events, the attendees and presenters of Book Publishing all retired to their hotel rooms for a good night’s rest, only to be torn from their sleep at 3:00am to the sound of a shrieking fire alarm.  All guests were evacuated from their rooms and asked to congregate in the lobby of the hotel, waiting for the firemen to check the building.  Check out the picture below of one of the guests of the hotel, also an attendee at the conference, entering the lobby:

Fire Alarm at Calgary Presentation

We’re not sure if he was up that late reading the book and couldn’t miss a beat, or if he grabbed his ‘valuables’ in sheer panic, but either way he was in the lobby holding strong to his Bootstrap Business book!  We love to see die-hard Bootstrap fans and couldn’t resist posting this picture.  Enjoy!

The Four Phase Model

October 29th, 2009 by admin

So far, I’ve talked about how to Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim and when to switch to Aim, Aim, Aim, Fire. But is that all there is? Stopping after Aim, Aim, Aim, Fire is like shooting rabbit after rabbit without ever pausing for dinner; eventually, you pass out from hunger with nothing to show for your efforts. Like Ron said in his preface, you want to build a business. You don’t just want to play with testing the market. To do that, you need to realize that your business goes through four phases of growth that range from brainstorming to stabilization. Being able to recognize which phase you are in not only helps you fire and aim, it also helps you know what action is required to best build and grow your business.

Each successful business goes through four phases. This is my Four Phase Model:

Phase One: Brainstorm
Phase Two: Examine
Phase Three: Optimize
Phase Four: Protect

Phase One: Brainstorm

Yes, yes, yes! That idea sounds great! That one, too! This is Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim. You can identify this phase by the number of “yes” responses you give: yes, that idea is viable; yes, that does sound fun; yes, that idea takes advantage of a wave; yes, that opportunity is transactional. As long as your imagination is liberated, you are in phase one. Capture all the crazy things you’ve ever thought might work. Write them on a whiteboard or in an idea document. The idea is to brainstorm lots of ideas and see what sticks out.

Not everyone does this as well as some. You probably know people who are walking idea farms—I mentioned one earlier who was so good that he couldn’t get out of the “a rabbit, a rabbit, a rabbit” mindset. If you aren’t that way, reread chapter 2, “Juice to the Light Bulb,” for ideas on getting ideas. If you are, though, realize that lots of phase-one people have a hard time transitioning to later phases. Just when you find something that works, you want to run with something else. Most people who excel at phase one have lost steam long before they get to phase four. If that describes you (and if you have the entrepreneurial spirit, it might), take steps to counteract your natural tendencies and hone your strengths. For me, I have pretty good ideas, but my real strength lies in phase two.

Phase Two: Examine

Yes—yes! No! When you have a whole stack of ideas, you need to learn to start saying “no.” Now you start to apply the principles from Aim, Aim, Aim, Fire. Sit down, have a close look at your ideas, and select the most viable. Most front-end people who see rabbits in every bush have a tough time saying “no” at this point. The transition might be tough, but realize that you should settle on only two or three viable ideas at most. Don’t throw out the others—you might need them later—but you can’t afford to jump around when you get here. Keep those ideas in the “parking lot” list. Go gas up one of your top two or three and take it for a drive!

I love working in this stage. Nothing is more fun to me than taking a raw idea and slapping a business together with baling wire and duct tape. Shoot the moon with your $5,000; if you miss, you can pick another of your top two or three ideas and make that one work. It validates all of the hard work when you see one of your ideas suddenly become viable. Your first duct-tape attempt may be crude, but when you get it functional, stand back, and say, “Yes!”—as long as you say “no” enough to make time for building your business.

Phase Three: Optimize

Yes—but no. No. There is a time to chase and a time to optimize. During the optimization phase, you will say “no” more than you say “yes.” You can’t keep second guessing which ideas are the juiciest. As well, just because your phase-two idea is able to stand on its own, you can’t leave it to start another. Now, you must move forward with your idea and develop, improve, and optimize it.

Take time to look at the processes and procedures related to your business. Can you tighten some connections? Can you sand and buff some rough edges? Can you tweak the gears to get more torque? Optimization is a great phase to be in. The infrastructure is in place and you are generating a nice profit. With a little tightening, tweaking, sanding, and buffing here and there, you increase your margin. Nice work!

Ron is great at this. I can hand him a taped-together load of wire and turn around to see a shiny, well-oiled business running in his hands. At the same time, he is my reality check. During this phase, you may discover that certain ideas just can’t be optimized. Don’t be afraid to abandon some of the main ideas or side initiatives you said “yes” to during the first two phases. Ron helps me stay on track with this, optimizing our best ideas and pointing out our weak ones. Ultimately, we head toward success because we are able to change course to maintain our optimal output.

In fact, many entrepreneurs I have collaborated with relate that they don’t always end up doing what they started out to do. This occurs for many reasons. Maybe the initial opportunity was not as quick to cash as it needed to be. Perhaps related opportunities worked out better. Maybe it hit a financial, time, or marketing wall and could not scale or optimize. We’ve been down those roads. Usually, we knew going in that we would allow our initial business to recede into the background as we developed and optimized something better suited to our long-term qualifications.

Phase Four: Protect

No. No. No. We can’t do that. We can’t make that change. We can’t jeopardize what we have. Our policies forbid us from considering that. You will find this attitude prevalent in many large corporations and government agencies. Once businesses are optimized, owners have the tendency to start thinking, “Don’t screw this up!” They develop the “play not to lose” mentality. This is good. Some things do need to be protected. Where would your technology business be without your algorithm? Or your restaurant without your special sauce? However, if you get into the “play not to lose” mentality and stay in it, it will be to your detriment.

Protecting your business from unwarranted idea chasing once you hit full optimization is important, but you might be able to snag a few rabbits without derailing your ultimate goal. Part of protecting your business is building it to the point where you can have teams that help the good things keep running while other teams can go out on exploratory development projects. If you don’t like this phase of business, that is completely fine. I don’t like it either.

Figure out which phase feels most comfortable to you. Hire others, find a partner, or develop skills that help you succeed in the other phases. Branching out to other people is especially important in phases one, two, and three—by the time phase four hits, though, you might need to consider an exit. Entrepreneurs seem to excel at the first two but often begin to lose interest by the third and fourth, when they have to say “no” more often. It is our experience that many small businesses never endure all phases for this very reason. You don’t have to be one of those many small businesses, though, if you go in knowing what you want and how to leave. Say “yes” when you can, “no” when you must, and always start with Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim as you take your business through the four phases to success.

Porter’s Points – The Four Phase Model

  • Cognitively assess what phase of business you are in and act accordingly.
  • “Whate’er thou art, act well thy part.”
  • Are you an idea person? Do you love the details? Do you thrive on stability? Match your personality type and skills with the phase of business you are in.
  • As you transition between the four phases, surround yourself with partners and employees who augment areas you are weak in.

Aim, Aim, Aim, Fire

October 27th, 2009 by admin

Once those rabbits jump, you need to figure out if the ones you have a shot at are going to make much of a meal. The danger of firing first is that you can get caught up in the hunt and lose sight of your objective. All that initial shooting is just to show you what’s out there. After you get some action, you must have the discipline to decide: which rabbit do I go for? Imagine yourself as a stealthy lion focused on one zebra and one zebra only. You’re ready to pounce and start chasing that one zebra. It’s the same with your rabbits. You need to focus on just one or two, rather than running all over the field after every last one. Simultaneously chasing them all is a surefire way to go home empty handed. Interestingly, the skill that it took to find the opportunities is the exact opposite mindset needed to transform one into success. It’s time to Aim, Aim, Aim, Fire!

I know another young, idea-rich entrepreneur whose ability to stumble across ideas initially fascinated me. He would think up a dozen different ventures at the drop of a hat and start to build one up a little. If another great idea didn’t take its place, he’d soon get bored and jump on the next big thing. This is the “a rabbit, a rabbit, a rabbit!” syndrome. He bounced from opportunity to opportunity but never exerted enough focused energy to make even one of his ideas fruitful.

One of my business associates uses an analogy to describe this that I love. Imagine that you are standing in front of four different soda machines. To get a soda out, you have to put four quarters in. It so happens that you have exactly four quarters. You approach the first machine, put a quarter in and hit the soda button. Nothing happens. You get frustrated and leave the machine, going to the next machine to stick in another quarter. You continue the pattern until you’ve dumped four quarters in four different soda machines.

Only then does it hit you—you’ve expended all your means and you’re still thirsty! So many people put their four quarters in four separate soda machines, then stand there pounding on the door and wondering why the soda isn’t coming out. If you want to drink from the deep, refreshing well of entrepreneurship, you must put enough focused energy at the right time into one soda machine.

I remember one really great quarters-and-soda machines moment. I was working at Mitsubishi Electric with a team that developed motherboards. Competition in the market was intense. To make its way through the thick underbrush, the team quickly investigated the market using the trusted Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim method. Ten to fifteen opportunities jumped up immediately, but some proved more valuable as we examined each rabbit. Even so, I recall how painful it was to mentally transition to the Aim, Aim, Aim, Fire mindset with all that plentiful game hopping around, just begging to be shot. However difficult it was to leave some of the rabbits behind, it was a critical transition.

More rabbits were to come. Through the team’s investigations, they wisely discovered a niche and established some barriers. It appeared that most companies were focusing on motherboards with frequent component rotation. Our team decided to target a more stable motherboard market for gear like medical apparatus, video game machines, and gambling equipment.

At the same time, Dr. Horne, my mentor and the worldwide head of Mitsubishi’s PC division, had established several strict parameters for us in accepting orders for the motherboards. Specifically, he mandated that we not accept orders unless they were at least $100,000. This was my first time in the role of general manager; while eager to earn my stripes, I wasn’t mature in the GM role. Although I agreed to the limit, I found it difficult, as our shooting had turned up plenty of smaller prey.

It frustrated me to no end that I had to let a number of lower contracts go by. How would we ever sell anything? Suddenly, my dismay quickly turned to exuberance as we landed a seven-million-dollar-per-year deal. Dr. Horne was right: waiting for the big fish was worth it. For all of the extra effort it takes to support a smaller client, you don’t get nearly as good of a payout. If we had tried to hook all the little fish, we would still be struggling for pennies that wouldn’t have even made a dent in our eventual catch.

Porter’s Points – Aim, Aim, Aim, Fire

  • It will be hard to make the move from Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim to Aim, Aim, Aim, Fire. Set a limit in the amount of firing you will do; once you have hit your limit, start aiming and pick the best ideas. Focus on only one or two.
  • Always write down all of your ideas (Rich and I call this list the “parking lot”). If you reach your cease-fire limits on personal time, duration of the venture, or cash flow, you might be able to take a shot at some of your parked ideas.
  • Decide right now what kind of customers and orders you will accept. What are your requirements? Visibility? Sales volume? Sustained ordering? Say “no” to those that don’t fit.

Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim

October 22nd, 2009 by admin

I grew up in a rural community and loved rabbit hunting as a teenager. Sometimes, it proved a tricky pastime. When I’d enter a field or wooded area looking for game, I didn’t always see my target right away. I had two options for finding a rabbit. The first involved sneaking stealthily around the bushes and shrubs, .22 at the ready, until I discovered my target. When I saw a rabbit, I could take careful aim and squeeze off a shot. Bingo. The long hunt was rewarded—assuming I found a rabbit to shoot. The second method involved casually sauntering up to any given field and rattling off 10-20 rounds into the bushes. No aiming required! But, boy, did it work!

While the first method might seem like a more traditional form of hunting, I found the second method to be wildly successful. Here’s the thing,
though: I wasn’t just firing blindly and counting on a random hit. This rapid-fire method, for the price of a little more ammunition, gave me useful information in much less time. I learned that shooting randomly into the bushes startled the rabbits, causing them to jump out of their hiding places. One rabbit’s jump made another pop up—and then another and then another—and then pretty soon that “empty” field was hopping with rabbits. Instead of spending all my time looking for just one, I had all sorts of choices. Rabbits were everywhere!

During my first five to seven years in business, I assailed the business world with the stealth and cunning I learned from my MBA classes. I quickly discovered there are many variables in business and in daily life, making it difficult to hit any target with your first shot. Frustrated by how my plans never quite worked, I accidentally discovered a way to change my strategy.

Inspired by my days spent hunting rabbits, I decided just to call up the competition and start acting like I was already in business. I wagered that all I had to do was get as many ideas to “jump” as I could. The new process didn’t involve long, thought-out planning, but rather demanded I go out into the market and actually test the myriad of back-burner ideas I had waiting. It worked.

In the early ’90s, new software releases came out every one or two years. Most software distribution was done on diskettes and CDs. A new release was a huge production that took serious project management, coupled with a forebodingly heavy process of developing, releasing, and updating the software. Then Internet distribution changed everything.

Different versions of software suddenly became available by simply downloading updates from the web, which computers were soon programmed to do automatically. Today, the Internet is so comprehensive that people simply develop a rapid-fire product and go live with it while still making changes. In today’s Internet-driven world, if you take a year to write a business plan, your opportunity is likely to pass you by.

Let’s say that you follow conventional tactics and spend six months preparing a business plan, researching the market, buttoning up your pro forma, and gathering your reserves. Meanwhile, the guy next door has a similar idea but forges forward with testing, releasing, improving, and updating his product.

By the time you’re ready to get down to the business of testing your idea in the actual market, your neighbor has been raking in profits for six months, figured out the “sweet spot,” released his seventh update, and firmly cornered his market share. Usually, the market moves faster than it would take you to line up all your ducks. The best way to qualify and quantify the market is by simply getting out in the field, firing off your ideas, and discovering what jumps out of the bushes.

Don’t misunderstand me: planning is an important event, even in the early stages. The question you must answer is, “What planning is essential for me to hit the ground running?” You only have two steps and then you’re off. John C. Maxwell wrote, “No one can wait until everything is perfect to act and expect to be successful. It’s better to be 80 percent sure and make things happen than it is to wait until you are 100 percent sure because by then, the opportunity will have already passed you by.”

In 2003, search engines were riding a tremendous wave. Several ideas jumped out of the field and I decided to shoot at the juiciest by creating a personalized search engine application. I very deliberately applied the Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim principle. My partner and I quickly dumped about $30,000 into our idea, which went belly-up in a few months. Most companies in that phase would have been out beating the bushes for venture capital, which would have taken writing a business plan and going back and forth with the VCs until we had enough to make it happen.

Don’t get me wrong—the idea could have raised funding, no doubt about it. And with that kind of capital, we could have gone to trade shows, hired engineers, and whipped it out into the market only to discover that our idea wasn’t going to work—after two years of wasted effort and millions of wasted dollars. Instead, we shot thirty grand at a dead rabbit and moved on.

More than saving our time and a VC’s money, though, our one shot earned it all back. Even though our initial good idea was off on the market timing, our shooting did scare up a pair of juicy rabbits that became very successful ventures. We left the initial rabbit behind and had great success—and a lot of fun—chasing the other two down. The point is that we did something. Our original plan didn’t take off, but we got ourselves into a better situation because we were out and active in the market.

Here is one of Ron’s favorite quotes, from Jack London: “You can’t wait for inspiration to come to you.  You have to go after it with a club.”

In the early ’90s, I had a young man working for me who was a very intelligent chap, absolutely fascinated by business. After surveying his options, the young man decided he wanted to purchase some real estate and begin building his own little real estate empire. He met with me several times and picked my brain on what had worked for me. For some reason, even after all our counseling sessions, he never did manage to get around to making the purchases. Every time I checked in with him, he was hot on the trail of a new property, plowing through the numbers and doing the analysis. Ten years later, I still get calls from him about every other year, wanting to talk about real estate—and he
still hasn’t bought anything!

Does this kind of person drive you crazy? Don’t be one! In order to achieve success, you eventually have to quit plowing and start planting. Get out there and do something that allows inspiration to envelope you! You can’t hit anything unless you pull the trigger, no matter how much time you take to aim.

Porter’s Points – Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim

  • Call the competition and ask questions. You don’t need to tell them why you’re calling to find out what they’re selling and how they’re selling it. Talk to administrative assistants and secretaries. They are on the inside track and are often willing to share information.
  • Call potential customers and attempt to sell them your model—you’ll find out quickly if you have what they want. Don’t start with your most important target accounts. Start with the least important one and use the feedback to work out the kinks.
  • Ask advice from everyone you can. Chances are they’ll offer you an earful. Apply what you think will work and forget anything that has no value to your initiative.
  • Run a quick—“quick” being the operative word— model to see if your idea is viable, and then do another quick cash flow analysis to determine if the business can sustain itself. (See chapter3, “Power Tools,” for more about models.)

Three Chances to Catch Rich

October 20th, 2009 by admin

Rich has a busy couple of days. We know that a number of you will be attending or watching these events, but here is the 1-2-3 punch this week.

1. Tomorrow night Wed Oct 21 at 9:30PM MST Rich will be highlighted on the TV program Latter Day Profiles. This will air on BYUTV channel 21. This was recorded when Rich presented at the BYU Idaho Entrepreneurs Conference.

2. On Friday Oct 23rd, Rich will be giving the keynote address at the CEO Conference in Chicago Ill. on Entrepreneurship.

3. Saturday and Sunday Rich will be presenting at Book Publishing 2.0 Conference in Calvary Canada. These are always fun and entertaining events. I love to watch Rich and Mark Effinger verbally spar.

If you are at any of these events make sure you introduce yourself to Rich and say hello. He loves to hear from you.

Get building that business. No more excuses.

Porter’s Preface: Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim

October 20th, 2009 by admin

Today we begin exploring Chapter 13 of Bootstrap Business:  Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim.  Rich and Ron discuss the importance of rapidly firing when beginning your small business.

So, your heart is right and your head is on straight. You’ve had the grit you need ever since chapter one and you really want to start your own venture. That’s fine, but how will you get going? If you are like many entrepreneurs, you have big dreams and big plans and don’t want to mess up. You want to make those big plans as clear and detailed as possible. Qualifying and quantifying the market, writing a detailed business plan, and drafting a pro forma are all very good things to do, but they have one thing in common: they take time.

For Rich, expending all that precious time for planning has a consistent rate of success: zero. Even so, he has done it, I have done it, and you may have, too. Rich has some good insights about why the rate of success is zippo. See, the thing about exhaustive planning is that it is comfortable. Taking months to answer every possible cash flow and marketing question lets you play with your gold nugget of an idea, turning it over in your hands and patting yourself on the back. This is comfortable. Planning is a lot of hard work, but it isn’t risky work. Spending days without end sweating over every minuscule detail of a business plan is easy compared to hitting the streets, getting your hands dirty, and doing the hard work of making your business happen. Once you have spent several months pushing pencils and drafting documents, you finally have the courage to begin. You have a safe plan in your entrepreneurial holster to load and fire into the market. You settle in, take aim, fire, and…

…Bang, you’re dead. You missed the wave, you overstated your potential, you let your competitors beat you to market—business failed. Most entrepreneurs want to have a plan with answers for every contingency, but you cannot afford to do the comfortable thing when your gold nugget can start making cash now. You need to get to work.

But don’t you need to plan? Rich is about to explain that planning skills help, sure, but he has had a lot of success using another, less conventional method. It is one of his most powerful tools in creating new businesses. He likes to call it “Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim.”

When he shared the concept with me the first time, I thought he’d spent too much time hiking at extremely high altitudes. Go to market before you have a business plan? Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim went against everything I had been taught! Much to my surprise, as I tested Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim with Rich, I discovered what he already knew: it works!

In this chapter, Rich will explain why you need to shoot first and aim later. He’ll share his Four Phase Model for business growth. Understanding the way your business grows—and how you need to react to that growth—helps clarify when to fire and when to wait. Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim may seem counterintuitive, but by the time you have read this chapter, your heart, head, and determination will be ready to start gunning for success.

Buzz Your Business: Startup Professionals, Inc

October 16th, 2009 by admin

Today’s guest blog comes from Martin C. Zwilling, the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, Inc., a Phoenix based company which offers startups help and consulting services.  He publishes a daily blog for entrepreneurs on http://blog.startupprofessionals.com . He is a member of the Arizona Angels group, where he serves on the Selection Committee. He is also on the Board of a half-dozen startups, and has an extensive technology background with IBM and other large and small companies. He may be contacted directly at marty@startupprofessionals.com .

Startups: Action Items for Success

By Martin Zwilling

Behind most great entrepreneur success stories is a long list of mistakes! Unfortunately, for every success story you see, there is an even longer list of failure stories with mistakes that you don’t see. But rather than dwell on the failures, I’ve tried to extract a list of action items that will lead to success.

Every startup mentor has his favorite list of basic strategies to avoid pitfalls, and I’m no exception. If my experience and insights can save just one founder from the stress, lost time, and lost money associated with a startup misstep, then I’m a happy man. Consider these half-dozen action items:

  • Get adequate funding. If you have started your business on a shoestring budget without planning for future funds to run the business, then you could be facing severe cash flow problems within a short period of time. This could hamper your business financially and you mentally; and you could soon lose the motivation you need to run your business successfully.
  • Adapt to the market. Most startups I know have “refined” their target market several times during their rollout. So be alert and be flexible. Focus on a niche. Watch for customers hell-bent on not letting you earn any profits, or wasting too much of your time.
  • Temper theory with reality. There is no substitute for experience. No matter how well-educated you are, and how certain you are that you understand all the nuances of a business area, it is a good idea to work in a similar business for a few months to get a feel for the market and observe the way in which that business is run before taking the plunge. The same thing is true for students who dream of being entrepreneurs.
  • Marketing is key. Every new product needs to fight the urge to declare “If we build it, they will come!” Even word of mouth advertising and viral marketing cost big bucks these days. With a billion businesses fighting for your customer’s attention, it takes leverage, effort and money to remain in the public eye.
  • Manage your time. It takes practice and effort to focus on the most important things first. In business, “most important” means time to market, customer service, low cost, and beating your competitors. It also means knowing when to delegate, and time for effective communication with your subordinates.
  • Reign-in expenses. It is very important to control your expenses. Not being able to reign them in will result in all your income being washed away, and will result in serious cash flow problems.

The most important overriding principle is that you should do what you love – passion and attitude will play a large part in defining your success in business. Apply the action items outlined here, define your own rules and goals, and you will be well on the way to creating a successful and profitable business.

Do The Hard Thing

October 15th, 2009 by admin

Somewhere along the road of life, my younger brother Brett chose to follow a philosophy that differentiated him from others and allowed him to achieve greatness. Brett and I grew up in the small town of Beaver, Utah, 200 miles south of Salt Lake City. Beaver is home to about 2,500 residents. If you’ve ever watched television, you have an unknown connection with Beaver. Philo T. Farnsworth, native son of Beaver, invented it! You can thank or curse him later.

Before Brett had turned 16, he’d already won several southern Utah golf tournaments. In high school he was elected student body president, set a State record in the 400-yard dash, and graduated as valedictorian of his class with a perfect 4.0. All of these achievements acted as a springboard for an exacting college experience. Brett attended Brigham Young University in pre-med, focusing on a degree in engineering
design technology while also working a full-time job. University advisors counseled him that in order to make it into med school, not only would he need to quit his job, but also change major tracks. For med school, his program was GPA suicide. But Brett had a vision and a personal “secret formula” for success.

Long story short, Brett graduated with high honors from the DET program, completed his graduate work at Columbia Medical Center, and went to Johns Hopkins where he was selected as head resident in his final year. He was also highlighted in episode six of ABC’s Hopkins 24/7, was highlighted as a feature story on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and on and on and on. What does all this have to do with you and entrepreneurship? It’s Brett’s “secret formula”:  Do the Hard Thing.

One evening over dinner, I pressed Brett on the substance behind this mantra. He responded: “Most people are like water; they take the path of least resistance. They look for short cuts or have the mindset of ‘Can I get by with doing less?’ As soon as you decide to do the hard things, you’ve achieved two victories: you’ve eliminated 98 percent of your competition (they’re off doing the easy things) and you’ve set yourself apart, differentiated yourself, and made yourself unique.”

Ron penned the following verse, and I think it sums up the chapter well:

“Stars were not scattered ‘cross the midnight sky
To only be seen by the longing eye.
Stars were scattered above the land
To be grasped and held by the longing hand.”

One of my favorite sayings comes from an entrepreneur in insurance and real estate about eight decades ago. Named Spencer W. Kimball, he later became a prominent religious leader in the 1970s and 1980s. He said, “Do it, do it now, and do it with a purpose. Make no small plans, for it has not the magic to stir the soul of man.” Make no small plans! Whoever you think you are, you must know this: you are not wired to accept failure. You are not wired to stay down. You are wired to get up and go forward. You are wired for greatness! What is your star? Can you see it? Can you visualize it? Your willingness to do the hard thing will allow you to grasp and hold onto your star.

Porter’s Points – Do the Hard Thing

  • Analyze what is in your heart and in your head. You must be willing to do the work and balance the sacrifices.
  • Make a list of what you bring to the table.
  • Don’t pick the path of least resistance. Differentiate yourself. Make yourself unique.
  • Doing the hard thing will set you apart from most of your competition. Your unalterable determination will propel you beyond the rest.
  • Make big plans! Visualize your star and go after it!
  • Your mental attitude must be a “Can do!” attitude.

The Zone

October 13th, 2009 by admin

What is The Zone? It’s when your mind is focused so precisely that you don’t even think about the task at hand. You simply perform. The mechanics are lost in the sheer feeling of the action. You feel your way through the task instead of think your way through it. Anyone who has felt the elation of a well-executed presentation to a big client knows The Zone.

I remember when Eddy Anderson joined my team at Novell. We traveled together to the UK to present to a client, Santa Cruz Operations. Eddy had put in weeks of hard work and forethought, and even prepared a software bundle as part of his presentation. As he began to speak, I felt the energy pick up in the room, and saw the board members nodding their heads in agreement. He was perfectly polished and charismatic. As he left the conference room everyone commented on how impressed they were with his high-quality work. He had hit a home run. He was in The Zone!

Obviously, you can’t live your entire life in The Zone. Most of life will actually be spent setting the zone up, just like Ed did with his weeks of preparation. You have to pay for success up front. So go get ideas, do some research, make a plan, and practice, practice, practice! After you’ve gone through the process, however, you must learn to let all of it go and trust your preparation. You simply need to enter your zone and perform.

There are two kinds of work: hard work, the kind that requires all of your focus and amazing amounts of energy, and zone work, the kind of work that leaves you feeling exhilarated and energized. Zone work usually follows hard work.

The feelings you experience in the zone will sustain you in critical moments. If you let it, your zone will always be in the background as motivation. You will crave that energy and that fulfillment. The thing is, the more you experience The Zone, the more your confidence will
grow! Your performances will improve, and you will be able to enter it at will. Getting into their zones is why people love their work.

A few years ago, in the foyer of Thanksgiving Point Golf Course, there stood a glass case that housed a short iron used by the golf great Johnny Miller. He must have used it for years, because on the middle of the club face there was an indention about half an inch deep. It came as the result of tens of thousands of golf balls being hit in the same spot on that club face over and over and over again. Clearly, Johnny found the sweet spot with that club and once he found it, he made the most of it—it was one of the clubs he used to win the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont. The lesson here? Get the most out of your passions and talents, and don’t let up!

Porter’s Points – The Zone

  • Prepare. Make sure that when you arrive for the performance, you’ve put in the time and sweat necessary to feel confident and competent.
  • Don’t feel intimidated by clients. Big name or not, they’re asking for what you have to offer. Fear damages your ability to get in The Zone.
  • Have faith in your skills and the value of your smart, focused work.
  • Keep a mental image of the last time you were in The Zone. Vividly remember the excitement your felt—you can experience it again.

Got a Target? Fire, Fire, Aim!

October 12th, 2009 by admin

In order to aim and fire at a target you must have one in your sights. Finding a target can be a tricky process if you are not aware of how you are finding your target. How do you find your target? Do you spend your time carefully finding a target to aim at or do you fire first? Most entrepreneurs can be identified in one of two categories – those who fire at their target and those who aim. The question is who will be more successful? The entrepreneur who aims more or the entrepreneur who fires more?

Traditional business practices would have most entrepreneurs believe they should spend a lot of time planning their every move. While there is value in planning make the mistake of making a plan for the plan and then just keep on planning without taking their head out of the sand to see if the target they are aiming at is suitable for the environment above the sand. The flip side is the entrepreneur who is firing at everything in sight so there is a lot of movement but very little momentum in the absence of aim!

While it may seem comfortable to aim, aim, aim and exhilarating to fire, fire, fire the truth is being stuck in either mode is frankly quite useless. If you want real results the answer lies in fire, fire, AIM!
When you fire, fire, aim you are not stuck aiming or firing; you do a bit of both. When it comes to finding a target for your business you spend a short amount of time thinking about what you are going to aim at. Are you looking for a new niche market or distribution channel for your business? Maybe you have a few business ideas and you’re not sure which ones to focus on?

To aim and fire successfully you must quickly survey your environment. You can quickly and easily investigate your environment using these three simple techniques:

  1. Identify your channel: Figure out who are the people who would be interested in your product or service.
  2. Survey your channel: Call up at least 5 people who you think would be interested in your product or service. Ask them what they think about it? While you’re at it ask them how much they would be willing to pay for it and what would make it a no brainer?
  3. Pick a brain: Take a mentor or someone who has already done what you are thinking of doing and ask them for their feedback about your idea. Doing this one last makes you look good because you’ve already done some homework.

Completing the above techniques will only take you a few hours . By evaluating a few targets to fire at you will be much more savvy about where to aim. In the end, if you don’t know if there is a demand for your target then you don’t really have a business do you?

By going through fire, fire, aim as quickly as possible you will save yourself a lot of heartache from getting stuck in aiming at something that will end up being a lot of motion without any momentum. In case you haven’t noticed yet, we’re big fans of MOMENTUM!

So, what if you’re an aim, aim, aim or a fire, fire, fire kind of person? Don’t fret! There is hope for you in aligning yourself with partners and staff who compliment you.

Next time, we’ll be looking at exactly how you can be confident that you’ve found your perfect match when we discuss focusing on your strengths!

It Ain’t Hogwarts – but there is Wizardry here!

October 9th, 2009 by Ron E. Porter

It ain’t Hogwarts and it’s not in Scotland.

It’s to be found in a new way of thinking, in your intuition, out in the undulating hill country of Texas.  This forward thinking haven is known as The Wizard Academy®.

By its own description Wizard Academy “Is a nontraditional business school. The faculty of Wizard Academy studies what gifted people do when they’re feeling inspired so we can reverse engineer their unconscious methods. We teach you how to do consciously what a gifted person does unconsciously.”  Sound a bit like wizardry?

Magical things happen there.

The Wizard Academy’s approach is non-traditional and their track record impressive.  They are changing the way people see, feel, think, and approach business, education and problem solving.

That’s one of the reasons Rich and Ron were invited to teach there.  Bootstrap Business Bootcamps offer nontraditional, proven principles about how to bootstrap a successful business.  Techniques and concepts like The ZigZag Principle, The 5 Minute Whiteboard, Cow Pies, Climb High Sleep Low to mention a few. Principles that when applied really are magical in their impact on your business and your life!

The experience at the Wizard Academy was invigorating for Rich and Ron.  But it’s not about them.  It’s about you and other Muggles seeking a new way, a magical way, a nontraditional path to success.  So, let’s hear from some former Muggles. Hey, once you’ve experienced this place you believe in its magic – and yours!

Backpack Moments From our Zig-Zaggers :

We call that moment one of our bootcamp participants “connects” with a principle, a “Backpack Moment.” – the light goes on, the Ah-ha moment… So, don’t attack your summit without your backpack!

William:

“Zig-Zag Principle: Important to know that it’s ok to do “other things” in order to get cash flow & that nevertheless there should be rules/boundaries to ensure you don’t take the “other things” into the weeds.

Parallel Entrepreneurship – develop it!

Frank open confessions from Rich & Ron = same attitude from the students

Hiring and Firing tips were great!

The role of an executive assistance – loved it, real good insight!”

Ken:

“Whiteboard moment was a total “Oh Snap!”  It serves to pull the team together and helps ID any trouble spots and log jams.

One thing I think would improve the bootcamp is to have a team building exercise prior to the Million Dollar idea sharing exercise.  Give a chance to get to know each other before we start sharing our million dollar ideas.”

Sean:

“I thoroughly enjoyed the brainstorming of ideas with you and the rest of the class.  The atmosphere of trust and respect that you created made me comfortable to be open and share ideas.  The Wizard Academy is the perfect safe and creative environment to bring new ideas to life.

Thanks very much for your passion, openness, and commitment to teaching valuable business principles.”

Zig-Zaggers

Breaking Through The Mental Barrier

October 8th, 2009 by admin

Too often, when faced with a new task, we limit ourselves by asserting, “I can’t do this.” This mindset will sabotage every effort you make. To find entrepreneurial success you must break through mental barriers.

A few years ago I enjoyed a great partnership with Curtis Blair. We were expanding a company called Cyclone Trading Co., an international golf supply business. One day while we were working together, Curtis confided in me one of his personal mental barriers in golf. For years he had told himself he was not a sub-80 golfer. He was certain that if he took private lessons and had plenty of practice time, got his hip rotation right, and ensured his mechanics were fluid he could maybe, just maybe, go sub-80 in three or four years. For Curtis, the solution was “work harder.” I didn’t buy it. I saw his talent. I saw this predicament as a perfect opportunity to show Curtis what he could do for himself with regard to both his game and his business attitudes: he just needed to break though mental barriers.

To spur him along, I issued an offer and a challenge: “Curtis, I’m going to prove to you that you are a sub-80 golfer. Not only will I do that, I will personally reward you for achieving your goal.”

The plan laid out was simple and far from original:  “You must visualize success on every shot. You must play one and only one shot at a time. You must decide whether your putt is a ‘get it close’ or a ‘make it in’ putt. You must focus on playing confidently but conservatively. The next few times we play I’ll walk you through each shot: club selection and positive reinforcement exercises. Finally, if you want the reward
you must hit in the 70s within three months, not three years.”

“You’re on,” Curtis agreed.

Three months later Curtis and I stood on the 18th hole of the Coral Canyon Golf Course near St. George, Utah. The previous evening had been spent putting for two hours, talking about mindset, practicing layups and up-and-down shots. After that, we ended with
a relaxing dinner – nothing stressful, just having fun. Now it was the next day, standing on the tee box at the 18th.

Curtis teed up and ripped off a smooth drive. The Pro-V1 bounced three times and rolled to the left center of the fairway. Pulling out a three iron he went through the same routine, but the ball sliced, ending up in the weeds. His wedge from the weeds got him within 10 feet of the flag for a chance at par. He pushed the putt, sliding it past the cup by three feet—no better than a bogey chance now. And then the moment arrived: an easy tap-in gave him a bogey. “Seventy-seven!” I shouted.

I knew all along that Curtis would do it, so I was not surprised. The win came because Curtis broke through his mental barrier. Standing on the 18th hole that day, Curtis discovered exactly what he was capable of: anything.

Porter’s Points – Breaking Through the Mental Barrier

  • Do not allow mental barriers to keep you from succeeding.
  • Visualize your success, paint the picture of where you want to be and then be the painting!
  • Don’t sell yourself short by believing your success requires a long, drawn-out process. With the right tools and mental attitude, success may be closer than you think.