Friday, January 11, 2013

Start at the End

Dave Lavinsky, co-founder and president of Growthink, has a new book out called “Start at the End”.  Below are his top 12 tips, with a little commentary from me.  Start at the End is available for $7.95 shipping costs at

1.     Start at the end – if you don’t know where you want your business to go, you’ll never get there.

William – There are many good outcomes for a business if you’re open to them.  In a consulting business, for example, you may be willing to make less than your ultimate goal if you are traveling to interesting places, learning new technology or get to work with interesting people or on progressive projects.  However, as Dave mentions, it is important to establish that “true north” for your business – and subgoals that mark the milestones to get there.

2.     SWOT analyses are obsolete; realize there will always be threats and company weaknesses that don’t warrant fixing. Rather, focus on opportunities that leverage your strengths (SO analysis), and build your strengths further so they give you sustainable long-term advantage

William – Great advice!

3.     Forget your P&L; that’s short-term thinking; need to also think longer-term; building business assets that allow you grow your business and reap better P&L later and forever.

William – I’m not too keen on this one.  The P&L shows the funds that are sustaining the business.  If your efforts are not yielding a positive P&L, pretty soon you won’t have a business.  Be agile.  Find a way to make the concept deliver P&L early and often, even if you are building to a larger payday later.

4.     If your business doesn’t have a scorecard, you will lose EVERY time. Your scorecard needs to include the detailed KPIs that underly your revenue and profit results.

William – Absolutely.  And that scorecard could be multi-faceted, but don’t let it get too complex that it gets overwhelming.  Usually a few key metrics are all that is needed and the rest will naturally drag along.

5.     If your business doesn’t operate without you, it’s not a business; it’s a miserable job. You must systematize your business so it works for you, not vice-versa.

William – I get it!  Work yourself out of a job.  Your time is the most uber-valuable thing you have and if you have to spend it operating a business you don’t like, then life is hard.  However, the “job” could be (and should be) something better than miserable if you happen to be operating it.

6.     The most important marketing metric in a business is PPI – profit per impression.  To maximize it, you need a fully optimized marketing system.

William – Flies in the face of the “this is a numbers business”.  This is worth thinking about, although Grant Cardone, sales expert, says (paraphrased) that your #1 problem is not enough people know about you and what you do. 

7.     Business owners don’t need more leads (even though all of them think this will solve all their problems). Rather, they need a better marketing system that converts leads into lifelong customers.

William – There’s no doubting that you’d better be ready to deliver, but generating leads is a huge problem for most.  When you convert one, it better pay off, which is probably Dave’s point.

8.     Most business owners don’t have even one organization or “org” chart when in fact you need to have 3 to succeed.

William – I haven’t read the book to know what these 3 are, but I’ll be interested in finding out.  I agree with the concept that the team needs to know who to go to for any need.

9.     Successful business owners don’t run businesses. They have employees that run their businesses; they grow them. To be successful, you need to build an org chart that includes the necessary personnel and structures to allow your business to run without you.

William – Yes, see #5 above.

10.  Because of poor management, most small business owners’ employees focus on the wrong things. Ask your employees how they think their performance should be judged, and make sure that agrees with your thinking. If employees don’t understand what success is, they can’t possibly achieve it.

William – Excellent point, but let this Q&A be non-judgmental and if you ask, be open to the answer as input to your view of how their performance should be judged.

11.  Business owners should stop innovating. Rather, do more of the things that are proven to work and less of the things that haven’t worked. Avoid shiny object syndrome of constantly wanting to try the latest thing.

William – I get the spirit of this – play up your strengths.  Just make sure you don’t avoid shiny objects at the expense of innovation.  I need to make half my revenue this year doing things for which I made nothing last year.

12.  Humble yourself by building an advisory board. You’ll be amazed by what other successful people know that you don’t.

William – This is one of the key functions to do outside of direct business-making functions.