Saturday, 20 August 2011

E-myth revisited review

    E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It [Paperback]   The E-myth revisited is a book I've been meaning to read for a while now. The E in E-myth stands for entrepreneur rather than electronic as you might guessed.

The author - Michael Gerber - starts with with some grim facts. Rather than being the way to the American dream - most small businesses fail or turn into a job ie the business ends up owning you rather than vice versa.  It's hard to dispute these - the small businessman who works all hours in a corner shop or launderette is almost an archetype.

But does he offer any real solutions? The answer is yes - but only at a fairly superficial level. Basically, you can sum up his philosophy like so: professionalise your business from the outset. It's great advice but not something unknown to me although perhaps very useful for a new business owner or one trapped in the archetypical corner shop desperate to get out.

He pays particular attention to the franchise model and suggests you follow their model of operation. So do to this you should describe all of the various roles in the company before you start up (even if you are the only one filling them!) and create documented systems incorporating as much automation as possible.  There is also some good advice around handling your first employees (delegation rather than abdication). All - perhaps uncommon - commonsense but very short on specifics.

One last thing, the book is mostly related as a conversation between Michael and a local baker he is helping out.  This adds a great deal of charm and makes it easy to take in the learning. It's a fairy tale for small but struggling business peeps everywhere.

Free books for Kindle gets a mention in the London Evening Standard

A friend of mine excitedly texted me a pic of page 43 of the yesterday's London Evening Standard.

It turns out that my book had been mentioned on their Letters page. It was a lovely surprise to finish the week on.

If you'd like to get a copy of my Free books for Kindle book yourself, check out the following links:

Buy it now at >
Buy it now at >

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Millionaire Fastlane review

The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime.I'm a compulsive reader.  The missus will often call up the stairs and ask what I'm what I'm up to and then sigh at the answer: "I'm reading". 

 The trouble is that after a while some of the books blur into one.  Was that killer quote in that book or this one?  And that brilliant idea - where exactly was it again?

Perhaps I am just getting old and forgetful. 

Anyhow I recently read something very useful. If you want to remember, you need to take action on the thing you read. And right next to it was another cool piece of advice - blogging about the key ideas in the book is a great way of installing (yep another computer analogy) the key ideas into your mind. 

This is all just a roundabout way of explaining the reason for writing this blog post.  The other reason is that MJ DeMarco has written an excellent book which deserves your reading consideration. 

The Millionaire Fastlane

The author is obsessed with fast cars - Lamborghinis in particular. Not the obvious choice for a diehard cyclist like myself but I'd heard a lot of good things so thought I'd persevere.  He uses this enthusiasm for fast cars and driving to tell the choices you can make in life about becoming wealthy:

  • Sidewalk
    Basically credit junkies who spend everything they earn (and more). They hope the lottery will make them rich.

  •  Slowlane
    Save 10% of your paycheck, take up a pension, be an employee. If you are lucky, you'll retire somewhat wealthy.

  • Fastlane
    Create a business but make sure it has a large potential market (or a small one willing to pay a lot), isn't dependent on you (or ideally any other human resource).  Then look to sell for a mint and live off the invested income.

MJ spends quite a bit of time blasting some of the get rich quick competition (suggesting most of them either focus on the slowlane or actually made their fortune through telling others how to become rich ie the old selling wheelbarrows to prospectors in a gold rush trick).

Finally, he spends a bit of time giving Tim Ferris of the Four Hour Work Week some friendly cuffing. He slams Tim on customer service in particular.  This is a shame and not entirely justified. The Four hour work week is actually good on this as Tim gets his customer care team to work to particular rules and says they can spend several times the cost of the product to resolve unforeseen problems using their own initiative. I suspect in real life, Tim and MJ would actually get on like a house on fire - their style and material is highly complementary.

The book is quite a slow burner but a compellingly enthusiastic and fairly fluff-free read. You really do get the impression he has actually lived this (which is not that surprising as he did have a very successful internet based limo business which he started from scratch).

He is very mathematically minded and the book is sprinkled with formula so beware if maths is a weakness. If shouldn't stop you reading, but you could find your attention that interesting piece of wall right over there.

But it's not until the later half that he starts to tell you the things he thinks you should focus on:
  • Superb customer service.
  • Working out what you can excel at (ie a USP).
  • Meeting people's needs with your product or service.
  • Creating a brand rather than a business.
  • Focusing on benefits rather than features.
  • One business - not many.
  • Time. You can always earn more money, you can't get more time. 
  • The income you need. Very similar to dreamlining in Four Hour Work Week - but much more in-depth.
  • Repeating or replicating success.
His technique for turning features into benefits was pretty useful to me. Basically, put yourself in the mind of the consumer and ask yourself what are the advantages of each feature.

The internet side was very appealing to me because it mirrors what I've learned through experience.  An internet based business lends itself to automation (or systematizing), can be low on human resource, can scale fairly easily and has a global market.

 More challenging was hearing I should focus more. I am the archetypal business butterfly - I think perhaps because I treat them as hobbies rather than a source of income.  I like to experiment - see what works (and how it can be applied to my day job), automate or dump it and move onto the next thing. This is perhaps fine if I want them to stay that way.  

Secondly, I should move away from being an affiliate or a publisher dependent on one source of income. This makes a huge amount of sense. I have been shafted by the dreaded overnight change in T&Cs before.  It's contributed a lot to my treating the whole thing as a hobby rather than a serious activity. 

In summary, I got an awful lot of this book. It came at exactly the right time for me. Sure, it is quite pricey (perhaps try the US for a secondhand copy rather than the UK) but worth it in my opinion.  It is really refreshing to read someone who has actually done it and offers more than just inspiration.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Are the conspiracy theorists right?

With all of the financial and political turmoil going on in the world - it's tempting to wonder is this all planned? Could it have been prevented? Why does history seem to be repeating itself again?

One of my hobbies is hanging out on what might be regarded as the more lunatic fringe of some economic discussion forums.   Amidst all of the lizards, hopes and dreams - a consensus kind of emerged a few years ago that was surprisingly prescient.  From around 2005-6 (some even earlier) some were saying - a big crash is coming. The credit bubble is the biggest the world has ever seen and it's going to end horribly. The really out there posters suggested it was going to be bad enough to take down entire countries.

Now I come a position of complete ignorance of the economic system but it seemed that what many on the boards were saying was a darn sight more helpful and insightful than the economic mantras perpetuated by the media and repeated by people I know.  I'm a natural contrarian so that probably also helped.

But the nuttier posters turned out to be right. 

The crash has come to pass and we appear to be lurching from crisis to crisis of generally increasing magnitude.  So to return to my earlier question - is it all part of some massive matrix like scheme?

I would really like to think so but I doubt it. In my limited experience, the powers that be are often not much different to you and I.  They are driven by many of the same things:
  • Greed
  • Fear
  • Desire to maintain/improve position in world
  • Short termist thinking
Let's pick just one of these. Short term thinking.

Despite our ability to reproduce - we think short term. Do we really care what happens to our children and their children? History suggests not as we always vote for Governments which look after us at the moment rather than our children.  Few will vote for something that will make their lives much less comfortable but their children's or grandchildren's far richer.

Short term thinking is rife. Many are really just living from paycheck to paycheck with nothing more than dreams rather than concrete plans to guide them. Public companies work from quarter to quarter or perhaps yearly results. Politicians work to the next election.

Perhaps a few - like the families which have been rich/powerful for generations - are guiding things over a longer term.  It would make sense. They have more to lose, have the time to have properly observe how things happen and the influence to make meaningful change.

But one has to ask that if this is the case - why do the bad economic things in history appear to repeat or at least rhyme so much?  It's either:
  • Accidental ie the rich and powerful forget the mistakes of the past as well.
  • Deliberate ie there is a grand plan.
  • Baked into the systems we create, the environment we live in and our DNA.
Personally, I think it comes down to a bit of planning to maintain their position, plenty of incompetence (or forgetfulness) and quite a bit is due to the systems and ourselves.

Basically, even the rich and powerful are bit sh*t when you look at it. And when things go wrong it is often down to cock-up rather than conspiracy.

What do you think?