Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson
This book is directed at entrepreneurs who are starting or have started their journey and have plans to create a large company.
Difficulty to digest:
This book is fairly easy to digest, and does a good job of breaking down the few business concepts that are covered. If you’re interested in business, you should be able to get some takeaways in a single read, though you may need several reads to fully digest it all.
Masterson breaks up building a business into four stages, based on the number of sales a company has. As a company progresses through the stages, there are different frameworks and focuses. In Ready, Aim, Fire we’re guided through each stage of business and given specifics about how to take your business to the next level.
In Stage 1 sales are everything, so figure out how to prove your concept as quickly as possible. They are the only thing that keeps your business alive and growing. To get sales you need to find the best strategy to gain customers. Look at what your competitors are doing, gather information, and use that to launch a slightly improved product.
Masterson then gives you a step by step formula for creating your USP (unique selling proposition) – how to create compelling copy around your product that arouses emotion by using benefits instead of features. Following his instructions should give you enough information about your USP to launch into marketing. The more specific you can be, the better.
A big focus in stage 1 is empowering your team around sales. Masterson recommends dropping your price if you have to in order to gain new customers. As you build a customer base and move into the million dollar sales mark, your company will develop into a stage 2 business.
Stage 2 is where you utilize the sales you already have to create new products as quickly as possible. This allows you to leverage all the customers you sold to during stage 1 on the back-end. Current customers like your products and want to buy more, so the more products you can create the more options your customers have.
At Stage 2 you need to foster a culture of innovation. Don’t worry about creating something completely new, instead look for an improvement on existing products. This proves there’s already a market. Masterson also recommends brainstorming often and provides a framework for a good session.
Speed is key, fail fast and often. Create a culture which pushes speed. Develop small market tests to determine efficiency and keep moving. Masterson then goes through a set of processes for pushing ideas quickly, while still adhering to some planning. Quality shouldn’t be sacrificed for speed, and overall the you should continually improve the product. Keeping customers happy keeps you in business longer term.
Sales Is Still Critical
Masterson then covers a list of 20 things to remember when marketing, as well as dispelling some myths. He provides a huge list of valuable frameworks around marketing to customers in a way that gives them what they want while still improving your company. He continues to outline exactly how to drastically increase sales of current customers by continually selling more to them. Since most purchases are based on wants, find people who want the product – not need it. That way you can satisfy their urges.
He gives the example of luggage, which he has purchased quite a bit of. Even though he doesn’t need more bags, he enjoys owning and collecting them. If the company only sold to his needs, he would have only been a one time customer. Since they sell to his wants, he continually purchases product.
Masterson also suggests ready, fire ,aim is a good strategy for life. If you want to do something, start doing it and learn as you go. Don’t get bogged down in the details, take action. As you do, you’ll be able to make adjustments and perfect what you’re doing along the way. If you don’t start, you can’t figure out where you’re missing and make improvements.
Masterson then moves into stage three, which are $10 million and beyond businesses. To create these kinds of businesses, you need to make your business more corporate and controlled. With that consolidation, stability arises. During stage three hiring great employees is pivotal.
He warns about bureaucracies, politicians, and bottlenecks developing in stage 3. As controls get tighter there is concern about the process slowing down, so business owners need to be wary of streamlining processes. In addition, political employees can start to arise, who only care about their career and the moves they make instead of the company. Masterson recommends getting rid of these employees either through coaching or termination.
The last chapter is stage four which basically says your business is large enough you can practically do whatever you want. You have to decide where you fit in and what you enjoy. You can be a wealth building if you want or move into other ventures.
Ready, Fire, Aim is more or less a blueprint for eventually creating a large business. If you’re looking to build a small business the first stage will probably be useful, however, as you get further into the book the advice is directed towards growing companies.
If you do decide to read this book and are just starting in your own entrepreneurial journey or have started, I recommend reading the entire book but really focusing on the stage you are in. The information within each stage is mostly applicable only to your current business size
ANSWER THE EXERCISES IN THE COMMENTS
Whether or not you’re looking to start your own business, how can you apply the philosophy of ready, fire, aim (which is to start projects with some preparation but not to perfect them) to your own life?
If you want to start a business, what stage are you in? How will you get yourself to the next stage?
Whether or not you have a business, how can you help eliminate bottlenecks in your line of work?