We all look to currently successful people and try to deduce what it is that they have done to achieve the success they have. We’re particularly fascinated by those who started with little and have become millionaires. That’s why Business Brilliant is an appealing book to read — it’s all about the things millionaires do and how they think compared to those who are less successful.
In the coming pages, you will see how Business Brilliance, just like football brilliance, has little to do with IQ or education. You will learn how Richard Branson became a billionaire because he can’t read a financial spreadsheet.
It’s written for those who want to learn those wealth-building techniques and mindsets of the successful people in the world.
Do I think anyone who reads this book can become a millionaire? Of course not. Even Prince (the researcher*) has serious doubts about the ability of ordinary people to learn and adopt his wealth-building techniques. But this book is not written for just anyone. It’s written for a very special segment of the population: the millions of educated and intellectually curious people who have made a good living playing by rules that might not be working very well for them anymore. *Added by me
The whole book is based on the 7 Business Brilliant techniques author Lewis Schiff has pulled together out of a survey to which he continually refers back. He contends that with these seven techniques most people can raise their income and maybe one day become a millionaire.
Here’s a quick summary of the 7 Business Brilliant techniques.
1. Do what you love, but follow the money.
Schiff says that millionaires don’t follow the old saying about following your passion and the money will follow. Instead, he contends they start doing work they enjoy, and as it generates money, they follow the money to the actual work they do.
Almost all of the people she profiled for her book were following the money and doing it gladly. It wasn’t about chasing the almighty buck for them. It was about growing their livelihoods and creating services and things of value to other people.
The biggest takeaway in this chapter is actually the concept of ownership of your work. Having been approached for book contracts on more than one occasion, the big issue for me was that the publisher wanted so much control over any of my future work, so I said no. At least in that I have the same mindset as the millionaires cited in Business Brilliant.
The Business Brilliant survey found that 8 in 10 self-made millionaires have a substantial ownership stake in their work, while 1 in 10 say that although they don’t have ownership now, they are seeking it.
There is a wide gap of experience here between middle-class self-made millionaires in this respect. Among the middle class, just 1 in 10 have an ownership stake in their work, and just 2 of 10 say they are seeking it. But here is the survey result I find much more interesting. More than 6 out of 10 also agree that owning a stake in one’s work is important.
It’s not all about the money though. Much research has shown that companies that only focus on money and monetary incentives with their employees have less productive work environments.
Work environments that are driven by monetary incentives and close supervision tend to sap worker enthusiasm for tasks that they might otherwise find interesting. Productivity can drop because employees feel an overwhelming need to reassert their personal sense of autonomy. So they get passive, withhold their input, or fail to give a full effort.
For you, look for what Dan Miller calls the Three-Legged Stool for your business. That means your business needs, passion, money, and skill. If you’re missing any one of those legs you’re not building a business that’s going to tap into your maximum success.
2. Save less, earn more.
To self-made millionaires, financial success is achieved by increasing what comes in, not restricting what goes out.
This may be the point I have the most trouble with. As so many people today are holding massive amounts of debt, the idea that they should keep spending and just ‘earn more’ is very appealing. While I agree that in general you can almost always earn more than you are, using that as a license to keep spending unchecked is pure folly.
Instead, earn more and put together a proper budget so that you know where every penny is going every month. Otherwise those pennies will escape faster than you can earn them.
3. Imitate, don’t innovate.
Did you know that Microsoft didn’t really start out as an operating system manufacturer? They started writing programming languages and making sure they ran on the popular operating system of the time. When IBM needed new computers with an operating system, and the popular operating system wasn’t willing to accommodate IBM’s needs, they asked Bill Gates if he could deliver — and he did. He copied much of the popular operating system and thus the Microsoft we know today was born.
The same story goes with Apple and the iPod or the iPhone. They weren’t first to market. They sat back and watched the market then copied most of what people were doing and did it better. The people who captured the beginning of the market are long gone or mostly irrelevant now. Who still has a Palm Pilot or a Blackberry in their pocket? Almost no one in the case of Blackberry, and no one in the case of Palm.
By Berkun’s estimation, (in The Myths of Innovation) inventors face such long odds because every innovation needs to overcome eight distinct development hurdles involving design, financing, and marketing before it can achieve financial success. When the odds of overcoming each are set at a somewhat generous 50-50, the change of overcoming all eight is an infinitesimal four-tenths of 1 percent… (content in brackets mine)
Speaking of Gates and Microsoft and their ability to deliver on time, under crunch, the authors of The Myths of Innovation say:
It’s a proven recipe for success, but it’s hardly a magic formula. The difficult part of the recipe, one frequently encountered by Microsoft in its dealings with IBM, is executing in the face of adversity.
While you may dream of being that lone inventor that revolutionizes the world, it’s likely that’s not where the money is. They money is in finding something decent, and then making it amazing and deliver it to consumers.
4. Know-how is good, but “know-who” is better.
About 6 out of 10 self-made millionaires reported that it’s important to get others to invest with them. Less than 4 in 10 believe in the need to risk any of one’s own capital at all. People who have already achieved significant financial success understand that self-made does not mean self-financed.
This is the second section that makes me feel most uncomfortable. Much of it seems like the big VC funding bubble that’s currently going around. Come up with the idea and get others to invest in it. Then sit back and … success. Sadly this is rarely what happens, and we glorify the few companies that actually make it through the gauntlet to the other side of funding.
Another underlying concept in the chapter is to leverage your network, and to have a strong network. This is exactly what it takes to succeed. One of the amazing things about my friend Chris Lema is how many people he knows and who he can connect you with if you ask him. That wealth of contacts makes him a go-to person.
5. Win-win is a loser.
In any relationship, especially a business relationship, the person with the least interest in continuing the relationship is the one with the greatest power for setting its terms.
A well-known sales maxim says that if you need the sale, it’s much harder to get it. That’s what this whole chapter is talking about. Really successful people are ready to walk away from a deal with the attitude that they don’t really need it.
This is the freelancer that is so busy you’ll be lucky to get booked into their call schedule some time in the next month. They’re purposely hard to get in touch with and get on the project, which makes them the least interested party and thus the one with most leverage.
Getting yourself into that position as a business owner is one of the keys to running a successful business. Get comfortable with losing the sale — another better project will come along.
6. Spread the work, spread the wealth.
A while ago I looked at the book The Big Leap, which talked all about your zones of operation. Spreading the work in Business Brilliant is just like your Zone of Genius in The Big Leap. Successful people give away anything they’re not amazing at so they can focus on their zone of genius.
Nearly 9 out of 10 self-made millionaires said that when it comes to tasks they are not exceptionally good at, they are very likely to delegate those tasks to people who do them better. By contrast, among middle-class respondents, two-thirds said that when faced with such tasks, they would likely “do those tasks anyway.” This approach is often a mistake that you can end up paying for twice. The final result is probably not as good as it could have been, and even if it is, you’ve expended time and energy that would have been better spent on things you do well.
This is maybe one of the harder transitions that small businesses need to work through. At first you have to do so much as you get the business off the ground. It’s so easy to keep doing all those tasks instead of continuing the process of focusing your attention on only the things that you’re amazing at. But if you want to be successful, you need to give away some of your tasks every year and keep focusing on what you and only you can do in the business.
7. Nothing succeeds like failure.
Whatever line of work you’re in, if you seek to follow the path of Business Brilliance you will suffer some setbacks and failures. That’s because that path will present you with challenges that scare off most others in your field. Going where others fear to tread is what sets you apart.
Who strives for failure? Who even looks at failure as a good thing? We’re taught in school that trying and failing is still failing, and we’re marked/rewarded accordingly.
Successful people take each failure and figure out what went wrong. They make a few adjustments and try again. Then if that doesn’t work, they make a few more adjustments and try again.
Each failure is a step towards success, not something that’s life ending. If you want to be successful in the face of the odds stacked against you, you need to adopt the mindset to learn from your mistakes and then … try again.
And that’s the 7 Business Brilliant Techniques that Schiff says we need to learn. The only problem is that the most useful part of the book is still coming. He really buried the lede by sticking his 17 Essential Actions at the end of the book. Yes, they all relate to the 7 Business Brilliant techniques he’s walked us through, but seriously, just start reading at Chapter 9 and get his 17 Essential Actions. Then if you’re still interested, go back and read the first eight chapters.
Here’s a list of the 17 Essential Actions that help you achieve the 7 Business Brilliant Techniques.
- Write down your goals.
- Commit to what you do best.
- Follow the money.
- Climb the line-of-money ladder.
- Run the numbers.
- Protect your bottom line.
- Press your advantage.
- Plan the divorce in advance.
- Keep your network small and focused.
- Manage your network upward.
- Build a team.
- Get a coach.
- Make friends with failure.
- Keep your changes to yourself.
- Try, try, try, try again.
- Don’t procrastinate.
- Make your own luck.
There is much to love about this book, but if you’re going to read it, as I said above, start with Chapter 9. Then if you’re still interested, go back and read the rest of the book. True, you’ll miss interesting stories about business owners like Bill Gates and Richard Branson, but the real takeaways are in the last chapter.