Monday, August 21, 2017

Lessons from Ryan Blair's Rock Bottom to Rock Star

I just finished devouring Ryan Blair's, Rock Bottom to Rock Star, a book I started reading for free at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago then decided to buy on Amazon.  Rock Bottom was one of those business and entrepreneurship books you have a hard time putting down.  The perfect combination of storytelling and sharing of wisdom.  Mr. Blair never shies away from disclosing his business and personal mistakes, and that's precisely what makes the book so valuable to the would-be entrepreneur.

Just who is Ryan Blair?  Despite the title of the book, Blair is a human being, like you and me.  Yes, he's made (and lost) millions of dollars throughout his career, owning and selling start-ups in broadband (Sky-Pipeline) and network marketing (ViSalus), but his words paint another picture.  He's a man that has had to make multiple business decisions, and often times he's gotten them wrong.  Only his work ethic, effective powers of reflection, and mentors have kept him from failing.

The man's life is interesting, and that's why the book works.  That's about as raw as a review can get.  The nuggets of advice you can extract from his commentary as he tells his most salient business stories are the icing on the cake.  And there are many.  I'm going to condense these lessons for you below, so that you can always have them at your disposal.  You're gonna love them if you're an entrepreneur or someone with CEO experience.

Chapter 1:

  • You are your own competition.  When you busy yourself celebrating your victories, you stop creating new opportunities.
  • Close the excuse department down.  Don't take them from you or anyone else. 

Chapter 2:

  • When you're at the bottom of a hole, you need to have tough conversations with yourself, and learn to fight your way out.
  • Be prepared both monetarily and psychologically to withstand loss.  Keep weathering the storm and trust that you will win in the end.  
Chapter 3:

  • To become successful you have to optimize your time.  The comfort of being part of the middle class is illusory.
Chapter 4:

  • Your secret weapon is whatever makes you or your work unique...whatever gives it a special signature.  Figure out what it is to become a rock star.
Chapter 5:

  •  Every entrepreneur must identify and understand what their "failure quotient" (the ability to fail and bounce back from it) is.  How capable are you of embarrassing yourself and letting other people down?
  • Be proud of your failures because they demonstrate to the world where you were knocked down and got back up again.
  • Don't obsess about goal setting.  Desire to achieve counts for much more.  Desire keeps you in the game.
Chapter 6:
  • Most entrepreneurs aren't the whole package.  They may be good at raising capital, or product development, or being an executive, but hardly ever are they all.  So identify what you're strong at and surround yourself with people who offset your weaknesses.
  • Figuring out your identity lets you say "yes" to the right things and "no" to the wrong ones.  "Focus is saying no."
  • It shouldn't take you years to crystallize and elevator pitch.  If you're struggling thinking of a concise statement that lets the world know what you do, pretend writing an email to somebody you admire so much you wouldn't want them to dismiss you.  (Don't send it obviously).
Chapter 7:
  • Have a process and action plan for launching products.  Leave no stone unturned, and deal with the rejection and criticism that comes with any launch.
  • Your entire team must be certain that you have the right plan to launch a product.  If there is uncertainty in the room, the product is destined for failure.
  • The Certainty Formula is, CEO's confidence in the product ( a number between 1 & 10) is equal to the average score in the room between 1 & 10.  If the team's average score is less than the CEO's, then the CEO has to convey his/her beliefs for the product through effective communication.
Chapter 8:
  • A CEO's number one job is to make sure he/she has enough money in the bank at all times.  If you can't do it through sales, then the preferred method is to go raise money.
Image result for ryan blair

Chapter 9:
  • If you bring in too many outsiders all at once, you better have a filter to determine who is aligned with your value system and who isn't.
  • When a board member suggests a consultant to you, sometimes you should say, no.  The unscrupulous ones may be actually gathering intel on you and plotting ways to insert themselves into your position.
  • Social support and engagement is a key way of getting people to use your products.
  • Rebuilding your business adds to your foundation, and provides you with better instincts and a deeper understanding of your customer.  If you don't rebuild, someone else will build a business to take you out of business.
  • Reinventing yourself also as a leader is the rule.  Think Madonna!  You will have a longer trajectory if you reinvent yourself to remain worthy of your followers' attention.
Chapter 10
  • You can't hire your way out of problems.  The solutions are in your business model.
  • As entrepreneurs, you should design your company around your personality, and try finding people who can accept and work with your personality.
Chapter 11
  • If you should ever be lucky enough to be able to file for IPO status and are meeting with Wall Street bankers and venture capitalists, watch out for the "pretty" sales pitch they give you.
  • The "number" you'll get offered for your ownership stake will undoubtedly come with terms.  Terms that when unraveled, turn your apparent good deal into a really bad one.
  • Don't let the Wall Street lawyers bait your ego.  Keep your poker face on at all times.
Chapter 12
  • Along with thinking about the best thing that can happen to your business, you must consider the outcome of the worst thing happening to your business and how you'd respond.
  • Business is a constant war.  Your competitors will target your strategies to find your weaknesses and then exploit them.
  • Growing your business out of control without the right processes in place will break you down.  How do you "slow your roll"?  You can raise prices, delay shipment, e.g.
Chapter 13
  • You're never really autonomous or free in business because there are still a bunch of people who depend on you.
  • Never strive to have absolute autonomy in your company...otherwise you're a company of one.
Chapter 14
  • Money can help you check off a whole lot of (must have, must do) boxes.  But sometimes those boxes are empty.
  • Own your image and brand.  It's okay to expose your thorns.  These hardships you faced will set you apart from others.
  • It's okay to care what people think of you, but never let lesser people get to you.
Chapter 15
  • The fastest way to achieve personal or self-growth is through suffering, whether self-imposed or delivered by the hand of God.
  • Suffering is the greatest teacher.  What makes you weak will one day make you strong and vice versa.
Chapter 16
  • There's no book you can read or seminar you can take for how to be strong.  Someone has to model strength for you.  If you're the leader, it's up to you to model strength to others.
  • Pretending you're not living in the same world as others doesn't help you lead them.
  • Entrepreneurs must learn to compartmentalize their lives.  It's the only way one can deal with life-changing events while still carrying on the functions of a business.  Survival has to be learned; it's not a lesson they teach you in business school.
This is a book you'll want in your library of great business and entrepreneurship books.  Blair's narrative is insightful and vulnerable at times, giving the reader an emotional connection.  He gets deep and philosophical when writing about having the burden of taking his mother off life support after a fall that left her gravely injured.  Miraculously, she came out of her coma.  Blair reminds us all that there is no better time like the present for making deep connections with your loved ones.

Speaking of loved ones...I have some kids I have to play with before bedtime.  So I'll be seeing you on the next post!  Deuces!

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