Derek Sivers

Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur - by Stuart Skorman

Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur - by Stuart Skorman

ISBN: 0787987328
Date read: 2010-12-24
How strongly I recommend it: 1/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Personal tales, almost an autobiography, of someone who created a wide range of businesses, both successful and not. Some insights along the way, but not many surprising ones. I'd recommend “How to Get Rich” by Felix Dennis instead, also reviewed on this website.

my notes

Each time, I introduced a new business model to the industry and strove to enrich my customers' lives in some way. When my business was up and running and growing, I couldn't wait to move on and invent something else.

The essence of an entrepreneur is the die-hard belief that we are the only one able to make things happen.

Starting a business is often an act of desperation. Entrepreneurs are desperate for success and accomplishment. Desperation pushes us to take huge risks, leave comfort and security behind, and allow a business to consume our lives.

To make sure their customers knew Miracle Mart was the cheapest store in town, they charged only a nickel for a bottle of Coca-Cola when the same bottle was a dime everywhere else. Deeply discounting Coke, a product everyone knew the price of, gave customers the impression that everything in the store was a steal.

If, while driving down the street, we passed a vacant lot, he'd say, "That'd make a great spot for a hamburger place," or "I haven't seen a car wash for five miles. That's what this neighborhood needs: a car wash." He was always right.

Know you need a mentor. The more ambitious you are, the more help you'll require. Prioritize a mentoring relationship. Seek out a good mentor just as you'd seek out a great location, a favorable contract, or a business partner. Make a list of the qualities you'd like to find in a mentor, and don't settle for the first person who comes along.

What can you do to return the favor? Your contribution may be something as simple as cleaning your mentor's office or doing errands-look for a need your mentor has and fill it.

Always be on the lookout for mentors; they may be in unlikely places. Join a professional organization. The more you circulate in your chosen field, the more likely you are to bump into potential mentors.

If you start any business counting the hours you work or limiting the tasks you're willing to shoulder, your business will fail.

(On being a band manager:) I got smart enough to ignore my taste in music. Instead I stuffed cotton in my ears, sat on the stage, and watched the audience. A band's success can be predicted by the audience's reaction.

Learning how to focus on my customers' tastes rather than my own was an important, early business lesson that has served me well. Any successful businessperson knows you have to do whatever it takes to get objective market research. Just spouting off about what you think the market wants or needs isn't good enough.

Being a musician and making a living as one are two different things. If you want to earn a living, you must get paid by someone who values your services. The question entertainers need to ask themselves is not, Are we talented? but, Do we have drawing power?

I left the music business at age 25 and retired. This was the start of a work pattern I continued all the way up to age fifty-seven: busting my butt for two or three years, burning out, and following up with a quiet period where I rest up for my next big adventure.

When creating a new business, design it to attract publicity from the beginning. Think about your business idea from a public relations standpoint. Can the business get good press? Is there a story? Is it topical? Is the business something people will want to read about? One of the most important PR decisions is your business's name and tagline. Before christening your business, ask yourself, Does the name get people's attention? Does it have positive associations? Does it sound authentic? Can the name help get us good press? Don't be afraid to choose a name that some people hate. You want something a little edgy because people respect a businessperson who takes risks.

Watch out for enthusiasts without experience; they are often better customers than workers.

If a job similar to the one you are filling isn't listed on an applicant's resume, tread carefully. People who haven't held similar positions in the past might not know enough about themselves to realize they won't be happy.

I was out to understand what made these stubborn small-town entrepreneurs tick.

when a customer says he returned a movie but the store's computer can't find it. The employee was trained to say, "No problem, our mistake," and to note the discrepancy on the customer's file. We had a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.

30+ years of business wisdom into a single lesson: get to know your customers.

Let people with the best resumes make the decisions. Of course, a company's leader ultimately must take responsibility for the decision, but the best leaders let themselves be heavily influenced by advisers with the appropriate experience and training.

Decide whether you belong in the game.

I'm not a gambler. Professional poker players approach the game as a business. They recognize that gambling is bad for business.

to gamble is to rely on luck instead of facts. The professionals cash in by waiting for gamblers to come along.

What if there are no businesses to study? Say you've done your homework, canvassed the landscape, and no one is doing what you're proposing. Usually that's bad news, which means you should take a step back. There are millions of smart people in the world. We all have access to the same information and therefore all hatch similar ideas. Most likely, there are reasons that someone has not already capitalized on your idea. Figureout what the roadblocks are before you get started.

I was a success, which meant the challenge was over and it was time for me to move on.

Be AggressiveAggressive poker players win by scaring other players into making mistakes. In business, one way to succeed is to scare your competitors.

wait until you have great cards before playing, so your odds of winning aremuch better than those of people who play every hand they are dealt. In business, this practice translates as being conservative. For instance, opening up a franchise might be a smarter move than starting a company from scratch.

Half of succeeding in business is being in the right place at the right time; the other half is recognizing that time when it comes.

Base your decision on logic, not emotion. Many people let feelings and passion steer them toward a business, but don't let your heart call the shots. Starting a business is a logical decision. Stay focused on the important questions: Who are you? Where do you fit? Who are your competitors?Stick with the familiar. Choose something that feels comfortable. If it doesn't feel like a natural fit for your skills and personality, pick something else.Prioritize fun. If you don't enjoy your work, you won't succeed. Look for a business with the potential to be deeply satisfying.

Enter an established field. If your business idea is 100 percent original, there is a reason that no one else is doing it. Look around at what other businesspeople are doing. What works for them, and what doesn't? Both mistakes and innovations are best learned by watching others make them first.

Focus on short-term goals. Don't get ahead of yourself. Forget about designing a business for the next decade; instead, design it for the next year.

Unless you are focused on profit when you design your business, it will probably fail.

if an idea is obvious but nobody else has tried it, there is probably a good reason.

borrow as much as you can from others. Don't look for out-of-the-box solutions. Find other people who are either doing what you want to do or doing pieces of your plan. Nothing is so new that someone hasn't already mastered parts of it.

Nine times out of ten, someone has already solved the puzzle you are flummoxed over.

In other professions, mistakes can be a disaster; surgeons, lawyers, and accountants are paid a premium for perfection. But mistakes are a daily part of life for serial entrepreneurs.

When you start a business, you need to focus on profit

If you prioritize helping people, your attention won't be on making money, and your business will fail.

pick a model where helping people is profitable.

the education business, an industry where making a profit is notoriously difficult,

I was a rich guy buoyed by the security and comfort of my wealth. I was no longer hungry or desperate, two qualities a start-up CEO needs.