Books Business Marketing

How to Grow Your Small Business: A 6-Step Plan to Help Your Business Take Off

Author: Donald Miller

My Rating: 3/5

Summary: A tactical book explaining different frameworks works that’s newish entrepreneurs can leverage to grow their small business.

My Takeaways

Think of building a business as building a plane

You want to build a business proportional to the other areas of your business similar to how you engineer a safe plane

Craft a compelling mission statement for your business that includes 3 specific economic outcomes that are measurable, timebound so the business can know if they achieved the mission and reasons why the mission is important to build connection to the business.

Humans like transformation.

Create 3 key characteristics that are more specific than core values. This guides the business and informs who to hire.

Continue to find ways to bring the mission front and center in everything you do. All hands meetings, posters, shoutouts etc

Survive and thrive for marketing messages.

Create simple messaging

Put your customer at the center of the story where they are the hero. Humans are evolved to survive and stories are the way to get your attention.

4. Create a 3 step plan.
5. Call your customer to action. Buy now button on your website is like a cash register

6. Make the hero avoid failure

Give the customers stakes. The stakes are what the customer will do if they fail to buy the product or succeed if they buy it. What negative consequences will my customers avoid.


7 Experience success. Tell them about the positive ramifications when the customer buys a product.

Start with the problem
Position your product as the solution
Offer a three step plan to alleviate any fears and transition them into a better future life. Build a bridge from the customer’s problem to your solution.

Create a sense of urgency. And the state states.

Give the customer a clear call to action with that offer they can except or reject so that they don’t have to think about next steps.

Sales isn’t about pushing, it’s about clarity.

Schedule 5 different meetings

Have 5 different business bank accounts for daily operations, taxes, profit, investing.

Books Business Marketing Product Management Technology

Steve Jobs

Author: Walter Isaacson

My Rating 5/5

Summary: A candid biography of one of the most influential innovators in technology.

My Takeaways

Steve refused to accept automatically perceived truths and wanted to examine everything himself.

“Pretend to be completely in charge and people will assume you are.”

Steve Jobs was incredibly persistent 

Jobs and Wozniak had completely different personalities and skill sets that complimented each other perfectly. 

Apple did not have this glorious start to their business in the mid 70s that people assume.

Jobs cared about craftsmanship and paid attention to the details others didn’t. 

It seems like Jobs looked for people to work with that had a chip on their shoulder. 

Jobs was instilled with the belief that you should never start a company with the goal of getting g rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last. 

They wrote a philosophy that stressed 3 things:

  1. Empathy: an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer
  2. Focus: in order to do a good job of the things we decide to do, we must remove all unimportant opportunities. 
  3. Impute: emphasized the people form an opinion about a company or product based on the signals that it conveys.( people do judge a book by its cover, so we need to present in a creative and professionally manner that will impute the desired qualities. This translated into every aspect of the product experience including packaging. 

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

In the early days, Steve would only hire people who were passionate about the product. 

One of Jobs’ management philosophies was that it was crucial every now and then to roll the dice and “bet the company” on some new idea or technology.

Lasting companies know how to reinvent themselves. 

One of Steve Jobs’ strengths is his ability to focus. Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do. 

Steve hated powerpoints and said that people who know what they’re talking about don’t need powerpoints. 

Apple had tons of products and Steve simplified it. 

“Skate to where the puck is going”

Apple has deep collaboration across departments 

‘A’ players recruit and like to work with other ‘A’ players. 

The hiring process involved candidates meeting with hire ups on different departments. 

Apple made the iPod for themselves because they love music. If you love something, you’re going to go the extra mile and challenge the status quote. This is why the Microsoft Zune failed. 

The reason Sony and othe companies failed to compete with Apple in making a portable music player is because their were silos in division with they’re own bottom line and didn’t work together

Apple doesn’t have divisions with its own P&L, just one. 

“Jobs stressed that if you don’t cannablize yourself, someone else will.” iPhone vs iPod. Other companies such as Sony were worried about cannibalization. 

Jobs demands end to end control of the user experience hardware software and content.

Steve Jobs was brilliant at turning down the thousands of opportunities that wouldn’t make an impact and only focusing on the two or 3 that are important.

Steve’s genius is that he knows how to make things simple, and that requires controlling everything. 

Apple believes that technology alone isn’t enough. It’s technology married with humanities that yield results. 

Steve Jobs personality was mean. He did not sugarcoat things. This hindered him in many relationships but did serve a purpose. Polite leaders are generally not as effective at forcing change. It forced people to do things they didn’t think were possible. 

Jobs was a master at seeing the big picture and focusing on the details. 

Jobs created Apple to build great products, not pursue profit. John Scully flipped this around which had huge implications in what was discussed at meetings and who was hired.

Apple’s approach is to figure what people want before they do. 

Steve’s theory on why successful companies decline is because sales people run them and not product people. (Steve Ballmer at Microsoft)

Steve wanted to build a lasting company that would stand generations from now. 

Steve does not sugarcoat things and created a culture of honesty at Apple.

Companies need to keep evolving like musicians (Dylan and the Beatles)

Books Business Marketing

Launch: How to Sell Almost Anything Online, Build a Business You Love, and Live the Life of Your Dreams

Author: Jeff Walker

My Rating: 3/5

Summary: A small business owner’s interesting and very tactical approach to launching and monetizing new products via content marketing.

My Takeaways

The Product Launch Formula is a system to get your target market so engaged with your product (or business) that they almost beg you to sell it to them. And this all happens before you even release the product.

YOUR MARKET IS A CONVERSATION. So instead of shouting at your prospects, what if you engaged them in a conversation?

Template: Hey, I’ve got this really cool new technique I can use to teach anyone to play one new song each week, and I just had this idea to put together a course that teaches my “secret” method. (Actually, I don’t know if it’s a secret, but I’ve never seen anyone else use this method. I showed it to a few friends, and it works really well—like, I can’t believe the results my students are getting.) In any case, before I create the course, I want to make sure I cover everything. So can you help me out and tell me what your #1 challenge is when you’re trying to learn to play an entire song?

Opening a dialogue with your potential clients is an example of what I call “the shot across the bow,” and it’s a great way to start your Prelaunch campaign.

At its heart, Product Launch Formula is made up of sequences, stories, and triggers.

Our product launches use a series of sequences—the Pre-Prelaunch, the Prelaunch, the Open Cart, and the Post-Launch.

The Pre-Prelaunch is also used to judge how receptive the market will be to your offer and to figure out some of the primary objections people will have.

Prelaunch: This is the heart and soul of your sequencing, where you gradually romance your market with three pieces of high-value Prelaunch Content. You use your Prelaunch to activate mental triggers such as authority, social proof, community, anticipation, and reciprocity, and you do all that while answering the objections of your market. Typically, you release your Prelaunch Content over a period of 5 to 12 days. The format for that content can vary widely, from videos to podcasts to email to written PDF reports to webinars to live broadcasts

Open Cart: This is the big day you’ve been building up to, the day you actually send the offer for your product or service out into the world and start taking orders. I call this “Open Cart” because you’re “opening the shopping cart.”

Post-Launch: This is the cleanup sequence, where you follow up with both your new clients and the prospects who didn’t buy from you. The Post-Launch isn’t as exciting as the other sequences, but it’s important because that’s where you deliver value and build your brand. And if you do it right, the Post-Launch starts to set up your next launch.

If you want to make your business and your marketing memorable, then your marketing needs to tell a story.

There is no better way or better place to tell your story than in your launch sequence. This is one of the hidden weapons of PLF, because the most powerful way to communicate your message is with a story, and the serial nature of your Prelaunch Sequence is a perfect place to tell that story.

Even the launch itself has three primary sequences: Pre-Prelaunch, Prelaunch, and launch.

Those are just three mental triggers: scarcity, authority, and community.

You layer these mental triggers, one on top of another, so you’re not dependent on any one trigger but combining them to create a powerfully influential message. You embed those mental triggers into a compelling and memorable story that cuts through the marketing fog, a story that connects your offer to the hopes, dreams, fears, and aspirations of your future customer. And you deliver that story in a tight sequence that turns your launch into a big event that captures your prospects’ imaginations and builds anticipation toward your launch day.

I want my readers to feel like they have a personal connection with me. That connection is what gets them to open my emails, read my emails, and ultimately click on the links in my emails.

A little surprise bonus or personal touch can really go a long way.

Instead of taking 8 or 12 or 20 pages to tell the story in a long, vertical sales letter, I flipped the sales process on its side. Instead of pages, I used days. Instead of a 10-page sales letter, I used a 10-day sequence. Instead of one superlong letter, I split it up into a series of contacts over a number of days. I call those contacts Prelaunch Content or PLC.

I used great sequential content and the power of story to pull the prospect into my sales message. Instead of delivering the equivalent of a superlong monologue, I turned the whole process into a conversation—a Launch Conversation.

The mental triggers (along with your sequences and your launch story) form the very cornerstone of your successful product launch.

Reciprocity is the idea that if someone gives something to us, we will feel some obligation to give them something in return.

Building trust is the ultimate shortcut to becoming influential in someone’s life.

Time makes it much easier to trust people.

Anticipation is one of the triggers that allow you to cut through the marketing fog. It lets you grab your market’s attention and not let go.

Anticipation is also closely tied to the “event” trigger, where you’re circling a date on the calendar and focusing all your attention on it.


Community is a very powerful mental trigger.

Scarcity is one of the most powerful mental triggers in existence, period. It’s simple—when there is less of something, we want it more. In reality, it’s the perception of scarcity that motivates us.

There has to be some negative consequence if people don’t take action and buy before the end of the launch (for instance, the price could go up after the launch).

Generally at the beginning of your Prelaunch you start with a powerful piece of content that sets up the overall promise and opportunity of the launch. When you share strong, compelling content at the start of your Prelaunch, you instantly develop authority.

You’re testing the market’s level of interest in your product idea. You’re trying to surface potential objections so you can answer them during your Prelaunch. Finally, you’re gathering information to help finalize your product offer.

Your Pre-Prelaunch Sequence is all about grabbing your market’s attention without actually trying to sell them anything at all. “How can I figure out what their objections are to this product?”

Email Template 1; EMAIL SUBJECT: Quick announcement and a favor… EMAIL BODY: NAME here. We’ll be sending your Trading Update in just a little bit. But first I need to ask you a favor. We’re really close to wrapping up our long-awaited trading manual. We will be releasing it in early January. But before we do, I have to ask you a couple of questions. Can you help us out? You can answer the questions here (and get a little more detail on the trading manual) at this link: Thanks and best regards, Jeff

Email Template 2: Hi, We’re VERY close to finishing our long-awaited Trading Manual. We have been working on this for more than four years, but we are finally going to wrap it up. We will be releasing it in early January. This course will be entirely focused on “Support and Resistance.” It will include two printed manuals, eight audio CDs, and one video tutorial DVD. It is going to be a complete brain dump of everything that we know about “SUPPORT and RESISTANCE.” We are going to cover all the ways that we use to generate our support and resistance zones, and we are going to show you exactly how we trade those zones. HOWEVER, we need your help. Before we finalize everything and send it off to the printer, we need to make sure we have covered everything. That is where you come in. Please take a few minutes to answer this super-short survey—there is really only one thing we want to ask you . . . What are your two top questions about Support and Resistance that we absolutely NEED to answer in our trading course?

Your Prelaunch Sequence will generally have three pieces of Prelaunch Content

The framework for the overall story arc is that you start off teaching people about the opportunity for change or transformation. You follow that up with some solid teaching, and you show that transformation or change. Finally, you give the “ownership experience.” This is where you start to pivot to talking about your product and the impact it will make on your prospective client.

Video content often has a higher perceived value than other types of content.


The bottom line is you need to focus on the end benefit that your product will create for your prospect. At the most basic level, you are either taking away some pain from your client, or you’re delivering some pleasure.

People aren’t so interested in the actual tool. The tool is just a means to get that result, and that’s what you want to sell them.

Show the opportunity. Show/tell your prospect how their life is going to change with your product. Position your authority. Show/tell why they should listen to you. Teach. It’s important not to just go on and on about the opportunity; you have to deliver value.

Raise objections and either answer them or promise to answer them in upcoming videos. No matter what your offer is, there will be objections. You need to face them head on. Foreshadow PLC #2. Let them know there’s another video coming, and spark their desire by revealing some of the really cool stuff they’re going to learn in PLC #2. Call to action. Ask for a comment on your Prelaunch pages or in social media.

If PLC #1 is all about the “why,” your second piece of Prelaunch Content is all about the “what”—what is this transformation or opportunity and how is it going to change or transform your prospects’ lives?

PLC #1 was the “why” and PLC #2 was the “what.” Now, in PLC #3, you will start to answer the “how” question.

PLC #3 is about them taking ownership of that future change. It’s about having them really feel and understand that they can have that transformation.

One of the important things you should do throughout your Prelaunch Sequence is to build excitement and tension. Think of it like a movie or a novel.

Express thanks and excitement.

Quickly recap the opportunity and your positioning.

Possibly present a short case study,

Answer the top questions you’ve been getting.

Explain the big view and how to make it happen.

Pivot to your offer and create a soft landing.

Seed the scarcity of your launch offer.

Call to action.

PLC #1: Opportunity PLC #2: Transformation PLC #3: Ownership PLC #4 (or Open Cart): Enrollment

Bottom line, your future clients have to enroll in their new and enhanced future selves. And your messaging during Open Cart has to be about that enrollment.

Email Template; Okay, I just opened up registration for Product Launch Formula. We’re now live: CLICK HERE for Product Launch Formula (I opened it up a bit early to avoid any bottlenecks and spread the load on the server.) Best regards, Jeff P.S. Remember . . . you don’t need to panic. I don’t expect to sell out immediately. However, if you want one of those spots at my PLF Live Workshop, then please don’t delay. They’re going to go fast. Here’s the link: CLICK HERE for Product Launch Formula

Typically, you will want to keep your cart open somewhere between four and seven days.

There are three primary ways to create scarcity in your offer: The price goes up, Bonuses are removed and the offer goes away.

Here’s the bare minimum Open Cart sequence: Day 1 (Launch Day): Two emails + social media. The first email is the one that opens the cart (see the email above), and the second one, about four hours later, lets your list know that everything is up and running and you’re open for business. Day 2: One email + social media. This is the day after Launch Day. The message will typically be a social proof email, where you talk about the great response to your launch. Your email will have a link that goes to your sales page. Day 3: One email + social media. Send a longer email that answers many of the top questions about the product. Be sure to include a link to your sales page (do this with every email during Open Cart). Day 4: One or two emails + social media. The message starts to shift to scarcity. You are basically giving a 24-hour warning ahead of your close. You should be absolutely clear about when you’ll close (give the date and exact time) and what your prospects stand to lose if they don’t act before the launch offer closes down. Day 5: Three emails + social media. The first email is sent early in the morning reiterating that you’re going to be closing that day (give the exact time). The second email goes out about six to eight hours before the cart closes. The third is a final courtesy reminder, and you should send it about two or three hours before you close.

All-Access Page—This is a page where I’ll put all of my Prelaunch Content. It makes everything super-accessible. If I’m doing a JV Launch (see Chapter 10), then I’ll let my JV partners send their people direct to this page with no opt-in required.

I always have a few extra bonuses that I never mentioned during my launch, and I start sending out those bonuses shortly after the cart closes. In these days when we are so often underwhelmed by our experience after we buy a product, adding something extra makes you stand out in the market.

After the initial survey in your Pre-Prelaunch, your next step is an email follow-up in which you talk about some of the findings and conclusions from your survey. You can share part of your own journey of transformation, such as a few of your early challenges and how you overcame them. At the end of your email, you can talk a little bit about your upcoming class. If you like, this follow-up can be done as a video.

After that, your next email is the one in which you make your offer. Generally, you will want to direct people to a sales letter or sales video. But remember, you don’t need to oversell.

You are going to be recording these classes—and whether you’re doing webinars or live broadcasts, the recording is something that will be built in (and usually happen automatically). If you do five calls and then add a bonus Q&A call, you’ve now created six recordings. And you can get those audio recordings transcribed. Each hour of content will equal about 15 to 20 printed pages, so you’ll have the makings of a book (or PDF or ebook) that’s 90 to 120 pages long. Now you’ve got audio (and probably video) and 90 pages of written content. This is the core of your online course or membership site. Congratulations—you just got paid to create a product!

First, you need to build long-term relationships with your JV partners. And second, you need to create real, long-term value for those partners.

Your Prelaunch should follow the Opportunity/Transformation/Ownership flow that you learned in Chapter 7, and then your Open Cart Sequence should follow the formula in Chapter 8.

Day 1: Prelaunch Content #1 (Opportunity) Day 4: Prelaunch Content #2 (Transformation) Day 7: Prelaunch Content #3 (Ownership) Day 9: Open Cart (Enrollment)

At the start of the launch you showed your prospect an opportunity to change their life. It’s an opportunity (PLC #1) to have either more pleasure or less pain—to be a better parent, to quit smoking, to learn to meditate, to recover from an abusive relationship, to lower their golf score. Then as you moved through your Prelaunch, you showed them how their life would be transformed (PLC #2) if they got that result, and then what it would be like to truly own (PLC #3) that change. That’s your Prelaunch. Now in Open Cart you’re asking your prospect to enroll in that future: to take the next step, to take the action that will give them that future. At the end of the day, for someone to buy from you means they are


Books Business Marketing Product Management Technology

BUILD: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making

Author: Tony Fadell

My Rating: 5/5

Summary: A fantastic book about how to build extraordinary products – told by one of the leaders who brought the iPod, iPhone and Nest products to market.

My Takeaways

Start with a problem. Take Uber. The founders started with a customer problem—a problem they experienced in their daily lives—then applied technology.

As a manager, you should be focused on making sure the team is producing the best possible product.

It’s important to remember that even if you have to criticize someone’s work or their behavior, you’re not doing it to hurt them. You’re there to help. Every word should come from a place of caring. So tell them what’s holding them back. Then make a plan to work on it together.

If you’re a good manager and build a good team, that team will blast off. So lean into it. Cheer them on when they get promoted. Glow with pride when they kick ass at a board meeting or present their work to the entire company. That’s how you become a good manager. That’s how you start to love the job.

But data can’t solve an opinion-based problem. So no matter how much data you get, it will always be inconclusive. This leads to analysis paralysis—death by overthinking.

If you don’t have enough data to make a decision, you’ll need insights to inform your opinion. Insights can be key learnings about your customers or your market or your product space—something substantial that gives you an intuitive feeling for what you should do.

People just can’t articulate what they want clearly enough to definitely point in one direction or another, especially if they’re considering something completely new that they’ve never used before. Customers will always be more comfortable with what exists already, even if it’s terrible.

A/B and user testing is not product design. It’s a tool. A test. At best, a diagnosis. It can tell you something’s not working, but it won’t tell you how to fix it. Or it can show you an option that solves one hyperlocal issue but breaks something else downstream.

You need a hypothesis, and that hypothesis should be part of a bigger product vision. So you can A/B test where the “Buy” button should go on a Web page, whether it should be blue or orange, but you shouldn’t be testing whether or not a customer should buy online.

If you’re testing the core of your product, if the basic functionality can flex and change depending on the whims of an A/B test, then there is no core. There’s a hole where your product vision should be and you’re just shoveling data into the void.

Storytelling is how you get people to take a leap of faith to do something new. It’s what all our big choices ultimately come down to—believing a story we tell ourselves or that someone else tells us. Creating a believable narrative that everyone can latch on to is critical to moving forward and making hard choices. It’s all that marketing comes down to. It’s the heart of sales.

Helping people see things from the customer’s perspective is a critical tool, but it’s just part of what you need to do. Your job in this moment is to craft a narrative that convinces leadership that your gut is trustworthy, that you’ve found all the data that could be gleaned, that you have a track record of good decisions, that you grasp the decision makers’ fears and are mitigating those risks, that you truly understand your customers and their needs and—most importantly—that what you’re proposing will have a positive impact on the business.

So you can’t wait for perfect data. It doesn’t exist. You just have to take that first step into the unknown. Combine everything you’ve learned and take your best guess at what’s going to happen next.

it’s data and intuition.”

But pushing for greatness doesn’t make you an asshole. Not tolerating mediocrity doesn’t make you an asshole. Challenging assumptions doesn’t make you an asshole. Before dismissing someone as “just an asshole,” you need to understand their motivations.

You should talk to people and make connections because you’re naturally curious.

don’t just make a prototype of your product and think you’re done. Prototype as much of the full customer experience as possible. Make the intangible tangible so you can’t overlook the less showy but incredibly important parts of the journey. You should be able to map out and visualize exactly how a customer discovers, considers, installs, uses, fixes, and even returns your product. It all matters.

The only time hardware is worth the headache of manufacturing and packaging and shipping is if it’s critically necessary and transformative. If hardware doesn’t absolutely need to exist to enable the overall experience, then it should not exist.

“Don’t tell me what’s so special about this object. Tell me what’s different about the customer journey.” Your product isn’t only your product. It’s the whole user experience—a chain that begins when someone learns about your brand for the first time and ends when your product disappears from their life, returned or thrown away, sold to a friend or deleted in a burst of electrons.

Makers often focus on the shiny object—the product they’re building—and forget about the rest of the journey until they’re almost ready to deliver it to the customer. But customers see it all, experience it all. They’re the ones taking the journey, step-by-step. And they can easily stumble and fall when a step is missing or misaligned.

In each of these moments, the customer asks “why?” Why should I care? Why should I buy it? Why should I use it? Why should I stick with it? Why should I buy the next version? Your product, marketing, and support have to grease the skids—continually communicate and connect with customers, give them the answers they need, so they feel like they’re on a smooth ride, a single continuous, inevitable journey.

don’t wait until your product is done to get started—map out the whole journey as you map out what your product will do.

Start from that very first moment of the customer journey. You should be prototyping your marketing long before you have anything to market. At Nest, that meant focusing on the box. The packaging led everything. The product name, the tagline, the top features, their priority order, the main value props—they were literally printed on a cardboard box that we constantly held, looked at, tweaked, revised.

Instead we included four heads—more than anyone needed to install the thermostat—so that people could use it for practically anything. So that Nest stayed in their brains as long as the screwdriver stayed in their drawer.

Our product was good, but ultimately it was the whole journey that defined our brand. That’s what made Nest special. It’s what makes Apple special. It’s what allows businesses to reach beyond their product and create a connection—not with users and consumers, but with human beings. It’s how you create something that people will love.

Every product should have a story, a narrative that explains why it needs to exist and how it will solve your customer’s problems. A good product story has three elements: »  It appeals to people’s rational and emotional sides. »  It takes complicated concepts and makes them simple. » It reminds people of the problem that’s being solved—it focuses on the “why.”

He used a technique I later came to call the virus of doubt. It’s a way to get into people’s heads, remind them about a daily frustration, get them annoyed about it all over again. If you can infect them with the virus of doubt—“Maybe my experience isn’t as good as I thought, maybe it could be better”—then you prime them for your solution. You get them angry about how it works now so they can get excited about a new way of doing things.

Your product’s story is its design, its features, images and videos, quotes from customers, tips from reviewers, conversations with support agents. It’s the sum of what people see and feel about this thing that you’ve created.

And it all starts with “why.” Why does this thing need to exist? Why does it matter? Why will people need it? Why will they love it?

You have to appeal to their emotions—connect with something they care about. Their worries, their fears. Or show them a compelling vision of the future: give a human example. Walk through how a real person will experience this product—their day, their family, their work, the change they’ll experience. Just don’t lean so far into the emotional connection that what you’re arguing for feels novel, but not necessary.

Another thing I learned from Steve Jobs. He’d always say that analogies give customers superpowers. A great analogy allows a customer to instantly grasp a difficult feature and then describe that feature to others. That’s why “1,000 songs in your pocket” was so powerful. Everyone had CDs and tapes in bulky players that only let you listen to 10–15 songs, one album at a time. So “1,000 songs in your pocket” was an incredible contrast—it let people visualize this intangible thing—all the music they loved all together in one place, easy to find, easy to hold—and gave them a way to tell their friends and family why this new iPod thing was so cool.

You should always be striving to tell a story so good that it stops being yours—so your customer learns it, loves it, internalizes it, owns it. And tells it to everyone they know.

You can continue evolving that product for a while, but always seek out new ways to disrupt yourself. You can’t only start thinking about it when the competition threatens to catch up or your business begins to stagnate.

When you’re evolving you need to understand the quintessential things that define your product. What’s key to your feature set and your branding? What have you trained the customer to look for? With the iPod it was the click wheel. With the Nest Learning Thermostat it was the round, clean screen with a big temperature in the middle.

To maintain the core of your product there are usually one or two things that have to stay still while everything else spins and changes around them. And that’s a useful constraint. You need some constraints to force you to dig deep and get creative, to push envelopes you hadn’t thought to open before.

So we learned to underpromise and overdeliver. We’d be conservative about key features like battery life—all through development we’d make sure we’d reached a number that Steve was satisfied with.

You cannot be afraid to disrupt the thing that made you successful in the first place. Even if it made you hugely successful. Look at Kodak. Look at Nokia.

Once every carmaker has an electric vehicle, then the customer will focus on all these other aspects that Tesla has already disrupted and brought to market. Competition is a given, both direct and indirect. Someone is always watching, trying to exploit any crack in a more successful competitor.

You should also keep in mind that you’re not just making V1 or V2 of your product—you’re building out the first or second version of your team and processes.

Here’s the trick: write a press release. But don’t write it when you’re done. Write it when you start. I began doing this at Apple and eventually realized other leaders had figured it out, too (looking at you, Bezos). It’s an incredibly useful tool to narrow down what really matters.

When you write a press release you say, “Here. This. This is what’s newsworthy. This is what really matters.”

The way you keep everyone moving is by creating strong internal deadlines—heartbeats that your team sets their calendar to:

But we would have never reached that third design if we hadn’t given ourselves hard deadlines with the first two—if we hadn’t cut ourselves off after a few months, reset, and moved on. We forced as many constraints on ourselves as possible: not too much time, not too much money, and not too many people on the team. That last point is important.

So keep your project small as long as you can. And don’t allocate too much money at the start. People do stupid things when they have a giant budget—they overdesign, they overthink. That inevitably leads to longer runways, longer schedules, and slower heartbeats. Much, much slower.

So have at least one really big launch and another one to three smaller launches every year.

Your team will have to figure out how to find product/market fit for V1, then get the product fixed up and properly marketed to a wider audience with V2, and only then can you focus on optimizing the business so it can be sustainable and profitable with V3.

Both the unexpected issues that inevitably crop up after you launch and the stuff you cut corners on the first time. V2 usually comes swiftly after V1 because you’ve learned so much so fast and you’re dying to get it all into the next generation.

They created a V1 product, scaled it for V2, then optimized the business in V3. The Nest Learning Thermostat followed the same pattern.

You make the product. You fix the product. You build the business.

There are three elements to every great idea:

1. It solves for “why.” Long before you figure out what a product will do, you need to understand why people will want it. The “why” drives the “what.”

2. It solves a problem that a lot of people have in their daily lives.

3. It follows you around. Even after you research and learn about it and try it out and realize how hard it’ll be to get it right, you can’t stop thinking about it.

That’s why we didn’t just present our vision when we pitched investors. We presented the why—told our story—and then we presented the risks. Too many startups don’t know what they’re getting into or, worse, try to cover up the risks of failure.

Sharing the load is one thing; unloading it altogether is another. If you’re going to lead a team, you need to be ready to lead.

In those very, very early days you want people who are there for the mission above all. You’re looking for passion, enthusiasm, and mindset. And you’re looking for seed crystals. Seed crystals are people who are so good and so well loved that they can almost single-handedly build large parts of your org.

Typically a VC needs between 18 and 22 percent to make their model work—step carefully if they begin asking for more. And don’t assume they’re the only game in town—if your gut is telling you to keep looking, then keep looking.

You need some way to rise to the top and get their attention. The best way to do that is with a compelling story. And knowing your audience. Even in Silicon Valley, most VCs won’t be technical. So don’t focus on the technology, focus on the “why.”

It’s like playing chess. You always have to think two moves—and two investment rounds—ahead.

Steve Jobs was clear about the lesson he’d learned and made sure we all learned it, too: any company that tries to do both B2B and B2C will fail.

That’s the other rule: if you cater to both, your marketing still has to be B2C.

You can only have one customer. Choose wisely.

The act of using a pen, then retyping and editing later, forced me to process information differently.

Everyone needs to find their own system. But you do need to prioritize your tasks, manage and organize your thoughts, and create a predictable schedule for your team to access those thoughts. And then you need to take a break.

As a leader, you’ll have to get into the weeds. Don’t be worried about micromanagement—as the crisis unfolds your job is to tell people what to do and how to do it. However, very quickly after everyone has calmed down and gotten to work, let them do their jobs without you breathing down their necks.

If something is your fault, tell them what you did. Tell them what you’ve learned from it. And tell them how you’ll prevent it from ever happening again. No evading, blaming, or making excuses. Just accept responsibility and be a grown-up.

The best teams are multigenerational—Nest employed twenty-year-olds and seventy-year-olds. Experienced people have a wealth of wisdom that they can pass on to the next generation and young people can push back against long-held assumptions. They can often see the opportunity that lies in accomplishing difficult things, while experienced people see only the difficulty.

Different people think differently and every new perspective, background, and experience you bring into the business improves the business.

The key is to get the candidate talking to the right people.

Crown 1 was the hiring manager. They got the role approved and found the candidates. Crowns 2 and 3 were managers of the candidate’s internal customers. They picked one or two people from their team to interview the candidate. Feedback was collected, shared, and discussed, then the Three Crowns met to decide who to hire.

Another good interview technique is to simulate work—instead of asking them how they work, just work with them. Pick a problem and try to solve it together. Choose a subject that both of you are familiar with but neither is an expert in—if you pick a problem in their domain they’ll always sound smart; pick a problem in yours and you’ll always know better.

You’re not just interviewing to see if a person can do the job required of them today. You’re trying to understand if they have the innate tools to think through the problems and jobs you don’t see coming yet—the jobs they can grow into tomorrow.

the only way to do that was to integrate new people into the culture at a reasonable pace, so they could learn by doing, by watching, by working with the team and absorbing the culture organically.

Don’t worry about getting too in the weeds or not giving them enough freedom. Not at first. A brand-new person needs all the help they can get to become really well integrated. Explain how you do things in detail so they don’t make mistakes and alienate the rest of the team right off the bat. Talk to them about what’s working and what isn’t, what you would do in their position, what’s encouraged and what’s verboten, who to ask for help and who to treat with kid gloves.

Just as people make a commitment to your company when they join it, you make a commitment to them. If you’re leading a company or a large org, it is your responsibility to help people identify their challenge areas and give them space and coaching to get better or help them to find a spot at the company where they can be successful.

What you’re building never matters as much as who you’re building it with.

You have to start forming a strategy for how you’ll grow past a breakpoint long before you reach it—at a minimum two to three months before the break and then months of follow-up after.

So focus people’s attention on the opportunity: help them get curious about what their job could become, instead of being fearful of what they might lose.

So to preserve what you love, have your team write down the things they value most and build a plan to continue them. And remember it’s not necessarily the obvious stuff that binds people to your company—it can be small things, silly things. At Nest a few members of the team started doing barbecues in the parking lot when we were really small.

Businesses that try to ignore breakpoints either don’t survive or get stuck at their current size and stagnate.

At its core, designing simply means thinking through a problem and finding an elegant solution.

Deploy design thinking: This is a well-known strategy originated by IDEO’s David Kelley that encourages you to identify your customer and their pain points, deeply understand the problem you’re trying to solve, and systematically uncover ways to solve it.

Avoid habituation: Everyone gets used to things. Life is full of tiny and enormous inconveniences that you no longer notice because your brain has simply accepted them as unchangeable reality and filtered them out.

Literally the only way to make a really good product is to dig in, analyze your customer’s needs, and explore all the possible options (including the unexpected ones:

But you shouldn’t outsource a problem before you try to solve it yourself, especially if solving that problem is core to the future of your business. If it’s a critical function, your team needs to build the muscle to understand the process and do it themselves.

Ask why at every step—why is it like this now? How can it be better? Think like a user who has never tried this product before; dig into their mindset, their pain and challenges, their hopes and desires. Break it down into steps and set all the constraints up front.

Understand and tell the story of the product.

Create prototypes all along the way.

Marketing cannot just be figured out at the very end.

Use marketing to prototype your product narrative. The

The product is the brand.

The entire experience has to be designed together, with different touchpoints explaining different parts of your messaging to create a consistent, cohesive experience.

The best marketing is just telling the truth. The ultimate job of marketing is to find the very best way to tell the true story of your product.

And you tell a story: you connect with people’s emotions so they’re drawn to your narrative, but you also appeal to their rational side so they can convince themselves it’s the smart move to buy what you’re selling. You balance what they want to hear with what they need to know.

First you break down the pain points that your customer is feeling or has habituated away. Each pain is a “why”—it gives your product a reason to exist. The painkiller is the “how”—these are the features that will solve the customer’s problem. The “I want it” column explains the emotions that your customers are feeling. The “I need it” column covers the rational reasons to buy this product. The whole product narrative should be in there—every pain, every painkiller, every rational and emotional impulse, every insight about your customer.

For every version of the Nest story, we wrote down the most common objections and how we’d overcome them—what stats to use, what pages of the website to send people to, what partnerships to mention or testimonials to point to. We figured out which story we could put on a billboard all the way down to the story we’d tell a longtime customer.

Everything is connected to everything, so everything must be understood together.

The spec shows the features, the details of how a product will work, but the messaging predicts people’s concerns and finds ways to mitigate them. It answers the question, “Why will customers care?” And that question has to be answered long before anyone gets to work.

The best salespeople are the ones who maintain relationships even if it means not making money that day.

But if sales is off to the side, doing their own thing, barely part of the company but steadily meeting their monthly goals, that can breed an insulated, transactional culture. And the way customers are treated in that kind of culture can be brutal—even in places where you’d assume customers must be treated well in order for salespeople to make any money.

Once commissions are vested on a schedule that prioritizes customer relationships, a lot of the ugliness that usually defines sales cultures disappears. Salespeople do a better job qualifying customers, the hypercompetition eases up, the backslapping fades, the teams align their expectations and their goals.

Hire a lawyer who doesn’t just think like a lawyer.

You don’t have to be an expert in everything. You just have to care about it.

They hold people (and themselves) accountable and drive for results.

They can keep an eye on the long-term vision while still being eyeball-deep in details.

In this job, respect is always more important than being liked.

And as always when you’re presenting numbers, it becomes much more important to craft a narrative. You have to tell a story.

Just as dessert shouldn’t come before dinner, perks shouldn’t come before the mission you’re there to achieve. The mission should fill and fuel your company. The perks should be a sprinkle of sugar on top.

In the end, there are two things that matter: products and people. What you build and who you build it with.

See the invisible problems not just the obvious problems. For example, Steve Jobs wanted the iPod batteries fully charged for the customer when unboxing so they customer can use it instantly.


Books Business Marketing

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help Not Hype

Buy on Amazon

Author: Jay Baer 

My recommendation: 3/5

Summary: Interesting book full of compelling reasons why modern marketing is about creating helpful content (“Youtility”) that leads to better brand loyalty. I probably read this book about 9 years too late since a lot of the marketing tactics in this book are very common in today’s age of marketing.

My Takeaways:

The measure of usefulness of an early customer conversation is whether it gives us concrete facts about our customers’ lives and world views.

The big mistake is almost always to mention your idea too soon rather than too late.

If you just avoid mentioning your idea, you automatically start asking better questions. Doing this is the easiest (and biggest) improvement you can make to your customer conversations.

The Mom Test: Talk about their life instead of your idea

Ask about specifics in the past instead of generics or opinions about the future Talk less and listen more

It’s called The Mom Test because it leads to questions that even your mom can’t lie to you about. When you do it right, they won’t even know you have an idea.

Rule of thumb: Opinions are worthless.

Rule of thumb: Anything involving the future is an over-optimistic lie.

Rule of thumb: People will lie to you if they think it’s what you want to hear.

The value comes from understanding why they want these features. You don’t want to just collect feature requests. You aren’t building the product by committee. But the motivations and constraints behind those requests are critical.

Rule of thumb: People know what their problems are, but they don’t know how to solve those problems.

Rule of thumb: You’re shooting blind until you understand their goals.

Rule of thumb: Some problems don’t actually matter.

Learn through their actions instead of their opinions.

Rule of thumb: Watching someone do a task will show you where the problems and inefficiencies really are, not where the customer thinks they are.

“What else have you tried?” Good question. What are they using now? How much does it cost and what do they love or hate about it?

Rule of thumb: If they haven’t looked for ways of solving it already, they’re not going to look for (or buy) yours.

Rule of thumb: People stop lying when you ask them for money.

Rule of thumb: While it’s rare for someone to tell you precisely what they’ll pay you, they’ll often show you what it’s worth to them.

Rule of thumb: People want to help you. Give them an excuse to do so.

You aren’t allowed to tell them what their problem is, and in return, they aren’t allowed to tell you what to build. They own the problem, you own the solution.

Avoiding bad data

There are three types of bad data: Compliments, Fluff (generics, hypotheticals, and the future) Ideas

With the exception of industry experts who have built very similar businesses, opinions are worthless. You want facts and commitments, not compliments.

Rule of thumb: Compliments are the fool’s gold of customer learning: shiny, distracting, and worthless.

Ask good questions that obey The Mom Test to anchor them back to specifics in the past. Ask when it last happened or for them to talk you through it. Ask how they solved it and what else they tried.

While using generics, people describe themselves as who they want to be, not who they actually are. You need to get specific to bring out the edge cases. Anchor them on the life they already lead and the actions they’re already taking.

Startups are about focusing and executing on a single, scalable idea rather than jumping on every good one which crosses your desk.

When you hear a request, it’s your job to understand the motivations which led to it.

Just like feature requests, any strong emotion is worth exploring.

Questions to dig into feature requests: “Why do you want that?” “What would that let you do?” “How are you coping without it?” “Do you think we should push back the launch to add that feature, or is it something we could add later?” “How would that fit into your day?”

Questions to dig into emotional signals: “Tell me more about that.” “That seems to really bug you—I bet there’s a story here.” “What makes it so awful?” “Why haven’t you been able to fix this already?” “You seem pretty excited about that—it’s a big deal?” “Why so happy?” “Go on.”

Rule of thumb: Ideas and feature requests should be understood, but not obeyed.

Rule of thumb: If you’ve mentioned your idea, people will try to protect your feelings.

Rule of thumb: Anyone will say your idea is great if you’re annoying enough about it.

Rule of thumb: The more you’re talking, the worse you’re doing.

3. Asking important questions

Every time you talk to someone, you should be asking at least one question which has the potential to destroy your currently imagined business.

Rule of thumb: You should be terrified of at least one of the questions you’re asking in every conversation.

You want the truth, not a gold star.

Rule of thumb: There’s more reliable information in a “meh” than a “Wow!” You can’t build a business on a lukewarm response.

Zooming in too quickly on a super-specific problem before you understand the rest of the customer’s life can irreparably confuse your learnings.

The premature zoom is a real problem because it leads to data which seems like validation, but is actually worthless. In other words, it’s a big source of false positives.

“Does-this-problem-matter” questions: “How seriously do you take your blog?” “Do you make money from it?” “Have you tried making more money from it?” “How much time do you spend on it each week?” “Do you have any major aspirations for your blog?” “Which tools and services do you use for it?” “What are you already doing to improve this?”

“What are the 3 big things you’re trying to fix or improve right now?”

Rule of thumb: Start broad and don’t zoom in until you’ve found a strong signal, both with your whole business and with every conversation.

Pre-plan the 3 most important things you want to learn from any given type of person (e.g. customers, investors, industry experts, key hires, etc).

Rule of thumb: You always need a list of your 3 big questions.

Keeping it casual

Rule of thumb: Learning about a customer and their problems works better as a quick and casual chat than a long, formal meeting.

Rule of thumb: If it feels like they’re doing you a favour by talking to you, it’s probably too formal.

Rule of thumb: Give as little information as possible about your idea while still nudging the discussion in a useful direction.

Commitment and advancement

By giving them a clear chance to either commit or reject it, you can get out of the friend-zone and identify the real leads.

Rule of thumb: “Customers” who keep being friendly but aren’t ever going to buy are a particularly dangerous source of mixed signals.

Every meeting either succeeds or fails. You’ve lost the meeting when you leave with a compliment or a stalling tactic.

Rule of thumb: If you don’t know what happens next after a product or sales meeting, the meeting was pointless.

Rule of thumb: The more they’re giving up, the more seriously you can take what they’re saying.

Rule of thumb: It’s not a real lead until you’ve given them a concrete chance to reject you.

Rule of thumb: In early stage sales, the real goal is learning. Revenue is a side-effect.

Finding conversations

Rule of thumb: If it’s not a formal meeting, you don’t need to make excuses about why you’re there or even mention that you’re starting a business. Just ask about their life.

Rule of thumb: If it’s a topic you both care about, find an excuse to talk about it. Your idea never needs to enter the equation and you’ll both enjoy the chat.

Rule of thumb: Kevin Bacon’s 7 degrees of separation applies to customer conversations. You can find anyone you need if you ask for it a couple times.

Framework for cold outreach to gather customer feedback: Vision / Framing / Weakness / Pedestal / Ask


Hey Pete, I’m trying to make desk & office rental less of a pain for new businesses (vision). We’re just starting out and don’t have anything to sell, but want to make sure we’re building something that actually helps (framing). I’ve only ever come at it from the tenant’s side and I’m having a hard time understanding how it all works from the landlord’s perspective (weakness). You’ve been renting out desks for a while and could really help me cut through the fog (pedestal). Do you have time in the next couple weeks to meet up for a chat? (ask)

Hey Scott, I run a startup trying to make advertising more playful and ultimately effective (vision). We’re having a load of trouble figuring out how all the pieces of the industry fit together and where we can best fit into it (weakness). You know more about this industry than anyone and could really save us from a ton of mistakes (pedestal). We’re funded and have a couple products out already, but this is in no way a sales meeting–we’re just moving into a new area and could really use some of your expertise (framing). Can you spare a bit of time in the next week to help point us in the right direction over a coffee? (ask)

Hey Tim, thanks so much for taking the time. As I mentioned in the email, we’re trying to make it easier for universities to spin out student businesses (vision) and aren’t exactly sure how it all works yet (framing & weakness). Tom (authority) connected us because you have pretty unique insight into what’s going on behind the curtain and could really help us get pointed in the right direction (pedestal)… (introductions continue) I was looking at your spinout portfolio and it’s pretty impressive, especially company X. How did they get from your classroom to where they are now? (grab the reins and ask good questions)

Rule of thumb: Keep having conversations until you stop hearing new stuff.

Choosing your customers

Before we can serve everyone, we have to serve someone.

Rule of thumb: If you aren’t finding consistent problems and goals, you don’t have a specific enough customer segment.

Rule of thumb: Good customer segments are a who-where pair. If you don’t know where to go to find your customers, keep slicing your segment into smaller pieces until you do.

Running the process

Rule of thumb: If you don’t know what you’re trying to learn, you shouldn’t bother having the conversation.

Meetings go best when you’ve got two people at them. One person can focus on taking notes and the other can focus on talking.

Rule of thumb: Notes are useless if you don’t look at them.


The Mom Test: Talk about their life instead of your idea Ask about specifics in the past instead of generics or opinions about the future Talk less and listen more

Deflect compliments Anchor fluff Dig beneath opinions, ideas, requests, and emotions

Asking for and framing the meeting: Vision—half-sentence of how you’re making the world better Framing—where you’re at and what you’re looking for Weakness—where you’re stuck and how you can be helped Pedestal—show that they, in particular, can provide that help Ask—ask for help

The big prep question for each customer feedback session: “What do we want to learn from these guys?”

Books Business Hacks Investing Marketing Technology

Tools of Titans

Go to Amazon page

Author: Timothy Ferris

My recommendation: 5/5


Insightful book that deconstructs how world-class performers across different industries and professions are able to achieve success. I skipped around this book and read the chapters that seemed most interesting to me.

My Takeaways

  • Raise prices. (Marc Andressen)
  • Stress test ideas with a red team. Bash the sh*t out of an idea and if you still believe it, then commit to that idea. (Marc Andressen)
  • “Be so good, they can’t ignore you.” (Marc Andressen)
  • Wear something unique so people remember you. (Chris Sacca)
  • Try to trade the short term gain for the long term upside. (Arnold Schwarzenegger)
  • It’s often the tiny detailed things that grow your business rather than the large things. (i.e. Derek Sivers’ funny CDbaby email.)
  • Give lots of damns. (i.e. Alexis Ohanian’s example of making the copy on Reddit’s error page funny.)
  • Being busy is a form of laziness and often used as a guise for avoiding the few critical important but uncomfortable actions. (Tim Ferris)
  • On commonalities of famous investors interviewed by Tony Robbins:
    • Always cap the downside.
    • Find investing opportunities that have asymmetric risk and reward. 
  • Daily vlogging leads to massive growth. (Casey Neistat)
  • “Tell me something that’s true that few people agree with you on.“ (Peter Theil)
  • First Ten Principal:. Tell ten people, show ten people and share with ten people who already trust and like you. (Seth Godin)
  • Generate a list of 10 bad ideas as a daily exercise to refine the creativity muscle. (James Altucher)
  • If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in when launching products. 
  • Think categories, not brands when marketing a product or service. 
  • Everyone wants what’s new, not better. 
  • When you’re first in a new category, promote the category. In essence you have no competition. Tim applied this concept by coining the term “Lifestyle Design” in his book ‘The 4 Hour Workweek’. 
  • Don’t be afraid to do something you’re not qualified to do. 
  • Rainy Sethi sends simple text emails to make a more personal connection. 
  • Focus on acquiring 1,000 true fans (super fans) who will pay you directly for anything and everything you sell. 1,000 true fans are your direct source of income and chief marketing force for ordinary fans. 
  • Take “the coffee challenge” by asking for 10% off your cup of coffee at a coffee shop. This gets you in the habit of asking for what you want in life. 
  • Have a backup plan. (Jocko Willink)
Books Business Marketing Technology

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success

Go to Amazon page

Author: Ken Segall

My recommendation: 5/5


Fascinating book about how Steve Job’s was obsessed with applying simplicity into all products Apple created.

My Takeaways

  • Steve Jobs preferred straight talk and to cut to the chase. 
  • Small groups of smart people. 
  • Think small.
  • Be brutally honest as it is the simplest form of getting things done. 
  • It’s hard to instill simplicity within organizations.
  • Complexity is the easy way out.
  • Apple puts creativity and the best idea before process.
  • The more layered the process, the more watered down the final product becomes. 
  • Those who believe in simplicity, believe that good ideas need to be protected from those who would damage them. The best way to do this is to minimize the process from which these ideas must travel. 
  • People will always respond better to a single idea expressed clearly, and tune out when complexity speaks. 
  • Apple makes a more meaningful connection with customers by highlighting the benefits in a human-centric way, not highlighting the technical specs like its competitors. 
  • Unlike many CEOs of big companies, Steve jobs was involved in every aspect of marketing and branding at Apple. 
  • Steve was very clear in his marketing – focusing on a single point and/or value rather than multiple points.
  • Apple conveyed human emotion and iconic imagery in its ad, not the product. 
  • Steve jobs used every weapon he had to get his ideas through.
  • Apple keeps product names simple for the sake of brand building.
  • Apple keeps the “Mac” name in all its product names because consistency is simple for people to remember. 
  • Apple would prove that the most powerful form of simplicity is that which directly connects to our humanity.
  • Apple constantly challenged the status quo.
  • Apple’s products had to improve customer lives by an order of magnitude over what was already available or invent a new category altogether.
  • Steve Jobs evaluated advice in context, oftentimes ignoring it in favor of his own beliefs and intuition.