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Using his personal experience in growing businesses from the ground up to become multi-million dollar enterprises , author Michael Masterson shares his expertise and advice. It can be summed up in four words: Shoot from the hip. Instead of trying to perfect a product or service, get it on the market as quickly as possible to begin generating revenue. There are four stages of business growth that create the framework for long-term growth, and entrepreneurial skills can be employed at every stage to grow a successful business. The description of the four stages includes the main problem, the primary challenge and solutions.
The title for the book Ready, Fire, Aim is a deliberate play on words which refer to:
According to the author, every company has four critical stages of business development, and each has an overriding problem that must be addressed. The first step is to identify the unique challenge relevant to problem-solving in order to develop the best solution. The ultimate goal is to get a product or service to the market as quickly as possible no matter what stage the business is at. You must be courageous and fearless to go after big goals, so reading the book Be Fearless in conjunction with this book is a good idea.
Stage 1 of business development is the Infancy stage. At this initial stage, the entrepreneur has a business idea that needs fleshing out and converted into an entity which generates profit. It is possible to go from $0 to $1 million in sales at this stage. In fact, according to the author of the book The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, you can generate this kind of money working alone. The main problem at the Infancy stage is the entrepreneur’s lack of knowledge as to how to get the business going and how to start selling. The challenge is making the first sale with a decent profit.
The Ready, Fire, Aim solution for overcoming the challenge at Stage 1 is to implement an Optimal Selling Strategy (OSS). The design of the OSS is based on the answers to four questions.
First, where are my customers? The best approach is to look at the market of established players.
Second, what products should the new enterprise sell first? The answer comes from doing a market study and copying the products of established players but improving the overall product attributes.
Third, how should the product or service be priced? The industry standard price point is a good place to begin.
Fourth, how do you convince people to buy? The answer is to do test marketing and split testing, set variable price points and develop great marketing copy.
It is important to achieve a critical mass of customers before funds are exhausted. The book Predictable Revenue points to the importance of generating highly-qualified leads which means people who are most likely to become paying customers. The optimal number of customers at the Infancy Stage is that which will generate enough cash flow to fund your business growth.
Ready, Fire, Aim's Stage 2 is the Fast Growth stage. This stage signifies the period when a business moves from showing a little profit to making a steady profit of $1 to $2 million a year and eventually reaches $10 million. At the Fast Growth stage, there is entry into new markets, product innovation, and increased product offerings with a focus on both front-end and back-end marketing. The entrepreneur’s focus goes from being one-dimensional to becoming multi-dimensional. The problem is the business may be breaking even or losing a little money when reaching this stage, so the challenge is putting ideas in motion as quickly as possible.
To overcome this challenge, the business should not sit on promising ideas. Ideas should move swiftly from being ideas to taking concrete action. This is when the business is at the point of “Ready, Fire, Aim.” Velocity and momentum of action is key here. The author suggests putting together a brief business proposal in less than 24 hours to use as a guide for planned, quick action and to keep enthusiasm high. The book The Messy Middle talks about the journey between start and finish as being the most crucial period for developing an optimal sustainable business with velocity and includes mastering parallel processing in which you focus on a specific problem while dealing with normal uncertainty.
Another challenge at Stage 2 concerns finding the best way to create additional profitable products. How can the business capture new markets? A three-part solution is presented. First, look for ideas which build on core competencies. That is the path Schultz describes in the book Onward as he strived to add customer-pleasing new products to get the business financially stable. These are “one-step removed” ideas, i.e., If you run a successful dairy farm, think about opening an ice cream parlor or a cheese factory. Second, use the “Magic Product Cube” approach in which the three dimensions of the product are addressed: Type, Price and Service. There are three variants for each of the three dimensions. For the Type dimension, the variants are product, service and add-ons. For the Price dimension, the variants are cheap, economy and expensive. For the Service dimension, the variants are self-help, assisted and managed.
One of Ready, Fire, Aim's suggestions is to create an executive brainstorming creative team which constantly generates new ideas. Remember, the goal at this stage is to increase cash flow and profits.
Ready, Fire, Aim's Third Stage is the Adolescence stage. When a business crosses the $10 million mark, it marks the start of a chaotic phase. The business becomes too big to handle with current staffing, and your second tier employees will need to hire a third tier to help them out. At this stage, a business is likely to face problems like bottlenecks, collisions, bureaucracy, and internal politics straining systems and becoming noticeable to people. The challenge then is to get a tight grip on the business and convert the chaos into an efficient and smooth functioning operation. The book Developing Leaders says periods of change require skilled leadership able to achieve high employee engagement and keep enthusiasm high while lowering resistance and proposes the FUEL model for leadership training.
Ready, Fire, Aim presents five solutions to meet the challenge of making sense out of chaos. 1) Revamp the management structure; 2) Hire professionals, stars and superstar employees to manage and take your business to next levels, 3) Network to open up joint venture opportunities, 4) Negotiate deals that give you cutting edge advantage, and 5) Establish workable protocols, systems and procedures. Hiring the right people and placing them in the right roles is critical, so it is wise to reference the book Who. It presents a 4-step replicable framework for hiring people at every organizational level who can make good decisions and deliver the desired outcomes.
Stage 4 is the Maturity stage, reached once sales are more than $100 million. The law of averages invariably begins to flatten the curve. The business reached a stage at which It is able to function well with minimum input from you. The problem is that sales are slowing, so the challenge is to reclaim or redefine the top business leader’s role. At this point, it is time to get the business to the point where it can function smoothly without you. In the book Good to Great, making the leap to great depends on the best people in the organization managing the biggest opportunities and making good decisions.
The business leader needs to assess his/her role and deliberate as to whether the best role is as an employee, manager, business builder, wealth builder or CEO. You can also become adviser/investment manager to the company, thereby freeing up time to focus on wealth building. Your senior management should be cleared to make decisions. independent of you. This way your business can run itself. The role you assume going forward is a factor in deciding what to do about the business. You can consider mergers and acquisitions, going public or even selling the business. If the framework for business sustainability that is discussed in the book Built to Sell was maintained through the stages, selling the business is a viable option. If selling the business, Masterson advises staying on as adviser and staying invested in something that you created.
Ready, Fire, Aim is 375 pages and filled with useful information to help scale your business from zero to $100 million in no time flat. It is practical advice that presents a framework for success. While some of the information seems obvious, describing business growth as a four-step methodical process means it applies to all businesses now and in the future.
Michael Masterson spent his early childhood in relative poverty and had to pitch in to contribute to his family’s income. He worked as a paperboy, a bus boy and a car washer, among other jobs. This ignited his entrepreneurial spirit and gave him the motivation to go out there and earn money. He started his first business at the age of 11, and since then has started and co-started dozens of different kinds of businesses. They include retail, wholesale, direct mail, public, private, local and international businesses across industries.
Masterson continued to hold jobs and earn money right through college and grad school. His earnings grew to substantial levels, and he became addicted to trying his hand at various ways to earn money. A mistaken enrolment at a Dale Carnegie success course, opened his eyes to his life goals. He decided to concentrate all his efforts into becoming wealthy. It was then that he became a serial entrepreneur, tasting success in all his business ventures, making money for himself and for others.
The last business that Masterson launched is EarlytoRise.com, an internet-based company that provides training and advice on health, wealth and wisdom. It quickly grew into a $20 million enterprise. He now serves as a consultant and chief expert on entrepreneurship for EarlytoRise.com. However, his main focus is on real estate and serving as a consultant for Agora, his primary client. Agora is a Baltimore-based publisher of information products with offices in France, England, Spain, South Africa, Germany and Australia.
Masterson is a serial entrepreneur, but unlike the typical businessman, he writes poetry, collects fine art and practices Jiu Jitsu. He retired at 50 for the second time and insists that he spends his time writing poetry, bad fiction and best-selling business and wealth building books. The book Ready, Fire, Aim is his tenth book. Some of his other business and motivational books include The Pledge, Automatic Wealth, Automatic Wealth for Grads, Seven Years to Seven Figures, Power and Persuasion and Confessions of a Self-Made Millionaire.
Masterson has numerous YouTube videos where he explains his business principles, including those in the book Ready, Aim, Fire, and he frequently speaks at wealth building conferences and business events.