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Guy Kawasaki Explains The Art of the Start

Top Ten Tips for Anyone Starting Anything


Scott Allen, Guy Kawasaki and Sam Decker

Scott Allen, Guy Kawasaki and Sam Decker at Texchange Austin

Guy Kawasaki made a name for himself at Apple in the 1980s as the evangelist who helped launch the Macintosh computer. As founder and CEO of Garage Technology Ventures, he has tested and proven his ideas with dozens of startup companies. He is the author of over half a dozen business books, including Rules for Revolutionaries, Selling the Dream and How to Drive Your Competition Crazy.

I had the privilege recently of attending a presentation by Mr. Kawasaki on his latest book, The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything. He's a tremendously entertaining speaker - funny, irreverent, and above all, insightful. He built his presentation around his top ten tips for anyone starting anything - entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, non-profit ventures. I share them with you here, along with a few of his choice quips that you won't find in the book.

1. Make Meaning

Focus on making meaning, not money. If your vision for your company is to grow it just to flip it to a large company or to take it public and cash out, "you're doomed". Kawasaki says that great companies are built around one of three kinds of meaning:

  1. Increase the quality of life. Make people more productive or their lives easier or more enjoyable.
  2. Right a wrong. A variant on the above. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
  3. Prevent the end of something good. Preserve something classic or historical. Save the whales.
2. Make Mantra

Kawasaki took a jab at corporate mission statements by showing Wendy's mission statement:

Our guiding mission is to deliver superior quality products and services for our customers and communities through leadership, innovation and partnerships.

"I love Wendy's," he said, "but I had no idea that every time I eat there I'm participating in all of that." He says if you want to create a generic mission statement, you can save yourself tens of thousands of dollars for a retreat, facilitators, etc., with the Dilbert Mission Statement Generator.

Instead, Kawasaki recommends coming up with a simple mantra, preferably three words or less, that succinctly describes your core values. Some examples he gave:

  • Wendy's: "Healthy fast food"
  • FedEx: "Peace of mind"
  • Nike: "Authentic athletic performance"
  • Guy Kawasaki: "Empower entrepreneurs"
3. Jump to the next curve

Great companies aren't created when a book retailer says, "We're going to change the way books are sold. Instead of carrying 250,000 titles, we're going to carry 275,000." Great companies are created when you say, "Instead of 250,000 titles, we're going to carry 2.5 million." Then you have Amazon.

He offers three tips for how to do this:

  1. Reboot your brain. You have to break old patterns of behavior in order to adopt new ones.
  2. Kill the cash cows. The obvious ones are the external ones - the dominant competitors in the space. If you beat them, you beat everybody else, too. The not-so-obvious ones, though, are the internal ones. This mainly applies when launching a new product within an existing company. For example, Apple had to kill the Apple II in order to make way for the Macintosh. They could have continued milking it, but they would have eventually gotten passed up by everybody else. Clear away the old to make room for the new.
  3. Polarize people. You can't please everyone. It's better to have a small, fiercely loyal customer base than to create a mediocre product that fades quickly into obscurity. Some examples he gave were the Macintosh, Harley-Davidson, Tivo, and the Scion XP (People under 25 look at it and say, "Hey, cool car!" People over 25 look at it and say, "It must have been designed by someone who got fired from Volvo.")

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