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    Saturday, December 11, 2004

    Getting Started: The hardest part of doing anything is getting started. That's probably why most of us never get around to starting our own business until life kicks us in the butt. Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, after all. For those who are thinking of striking out on their own, but can't quite get the motivation, there's Guy Kawasaki's The Art Of The Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide For Anyone Starting Anything. Kawasaki, a former Macintosh evangelist (that's market-speak for salesperson, I think) is no stranger to the techno-geeks among us. Now, he's a venture capitalist, author, and motivational speaker. And evidently, someone who is very adept at landing on his feet.

    Although the book is written in the typical motivational, "how-to" style of short, punchy chapters, and peppered with vague motivational platitudes, it also has it's share of practical, useful information - whether your dream is to start a tech firm or a medical practice or a cleaning service. (You can "test drive" it here.) Chapters on refining a sales pitch (keep it short and to the point), writing a business plan (ditto), giving a presentation (down to the ideal number of slides and text size) how to talk to potential investors, creating a partnership (very good advice on when to bring in the lawyers), and how to "boot-strap" (live on nearly nothing until the money starts coming in) cover all the essential bases of any start-up.

    I was skeptical at first, but the more I read the book, the more I wished I had it when I started my medical practice. (Instead, I had The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting Your Own Business and a manual from the American Academy of Family Practice.) And, although those two sources had a lot of the nuts and bolts information I needed, such as how to get a tax ID, and how to decide between an S Corporation or an LLC, they lacked the motivational inspiration and people-skill advice that Kawasaki's has. I never had to worry about explaining to the bank exactly what it is my business does since everyone knows what a doctor's job description is, nor did I have to worry about marketing myself since I already had an established patient base. But I certainly could have used the tips for interviewing potential employees and for interpreting today's vague words of recommendation from former employers. And the chapter on solidfying the details of a partnership, is alone worth the price of the book. (She said as she recalled the ruins of a failed partnership.)

    But perhaps the best part of the book is the reminder that even though you may have never had any prior experience running a business, the world is full of corporate masters who had similarly barren backgrounds. Think Oprah Winfrey.

    (Cross-posted at Blog Critics.)

    UPDATE: Alwin at Code The Web Socket clarifies the term "corporate evangelist" for me:

    A corporate evangelist is not a salesman in the classic sense. The job Guy had was simple in description, difficult in execution: he had to convince companies writing software for the Apple II and IBM PC to port it or write new software for the Macintosh.

    The new Mac had a lot of expanded abilities that the other two platforms didn't, but getting companies to learn and exploit those new resources - to invest time and effort in training employees to do it - was a task of Herculean proportions.

    My own opinion is that Apple's success - and survival - was due in no small part to Guy's abilities to bring Apple's corporate vision to the rest of America.


    posted by Sydney on 12/11/2004 11:11:00 PM 0 comments


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