Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Reality Check, Simply Not Bull Shitake
I’ve been reading, or I should say digesting, Guy Kawasaki’s new book, Reality Check, the Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition. I’d suggest a deep red wine while reading, something to complement a meaty book, perhaps a Cotes du Rhone. It’s a book destined to become a classic vintage, a book about being an entrepreneur, written by an entrepreneur, for entrepreneurs. Its content is the nitty-gritty detail of what it takes to make a start up happen and work. It’s practical, it’s concise, it covers a lot of bases, and yeah, it’s irreverent. I think irreverent is true, but more accurately, the advice it gives is often not the classic BS (“Bull Shitake,” Guy’s term) you might hear at a business school. It’s not just irreverent, I’d say unconventional and out-of-the-box in a real life and helpful way. If you are even thinking of starting up a company, this isn’t just required reading — it’s required eating. Reality Check communicates a passion for the art of the start up; it’s compelling. As I said, you really need to digest this book not read it, so, get out the steak knives, Reality Check is medium rare, with a generous sauce of uncommon insight.
Reality Check is a guide for start up innovation. It’s targeting the nascent Steve Jobs or Guy Kawasaki’s out there more than a corporate brand manager, or Chief Innovation Officer. Another recent book on innovation, The Innovators Guide to Growth (IGTG) looks at innovation through a more corporate and academic lens. Reality Check is through the lens of the experienced serial entrepreneur. That said, Reality Check is exactly what a corporate brand manager needs to begin eating in order to acquire the stomach of a bona fide entrepreneur. If you are a corporate innovator, this is a helpful book to learn how to grow the intestinal fortitude to beat your competition to the innovative punch.
Getting into the meat of this book, let me just say that it’s darn comprehensive. It takes you through sections on planning, fund raising, innovating, marketing, selling, communicating, competing, hiring, firing, and even “beguiling”. Each chapter breaks a topic down quickly and pragmatically, no bull shitake. It does so with a nice dash of acerbic real-life humor, and with concrete real-world examples. What’s nice is if you don’t want to read all 461 pages, you can pick it up and read the great advice it gives for say, press releases (“DIY PR”). I was particularly enamored with the chapter on writing business plans (The Art of Executive Summary). It confirms what I always felt – investors only read the executive summary, and it doesn’t need to be 80 pages long; that summary though – it had better be kick ass. It ends with a visionary section that at times brought tears to my eyes. I’m heartened that he does a bit of “entrepreneur as idealist” philosophy throughout; it elevates this book from a “how to” to a “how to be.” Reality Check goes some distance towards eliminating the myth that the essential motivation of an entrepreneur is greed.
I’ve been part of three start ups in my checkered career, and I’ll tell you this, I wish like hell I’d had this book before I made my bones on those three ventures. I did alright, I’ve lived to write this review, but one of my most heart rending failures might have been prevented if I’d had this practical, pragmatic, insightful book in hand. Entrepreneurs and business leaders, you’d be well served to have this book for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Bon appetite – and that’s no bull shitake.