Steve Blank’s and Bob Dorf’s The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company may be formulaic, but their book celebrates a foundational truth that bears repeating—unless you validate and understand a hungry market, don’t bother making products no one asks for.
To start, this read doesn’t have the charm of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich and Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Still, to anyone who’s considering bootstrapping a startup or founding a business with only their available resources now, this book is the real deal.
A lot of budding business namesakes refer to themselves as undiscovered gems, thinking that bootstrapping a company is what will catapult them into success, but the reality is that building a business with nothing but your savings should come from a good grasp of formula instead of misleading inspiration.
Any magician can whip out things from their pockets. It’s the magicians who whip out things from their pockets that people will want to buy that count.
Creating a company demands not only listening, time and again, to the people you serve but finding the right people who understand what needs to be done and how to achieve those things.
The Startup Owner’s Manual is as straightforward as it gets. It begins by detailing how entrepreneurial careers should be based on research, timing, and premium products; it doesn’t tackle administrative tasks or logistical strategies. Instead, the book focuses on customer adoption and retention—an irreversible combo you’ll continuously need to keep your enterprise running. While finances, legal matters, and steady resources are all noble and integral pillars to a profitable brand, the authors imply that what any entrepreneur will need the most is a clear path to customers. Otherwise, what you have is a registered liability, not a business.
As with every other publication, the book is categorized into multiple portions, specifically three manuals: The Startup Owner’s Manual Strategy Guide, The Startup Owner’s Manual for Web/Mobile Channel Startups, and The Startup Owner’s Manual for Physical Channel Startups.
Arguably, one of the book’s better parts is its ability to articulate what a startup is. Steve and Bob share that, “A startup is a temporary organization in search of a scalable, repeatable, profitable business model.” Market trends evolve every day, and consumers don’t always want the same thing, so the ultimate goal when starting is to create a minimum viable product.
Although hundreds of business authors who’ve shared their takes on what a beginning enterprise looks like, the book’s writers don’t fail to establish that understanding and living the definition of the word is crucial for new businesses to get started. Furthermore, they note that startups demand a unique breed of creatives that hunger and thrive in uncertainty.
Moving forward, the book also doesn’t deprive readers of visual techniques to better understand what works how. Major points are highlighted, and graphics amplify vital processes. Practical entrepreneurs will also find it refreshing how examples are used continuously to help drive theories and ideas home.
While it does dwell a little more favorably toward technology-oriented products, it’s one of the best books for leaders trying to appreciate the lean startup methodology better. Not only does it reinforce how Eric Ries’ perceives business, but the authors also discuss in detail why customer validations are critical and how developing a business model and running your brand is determinative of your enterprise’s longevity—a writing approach many can argue they didn’t find in Ries’ book, The Lean Startup.
Moreover, Steve and Bob effortlessly dismantle the fairytale idea that a good entrepreneur needs only to shuffle through doubts and fears and make the right decisions at the right time to be a great leader. Despite a lack of long paragraphs explaining why some theories are more effective than others, the book directly implies that the ideal business person is not only precise and methodical but thinks like a scientist, as well.
Modern entrepreneurs will also find it refreshing how the generation of metrics that matter is discussed here. Although it’s possible one may feel that this read caters to B2B industries and not so much B2C, it’s worth noting how the formula for both is the same.
Whereas much earlier, traditional businesses didn’t have the luxury of engaging, digital marketing, the authors explain what metrics best help define and uncover who your real market is.
More than anything, The Startup Owner’s Manual functions more as a reference guide and not so much a self-help book. Treat this read as a project analyst and company manager, and you’ll be on your way to founding a growing company nestled on strategy and preparedness.
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