Review of Guy Kawasaki’s New Book “Reality Check”
It’s been a while since I’ve thought about Fake Steve Jobs. In fact, the last time he was on my radar was when we helped out him in late July, 2007. Well, he’s back, sort of, and he’s in perfect form. He was invited by Guy Kawasaki to write not one, but two Forewords for his new book, Reality Check. The two forewords are appropriately (and geekily) entitled, “Foreword 1.0″ and “Foreword 2.0.”
The forewords reveal a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the book itself.
“So what is Guy’s new book about? To be honest, I have no idea. I didn’t read it.”
However, it does elucidate what the book sets out to deliver.
“It’s an important and necessary work, one that should be required reading in every business school in the country.”
It’s a shameless claim — albeit not technically made by the author, but by Fake Steve Jobs — but it’s an accurate one. Guy has managed to stuff of all his knowledge and experience about startup companies into a thick 459 page book.
Unlike typical business and strategy books, this one presents its information in the most compact and efficient manner possible — through short chapters and tons of lists. The format of the content makes it much more digestible, while also making it a convenient bathroom book, thanks to its short and numerous chapters.
But this book is much more than a distraction in the crapper. In fact, if you were to actually confine it to your daily porcelain library visits, then your business-self is probably dead inside and this book isn’t for you. No, this book — regardless of its length — is a quick read, because you’ll find you can’t put it down.
At first glance, Reality Check is an unassuming name for a book. It’s only when you read the subtitle that you understand why you need to be reading this book. “The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition” are the words that follow the abstract title, and they are words that immediately get the attention of anyone looking to succeed and outwit their competition.
The book is organized into twelve sections. They all build upon each other and walk the reader through the start and maintenance of a successful, modern startup. Those sections include:
- The Reality of Starting
- The Reality of Raising Money
- The Reality of Planning and Executing
- The Reality of Innovating
- The Reality of Marketing
- The Reality of Selling and Evangelizing
- The Reality of Communicating
- The Reality of Beguiling
- The Reality of Competing
- The Reality of Hiring and Firing
- The Reality of Working
- The Reality of Doing Good
Getting Started, Venture Capitalists and Running Your Business
The first third of the book is focused on bringing the reader up-to-speed on Venture Capitalists (VC). It clues them in on what they need to know in regards to getting their business started and how to find the right kind of investors. The information in these chapters provides almost every conceivable nugget of information you could ever want to know about investors.
One of my favorite chapters was “The Top Ten Lies of Venture Capitalists.” There is no doubt that if any reader has ever sought funding, they’ve heard lies like, “We love to co-invest with other venture capitalists” and “If you get a lead, we will follow.” Guy demystifies the bull shit behind these statements and provides insight into what these statements actually mean.
He also holds entrepreneurs accountable, by describing the lies that entrepreneurs tell VCs. Regardless of the kind of experience the reader has had with startups, they will most likely relate to some or most of these lies. Some of the best ones being, “no one else can do what we’re doing” and “our projections are conservative.”
A difficult task for all startups is executing the plan well. Guy provides numerous examples of how to execute key components of a successful company, including how to properly set goals. He’s goes into detail about the need to make goals measurable, achievable, relevant and most importantly, rathole resistant. He states:
A goal can be measurable, achievable, and relevant and still send you down a rathole…Ensure that your goal encompasses all the factors that will make your organization viable.
Even if you execute your business objectives well, there’s still the ongoing chance that you are going to run out of money. He offers many suggestions on how to handle those difficult situations, including:
- Freeze all hiring
- Cut marketing expenditures
- Get interns from local schools
- Cut the pay of the management team
- Get the cofounders to put more money in the company as a bridge loan
- Do some nonrecurring consulting work to increase cash flow
- Try to get some beta sites to pay for a pilot implementation
Intelligent Strategies for Marketing Your Company
The second major part of the book focuses on marketing. Guy discusses why old (traditional) marketing techniques often don’t work, and provides concrete examples on how to best market your company in a business 2.0 world.
A key element that all readers should take from this book is that marketers need to focus on PR (public relations), not advertising. He states:
Many companies waste millions of dollars trying to establish brands with advertising. Too much money is worse than too little, because when you have a lot of money, you spend a lot of money on stupid things like Super Bowl commercials. Brands are built on what people are saying about you, not what you’re saying about yourself. People say good things about you when (a) you have a great product and (b) you get people to spread the word about it.
Another part that intrigued me was the chapter on “The Art of Selling.” He provided many techniques that seem counterintuitive to experienced marketers, but are completely relevant to today’s marketing environment. A good example can be seen in his statement of “give customers less information.” He goes on to describe research that suggests that “shoppers with less information about a product are happier than those with more information.” He drives the point home by explaining that “when it comes to product information, more might not be more.”
A shortcoming experienced by many marketers is the lack of presentation skills. Guy dedicates several chapters to helping marketers perfect their speech and presentation skills. Those chapters alone could be cut out and made into their own Cliff Notes version of “How to Give the Perfect Presentation.”
Something I won’t go into great detail about, but is worth mentioning, is the chapter on “How to Suck Up to a Blogger.” The techniques that he outlines are almost identical to the techniques we use for our own marketing campaigns. In fact, that chapter alone is worth the price of the entire book if you want to learn how to effectively market yourself via bloggers.
The Reality of Running Your Business
The third and final part of Reality Check explores the reality of running, maintaining and growing your business. It’s contains a mixture of advice for owners and employees. The reader, regardless of if they’re an entrepreneur or an employee of a startup, will find themselves described throughout these chapters. Guy provides tips and warnings on how to conduct yourself in just about any startup environment.
He drives home the reality of what it means to participate in a startup with his chapter “What’s Your EQ (Entrepreneurial Quotient)?” It’s a mini-quiz designed to gauge where you stand in the grand scheme of things. Depending on your score, you may want to reconsider your endeavor or you might find out that you were destined to run your startup.
Guy concludes his book with “The Reality Check Checklist.” It consists of ten of the most important questions you need to ask yourself in regards to your startup company. The list is both a gut check and a possible set of marching orders. The idea is that you should be able to honestly answer each question after reading the book, and then allow your answers to help decide your destiny.