Why suffer from your own business mistakes? Here's a lifesaving guide from a man who's made them all.The world of business is like the world's worst minefield: one wrong step in any direction and you're history. It's a lesson F. J. Lennon has learned over and over again, as his entrepreneurial career careened from snafu to snafu. But Lennon was different: from the beginning he kept a journal of the screwups, big and small, he watched himself and others make. And by monitoring his own learning curve he helped turn himself finally into a successful businessman.Every Mistake in the Book collects all the best lessons Lennon learned from his mistakes, pulling them together in a pithy, witty, and universally useful format. Whether you're a business owner, a manager, or a freshly minted graduate, Lennon's no-nonsense advice will enlighten you
- Biz Basics; If you're contemplating a startup, here are essential lessons you won't learn in a classroom or read in a textbook.
- Money Matters; From venture capital to corporate debt, know the financial fundamentals or pay the price.
- How to Manage Managing; All managers are card-carrying members of the baby-sitters club.
- Learn what you should; and definitely shouldn't; do to the poor saps who call you boss.
- In the Trenches; Not everyone plays nice and you can't, either. Down-and-dirty advice for when the going gets tough.
- Let's Get Personal; Yes, it does matter how you act, speak, write, and dress.
- Here's how to get that little bit of polish; or at least not alienate everyone around you.Often hysterical, always practical, this straight-from-the-hip handbook will educateand encourage everyone from the dot-com greenhorn to the established business professional.
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About the Author
F.J. Lennon has been in the interactive entertainment industry since 1985. He is now an interactive producer, designer, and writer based in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
Be content with quite a little. Allow for accidents.
Allow for human nature, especially your own.
-- Arnold Bennet
When I started out in business, I didn't have a clue. I'd never even taken a basic finance or marketing course in college. But suddenly I found myself at the helm of a business, and I took a lot of lumps for my inexperience. This section will be especially useful for those contemplating a start-up, but anyone who owns a business already can also benefit from this material. Here are some of the business fundamentals I learned the hard way.
1. Above All Else, Don't Make Crap
If you're in business or are contemplating a start-up, this is where to start: Produce a great product. If what you're marketing -- or the service you're providing -- isn't high-quality, you can't succeed. Sounds simple, huh? Well, it's not; it requires a rare combination of innovative ideas, good people, abundant financing -- and hard work.
All great products start with a clever idea. Is yours good enough?
Original enough? Would you buy the product you have in mind? Be honest -- would you really?
All right, maybe your idea is great. Now you need the most important ingredient of all -- cash. Without proper financing, you can have the greatest idea in the world, but still get nowhere. For more on this, see chapter 2, "Money Matters." Money in the bank is what you'll need to hire good people: Talented employees are always expensive, but they're worth every cent.
If your company is barely surviving on mediocrity, don't prolong the inevitable. As hard and frightening as it is to do, shoot your business like a gimpy racehorse. Never borrow money to keep a fledgling operation alive.
During my initial years in business, I was operating on seed money raised from local doctors, family members, lawyers, and businessmen. Looking back, it was ludicrous to think that I could compete on a national and international level without substantial venture capital. Piecemeal funding led to shoestring product budgets, which in turn made it impossible for my company to produce A-level titles that could compete in the industry. Instead, our C+/B products usually sold just enough copies to keep our doors open.
The fear and uncertainty of failure motivated me to crawl forward. I know now that I should have walked away; I would have been better off closing the operation down and joining a large, well-financed, solidly established company in the industry. If I'd gotten in on the ground floor of a company like Electronic Arts (and I had that opportunity), I could have retired by the time I was thirty. Instead I clung to the dream of owning my own business -- but inadequate funding and inexperience made that an impossible dream. Don't make the same mistake.
2. Really Double-Check That It's Not Crap
You must take the time to assure the quality of your product. Quality assurance is a hot topic in today's business world. Many companies in my industry are releasing products before they are finished. Why? If the company is public, a late product release might spell collapse for its stock price. If it's privately held, being late with a big-money product launch could mean a serious cash-flow crisis.
But the short-term benefit of selling a lousy, unfinished product pales in comparison to the long-term damage that comes from disappointing or deceiving your customers. Before you consider launching a substandard product, ignore the gun at your head and weigh the consequences honestly. How badly will the public react? I assure you, worse than you can imagine. And they won't forget. Quality service must be a cornerstone of your business.
Even minor bugs can ruin a gaming experience, but with all of the variables involved, it's next to impossible to ship a perfectly clean game. That's just the nature of software.
But I've worked for two different companies that ripped off their customers by releasing computer games before they were completed. In both instances, it wasn't just that there were a few bugs to be worked out in a final round of tests. These companies released products that were missing entire segments from their original designs. One firm had to meet quarterly numbers to avoid a downgrade in its stock; the other had a public offering in the works. The CEO of this business decided to release a product that was -- and I'm not kidding -- 90 percent incomplete just to get the initial sell-in numbers on the books.
In both cases, the reputations of these companies took a public beating. Industry magazines dubbed them publishers of unfinished vaporware (software that is promised but never actually completed), making them laughingstocks, and irate customers posted raging messages on bulletin boards and chat rooms all over the net.
Of course, this was the world of software, where expectations are often underfulfilled, and somehow these companies managed to survive. But it's not always that easy. Imagine buying a car that went belly-up in a week. Many of today's emerging industries are doing the equivalent, but the public won't put up with poor performance forever.Every Mistake in the Book. Copyright © by F J Lennon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.