My Takeaways From The Book The E-Myth Revisited

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

There is no shortage of business books available to read. All of them offer some unique perspective on one or many aspects of business. As is shown from an entire category here at The Hot Iron on book takeaways, I enjoying reading a variety of business books and manage to take something away from them. With some books, something resonates with me strongly, even if it is a reaffirmation of something I already know.

This was the case for me with The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. It is considered a “classis” small business book as it talks about the dilemma most entrepreneurs (what the “e” stands for) get into, where what they thought was creating a business was more creating a job. Gerber, in a narrative style, takes the reader to the point where they are, and guides them out of it and back to leading a business.

In this description I have oversimplified the details of the book, as there are many to go through, plus I did not want to give too much away as I am hoping anyone who owns their own business reads the book! There is certainly a lot in each step of Gerber’s process, especially as he has developed a consulting firm around helping people do so. I will share with you my takeaways from this book.

My greatest take away from The E-Myth Revisited is to write is down, and write down everything. I am not just referring to to-do lists, rather I am talking about writing everything from a business plan to operation plans to logins and passwords. Many people will confirm with me that if it isn’t written down, it will never happen. This rings true especially for business planning. Why many people don’t write things down is because they believe they do not have to, that it is in their heads and that is good enough. However you will get to a point that you wished you wrote it down, so you have something to look to at all times as a barometer at how successful you are.

An equally important takeaway is to determine what you want out of your business. For most entrepreneurs, including myself, going on your own meant you wanted to do things the way you felt they should be and not how you did them working for someone else. Where this is true, one thing you probably didn’t want to do was work 20 hours a day, every day or balance your business’ books on a regular basis! In E-Myth Gerber calls this your Primary Aim, and defining it even several years down the road is important for you to do. I know, I did it myself.

Note both of these takeaways are not necessarily earth-shattering revelations you could only get from the book. Perhaps it was the style of the book, or when I read it personally, that made these points resonate with me.

The E-Myth Revisited was recommended to me by many people. I purchased my own copy and was personally compelled to write this post. My only regret with reading it is that I wished I read it very early on in the starting of my business. After reading it, myself and a colleague decided to go through defining our Primary Aims and we shared out discoveries. It was a soul-searching experience, not to mention important activity. Needless to say I recommend this book to anyone who is thinking of starting a business or even someone who is already in business who has not read it yet. I consider The E-Myth Revisited a must-read business book, with the likes of Barry Moltz’s You Need To Be a Little Crazy: The Truth About Starting and Growing Your Business. Note the links to books in this post are affiliate links to Amazon.com.


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My Takeaways From The Book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 06:52 AM with 0 comments

Have you ever felt that all of the sudden you hear about someone who has done something great and then wondered, where did they come from? The term “overnight sensation” is commonly given to these people. But is their success truly something that materialized over the course of 24 hours? This is the idea behind the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

In Outliers, several categories of people are analyzed as well as famous people who fall into those classifications. Gladwell is seeking to find out why they are successful – is it by chance, or were there contributing factors to their success? The book is told in a narrative, non-intimidating style for a book that presents a lot of data and unique scenarios to consider. He makes conclusions based on his research which in the end are rather simple – I won’t give them away as I don’t want to spoil it if you decide to read the book!

There were a couple of takeaways for me from Outliers. The greatest was we don’t often know the whole story behind a person’s success. Many times when a person’s story is told, you hear their achievements and perhaps some obstacles they had to overcome, but not much more. This is no fault to journalists or whoever is telling the story, as these are the most interesting parts. Many other events occurring in a person’s history may not even be interesting; however they may have contributed greatly to their success. In the book Bill Gates is highlighted. Where most people may know he dropped out of Harvard University, most probably don’t realize the high amount of access he had to computers as a youth, which Gladwell contributes to his success.

Another takeaway from the book was there could have been other titles for this book. I assume “Outliers” was chosen as the people highlighted are considered outliers from the mainstream of society. Another good title could have been “Chances” as many of the people in the book had chances and opportunities others have not which contributed to their success. Another title could have been “The Rest Of The Story” which though is probably trademarked by the late Paul Harvey’s estate would have fit as it does tell the rest of the story of those featured. I’ll admit the given title did not compel me to read the book as much as who wrote it, as I have liked Gladwell’s other books.

I enjoyed Outliers and would recommend it to anyone in business or beyond, as the back story of the book helps remind you there is probably more going on or has gone on than you may realize. And to fully disclose, I was offered this book by a colleague, and it was shipped to me directly from either the publisher or a publicist at no cost. I was not asked to write a review or takeaways on it. Note the links to the book within this story are affiliate links to Amazon.com, where I would earn a few pennies if you did buy the book from one of the links.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Takeaways From The Book Don’t Make Me Think

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, August 21, 2009 at 03:04 PM with 1 comments

Computers are supposed to make our lives easier, right? Despite this, people still have a hard time using the hardware or software on it. What should be intuitive is not usually the case. This is the premise of Steve Krug’s book, Don’t Make Me Think, as he explores the world of Web design.

How many times have you been on a Web site and you are having a hard time finding information when you know you should be able to easily find it? I am not just talking about novice users here, as this happens to yours truly all the time, and I like to consider myself an experienced Web user! Somebody somewhere made some decision to layout and design a Web site a certain way, and thus your pain. In Don’t Make Me Think, common-sense, straightforward information is presented to the reader, who should be everyone from a Web designer to Web developer to Web site owner.

Needless to say, I had many takeaways from this book, all of which are of equal weight as I believe in what this book talks about quite a bit! Here are a few of them:

Creative Doesn’t Mean Different – Many times I see a Web site or hear from someone who created one that is virtually impossible to use, and it is deemed to be “highly creative.” Where there is more than likely some creative minds behind it, in the end a Web site needs to be usable, and if it is not, then it is merely something nice to look at, but not touch. A Web site can still be creative yet intuitive, and great Web designers know how to do that.

A Redesign of a Web Site Should Be Thorough – Many times when Web sites are redesigned, it is merely a fresh coat of paint on an old home (page). If that is the case, then the design can be hampered by old code behind the scenes, which can hamper its usability as well as its growth. When approaching a Web site redesign, be as comprehensive as possible, including all elements, to prevent the need for more work soon after it is completed.

There Is No Such Things As A Typical User – When we at Dunkirk Systems, LLC work with clients on a Web site, we seek to identify potential users of the Web site. These users are identified by their role or title – media, consumers, students, etc. – and not by their technical ability. In the past, there was always a desire to identify the “typical user” and this meant more about their ability, which related to the complexity of the Web site. Krug backups the notion that there is no such typical user, and I concur from my own personal experience.

Testing a Web Site is Not Just for Experts – Where quality assurance (QA) and usability experts are vital to many Web sites and applications, if your budget does not allow for such experts, you can still do effective testing.

I enjoyed reading Don’t Make Me Think, and I highly recommend it to anybody involved in the creation or maintenance of Web sites, as well as anyone who owns one or who wants to. It is written in a no-nonsense yet lighthearted style that is suitable for the most technical and non-technical people.


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My Takeaways From The Book Atlas Shrugged

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, August 01, 2009 at 01:14 PM with 5 comments

photo of Atlas Shrugged1,069 pages. That’s one-thousand, sixty-nine pages, and no pictures either. The text on the pages was tight to the margins too. Spending an hour may get you through a dozen pages. Thus reading Atlas Shrugged took me almost a year, and finally I have another book takeaway to present.

That being said, I enjoyed reading Ayn Rand’s famous novel. I came by it from mentions in other books and blogs I have read, as well as from reports in the media. The latter has much to do with the free-market theme of the book. Many who call themselves Libertarians consider this book from their inspiration to their manifesto. As a result, Atlas Shrugged is referred to much with regards to today’s political environment, especially in the US, and by “both sides of the aisle” in one form or another. That being said, I am not writing takeaways about politics, as I wish only to look at what I took away from it within the theme of The Hot Iron. Any other dialogue on it can be discussed over adult beverages!

With that setup, here are my takeaways from Atlas Shrugged.

Understand the big picture – Many times decisions are made in business (and life too) that have an impact within a small sphere. Even if the results of these decisions are successful, they could have a negative impact on the bigger picture. Sometimes when an action is taken locally it may have not been needed, as there could have been something globally that could have been tapped into, thus saving time and cost. More often than not, a decision is made without regard it may impact those outside of the sphere, and ultimately does.

The best way I approach this is to step back and say to myself, “what is the ultimate goal?” This type of thinking outside of the box almost always brings creative ideas.

Get the best people for the job – There are 2 ways to do this. One is to simply match the job with the best qualified individual, one who brings experience and integrity to the role. The second way is to hire someone who you believe can do the job and manage them well and give them the time and venue to learn the job. If you don’t give someone the opportunity to thrive, they won’t.

Stick to your principles – Your principles are the one thing you can truly own. When your business runs out of customers, time or money, you will still have your principles. When you compromise them, not only are you changing how you operate but also yourself. You can change aspects of how you execute and still stick to your principles. It may take more effort, but in the end you will still be you.

Know when to quit – Quitting doesn’t mean a finite termination in all cases. It could be pausing what you do or simply doing what you do best in a different venue. Quitting is often considered failure. But if you look at the big picture, you may not see that is necessarily the case.

I enjoyed the journey that was reading Atlas Shrugged and highly recommend it to everyone. I considered it a worthwhile investment of my time. Now back to my other books that stacked up over the last year.


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In Anticipation Of My Next Book Take-Away

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 04:00 AM with 5 comments

When I began writing book take-aways, it started with a goal of clearing my bookshelf of long unread books. But as I traveled along this literary journey, I discovered other books to read, many of which were mentioned in some of the books I previously read. One of those books is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

I look forward to finishing this book and writing my take-aways, if for any other reason it is well over 1,000 pages long! Most of the books I have previously read were no longer than 300 pages, so it will be interesting to see when I finish it. Stay tuned.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Take-Aways From The Book Buying In

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 05:50 PM with 0 comments

You have heard the saying ‘you are what you eat.’ But how about you are what you buy? Or the reverse? The latter question is the premise behind a great book Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are by Rob Walker.

In Buying In, Walker explores this relationship, or as he calls it dialogue, between what we buy and who we are. It is packed with examples of brands and consumer goods and the ways they interact with consumers, the very people who are on the selling side with the marketers and others who connect them with consumers. There are also many great terms that come from this book – from Pretty Good Problem describing a plethora of “pretty good” products to choose from, to Desire Code, which comprises all of the factors leading one to buy something to Murketing, a contraction of the words “murky” and “marketing” which are themes throughout the book.

My greatest takeaway from Buying In is the consumer can make – and sometimes demand – an individual connection with a product. Going away are the days of mass-produced and mass-marketed goods. The Internet has broken down the technical barriers between consumers and companies, and now companies need to realize this and converse with their customers. Technology alone won’t do it all, as there needs to be a fundamental realization first that a company wants to do this!

Another takeaway is consumers don’t want to feel like they have been sold something. Call it a win-win situation - or call it consumers don’t want to feel like they are at the bottom of a pipe of products being fed to them. Scion is cited as an example of this, where they took a non-traditional approach to reaching out to the Generation Y-ers, their target audience.

A final takeaway is that it may not be your product or service, rather how it is marketed. American Apparel moved form promoting their Los Angeles-based manufacturing and selling to wholesalers to retail stores selling hip clothing. Timberland created a professional shoe line to reconnect with their traditional market after growing a new base of younger, urban consumers.

Shortly after reading Buying In, I attended the Nokia OpenLab in Helsinki and saw in action a lot of what I read in Buying In. There were those who were Nokia mavens as well as those who have built businesses around Nokia products. Even Nokia has gotten into this by buying all of the Symbian operating system that powers their phones and turning it over to a non-profit foundation, open-sourcing it for all to develop on and extend. Where some may see this as a lack of control, Nokia doesn’t, and has profited well from this.

There are many other studies and examples in Buying In that get you thinking a lot about what you buy and why or what you sell and how. I highly recommend it to entrepreneurs and business people – large and small – as well as to those interested in why they may have the things they have.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Take-Aways From The Book Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, September 13, 2008 at 04:00 AM with 1 comments

As a new Dad, there is plenty to read out there. A book that is a “must read” is called “What To Expect When You're Expecting” or simply referred to as “the book.” If you saw the movie “Knocked Up” this is the book they were referring to. The idea behind these books is to inform you as much as possible before your baby arrives, and when it does, you will be prepared with information to take on any situation.

Have you seen how many baby books are out there? And what they cover you won’t possibly remember at 3:00 a.m. when your baby is screaming for a bottle. One day I put down “the book” when I got to the chapter of all the deadly diseases a baby can have. Not that I can do anything about any of them, of course.

These information-overload books are screaming for a different approach – a book that covers the basics, but with a sarcastic sense of humor. Ok, that last part is my personal preference. I found such a book in Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay, by Stefanie Wilder Taylor, a comedy writer and Mom. There were many takeaways from this for me, not only as a new parent but for life in general.

My greatest takeaway is that you can study, but nothing beats on the job training. Other than babysitting someone’s kid, there is no internship for being a parent. But there are internships available for just about every career option out there. Experience of some form beats none at all in most cases, providing the people involved have somewhat similar capacity.

Another takeaway is to budget for unplanned changes. In the case of a baby, this hit me most when I was tested with the functionality of some baby clothes, especially at late hours or when the kid wanted to take advantage of being outside of the womb and kick like crazy. An example that occurs for me quite often is with Web site design and development. Even though the delivered solution may be exactly to spec, once it is out there and in use, there may be desired changes to make it that much better, or fix something never originally considered. I would also apply this to home ownership.

A final takeaway on advice – consider yourself an employer and someone gives you a resume; file it as you never know when you need it. As a new parent, I get tons of advice daily. Some of it just does not resonate until you are in the moment when that advice applies. Keeping some of these things in the back of your mind and shuffling through them on occasion helps, whether it’s a screaming baby or screaming client.

Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay is certainly not a reference for everything that could possibly happen to your baby, and as extensive as it is the book "What to Expect" is still a must-read. But "Sippy Cups" is a great story tightly woven with humor and sarcasm and real life that I recommend to any first-time parents, or anyone that knows any first-time parents.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Take-Aways From The Book All The Troubles In The World

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, September 06, 2008 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

What is this world coming to? This is a question I occasionally find myself asking myself or others around me. Even though these days most things don’t really surprise me, sometimes you have to wonder about what you are reading and seeing in the news.

But maybe that’s it – it’s what I read and see in the news. If you hear bad news (or even good news) it is a short, sound-byte driven story that has very little depth. On the surface, a news story could be the worst thing to possibly happen in the world. But with more depth and information beyond the brief story, it may reveal a story that could still be bad – or good – but the more you know, the more you know. This is the idea behind the book All The Troubles In The World.

P.J. O’Rourke is a conservative political satirist. Whether you agree with his politics or not, he makes his point with sarcasm and dry humor that would find someone on the polar opposite politically giving an occasional chuckle. This book, written in 1994 (and sitting on my bookshelf since then), is, as stated on the cover, “the lighter side of overpopulation, famine, ecological disaster, ethnic hatred, plague and poverty.” Lighter side? I asked myself that prior to digging into the dusty pages of this book, one which did give me take-aways.

My biggest takeaway is that you really do need depth to a story. We don’t have time to look into every nuance or wrinkle in everything we see in the news, but more information on the people and scenarios that encircle a story help give it context, and help one make their own opinions on it. Many news Web sites have “related links” to other stories pertaining to a certain news story. I often find myself at Wikipedia when I want a start to get depth in a story.

Another takeaway from the book is you need multiple perspectives on a story, or really anything. There is plenty of talk about liberal or conservative biases in the media. While I am well aware when I see something being spun in a certain direction in front of me, I am able to discern the shaft from the wheat, and see what is truly happening and what is not.

A final takeaway is that we need more humor in our lives. As I write this, I admit I have been grumpy throughout this day. If I had a little more humor or something funny happen to me today, I probably wouldn’t be so grumpy. O’Rourke does this funny very well, in a brainy sort of way.

I recommend All The Troubles In The World to anyone who likes P.J. O’Rourke’s work, or anyone who recalls the news and events from the early 1990’s. It was interesting to read this and think back to that time, and see what has changed, and what has not.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Take-Aways From The Book e-Preneur

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at 03:12 PM with 0 comments

In my takeaways on the book The Venture Cafe I said in business you cannot truly go it alone. But what if you took it to the extreme, where the ideas for what your business does came from other people, namely the same people you are trying to sell to? This is the premise of the book e-Preneur, subtitled “From Wall Street to Wiki: Succeeding as a Crowdpreneur in the New Virtual Marketplace.”

A crowdpreneur, as defined by the author Richard Goossen, is, “an individual or organization that uses the strategy of online crowd empowerment in its various forms (collective intelligence, mass collaboration, crowdsourcing & others) in the pursuit of an entrepreneurial venture.” In other words, your business is solely about the ideas from others. Crowdsourcing, as I have digested it, is making an open call for ideas. An example of a crowdpreneur often cited is Chicago’s Threadless, a t-shirt company where ideas are submitted by the community through their Web site, who vote on what shirt designs will eventually be sold.

To many this is not only a new idea but one they probably would never consider. How can you give control over what your business does to others? However if you have some curiosity on the topic, this may be a read for you. Even though my own business Dunkirk Systems, LLC would be considered traditional in comparison to a crowdpreneurial business, I did have takeaways from this book.

My greatest take away is to keep in close contact with your customers. Business owners of all sizes can easily lose focus of their business and the service they offer to their customers. As a small businessperson, the input and ideas from my partners and clients are critical to the success of my business. On the other extreme is the airline industry, who plainly doesn’t give a damn about their customers. Input can sometimes be a distraction, but managed properly it can be a vital source for ideas and as a result increased business.

Another take away is that there is no shortage of ideas for running a business. Advances in technology, including Internet technologies labeled as “Web 2.0,” have enabled companies to do many great things, including crowdsourcing and being crowdpreneurial. Just think back a few years for many of the services and Web sites (e.g. YouTube) were merely good ideas in someone’s head. By keeping an open mind and being able to adapt and change as needed, companies can either stay ahead of the game, or survive in tough economic times.

E-Preneur takes the reader through 5 steps to create a crowdpreneurial venture, from the original concept to funding it. Throughout the book there are many lists, though if they were broken out more as tabular lists would have been more helpful in organizing your thoughts as you read it. The book closes with some basic business start-up concepts that, if you are already at this point, you may already have down. Where many books have a type or two, a glaring error was in citing name of the chairman of Cisco Systems as John Cisco instead of John Chambers! All things considered, if you are looking for ideas or a different perspective on business, e-Preneur is a good and encouraging read.


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My Take-Aways From The Book The Venture Cafe

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, June 27, 2008 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

As the saying goes, it takes money to make money. This is something I learned first-hand when I started my own business, Dunkirk Systems, LLC, several years ago. In my case, I bootstrapped my business – used savings as well as revenues to grow and expand my business. It has worked for me as it fits the size and scope of my business. But bootstrapping isn’t for everyone, and not just people who don’t have money to invest in a business. Some business ideas require a large amount of cash for research and manufacturing, and this is where venture capital can come into play.

Venture capital, or VC, is a large part of the story of the book The Venture Cafe by Teresa Esser. It is a non-fiction piece about entrepreneurs and those with business or product ideas and how they go about taking those ideas forward. The notion of a cafe stems from the author’s experience with a pub on the campus of MIT in Cambridge, MA where people with gather to talk thru various business and technology ideas. The book follows the path from idea to established companies, and throughout are interviews with people at various stages themselves, including the author’s own personal stories.

My greatest takeaway from the book is you cannot do it alone. Whether you need financial or human capital or merely cheerleaders on the sidelines, to grow and be a true business you need resources that will surely go beyond yourself. This can be hard for some who are, using a term I commonly use, control-freak entrepreneurs. It is not letting go, it is empowering others. And things may not go exactly as you have planned, especially when using other people’s money.

An equally important takeaway is accountability, to everybody including the investors to employees to you. Investors want to know how and why their money is being spent, and if they will make a profit or not. This may mean making hard, unpopular decisions, but to pursue the goal and move forward, they have to be made.

A final takeaway is that you may fail. Where another saying says failure is not an option, it can happen, and if it does, you need to react to it. One example in the book is about an executive who loses everything, yet in his next opportunity he excels to an extreme. Recovering from this failure, or bouncing back, shows the true mettle of a person.

I enjoyed The Venture Cafe, especially for someone who was living in the Boston area around the time it was written. Many of the people and companies were ones I was familiar with. Though it was published in 2002 and talks much of the dot-com bust of that period, many of the stories and lessons learned from it apply today. And as much as the book is about VC, it does not profess it is the only way to go, and provides takes of those who chose VC and those who did not for their business. I recommend this book for anyone who may want to reminisce about the past, and learn from it to empower the future.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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