Ready, Fire, Aim

“This book is about creating and growing multimillion-dollar businesses, but it’s also a book about becoming a business genius.”

Ready, Fire, Aim, page 32

It’s every entrepreneur’s dream: to not only start and build your business from the ground up, but to someday take it to the heights of a multimillion-dollar level organization. Doing that with just one business is quite gratifying. But, doing it with multiple businesses is pretty special.

Michael Masterson falls into the latter category. Throughout his career, he’s been a part of several successful businesses, helping to “start and develop dozens of multimillion-dollar businesses, including one whose revenues exceeded $135 million and another still growing at $300 million.”

And it’s this experience that’s allowed him to identify the Four Stages of Growth.

Golden Egg

The Four Stages of Growth

“If you look at how businesses develop over time, either from your own experience or by looking at industry statistics for entrepreneurial ventures, you will see that there are basically four stages of growth.”

Ready, Fire, Aim, page 15

Through his own experience as a business owner, and as a business consultant, Michael found that every entrepreneurial business goes through four stages of growth:

Stage One: Infancy – zero to $1 million in revenue
Stage Two: Childhood – $1 million to $10 million in revenue
Stage Three: Adolescence – $10 million to $50 million in revenue
Stage Four: Adulthood – $50 million to $100 million in revenue

What he also noticed is that “each stage has its own unique characteristics in the form of problems, challenges, and opportunities” and it’s important to pay attention to these specific characteristics as you continue to take your business to the next level.

So what are they?

GEM #1

What Stage Are You In? Know Your Main Problem, Challenge and Opportunity

“Other issues matter as well, but if you know what to expect at each stage of the game and prepare yourself for those common problems, challenges, and opportunities, it will be much easier to reach the next level.”

Ready, Fire, Aim, page 19

At any point in time, you probably have what seems like an endless TO-DO list. So where should you focus your time, and more importantly, energy? Well that depends on what stage of growth you’re in. This is an area that Michael focuses on heavily in the book, breaking down each stage; but here is the main problem, challenge and opportunity at each stage based on his experience:

Stage One: Infancy – zero to $1 million in revenue
Main Problem: You don’t really know what you are doing.
Main Challenge: Making the first profitable sale.
Main Opportunity: Achieving a minimum critical mass of customers

Skills Needed: (1) Getting things done and (2) selling.

Stage Two: Childhood – $1 million to $10 million in revenue
Main Problem: You are only breaking even or may even be losing money.
Main Challenge: Creating many additional, profitable products quickly.
Main Opportunity: Increasing cash flow and becoming profitable.

Additional Skill Needed: Coming up with a constant stream of new and potentially tipping-point ideas.

Stage Three: Adolescence – $10 million to $50 million in revenue
Main Problem: Your systems are strained, and customers are noticing.
Main Challenge: Turning the chaos into order.
Main Opportunity: Learning how to establish useful protocols and manage processes and procedures.

Additional Skill Needed: Running your business with just three or four simple management reports.

Stage Four: Adulthood – $50 million to $100 million in revenue
Main Problem: Sales slow down and may even stall.
Main Challenge: Becoming entrepreneurial again.
Main Opportunity: Getting the business to run itself.

Additional Skill Needed: Determining the role you will play in the business’s future.

GEM #2

Ready, Fire, Aim

“The Ready, Fire, Aim concept is about velocity, about the profound benefits of moving from an idea into action at the fastest possible speed. But Ready, Fire, Aim doesn’t mean reckless abandon. It doesn’t mean bolting into action before you are ready. It’s Ready, Fire, Aim, not Fire at Will.”


Ready, Fire, Aim
, page 181

Along with focusing on the specific opportunity for your particular stage of growth, Michael also has one central method for success, which can be, and should be, applied in all stages of growth. It’s called Ready, Fire, Aim. And it’s something that Michael advises us to apply to the product development side of the business.

Get Ready I’m sure you’re well aware of the “practice beats theory” approach when it comes to business (or any life experience for that matter). And that’s the same philosophy Michael believes in as well.

But, before he actually Fires, he insists on asking seven key questions in the Ready phase. In fact, Michael even uses these questions to create a short business proposal (maximum four pages) for any new start-ups he gets involved in. And he insists that this be completed within 24 hours from the time you have your idea.

 1.       Do I have a good idea? You will never know how good your product is until you actually test it, but “it pays to take a moment to ask this.”

 2.       Does it feel like it will work? “Given a choice between (a) methodically analyzing whether a business idea is good enough to be successful in the marketplace and (b) relying on the intuition of an experienced person, I’d opt for intuition.

3.       Are my sales targets realistic? Spend some time doing “What if I’m wrong?” calculations (i.e. double the estimated cost of bringing the idea to life, then reduce your estimated units sold by half, and if it still looks like you’ll make a profit, go forward).

4.       Can I afford to test this idea? If it’s a costly idea, maybe testing in a controlled environment first is best.

 5.       Do I know the basic tasks that need to be done? Create a short list of the primary tasks that need to be completed.

6.       Do I have the people who can do the tasks? You can’t always make it alone, so do you have the right people on board? Understand who you’ll need to involve when in the tasks you listed in Step 5.

7.       Do I have a Plan B, an exit plan, in case my good idea turns out to be a bad one? Create a “What if it fails?” plan. Set your stop-loss points – “measurable points that determine, ahead of time, whether you will continue to invest money in the project or drop it.”

Fire! At this point, don’t get caught up in the “just need to do one more thing” syndrome. You’ve answered the essential seven questions, so now is the time to Fire!

Aim Continue to monitor your progress as you move forward and adjust as necessary.

 

Ready, Fire, Aim not only provides insight on the early stages of entrepreneurial life, but also the corporate life that you may eventually lead to as an Entrepreneur aiming to create a multimillion-dollar business.

And although there is a heavy focus on strategy, revenue and profits, Michael clearly emphasizes one simple, yet equally significant fact: it’s not about you – it’s about your customers, and what’s best for them.

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Parin Patel

ABOUT Parin Patel

Parin is a Blogger, Writer, and Consultant, from Vancouver, BC. And he’s intrigued by one question: What makes GREAT people GREAT? As an avid basketball fan, he’s watched athletes like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant consistently perform at an elite level...
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