Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Review of Failing Big: 17 Lessons...

Engineer and would-be entrepreneur (“the founder of the online sports betting service Champions Forecast”) Daniel Pericich has written a book easy to like, almost to love. We might tend to want our lessons only from those who have had big success, but they have their own biases and quirks, too. Would odds-maker Nate Silver give away his secrets? Would Google tell Facebook? We are more likely to be like those who have tried and nearly succeeded, otherwise known as “failed.” Their experience may be closer to our own, perhaps more honestly presented. Here are his 17 lessons and my brief comments on each:

1.    The Rules of Give and Take: “Running a business is managing a relationship,” managing many relationships in fact: suppliers, employees, customers. You need their trust.
2.    Less Is More (Effective Communication): Brevity is the soul of wit, and we risk being tuned out by others if we don’t get to the point…a point they are interested in.
3.    Conveying a Consistent Image: You and your logo are frequently viewed by your customers. Mostly, their impressions are visual. Nike’s Swoosh (costing $35 to create originally), McDonald’s golden arches…. In person, play the part.
4.    Developing a Presence: The Internet is key. Master social media or be left behind.
5.    The Power of Connecting: Don’t merely be seen, interact.
6.    Gathering the Right Followers: Assemble your tribe. Go where your allies and customers are likely to be. “True Following = (Followers) x (Interaction Rate),” is explained by this engineer much as I would, as a former physicist. Someone named Selena Gomez is on the most-followed on Instagram and a sponsored post on her site costs a half-million bucks. If you know who she is, you are clearly more tuned in than I.
7.    Choosing the Right Advertising Medium: Your goals, customers, and your content must match. Easier said than done. Despite that only 25% of Instagram users are in the U.S., it turned out to be his best platform.
8.    Online Media Editors: Hire help if you can afford it; else, use the templates and formats available cheaply online.
9.    Big Market Bias: There’s a value to being local, but if you want the big numbers, pitch to the big markets, like New York, Los Angeles, Dallas….
10. The Power of Trademarked Graphics: They are handsome, effective, and well known but use them only with permission or risk real trouble.
11. Don’t Be Shy, Ask to Buy: The Call to Action needs frequent presentation, while still being wrapped in worthwhile, interesting content.
12. Challenges of Scaling: What is simple in small numbers can be daunting in large. Get help.
13. Assets vs. Inventory: Assets help you produce; inventory goes out as part of the product or service. Invest in what you need, not what you think you need.
14. Reinventing the Wheel: Don’t.
15. Staying Focused: Sounds like a good idea but can lead to being nearsighted strategically. Know your limits. Diversity allows weathering changes at the cost of loss of intensity of effort. Apple needed Steve Jobs to get them back on track. Starbucks lost its identity for a while.
16. Failing Just Happens: As the poet Robert Burns noted, the best-laid plans go awry. Hard work and diligence and intelligence are necessary but not sufficient. Luck plays a role.
17. Celebrate Successes Both Big and Small: The journey is of value, not only reaching the destination.

The book is a pleasant read; the author seems likable. He acknowledges his shortcomings and is candid about what succeeded and did not. Humble enough, he doesn’t emphasize that luck plays a role in success, but it does.

Yes, it takes effort to pull the slot machine handle repeatedly if you are to win the prize, so diligence is necessary, but not sufficient. Skill clearly plays a role, and one has genetic and environmental factors that come into play. Brains and determination help improve the odds of your success.

Still, you can have a brilliant idea that takes centuries to be appreciated: 18th century mathematician Thomas Bayes would have to wait until the mid-20th century to have his statistical methods become accepted and widely used…especially now in the search engines of Google et al.

Failing Big is about failure, written by an author who should consider himself a success.

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