Every now and then there's a business book that rocks the business world. In 2011, that book was Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross, now regarded as the Sales Bible of Silicon Valley. I'm excited that he's teamed up with another must-follow entrepreneur/writer, SaaStr's Jason Lemkin, on a new business-growth bible: From Impossible to Inevitable: How Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue.
If I'd have had this book at the company I had before I started Outro, we would have scaled 4x faster. Beyond the surprisingly practical sales and marketing best-practices, I felt that two things really stood out to me about this book: first, it's full of real-life, specific examples on how to grow sales. Just as importantly, it also acknowledges that success doesn't happen alone, or in a vacuum. Jason and Aaron share their own and others' real life struggles of success: why you have to commit to a 5-10 year journey, juggling career and kids (Aaron has 12), frustrated employees who want instant success, and addressing depression or Years Of Hell.
Especially if you have younger employees (or are one yourself), you need to read the sections about going beyond delegating, to empower employees to take ownership of what they do. They lead it off with a reality check for employees.
Aaron & Jason point out that employees often get frustrated because they feel unappreciated by executives. Yet executives don't see employees going the extra mile to take initiative and solve problems on their own. They highlight the differences in an interesting set of "open letters".
Here's a sample from their "Letter from Executives to Employees":
"If things aren't happening the way you want, take charge of your own destiny rather than believing it's 'other people's fault', like your manager, owner or team. Don't blame others for not recognizing your greatness. If you wait for people to recognize or discover you, you'll be waiting a loooong time. The time will never be perfect. You have to work with what you have--as frustrated or defeated as you feel. Products launched, marketing campaigns run, sales closed, employees hired, customers serviced and bills paid. There will always be innumerable problems to solve; pick one and do something about it."
One major caveat: Aaron & Jason emphasize that this success can't come at the expense of not delivering on their current job:
"If you can't deliver on what we hired you for, we're unlikely to trust you to deliver on anything else."
Ross and Lemkin understand it can be frustrating for employees who want fast advancement, but don't sugarcoat the reality check of what advancement requires:
"Find someone who will believe in you and coach you. Even if you have to do it privately, since it might not be your manager. If you're unsure where to begin, start by talking to [us] and other employees. What problem needs to be solved, what function needs an owner? There is no magic recipe to follow, where someone can just tell you what to do. You have to practice figuring it out on your own--this is part of taking the initiative!"
Now, frequently it's leaders who are the ones resisting change... and in another letter "to senior executives from the CEO and board", Aaron & Jason point out 5 things management needs to keep in mind to create the kind of culture that embraces hyper-growth:
1.) You can't wait for more people and budget to happen before you can evolve and adapt.There is always a way to move forward with the time & resources you have.
2.) Embrace faster decisions: Nothing happens until a decision is made. Are you avoiding making an important decision (or keeping it in committee indefinitely, or hiring a McKinsey...) because you're afraid of making the wrong one or looking bad?
3.) Don't punish new ideas. When a salesperson intentionally tries a creative new technique but loses a big deal or blows up a customer, do you punish them for failing or reward them for trying? It's not a loss as long you learn. Save stronger action for people who a) make the same mistakes repeatedly, or b) lie.
4.) Get your hands dirty--say "I" not "we". Do you think "we" should start a blog, start prospecting, or come up with a new vision statement? Kick off the grunt work yourself first. You'll set the example and learn more about what "it" will take to work.
5.) How can you and your team increase revenue? Maybe no one else cared before how HR, procurement, IT, manufacturing or accounting affected revenue. But I need you to understand what growth requires, so you can help. At a minimum you can teach our sales teams to be smarter about how your function works at customers. And the closer you can tie your area to financial results, the better for your career and responsibilities.
Sound advice from the father of 9 (soon-to-be 12) children, and the serial tech-entrepreneur and venture-capitalist/dad of 2!
What other books have you found to be perfect for entrepreneurs?