By the age of 35, Mike Michalowicz had founded and sold two multimillion-dollar companies. Confident that he had the formula to success, he became an angel investor ... and went on to lose his entire fortune. These gritty stories, of success, short-term failures, bootstrap climbs back to the top, and more success are part of the fun in writing this column. The stories are sometimes unbelievable, sometimes remarkable--and in this case both.
If you want an accurately depicted, self-told timeline of Michalowicz's failures, launches, and biggest lessons in business, look no further than the books he has written. The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, deemed an entrepreneur's cult classic by Businessweek, is a tale of the cleanup. Michalowicz's next book, The Pumpkin Plan, is all about the grow-up, leading into Surge, a book about the expert takeover. In 2017, Michalowicz published Profit First, in which he describes the mindset shift necessary to survive in a rapidly transitioning marketplace. Last, and recently, there's Clockwork, a book that helps entrepreneurs design a business that runs itself.
All of these books not only show us the progression Michalowicz has experienced in his entrepreneurial career thus far, but also truly outline the shifts entrepreneurs end up making or missing on their own paths when scaling (or attempting to scale) a business.
Let's Talk Toilet Paper
When Michalowicz wrote The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, he was determined to teach others how to clean up their businesses, "even if they were at the end of their roll," as he put it. Having experienced both success and failure, Michalowicz had developed an understanding of entrepreneurship and what you actually needed if you wanted to make it. In scaling a business, there are things you don't know. And even worse, you don't know what you don't know ... which makes expert guidance important in avoiding rookie mistakes.
Starting Over With Profit First
When Michalowicz started over, after losing it all, profit was the most important thing, and from this experience, he created his Profit First formula. This strategy was designed to show entrepreneurs how to ensure profitability, which is probably their biggest area of struggle. Everyone has questions, but what they're really asking is this: How do I make money? How do I align all of these pieces to become profitable?
Queen Bee Role
Some of the best, nitty-gritty, real-life advice I've heard Michalowicz give is around a philosophy he calls "the queen bee role." In nature, we see so much efficiency, and a great example is the beehive, which we can look to for organization and efficiency in surviving and thriving. Every bee understands that the survival of their colony depends on the production of eggs. If eggs aren't being produced, their entire colony is in jeopardy, and even though the queen bee might lay the eggs, still the production of the eggs is the responsibility of every bee in the colony. This means that the most important element in the hive is not the queen bee, but the role the bees fulfill. You must know your queen bee role and do that first, put that at the forefront, ahead of everything.
During our Feed Your Brand podcast conversation, Michalowicz used FedEx as an example. Its queen bee role is delivering packages on time. Sure, the company offers other services, but this is the one it focuses on first. And imagine if FedEx didn't. It would be out of business quickly. Figure out your queen bee role and dedicate your resources to that first; everything else is secondary.
How To: On his Entrepreneurship Elevated podcast, Michalowicz recently shared a strategy for listeners to define their business, because a defined business is a scalable business. Here's his process:
Step 1: Define your big promise. Every business makes one big promise to its customer base. If you haven't done this yet, do it now.
Step 2: Identify the activity that makes your big promise a reality (that's your queen bee role).
Step 3: Teach all of your bees that promise and that queen bee role.