Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Delray Beach, FL
In 2010, John Wiley published a book I had written several years earlier called Ready, Fire, Aim. Of the 20+ books I’ve written on business and wealth building, Ready, Fire, Aim has had the longest tail. Although it barely made it to the bestseller lists that year, it has sold conti nuously since then.
The tail was also wide. It’s been republished in more than a dozen countries, recommended by dozens of digital newsletters and magazines, and has been used in business schools, book clubs, and even churches!
My goal with Ready, Fire, Aim was to explain my theory about starting and growing entrepreneurial businesses.
My thesis was that all entrepreneurial businesses have some commonalities in terms of the challenges they face at various stages. And I argued that if you, as an entrepreneur, recognize those commonalities, you would have a significant advantage over your competitors and a favorable chance of success.
In looking at the way businesses develop over time, I identified four levels of business growth, based on revenue:
- Stage One: zero to $1 million
- Stage Two: one million to $10 million
- Stage Three: $10 million to $50 million
- Stage Four: $50 million plus
I then tried to make the different stages more understandable in terms of entrepreneurial business growth by corresponding them (loosely) to the four stages of human growth.
In Stage One (Infancy), I explained, the business has many immediate needs that you must satisfy, some of which are necessary to sustain its life. In Stage Two (Childhood), as the business gets on its feet, you must keep it safe as it finds its way in a strange new world. In Stage Three (Adolescence), when everything is growing faster than you ever thought it would, you must remain firmly in control. If you don’t, all sorts of bad things can happen, some fatal.
If the business gets through Adolescence, an entirely new set of problems arises. In Stage Four (Adulthood), the business looks and feels fully mature. But you sense that if you don’t continue to make grow, it will start to fall apart. The solution to this problem, I suggested, was to take a hard look at how the business is structured. Because what worked to this point – to get your business from zero to $50 million in revenue – is not going to take you any further.
In Ready, Fire, Aim, I went on to provide details on the problems, challenges, and opportunities that an entrepreneur should be prepared to deal with on their journey from Stage One to Stage Four.
What I Didn’t Know Then…
When Ready, Fire, Aim was published, I was involved with more than a dozen businesses that I had grown from Stage One.
Most of them were by then Stage Two businesses. Four or five were at Stage Three. And one had just broken into Stage Four with yearly revenues exceeding $50 million.
Until that business broke through, I had taken only one other business to Stage Four. So the ideas and advice I had about Stage Four businesses were based on just two personal experiences. Because of that relative paucity of knowledge, I was much more comfortable with the sections about the three earlier stages while I was writing the book.
In retrospect, I stand by most of what I said about Stage Four. But what was missing from Ready, Fire, Aim was the next level: growing a $100 million business to a billion and beyond.
In 2010, of course, I couldn’t do it. I had never taken a business to a billion dollars, so how could I write about it?
But that was eight years ago, and things have changed. Two years ago, my primary business broke the billion-dollar threshold.
I’m not talking about going public and getting a public valuation of a billion dollars. That is an entirely different thing.
I’m talking about growing revenues from $100 million to a billion dollars and beyond. That’s its own kind of achievement – one that, after seeing this business continue to grow with astonishing profitability, I felt the need to write about.
So in this series of essays, I’m going to review and revise the beginning chapters of Ready, Fire, Aim, and then go on to discuss, in some depth, how we did it. As far as I know, this will be the first time anyone has looked at business growth in this way. I hope you will find it helpful.