Don’t have time to read? Here’s a quick but comprehensive summary of Susan Baroncini-Moe’s “Business in Blue Jeans: How to Have a Successful Business on Your Own Terms, in Your Own Style,” released on June 4, 2013.
Who should read this: Entrepreneurs who want to create a business that fits you, your values, and the lifestyle you want.
Elevator pitch: In six digestible chapters, Baroncini-Moe gives you a step-by-step guide to mastering the fundamentals of building a business, from getting rid of your mental biases to figuring out a product to branding. You also get specific homework assignments, such as brainstorming 100 life dreams or analyzing your competition.
Author: Susan Baroncini-Moe is a business and marketing consultant, who founded a consultancy called Business in Blue Jeans. She is a successful entrepreneur and a Guinness World Records holder for the longest uninterrupted live webcast. She has read over 1,500 business and personal growth books.
This book is an attempt to help you apply business fundamentals to create a company that fits you (like blue jeans). It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old.
To start, do an inventory of your “brain junk”: the mental baggage that might hold you back from succeeding and being happy. For example, you might have a tendency to dream small, or see yourself as small and insignificant. Observe negative voices in your head, and figure out whom they belong to. Observe differences between the way you see yourself and the way you present yourself to the world. Figure out what your “money mindset” is, and how your financial fears or recklessness might be impacting your business.
Next, figure out your “fire”: the fuel that gives you motivation. It consists of two parts: the “heart” (why you do what you do) and the “glow” (the things you love doing). You’ll have fire in your belly when your business combines both. Beware of things that can extinguish your fire, like having too broad of a focus, being overwhelmed by the size of your ambition, or feeling like you don’t have enough time. If your fire goes out, try to figure out what caused that to happen.
The sweet spot for your business is the intersection of fire and expertise. By nature, businesses are supposed to be experts on something; if not, you’ll come off inauthentic to customers. You should also develop a plan to keep improving your expertise by reading or practicing.
Write a mission statement including what you offer, how, and to whom. This may include a strong belief of yours, if it’s authentic to your business.
Find your target market: the people your brand will attract. Ask yourself who is interested in and can afford your offering, whether you like working with this group, and whether it’s too big or too small. If your target market is too broad, you’ll end up as a small fish in a big pond, and customers won’t be sure you’re addressing their specific needs. Then, create a profile of your ideal customers: understand their demographic, their needs and wants, their lifestyle, their online habits, and (most importantly) their pain point. To assemble this information, you can try surveys or small focus groups.
Next, assess your competition. Find the top players in your industry, then carefully analyze their websites, social media, and branding. Throughout this process, observe what resonates and doesn’t resonate with you. In the end, pull out actionable insights and forget the rest – you don’t want to be weighed down imitating or worrying about your competition.
When that’s all done, it’s time to figure out your product or service – what you’re actually selling. It’s about what your target market needs, not about what you want to create. Brainstorm ideas, research to see if they exist already, then create a plan or prototype. Figure out a business model for how you will deliver value to your customers, such as memberships or one-time fees.
To name your product, think about words that appeal to your target market. To create your brand, come up with adjectives that you want it to embody – and be consistent across all aspects of the business. Invest early in your logo and website, or customers will judge you harshly.
“Lean in” to your marketing: show your target market that you care what they have to say, continue to learn about them, and engage them in positive experiences. This is the opposite of one-way broadcast marketing. To do this, your marketing must be consistent – not one blog post every month, or Twitter updates every week.
Improving the customer experience starts with happy employees who have freedom and are paid well. Customer experience includes every touchpoint where customers interact with your business, not just the help line. When mistakes are made, quickly admit them, apologize, solve them, and offer amends.
To succeed, you need a village or community of people who will help you. Create a mastermind group of your peers who meet regularly to give feedback, support, and encouragement. Build your network by finding competent professionals you respect, and referring business to them. To hire a team, assess your current and future hiring needs, define the culture you want, train each new employee, and consider consultants or outsourcing. And find trusted advisors who have been successful in your field and fit your personality.
Inserting her personality into the book, Baroncini-Moe shows that she really cares about entrepreneurs achieving their dreams. Her advice – while not tailored to tech startups – is like a laymen’s guide to setting up a business. Except it’s not just for laymen, since many people set up businesses without giving a thought to these things.
The book is a tad slow at times, as Baroncini-Moe goes over commensense things like taking care of your health, managing your time, and making sure you smell good. But it doesn’t detract much from the overall usefulness of this business-building primer.