Feed the Startup Beast: A book review by Bob Morris

Feed StartupFeed the Startup Beast: A 7-Step Guide to Big, Hairy, Outrageous Sales Growth
Drew Williams and Jonathan Verney
McGraw-Hill (2013)

How and why “the smallest market efforts can produce outsized sales results if you focus on the right issues”

The observation by Drew Williams and Jonathan Verney that I include in the title of this review reminds me yet again of another observation, by Peter Drucker in 1993: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” Years later, Michael Porter concurred: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Obviously, if the given objective is to create or increase demand for an offering, then the Drucker and Porter observations are especially relevant because it is also true that the largest marketing efforts can produce smaller (if not minimal) results if the focus is on the wrong issues.

I have some concerns about the “beast” metaphor but defer to Williams and Verney’s preference. Beasts do indeed consume and become irritated when hungry, then desperate when starving. I guess a beast’s rumblings can be correlated with early-warning signs that a company is at increasingly greater risk. On second (third?) thought, let’s forget about the “beast” metaphor, OK? The program provided in this book is eminently sensible and, for startups as well as or division or departments within legacy companies, the initiatives that Williams and Verney suggest are cohesive, comprehensive, and practical if (HUGE “if”) those who adopt the methodology make appropriate, albeit minor adjustments to accommodate their own organization, and, determine with ruthless rigor what must done as well as when and how to do it, and by whom.

I commend Williams and Verney on their skillful use of reader-friendly devices that include a boxed checklist of key points used as a header to introduce each chapter, dozens of Figures inserted throughout the narrative, mini-profiles of entrepreneurs and lessons to be learned from them, and a “Next Up” set of questions at the conclusion of each chapter that served, for me, as a head’s up.

The seven-step process that Williams and Verney introduce and explain, they claim, will generate “BIG, HAIRY, OUTRAGEOUS Sales Growth.” Whereas Jim Collins recommends a BHAG to serve as an inspiration to achieve a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, Williams and Verney promise what their multi-dimension methodology will produce. I would have included Profitable and strongly emphasized the importance of profitability that is [begin italics] sustainable [end italics]. Also, I would eliminate most of the exclamation points and use of ALL-CAP except with acronyms. These are possibilities to consider if and when there is a revised and updated edition. The Index is excellent.

All executives – not only entrepreneurs – should ask the right questions, listen to their best customers, focus on resource allocation, attract their best prospects (profile provided by their best customers), pursue those prospects, nurture prospects that are engaged, and measure success.

Drew Williams and Jonathan Verney offer a wealth of information, insights, and counsel. Some of the material is overcooked, as noted, and the presentation can sometimes seem (at least to me) awkward. On balance, however, for certain leaders in certain circumstances, this book could well be the difference between success and failure if (HUGE “fit”) they read and then re-read with appropriate care and then apply effectively the material that is most relevant to the given needs, goals, and resources. It is also imperative there is effective communication, cooperation, and (most important of all) collaboration during a process that concentrates on what is most important rather than on what is urgent.

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