The Startup Owner’s Manual is the latest book by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. It has been taking the business and startup world by storm. I read it only recently and realized how much you are losing by running your startup without reading and implementing this book.
These have been lot of gushing praise about this book, but one quote about this book in particular was apt.
"What Kent Beck and company did for agile software development, Steve Blank has done for the startup community."
If you don’t know Kent Beck, he was one of the first people to document design patterns, which allowed developers to talk about code at a higher level of abstraction. The startup owner’s manual documents the design patterns in early stage businesses. Kent Beck’s book is a seminal work in software development and I have no doubt that The Startup Owner’s manual is also going to be a game changer.
The book claims that it is "The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company". It lives up to it’s tagline. The book is highly prescriptive. It will tell you in detail what you should do on day 1 of your startup and what you should do once step X is done. (Most books in it genre have been descriptive, describing successful businesses and inferring what worked. The Startup Owner’s manual doesn’t pull punches. It is opinionated, it tells you exactly what you should be doing and when.)
Steve Blank is entrepreneur who started 8 companies, now is a professor at Stanford. He first wrote about customer development methodology in his book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, which is credited with jumpstarting the lean startup movement. This books builds on the ideas proposed in The Four Steps to the Epiphany, and provides more detailed and step-by-step guideline on how to go about doing customer development.
The book preface says "Don’t read too much at a time" and say "… this book has more in common with a car repair manual than your favorite page turner." Good points as this book is fairly dense and if you try reading too much at one do you will probably not get much out of the book. Thankfully the book is well organized in various time phase a startup is.
Depending on the phase your startup is you can choose what you should be reading.
A bit about customer development
Customer Development is a methodology of finding product-customer fit. It says your first ideas about who your customers are going to be, why they by, what channels they buy from are wrong. Only by talking to customers and trying them to buy you Minimal Viable product would you be able to find a customer for your product. You have to get out of building to talk to customers, you have to pivot your product to fit what the customer wants. This book tell you how to do customer development via customer discovery and customer validation.
Most startups would be happy to get the Director of Sales at Oracle to join their company as sales. The book tells you why this is a bad idea. "A startup is not a miniature version of a large company." A person who has experience only at a large company would like to grow big fast. Startup owner’s manual advises against scaling until you have achieved a product-market fit. The book is full of advice and how-to like this.
The book is divided in these sections.
- A startup is not a small version of a large company.
- The customer development model.
- Introduction to customer discovery
- State your business model hypothesis
- Get out of the building: Do People care
- Get out of the building: Test the solutions
- Introduction to customer validation
- Get ready to sell
- Get out of the building and sell
- Company positioning
- Proceed or Pivot.
Each of these chapters deal with specific times of a startup lifecycle and tell you what you should be doing in that stage in a detailed how-to way.
- The book is highly prescriptive and suited for US markets. Apply your common sense before applying everything suggested here.
- The book is big 500+ pages, give it time and read chapters which affect you.
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