Home » Blog » ‘Business Made Simple’ April 2021 Book of The Month

By Donald Miller

In 11 years, only one author has previously been featured twice in my ‘Thought Leadership Book of The Month’!
This author was Dr John Demartini for his 2 international bestselling books ‘The Values Factor’ & ‘How to Make One Hell of a Profit and Still Get to Heaven’. 

Donald Miller now has this same unusual honour! 3 years ago, I reviewed his book ‘The Brand Story’ which is now my most recommend book for the business building entrepreneurs that I work with.  Donald Miller has somehow managed to write another wonderful book ‘Business Made Simple’, which does what it says on the tin!

When you write a book as profound as ‘The Story Brand’ it must be a really tough act to follow up with another book even half as great.  I imagine that when JK Rowling finished writing her Harry Potter series of books, she might have asked herself ‘where do I go from here?’.  I wonder how  an author pushes themselves to improve from such profound success?  I guess that the short answer is, you give yourself a greater challenge! Donald Miller gave himself a challenge of writing a book that would be more valuable to the individual reader than having an MBA both for their own business career progression and for the growth of the businesses they own or work in!

As someone who has studied and taught Axiology for years (the study of value and values) ‘Adding massive value’ is a concept that is close to my heart. One of the home truths that Miller spells out early on is that everyone in a business has a virtual ‘value per hour’ sign over their heads, the number on this sign is determined by ‘How much value you can add to a business!’. Much of the book is addresses the high quality question “How can you add more value in a business?”

So many of the most important aspects of business ARE NOT TAUGHT in the academic world and interestingly, many of them are also often not taught that well in the business world, these lessons often come in the form of making some costly mistakes. Aware of this issue Miller stresses the importance of having great mentors and coaches. Like myself, Miller is a great advocate of reading great books to help you add more value to the businesses you work in and the life you lead!

I have recommended this book to one of the youngest entrepreneurs I work with who is in his twenties and also one of the oldest. No matter where you are on your business leadership journey you have to 1) be aware of what the basics and fundamentals of business are and 2) you must be doing them well!

One of the outstanding features that I really love about this book, is something I see as a part of creating more effective and engaging learning books in the future. This is that the author has produced a number of online resources from pdfs to videos that tie in with each learning section of the book. Together with suggested ‘time chunks’ to apply what you are learning into your work this greatly enhances the learning process and experience for the reader.

Even when doing black belt training with my karate teacher (Sensei), he ensures that we practice the most basic katas and techniques that we learned years ago when we were white belt beginners. Ignorance of business basics or forgetting or overlooking the basics is one of the key reasons for business failure. If nothing else reading this book will remind you or confirm to you that you are on top of these fundamental elements.   

Under the heading ‘Made Simple’ the author covers these practical fundamental elements under the following business categories:

  1. Leadership:
  2. As my own clients will know this is the fundamental foundation for a business. It includes basics such as having a clear and inspiring vision that engages all stakeholders and having a clear sense of the business’ core values and ultimately ‘uniting a team around a vision and mission.’
  3. Productivity:  
  4. Another key area that I engage with my clients to master. Like my own philosophy around personal (and business) productivity Miller highlights the importance of consistently knowing your highest priority goals and activities.
  5. Business Strategy: I love the author’s use of the airplane analogy / metaphor to illustrate the high level key strategic areas. I found myself drawing the below doodle as I listened to the chapter on business strategy …..
My amateur doodle = illustration of Donald Miller’s ‘Business Strategy Airplane analogy’

Miller uses this airplane analogy to build quicker deeper and simpler understanding of the key elements of any business. 

  • He equates the body of the plane as the overheads, which include the business infrastructure, operational and people costs. 
  • The wings of the plane are metaphorically the business’ products and services, you need strong wings to fly.
  • Your 2 engines equate to marketing (capturing leads) and Sales (converting leads into customers). You need more powerful engines as your plane gets  bigger.
  • You must have fuel to fly and fuel is in essence your cashflow, if you run out of cash, your business will crash.
  • The leadership starts in the cockpit where the direction, vision and plan are essential and like a pilot’s dashboard will have the plane’s KPIs that confirm all is well or not, the leaders of the business will also have their essential KPIs on their dashboard, including data for all of the above.

4. Messaging made simple:
Miller considers messaging as the highest form of ‘marketing’ as you are engaging the business stakeholders to take a given action. This chapter not only reminds us what the key elements of effective messaging are, but it is a great reminder of some of the wonderful content in Donald Miller’s great book ‘The Story Brand’.  He reminds us that the most important element of messaging is ‘The Story’!  He reminds us about the simple mistake that numerous business leaders make when they make their business ‘the heroes’ in the problem-solving story instead of making their clients the heroes of the story.

5. Marketing made simple:
Marketing made simple is about creating a ‘sales funnel’. Miller “I consider a sales funnel the most important part of a marketing plan!”  
Miller stresses that people who work for a business that understand the basics of a sales funnel, are amongst the most valuable people in a business, including those who do not work in marketing or sales.

6. Communication made simple:
As I say to my clients, ‘your leadership is only as effective as your communication’.Miller outlines the key elements of presenting and communication that gets people fully engaged, rather than disengaged. He outlines the tried and tested 5 questions that all audiences secretly wish to have answered, that many leaders forget: 

i) What problem are you helping the audience to solve? 
ii) What is your solution? 
iii) What will the audience’s life look like if they take you up on your solution? 
iv) What action do you want the audience to take?       
v) What do you want the audience to remember?

7. Sales made simple:
Just as outlined in ‘The Story Brand’ Miller emphasises that a great sales person  invites a character into a story and shows them a problem that they can solve.  This includes doing the basics well such as ‘qualifying the lead’

8. Negotiation made simple:
Less than 10 percent of professionals have not learned a proven negotiation framework! 

Miller outlines a great but simple 4 step framework that he learned from the great negotiator John Lowry:

  1. You must know which ‘negotiating mode’ the other person is in! Collaborative equals ‘Win v win’. Competitive negotiation equals ‘win v loss’ 
  2. Go below the line. Not all negotiations are rational. Highlight the non-tangible ‘unseen’ benefits.
  3. Make the initial offer (when this is possible). This gives you the ability to set ‘the gravitational anchor’ of the negotiation.
  4. Don’t get emotional. Set your upper limit. Have an alternative option in your pocket. When you split your interest, you do not get too emotionally hooked. 

9. Management made simple:
Miller again reminds us of the often-forgotten basics when it comes to effectively managing people;

  1. Team members need to know ‘what winning looks like for them.’ 
  2. Effective management means having an effective system within which to manage people.
  3. Establish clear priorities
  4. Each manager must know what they produce and how to Measure this production, how it effects profitability and how scalable this production is.

10. Execution made simple:
Execution is the other side the management coin! You must have ‘An execution system’. Whoever manages the business’ ‘execution system’ is the most valuable manager in the business.

  1. Hold a launch meeting for any project or initiative.
  2. Have each team member complete a one pager (including their priorities)
  3. Hold weekly check in meetings
  4. Keep score and measure progress to completion
  5. Celebrate your team’s victories

Whether you are a seasoned business leader or just starting out in your business career, this book is a wonderful guide to work through to make sure you have identified the key elements to a ensuring you can add great value to any business and that you are doing the fundamentals well.

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