Book review: “The 7-Day Startup” by Dan Norris

Book review: “The 7-Day Startup” by Dan Norris

This book’s subtitle “You don’t learn until you launch” effectively summarises the main viewpoint of the book. The author proposes you kill your inner wantrepreneur and become a true entrepreneur “by this time next week”. Surely a tempting proposal for plenty of folks – and definitely doable.

The book is partly strategic, and partly about mind-set and cultivating entrepreneurial thought patterns. Norris relentlessly focuses on the one and only thing that really matters in a startup: getting customers. Truth be told, everything else is secondary, and Norris repeats this time and time again. It’s really on point, seeing how many folks spend 6 months perfecting their landing page without getting a single paying customer. “Build it and they will come” really is a classic trap that seldom works out.

My Notes From the Book

Without question, the biggest mistake people make is obsessing over their idea and not focusing enough on finding people willing to pay for their product.

Hustle for an early stage startup is generally about spending your time on the things that are most likely to bring you customers. Once you launch, you need to get more people paying you. You have to relentlessly pursue your best method of getting customers, and not the stuff you naturally gravitate to.

Anti-hustle is what wantrepreneurs do. They do everything other than what needs to be done. They keep coding. They design new features. They optimize their site. They think up new, world-changing ideas. They hang out at startup events discussing their idea. They go to startup weekend and launch a new idea. They do everything other than what they need to do—which, more often than not, is getting more customers.

Be honest with yourself. If idea, execution, or hustle are not you, then find a co-founder who excels in those areas. You will need it if you want to have a successful startup.

13 years into my soul-crushing indoctrination into entrepreneurship, it became clear why I’d failed so many times. I had acted based on assumptions instead of making decisions based on real data.

I assumed that if I created something great then people would buy it. Wrong.

When I was at university I figured out that I worked much faster the day before my assignments were due. At first I fought it because it seemed like a slack student thing to do. By the end, I embraced it. You don’t want to do this every night, but there’s no doubt that a kick in the arse will drive you—at least temporarily—to perform at a higher level. It’s proven in research. You work more efficiently when you are close to a deadline. If you are a long way out, you make tasks up that you think are important. As a result, you don’t get any of the important work done. You spend hours and days fussing over logos and website copy instead of selling your product! Once you start something with a clear end date, it drives you forward.

Is your business in non-professional services or consulting? You can call someone right now, help them, and ask for money.

The 7 Day Startup mindset is that you will launch it in 7 Days. You won’t waste any time building something that you don’t know if people want or not.

This is not like a typical business book. Don’t bother with tactics to “find your ideal market” or “create your unique selling proposition” or “practice your elevator pitch.” These activities are pointless before you launch because they are based on assumptions.

Some people are perfectly matched with their companies and some people aren’t. It’s worth thinking about what skills you have, what are you known for, and where you can provide the most value. If that doesn’t line up with your business idea, then it’s going to be a long, hard struggle.

You need to be able to see a point where you can hire in staff or systems to replace you, and still continue to generate a profit. At that point it becomes a real business.

At the idea stage, give some thought to whether you are building a business for a small group of people or whether it can grow into a large market.

As an entrepreneur you need something that people want to pay for, with their money or attention. Asking them will not work, because people are bad at predicting their own behavior. For your first startup, there is a much easier way: Solve problems where people are already paying for solutions.

Everyone might be saying that your idea is great, but look at whether or not they are currently paying for a solution to the same problem.

A common MVP mistake is over-emphasizing the “minimum” and under-emphasizing the “viable.”

Every single one of the top 25 brands in the world are 12 characters or less (!).

On journalists: In the end they are looking for a story—journalists don’t want to feature you for the sake of it.

People have a tendency to set really aggressive targets in business and I’ve found those to be potentially de-motivating. Most businesses will naturally grow over time if the fundamentals are right.

With any business I’ve started, my primary goal has been to get to a point where I’m paying myself a reasonable wage as early as possible.

Save your excitement until you land people you don’t know as customers.

“The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” Eric Ries

Manage Motivation. Your own personal happiness and motivation are the most important keys to the success of your business. I know plenty of people who have created great businesses, taken them to a point, and then lost all motivation. If you are struggling with motivation, join a forum, start a mastermind, find a co-founder, hire people to do the hard work, and get back to what you’re good at. Take the warning signs seriously.

You should be more excited about Monday than you are about Friday. If that’s not the case, there’s a good chance things aren’t going to work out.

Difficult customers will waste your time, kill your confidence, and destroy your motivation (and soul). No amount of money is worth working with a difficult customer.

Also published on Medium.

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