Business Made Simple

By: Donald Miller



Donald Miller wants us all to become value-driven professionals. We are not talking about somebody who lives out their "core values," we are talking about somebody who has the ability to give their boss or their customers an incredible return on their investment.

The promise of this book is that you'll learn how to manage a team, launch a product, market and sell the pants off that product, and then continue to revise your processes so that you get even better results in the future.

If you've ever wondered about the breadth of things you'd need to get good at in order to increase your actual value as a working professional, this is the book for you.

Join us for the next 10 minutes as we explore the 10 different business areas where value gets created.

Leadership Made Simple

Value-driven professionals are clear and compelling leaders. They do a great job of aligning and inspiring their team.

First, they create a compelling mission statement and guiding principles. Make sure that it is short, interesting, and memorable. Here's a good formula: We will accomplish _____ by ______ because of _____.

Second, they define the key characteristics they and their team need to develop, and make sure that they are aspirational and instructive. Aspirational so that their people will know the kind of people they need to be in order to achieve the mission, and instructive, so that they'll know what kind of people they need to be when the pressure is high (almost always).

Third, they define three repeatable critical actions that every person in the organisation needs to take that will contribute to their mission.

Fourth, they tell a great story about where they want to go, using a proven framework:

  • State the problem the company helps people overcome;
  • Agitate the problem to make it worse;
  • Position the company as the solution to the problem;
  • Describe the positive results that will come as a result of working with you.

Finally, they create their "why," which is an encapsulation of why their organisation exists, which acts as a filter for everything that needs to get done.

Productivity Made Simple

Value driven professionals are personally productive, and have created and mastered a system they implement every day in order to make the most of their time - their most precious commodity.

First, they make wise decisions around how they use their time. Ask yourself this simple question every morning: at the end of the day, what will I have regretted doing or not doing?

Second, they prioritise their primary tasks. Create two lists for yourself. The first list should only have three items, which are your most important tasks or objectives. These things get done first. The second list contains everything else and doesn't get started until the first one is done.

Third, they maximise their "power hours." Identify the time of day when you are most productive (the morning for most people), and work on your priority list then.

Fourth, they say no to distractions so that they can say yes to priorities. Be ruthless in your elimination of them.

And finally, they block their time so they can get more done. After their morning ritual of reflection and committing to their highest priorities, they block out the rest of their day.

Business Strategy Made Simple

Value-driven professionals know how business really works, know that activity must create output, and that cash flow is the life blood of every company and division.

First, they understand that a business is like a machine made of parts that needs to work together. The parts include overhead, products and service, marketing, sales, and cash flow.

Second, they keep their overhead as light as possible while still keeping the business moving in the right direction. They'll always ask themselves questions like "how much will our overhead increase if we implement this strategy?"

Third, they make and sell the right products. Companies and entrepreneurs often don't think about the answer to this seemingly obvious question: is there demand for the products and services we sell, and are they profitable?

Fourth, they prioritise marketing. In particular, they will often build the marketing before they build the product to test demand before making a substantial investment. This does double duty - it helps you confirm customer interest, and clarify your message.

Fifth, they know how to run a sales system ands can create a sales path that their prospects can take. They also know how to track where each prospect is at in that path at all times.

Finally, they know how to protect cash flow, and know that with out it, the business will crash. Understanding all the things that can impact it, like profit margins, revenue to cash cycles, and how new product introductions will impact those things, is critical.

Messaging Made Simple

Value-driven professionals know how to clarify a message, and can help their team craft a clear message promoting any product or service their company creates.

First, they use "story" to engage their customers. We'll cover what to include in that story in the next steps, but you can go into greater detail into this section by reading Miller's book Building a StoryBrand, which is also in the system.

Second, they position the customer as the hero, not the brand. Smart companies always position themselves as the guide to the hero.

Third, they understand that the problem the customer is currently facing is the hook. Again, instead of telling their own story, they will focus on talking about the problem the customer is facing. Ask yourself questions like "what roadblock are you removing for your customer?" and "what pain are you taking away?" Keep talking about that.

Fourth, they create clear calls to action. As Miller points out, if you don't tell people exactly what to do, it's likely that they will do nothing.

Fifth, they define the stakes and create a real sense of urgency. They make it clear what's at stake if they do or don't buy their product. If you don't clarify what's at stake for the other person - both positively (if they buy your product) and negatively (if they don't), there's no story to invite people into.

Marketing Made Simple

Value-driven professionals can build a marketing and a sales funnel that turns prospects into customers.

First, they understand and know how to create messages for the three stages that all relationships move through: curiosity (showing them that their survival may be at stake), enlightenment (showing them whether or not you can help them survive), and commitment (when they are ready to make a commitment to move forward).

Second, they know how to craft a great one-liner, or tagline. It should have 3 components: (a) a problem, (b) your product as the solution, and (c) the result.

Third, they know how to wireframe an effective website that passes the "grunt test." As Miller points out, a great website would allow somebody with the intelligence of a caveman to identify three things in less than 5 seconds: (a) what do you offer, (b) how will it make my life better, and (c) what do I need to do in order to buy it?

Fourth, they know how to capture email addresses by offering valuable and free information. By offering something that a prospect might reasonably believe is worth twenty dollars, you can convince a prospect to give you their email address. Just make sure to make it short, and make it solve a specific problem.

Finally, they know how to close the sale with an email campaign. Once you have the email address, you know have the ability to build a relationship built on trust over time. Some prospects might buy from you immediately, some might take months or years. Just make sure that your communications add value.

Communication Made Simple

Value-driven professionals are great communicators, and can engage and inspire their teams into action that has a direct impact on the bottom line.

First, they know how to give a great presentation. They always start off with and end with the problem they are going to help their audience solve.

Second, they make sure that all of the subpoints in their presentations fit within the overall story they are trying to convey. They also make sure that (a) these subpoints speak to a simple plan to the problems the audience is facing, and (b) position each step as a subplot to the main story.

Third, they foreshadow a climactic scene. When the audience knows that something big is possible, you inspire them to want to make it happen.

Fourth, they challenge their audience to take action. They tell them exactly what to do in plain language.

Finally, they make it clear what the theme of their communication is. If you repeat "The main point of my presentation is ______" multiple times in your presentation, and make it the last thing you say, your audience will leave knowing exactly what you want to know.

Sales Made Simple

Value-driven professionals can sell, and they have mastered a framework that guides them while they are introducing their products and services to prospects all the way to closing the deal.

First, they can qualify a lead, which means your prospect: (a) has a problem your product will solve (pain), (b) are able to afford your product (budget), and (c) have the authority to buy your product (purchase authority).

Second, they invite their customers into a story that goes something like this. I notice that you are struggling with this specific problem, and that it's causing you this specific frustration. Our product eliminates this frustration by solving the problem. We've worked with X number of companies to solve this problem, and here are the results we've been able to generate. Let's create a step-by-step plan to do the same for you.

Third, they know their talking points. Again, they act as a guide, and not the hero. As it relates to selling, the guide brings the hero into the story, gives them a plan to solve their problem, and foreshadows the climactic ending. Starting and closing the sales conversation with your talking points is a good idea.

Fourth, they know how to create a great proposal template, and customise that template for each prospect. Here's how your proposal should flow: (a) identify the prospect's problem, (b) introduce the product and how it solves the problem, (c) show the plan to implement the solution, (d) pricing and options, and (e) the result of the resolution of the problem.

Fifth, they know how to close the deal. They feel a high level of confidence about their proposal and the value it can deliver to the prospect, and it shows. In short, they believe that they can invite their prospect into a story that can transform their lives.

Negotiation Made Simple

Value-driven professionals are great negotiators. Rather than trusting their gut, they follow a simple set of rules and tactics that get them the best possible results.

  • First, they know the difference between collaborative and competitive negotiations. The general rule of thumb is that when one side is collaborative and the other is competitive, the competitive side will almost always win. So, if you notice that the other side is in competitive mode, you should be too.
  • Second, dig beneath the surface to find out how to create a satisfying result for the other side at the end of the negotiation. This includes emotional satisfaction - there is more to negotiation outcomes than just the numbers.
  • Third, they make the initial offer whenever they can, because it anchors the rest of the negotiation. This is a strategic advantage in almost every negotiation.
  • Fourth, they don't get emotionally hooked. When you want something too much, you start to make poor decisions. Make sure you always understand what your best alternative to a negotiated agreement is.

Management Made Simple

Value-driven professionals are great managers. They know how to create and measure production processes so that they guarantee efficiency and profitability.

First, they establish clear priorities. Those priorities must be measurable, profitable, and scalable.

Second, they identify key performance indicators. As Miller points out, numbers tell great managers how to challenge and grow their teams, and how to always know the score.

Third, they create processes that increase the activity to output ratio. The key here is to always be thinking and executing on how to improve your processes.

Fourth, they give valuable feedback, and they give it early and often so that the processes are continuously improving. When you need to give critical feedback (you will), follow these guidelines to make it as helpful as possible: (a) give feedback as early as possible, (b) ask your team to explore what what happened with you, (c) show them a different way to respond the next time, and (d) remind them that you want them to succeed and that they can always come to you for help.

Finally, they are coaches more than cheerleaders, transferring their business knowledge to the team, multiplying their impact in the organisation. There are five things a great business coach does well: 

(a) They want each team member to succeed in their current role and career, 

(b) they can give an objective assessment of each team member's skills, 

(c) they teach their team rather than assuming they know what they need to do, 

(d) they offer constructive and safe feedback so they can get better, and 

(e) they praise and celebrate their team members' successes.

Execution Made Simple

Value-driven professionals understand how to run an execution system, and have a framework for ensuring all the right things get done.

First, they always hold a launch meeting for new initiatives. They:

(a) set clear views of success, 

(b) assign the leaders for the project, 

(c) figure out what resources are needed, and 

(d) create timelines with key milestones.

Second, they instil the use of what Miller calls the "one pager," which is an evolving document that includes all the important information about the project.

Third, they hold quick check-ins on a weekly basis that reviews three statements and asks three questions.

The statements are: 

(a) read the success statement for the project, 

(b) review the priorities of the department as a whole, and 

(c) review each team members' personal priorities.

The questions, which are asked of each person, are: 

(a) what have you got done? 

(b) what are you going to do next? And 

(c) "what's blocking you from making progress?

Fourth, they know how to keep score, and focus on leading measures rather than lag measures. Lag measures are results, and leading measures are the activities that lead to results. As an example, total sales for the quarter is a lagging measure, and the number of sales calls completed would be a leading measure.

Finally, they celebrate team victories to further encourage their team's transformation into value-driven professionals.


So there you have it, the 10 areas you need to focus on in order to become a value-driven professional. It's a lot of work, but if you are willing to do it, you'll be a part of a very small, and very valuable club.

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