Lessons Learned from Guy Kawasaki
Part of “standing on the shoulders of giants”, is finding the heroes to learn and model from. Starting with the assumption that “everybody has flaws,” you can choose to focus on people’s super skills and insights. Everybody brings something to the table.
In this post, I’m focusing on Guy Kawasaki. His super skill is making Entrepreneurs more effective. He’s also a master at the business of life. He lives life in a sustainable way, living his mantra of “empower Entrepreneurs,” keeping things real, enjoying the ride, and staying authentic.
As a thought leader and a people leader in the startup space, Guy provides practical advice from being a more effective evangelist to helping Entrepreneurs pitch and test their ideas more effectively. As a writer, speaker, and consultant, he’s a powerful force of good that you can draw from for insight, inspiration and results. At a minimum, you can use his advice to improve your slide decks and pitch your ideas more effectively.
25 Lessons Learned from Guy Kawasaki
This collection of insights is based on drawing from Guy’s presentations, blog posts, and books. I consolidated as much as possible, to paint a map of some of his best contributions. You can use this as a launch pad for exploring his work. At the end of this post, I’ve consolidated some resources you can use to continue your exploration. Here are my 25 lessons learned from Guy Kawasaki:
- Make a mantra, not a mission. Mission statements are often too long or they don’t resonate. You need something you can easily remember, easily say, and identify with. Summarize your cause in 2 or 3 words. According to Guy, some effective examples might be Nike – “authentic, athletic performance” and Wendy’s – “healthy, fast food.” The key is to capture the essence in just a few words. This helps remind you of your cause and reinforce it with your actions.
- Make meaning over money. According to Guy, “Evangelism starts with the desire to make meaning.” When you focus on the money, you focus on the wrong thing. You have to first make meaning. You need to mean something to the world and to your customers. “The root of great companies is make meaning vs. make money.” – Guy Kawasaki.
- Know what you want your life to be about. Know what you want your life to be about and live your mantra. Guy lives his life, actualizing his mantra “empowering Entrepreneurs.” I like this approach, and I’ve been thinking about refining mine. It might be closer to “results by design” or “proven practices for results” or “empowering Underdogs.” Whenever I think about my posts, I’m asking, is it helping lift people up or help them be their best in any situation.
- Be unique and valuable. This is the key to effective marketing. If you’re not unique, you’re competing on price. Eventually, you’ll be priced out of the market. If you are unique, but you aren’t valuable, then you have no market. The sweet spot is valuable to the market and unique.
- The secret of evangelism is touch things that are gold. Don’t evangelize crap. Evangelize great things. “The secret of evangelism is Guy’s golden touch – whatever is gold, Guy touches. That’s very different than saying whatever Guy touches turns gold.” – Guy Kawasaki
- Remember DICEE to make great things. This is how to be great out of the gate. According to Guy, DICEE is an acronym to help remind you how to make things that are gold. “D” is for Deep. It has to have lots of power. You don’t run out of power and you’re not waiting for a more powerful version. It anticipated what you need to do. “I” is for Intelligent. It’s a smart solution to a problem. “C” is for Complete. Great products are complete. Complete means the totality of what the product means This means all the stuff around the product (the OEMs, the forums, the plug-ins, service, support … etc.) “E” is for Elegant. When you look at it, you inherently know what to do. You can kind of figure out without a manual. “E” is for Emotive – great products have emotion.
- Don’t worry, be crappy. Ship, then test. Don’t wait for the perfect world, or you’ll never ship. As long as you are truly making meaning and you have a revolution, the market will accept elements of crap. Ship something revolutionary with elements of crappiness to it. You can then prioritize which crap to improve based on real usage and feedback.
- Version it. Think in terms of versions. Ask, “what’s good enough for now?” It’s not about slicing and dicing value and spreading it out over time. Instead, it’s about being complete and good enough for now so that you don’t miss the market. It’s also about continuous improvement over time. Each version should be a useful, relevant, and marked improvement. Guy thinks in terms of versions all the time. In one example, he says, “My wife was in Beta with our second child … Shipped on time and no bugs.” He also versioned his Alltop project. (see Alltop Version 2.0: The Art of Aggregation) and he versioned, Entrepreneurship (See Entrepreneurship 2.0.)
- Don’t let the Bozos grind you down. Don’t listen to people that tell you that you’ll fail, because if you don’t try, then you definitely will fail. According to Guy, there are two types of Bozos. One type of bozo is a loser. You don’t listen to them anyway, so that’s not the dangerous bozo. The dangerous bozo is the rich, successful, well-known person. Remember that rich, successful and well-know does not equal smart. “Inoculate yourself from dangerous bozos.” – Guy Kawasaki.
- Smile, it’s contagious. Guy wears a smile often. It’s easy to find pictures of him flashing his pearly whites and it’s contagious. Take yourself seriously, but not too seriously. “Life is good.” – Guy Kawasaki
- Ask, “Is it defensible?” This is about evaluating startups against the following: Proven team? … Proven management? … Proven technology? … Proven business model? These are some of the early warning flags that you don’t want to get in the way or that you have a good answer for.
- Follow the 10-20-30 rule for content, length, and font. Use a maximum of 10 slides. Your presentation should be no more than 20 minutes, even if it’s an hour presentation. Use a 30 point font. It forces you to put the core text. If you need to use a smaller font it’s because you don’t know your material. If you start reading your material, your audience will read ahead and stop listening to you. See The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint and Video: Guy Kawasaki 10-20-30 Presentation Rule.
- Pitch your ideas in 10 slides. Pitch your ideas more effectively. Don’t be a solution looking for a problem, make meaning, and show how you’ll make money. The idea is to communicate enough, not everything and stimulate interest, not seal the deal. 10 slides forces you to focus on the essentials and the fewer slides you need, the more compelling the idea. According to Guy, here’s what those 10 slides should be: 1) Title and what you do slide 2) problem slide, 3) solution slide, 4) business model slide, 5) underlying magic (secret sauce) slide, 6) marketing and sales slide, 7) competitive landscape slide, 8) management team slide, 9) financial projects and key metrics slide, 10) current status slide. See The Art of Pitching MP3.
- Ask, “So what? … Who gives a shiitake?” This is about asking, why does it matter, and who does it matter for. According to Guy, you can do this by imagining a little guy on your shoulder that asks you, “so what?” You can make this very effective by pairing up “so what?” with “for instance.” After you answer, the “so what?” question, you can then give a real world, concrete example starting off with, “for instance …”
- Make it personal. Personalize over generalize. Instead of talking about paradigm shifts, make it real and make it relevant to the person. What does it mean to them?
- Success is a numbers game. It’s a numbers game. According to Guy, how venture capitalism really works is, that out of 20 – 30 bets, 1 or 2 succeed. Of course, when your 1 or 2 bets succeed, you tell everybody how you knew it all along, and how it’s your partner that missed the other 18. Guy readily admits he missed predicting the successes of Yahoo, Google, and YouTube. See Gnomedex 2007 – Guy Kowasaki.
- Be a straight shooter. Keep it human. Guy speaks in simple terms and keeps it real. Whether you’re talking about your mantra or benefits of your product for people, don’t speak in lofty terms. Keep it down to Earth. Be authentic. Be true to you. Don’t be a suck up. Guy’s a perfect blend of down to Earth, politically incorrect, and authentic, that we can model from.
- Create very slippery slopes. This is about creating glide paths for adoption. Adoption shouldn’t be a pill that’s too big to swallow. Create very slippery slopes. This means thinking in terms of incremental buy-in and incremental adoption.
- It’s a beautiful time for Entrepreneurs. Now is a perfect time to be an Entrepreneur. Test your ventures. Ship something. Show an adoption curve that’s growing. Put something out and “prove the dogs are eating the food.” You can test your ventures without depending on VC funding to start. For example, instead of a million dollars in development and marketing costs to test an idea, it’s $12k. This is how much it cost for Guy to spin up Truemors. See By the Numbers: How I built a Web 2.0, User-Generated Content, Citizen Journalism, Long-Tail, Social Media Site for $12,107.09.
- Align your interests. This is about “alignment of interest” vs. “conflict of interest.” Line up with the people, ideas, and things you believe in. See The Short Tale: Much Ado About Not Much.
- It’s about the experience. Make the most of every experience and live life to the fullest. Guy has a way of creating and sharing engaging experiences. See 26 Hours at Sea: The Longest Posting in the History of Blogging and BlogHer Pictures for examples of experiences.
- Let 100 flowers blossom. Find what works for you and your customers, then stand back and let your flowers bloom. You can’t necessarily predict what will work and what won’t. Instead, fan the flames of what works and get out of the way.
- Find a coalition of the willing. It’s way easier to sell to an existing customer or to somebody who is not already entrenched in a competing product or idea. Build your raving fans, by building on your existing fan base and by winning over folks that are untainted. According to Guy, it’s more effective to preach to the choir or focus on the agnostic, than try to convert the atheist. Another way to put it is, focus on the market you’ve got, versus the one you don’t.
- Know the real influencers. Don’t spend all your energy on the CXO level. Win over the front-lines and people in the trenches. They’re the ones that will ultimately be your raving fans and will do your word-of-mouth marketing for you. They will either be your resistance or your champions. Create a tipping point with opinion leaders, such as the engineer’s engineer.
- Be creative and productive. Guy is life imitating art. Being an Entrepreneur is all about creating something bigger than yourself. To be effective, you need to be productive. Guy regularly shares his life hacks on his blog, and Alltop is a great example of a creativity and productivity.
Top 10 Guy Kawasaki Quotes
Between his books, blog, articles, and presentations, Guy is a flowing fountain of words of wisdom. Here are my 10 favorite quotes from Guy:
- A good idea is about ten percent and implementation and hard work, and luck is 90 percent.
- Don’t worry, be crappy. Revolutionary means you ship and then test… Lots of things made the first Mac in 1984 a piece of crap – but it was a revolutionary piece of crap.
- Evangelism is selling a dream.
- Evangelism starts with the desire to make meaning.
- It’s a beautiful time for Entrepreneurs … Life is good.
- Leverage your brand, … You shouldn’t let two guys in a garage eat your shorts.
- Patience is the art of concealing your impatience.
- Simple and to the point is always the best way to get your point across.
- You have to start with the basic premise that you need to know what your competition is doing,
- Shut up, take notes, summarize, regurgitate, and follow up.
I really like Guy’s point about making meaning. I also like his focus on simple and to the point.
Where to Go from Here?
Guy is still in the game and you can learn more about him through his books, blog, and presentations. I think his blog is a great starting point, rich with nuggets. He’s shared many of his best nuggets from his books on his blog and in his videos and presentations.
I’ve created a browsable map below to help you explore some of the additional resources on Guy. I’ve organized the map by key links, books, projects, popular posts, and videos. Because he has a number of great posts and videos, I listed my top 3 favorites first, to help chunk up the lists.
Do you have a favorite lesson from Guy? I’d like to hear about it. Feel free to share it in the comments.
Photo by ShashiBellamkonda.
Photo by MIX2010.
Photo by leokoivulehto.