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Business Rules of Thumb

2 replies on 1 page. Most recent reply: Jul 30, 2009 10:45 AM by James Watson

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Bruce Eckel

Posts: 875
Nickname: beckel
Registered: Jun, 2003

Business Rules of Thumb (View in Weblogs)
Posted: Jul 29, 2009 3:25 PM
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Things that stood out for me from the rest of the book.

Final notes from the book Rules of Thumb.

Rule 28: Good Design is Table Stakes. Great Design Wins.

Books suggested:

Rule 35: The Red Auerbach Management Principle: Loyalty is a Two-Way Street.

Principles from the author's interview with the Boston Celtics' most successful coach.

  1. You don't reward your players based on their statistics -- you reward them based on their contributions to the team.
  2. You create a special bond with your players based on honesty.
  3. You never motivate your players through fear but only through pride.
  4. Uncertainty creates a huge problem for professional athletes -- and a huge opportunity for coaches. (If the players feel secure, they don't want to leave).
  5. Loyalty is a two-way street. (If the company isn't loyal to me, why should I be loyal to it?)

Rule 36: Message to Entrepreneurs: Managing Your Emotional Flow is More Critical than Managing Your Cash Flow

He says: The biggest threat to any startup isn't running out of money -- it's going out of your mind. If you run out of emotional energy, it doesn't matter if you still have cash; you're done.

Things to keep in mind:

  1. The team is what makes or breaks it, not the spreadsheet (no one believes those numbers anyway).
  2. Stay humorous.
  3. Listen to loud music to keep you pumped up.
  4. Entrepreneurs travel on their bellies. Make a place where everyone wants to hang out and eat (lots of creativity happens there).

Rule 38: If You Want to Think Big, Start Small

Start with small experiments that solve real problems that people are having. See what works and build on that.

This is the opposite of "Get Big or Get Out." One of the benefits of the web is that it's possible to make smaller companies that solve specific problems without costing a fortune in startup costs. Especially with technologies like Google App Engine and the like, it's becoming easier and easier to create full-powered, scaleable systems from dorm rooms and garages.

Rule 41: If You Want to be a Real Leader, First Get Real About Leadership.

  • Don't worship the people at the top simply because they are at the top.
  • Organizations have gotten too big, the world too complicated, decisions too intricate, and change too rapid for any one person at the top to have all the answers.
  • The job of the leader isn't to have all the answers.
  • The job of the leader is to ask the right questions.
  • More and more work is teamwork.
  • Teamwork requires people who can take on the real work of leading at all levels of the organization.
  • The company with the most leaders at all levels wins.


  • Change happens when the cost of the status quo is greater than the risk of change.
  • The Waldzell Meetings for Inspiration, organized by the author.
  • Article: Everything I Thought I Knew about Leadership Is Wrong.
  • The companies that win will be the most fun places to work.
  • Contrary to popular belief, technology is neither the problem nor the solution. Technology is never a measure of itself and always a measure of us. (This has always been the best evaluator for science-fiction stories).
  • Leaders tend to form shells around themselves, for protection from being overwhelmed. But then the leader cannot grow outside the border of the shell. And, cut off from new energy, what's inside begins to shrivel and die.
  • Your strengths, the things that make your business successful, are the very things that will become weaknesses and bring you down.
  • Take your work seriously. Yourself, not so much.
  • Social networking for professionals:
  • Social networking to make the world a better place:
  • In response to monkeys stealing his coffee beans, an Indian farmer observes: If you start shooting monkeys, you'll spend the rest of your life shooting monkeys.
  • It's not credentials that count. It's character.
  • Stay alert! There are teachers everywhere.
  • Crowdsourced rules of thumb at

Vincent O'Sullivan

Posts: 724
Nickname: vincent
Registered: Nov, 2002

Re: Business Rules of Thumb Posted: Jul 30, 2009 12:55 AM
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Why is "Start Small" the opposite of "Get Big"?

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Business Rules of Thumb Posted: Jul 30, 2009 10:45 AM
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> Why is "Start Small" the opposite of "Get Big"?

I think the actual saying is "go big or go home". The idea is that if you are going to try to do something you should commit and make a huge investment in order to attain a large market share. Start small is the opposite because you make a smaller investment and use returns to build your stake.

I think the former comes from the past of manufacturing. For example, the start up costs for metal stamping of cars is very high. Starting small isn't really an option because you cannot recoup and a year later you will be worse off even if you sell every car. This is probably still true for things like large LCD screens. You won't see many small quantity producers of such things.

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