Tag Archives: Entrepreneur

Pride in Performance by Les Schwab

  1. The autobiography of Les Schwab, founder of the Les Schwab supermarket tire store – his background, philosophy and views on life and business
Key Takeaways
  1. “I encourage you to share profits with your employees. I encourage you in every way possible to build people. If you do share, do it openly and honestly, and don’t get jealous if they start to make some money…that’s the whole idea. If you make people under you successful, what happens to you? Aren’t you also then successful? But if you think of yourself first, it just won’t work, and there’s no use attempting it. What nicer thing can you do with your life than to help young people build their lives into successful people, not just in money, but in all ways. The older I get the more proud I am of the profit sharing programs and other programs that I have created, or have helped to create. The best way to make it succeed is to share with people, to help people be successful people.”
    1. Started with over 50% of the profits going to the manager and each store operates as its own, separate business and the store employees share only in the profits of the store they work in
    2. Understood human nature, how to build trust and reciprocity with profit sharing program
    3. Also established a mandatory retirement trust with 15% of one’s earnings going into it
    4. Honesty clause – steal from the company and you lose everything you’ve saved in your trust
    5. Being generous pays off more than you’ll ever need – unselfish for selfish reasons!
      1. “I didn’t care about the money or who owned what, I just wanted to be successful”
      2. It is quite simple. Greed destroys
    6. Ardently believed that store managers and in-store employees were more important to the success of the company than the executives and paid them accordingly
  2. “Pride in performance. Pride in accomplishments well done. But never confused pride with ego. Pride commits us to do the job better. Ego tricks us into believing we can do no wrong. Concentrate on being the best each day, one day at a time, putting the customer first, and treating employees with respect. These are the traits that create pride in performance. These are the traits that will keep us humble.”
  3. Core tenets
    1. Be honest with ourselves
    2. Be hones with the people you work with. Be honest with your customer
    3. Be humble
    4. Have a desire to learn
    5. Tell the truth and have an open mind
    6. Be a man of action. Make some mistakes as this is the only way to learn
  4. Les had a tough family upbringing with little money, a drunk father and hard jobs (allowed him to see what the “bottom of the pyramid’s” world looks like
    1. Learned to work with people, to organize and promote, the power of recognition, importance of hiring, never taking advantage of customers or employees, and the power of centralized production as a newspaper circulation manager. He later implemented every one of this into Les Schwab Tires
  5. Learned early on to never get in over his head with debt
    1. Growing too quickly is often a huge mistake people make. Slow down and organically grow into your sales
  6. Importance of owning rather than leasing property (like Costco today)
    1. Time to buy a lot is when it is vacant
    2. Always wanted a 5 year lease with a 5 year option and the option to buy at the end of the lease
  7. “We always keep the customer happy in the best way possible”
  8. Importance of every day low pricing for everyone (Costco)
  9. Velocity – had odd tires to deliver to customers immediately. He didn’t make a profit necessarily but he always made a customer
  10. Fix flat tires for free for ladies. Even when made illegal, he continued to do it. No obvious, immediate profit but great goodwill and engendered loyalty – “we drove our competitors nuts”
  11. Decided to turn warehouse into the showroom (Costco)
  12. Complacency = death
  13. So important to have deep fluency and to think for oneself
  14. Most of his business dealings were simple handshake contracts
  15. Had a vengeance for the big tire companies as they mistreated him poorly early on – importance of dealing fairly with every constituent
  16. Life is hard for the man who thinks he can take shortcuts
  17. “Success in my mind comes from having a successful business, one that is a good place to work, one that offers opportunity for people and one that you can be proud to own or be associated with. Success in life is being a good husband, a good father and you end up being a second father to hundreds of other men and women.”
  18. I like to persuade people to do it my way. I don’t like to run the show myself. I like to work through people, and, unless you let them have almost the full power to make the final decision, you have a weak person working for you
  19. Once he was a bit older, he took 3 months off per year and always came back with fresh ideas on how to run a better business
  20. Set up policies for new stores which would help them get established by having old store help offset part of the costs of opening a new store
  21. Didn’t want to be known for being the cheap tire salesman or the most expensive. Wanted to be somewhere in the middle but hist customer service had to beat everyone
  22. Don’t be a “poor George” – a businessman who is not confident enough in his product or service, lowers the price at the customer’s request to the point that if he continued pricing this way, would eventually go out of business
  23. Holding grudges hurts you more than anyone else
  24. Whatever you do must be done with gusto and with volume
  25. People aren’t natural born leaders. Leadership is learned and I can’t explain fully how it is learned
  26. The decision making should always be made at the lowest possible level
  27. One thing that drives people is need – need to belong, to feel appreciated, to win, to grow. Find out what your employees need
  28. I’ve always wanted to be the best tire dealer, not necessarily the largest tire dealer
  29. The general customer tends not to fully understand tires so of course they’re going to buy from someone they trust
What I got out of it
  1. Growing people at the bottom of the business should be priority #1 for every company, open and honest communication is vital, establish profit sharing, keep decision-making at the bottom, total trust for everyone, don’t become a “poor George”

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams


  1. Adams is the comic behind the Dilbert series and this book is his story about how he stumbled his way to success amid many failures. Goals are for losers, your brain isn’t magic – you can program it, most important metric to track is your personal energy, every skill you acquire doubles your chances of success, success is happiness + freedom, conquer shyness by being a huge phony (in a good way), fitness is the lever that moves the world, simplicity transforms the ordinary into the amazing
Key Takeaways
  1. When it comes to any big question, humility is the only way to handle it
  2. 6 filters for truth (how to filter out the bullshit) – personal experience, experience of people you know, experts, scientific studies, common sense, pattern recognition
    1. Look for truth by getting at least 2 of the filters in agreement
  3. Consistency is the closest thing we can get to truth
  4. Writing good comics requires stripping a situation of all noise until only the true but absurd core is left
  5. Adams invites failure into his life whenever he can and extracts as much value from it as possible. View failure as a tool, not an outcome
  6. Energy is good. Following your passion is bullshit – people tend to be passionate about things they’re already good at. Never hear about passionate people who failed
  7. The market rewards execution, not good ideas 
  8. Seek opportunities in which you have an advantage 
  9. Timing is often the biggest component of success – makes sense to try many things because timing is so hard to predict
  10. There are very few, if any, useful things which can come from management
  11. Looking for a better job should be a continual process
  12. Systems over goals – Instead of having goals, have a system. Goals lead to an uneasy state and temporary satisfaction but a system is a long term, sustainable life style
  13. A proven, sustainable system which utilizes your talents will beat passion in the long term
  14. Aim to create something which is easy to scale which utilizes your competitive edge and makes it easier for luck to find you
  15. If you want success, figure out the price and pay it
  16. 3 levels of generosity – selfish, stupid and a burden to others. Best to be selfish as this will more than likely lead to success and giving more than you consume and forces you to take the long term view on things
  17. Aim to pick up a room whenever you enter it – have infectious energy
  18. Influence works best when the person you’re trying to influence has no objection to the given change
  19. Organize and base your life upon your personal energy. Search to fill your life with things and activities which fill you with energy. Some selfish things in life are enlightened as they make you a better person and more fun to be around
  20. Match your task to your mental state
  21. There are optimizers and simplifiers – choose which is appropriate for you, the task and your energy
  22. Be aware of how a tidy vs messy home and workspace affect you
  23. Do flash searches (1 minute research) for topics to intimidate you and you’ll often find it’s simpler than you might think
  24. Set your priorities by what will add the most to your personal energy. Priorities are things you need to get right so things you love can thrive 
  25. Positive attitude very important. Be conscious of the media you consume and aim to have as much of it as possible be feel good stuff
  26. Perception of reality most likely flawed so change perception to what makes you happy and that works. Reality is overrated
  27. Quality sometimes not a good predicting success (computers). However, customers still demanded the product although it would be a while until the product was of a high quality
  28. Your product or service doesn’t need to be loved by all, but a small subset must be very enthusiastic about it
  29. What people do is much more honest than what they say
  30. Determine if you are a “practicer” or need novelty in order to keep enthused
  31. For your resume, imagine that you got $100 for each word you removed and see how it looks after. Simplicity beats accuracy every time
  32. Being good at a couple different skills is often better than being great at one (unless you’re world class)
  33. Everything you learn becomes a shortcut to learning everything else
  34. Knowledge formula – the more you know, the more you can know
  35. Finding your “blind spots” is extremely important. see the world as math (probabilities) as opposed to magic. This will help you be more positive and build new skills
  36. If you see something that impresses you, it it is your duty to speak up and complement the person
  37. People’s perception of their own potential is often very lacking 
  38. Never be blind to the psychology in a situation 
  39. Quality is not an independent force – it must be compared to something 
  40. Make learning a psychology a top priority and a lifelong goal
  41. Reason is often the smallest driver of our decisions – consider incentives and psychology over reason 
  42. Business writing is all about getting to the point and leaving out the noise
  43. Being a good conversationalist is about asking good questions – name, where from, where live, family, work, hobbies, travel
  44. Determine whether the person or people you are talking to are ‘thing’ people or ‘people’ people – like to hear of events or things vs hearing about other people
  45. Persuasive phrases – because, would you mind, I’m not interested, I don’t do that, I have a rule, I just wanted to clarify, is there anything you can do for me?, thank you, this is just between you and me, decisiveness, energy is contagious, insane people usually have their way (can fake insanity by bringing emotions into it which won’t bend to reason), proper voice technique (speak how you think a confident person would speak, low voice, no “umms”)
  46. Always look for patterns
  47. Affirmations – Writing, thinking, speaking the outcome you want to achieve many times per day
  48. Step 1 to happiness is getting control of your schedule; where you’re heading more important than where you currently are; reduce daily decisions to routine
  49. As humans have limited willpower, you want to routinize as much as possible, especially diet and exercise. An attractive alternative makes willpower much less important
  50. Make healthy foods as convenient as possible for you in order to save willpower and make it easier on yourself
  51. Fail forward – if you’re going to fail, make sure you learn a lot out of it
  52. Optimists make it easier for luck to find them
  53. Don’t think of your body as magic. Understand that the right inputs (diet, exercise, thoughts, etc) lead to better outputs 
What I got out of it
  1. An unexpectedly good book – Adams is honest, rational, witty and gives a lot of great advice from diet/exercise to affirmations to what it takes to be successful. One of my favorite books of the year

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

  1. Elon is a man on a mission – to save mankind and colonize other planets. His vision, determination, guts are truly inspiring. He might offend others and create some enemies but I think on a mission like his it is hard to avoid and worth it
Key Takeaways
  1. Ashlee was turned down initially by Musk but kept pestering him and eventually he agreed to help with the book
  2. Leaves very little time to decompress, works from LA and SF every week, employees oddly loyal due to his vision and drive although he berated them, gulfs down food, big presence,
  3. His driving mission for everything is increasing the collective consciousness and enlightenment
  4. Musk had a pretty rough childhood in South Africa – father did some sort of psychological abuse
  5. Was an awkward kid in many ways. Could enter a trance mode when he was thinking or reading. Was often bullied by kids at school
  6. After selling zip2 (google maps and yelp combo), he started x.com which would eventually become PayPal. His role is a bit controversial as his combative style pissed off a lot of people but he clearly was one of the cofounders. There was a coup where he was replaced by thiel as CEO
  7. Musk has superhuman energy, endurance and curiosity. He pushes himself and his people beyond their limits and often caused rifts with his employee
  8. The falcon 1 finally launched on March 2006 but ended up crashing. It took 3 nerve racking failures before a success. This last launch was the last one thy could afford
  9. Martin Eberhard founded Tesla and helped it get off its feet
  10. Managerial style is to get people to own their commitments. “I need the impossible done by Friday. Can you do it?”
  11. Brought in Fisker to help with the model S design but soon after Fisker released his own hybrid. Musk sued but ended up losing. Then turned to Apple’s Tony Fidel and Franz Von Hofhausen
  12. Tesla was able to wow many large auto manufacturers like Daimler and GM and secured some money. They also got a loan from the government
  13. After the successful launch of the Model S, Tesla was soon back on the brink of bankruptcy but went ahead with expanding their charging power grid
  14. Musk took people from every corner of the company and put them in sales. At the same time, due to money issues, he made a handshake deal with Larry page for Google to buy Tesla. However, the new salesmen did a great job and sold a lot of cars
  15. Musk is doing incredible things due to his vision and determination
What I got out of it
  1. Elon is a truly inspiring guy – pushing me to want to do and accomplish more

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

  1. A very motivated man who had an uncanny ability to produce world-changing products. He was able to see into the future, know what customers wanted when they didn’t, build hype around the product launches and more. A genius on many fronts who also struggled relating to people at times and had a somewhat estranged family situation
Key Takeaways
  1. Jobs was adopted by a nice but uneducated family. Father loved to build electrical things and cars
  2. Woz and Steve met because of their love of pranks and of electronics
  3. Went to Reed but soon dropped out. He spent some time in India to further study Zen Buddhism and other approaches to enlightenment.
  4. Woz created the first personal computer in June 1975 – Apple 1
  5. When he was 23 he impregnated Brennan but wouldn’t own up to it for many years. “He was an enlightened being who was cruel”Jobs let Xerox invest in Apple if they showed him their newest inventions. They agreed and showed him the graphical user interface and this would change the industry forever
  6. Jobs was eventually outvoted and became a non executive chairman of Apple and eventually left to start Next. It was mildly successful and when it was bought by Apple, Steve was part of the package
  7. Jobs fanatical diets reflected one of his core beliefs – asceticism leads to greater feelings later on. Things often lead to their opposites
  8. Only wanted things around him that he could admire (furniture, appliances, etc)
  9. Toy Story was an incredible success and soon after Pixar went public after Jobs had invested over $60m
  10. Jobs was fanatical about controlling the whole process. Software and hardware should be inextricably linked and with the new retail stores, he could control the buying process as well
  11. Jobs was not very forthcoming about his health to the public or even his board
  12. The iPad and multi touch technology actually came before the iPhone and had to be retrofitted
  13. The attention to detail of every aspect of the design and process is beautiful and inspiring
  14. Jobs was reluctant to let third parties design apps but then relented
  15. After many ups and downs with his health, jobs died on October 5, 2011
What I got out of it
  1. Jobs was a maniac for detail and wanted to control the entire process, every input. He was often harsh and his reality distortion people frustrated and alienated a lot of people but he accomplished more than nearly anyone in this field

Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove


  1. This book is about the impact of changing rules. How to find your way through uncharted territories and how to recognize/act on a 10x strategic inflection point
Key Takeaways
  1. Strategic inflection point – a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. Every strategic inflection point is characterized by a 10x change and each 10x change leads to a strategic inflection point
    1. A bit of a misnomer as it is not a single point, rather a long, tortuous strugle
  2. Understanding the nature of strategic inflections points and what to do about them will help you safeguard your company’s well being
  3. Action after review – immediately review your decisions/actions and learn from them. What could you have done differently, better, earlier, etc.
  4. Middle manager tend to be the first people in the business to realize that the rules of the game are changing
  5. Everybody needs to expose themselves to the winds of change – expose selves to customers,
  6. Six forces affecting a business – competitors, suppliers, customers, potential customers, substitutes, the force of complementors
  7. Transitions in business have no party, no celebration, they are subtle, gradual changes
  8. Difficult/impossible to know “right” steps to take in these situations, judgement and instinct are all you have
  9. As an industry becomes more competitive, companies are forced to retreat to their strongholds and specialize in order to become world class in whatever segment they end up occupying
  10. By learning from the painful experiences of others, we can improve our ability to recognize a strategic inflection point that’s about to affect us. And that’s half the battle
  11. Whether a company is a winner or a loser depends a large part on its degree of adaptability
  12. No surefire way to determine what is a signal or simply noise
    1. Is your key competitor about to change?
    2. Is your key complementor about to change?
    3. Do people seem to be “losing it” around you?
  13. Cassandras – early warning system
  14. Avoid the trap of the first version – can’t judge the significance of strategic inflection points by the quality of the first version
  15. Broad and intensive debate the most important tool to draw out strategic inflection points
  16. Fear, fear of speaking out, voicing your opinion, debating bosses, etc., may be the most detrimental culture within a company
  17. How management reacts emotionally to a crisis is one of the best tellers for how the company will deal with strategic inflection points
  18. Inertia of success – senior people in a company have gotten where they are due to some characteristics but some of these characteristics may hold them back and cause them to fail during a strategic inflection point
  19. Takes a strong person to admit the magnitude of the problem you are struggling with
  20. Strategic dissonance – saying one thing and doing another
  21. Must form a mental image of what the company will look like when you “get to the other side” – clear, crisp so you can communicate it to others. Must also define what the company will not be
  22. For anybody, but especially mangers, how you spend your time has enormous symbolic value
  23. The most effective way to transform a company is through a series of incremental changes that are consistent with a clearly articulated end result
  24. Your tendency will almost always be to wait too long to take action. Being an early movers entails risks but the rewards often outweigh the risks
  25. Take one major task on at a time – doing one thing well requires all your focus and energy
  26. Only the paranoid survive – people are always chasing you so commit to one direction and run as fast as you can
  27. The greatest danger is standing still
  28. Almost impossible to over communicate or oversimplify – especially with large groups. Don’t worry, you’re not repeating yourself, your reinforcing the strategic message
  29. You can’t change a company without changing its management
  30. Avoid random motion
  31. Improvement almost always only comes through small, consistent steps with clarity and conviction
  32. Looking back is tempting but terribly counterproductive

What I got out of it

  1. Interesting and telling story of Andy Grove and Intel – the battles they went through, how many times they could have gone out of business or missed a major trend. Really good lessons for anybody in the business world