If you’d like to start your own business but don’t know where to begin—-this book is for you. Below, Kevin Kauzlaric interviews author Tim Freriks about his new book that provides aspiring entrepreneurs with a method for building a business that’s sequential, logical, and realistic.
Kevin: What inspired you to write the Startup Assembly Manual?
Tim: I started my first independent business 6 months out of architecture school—I started my own firm. It didn’t take me long to realize I didn’t want to work for anybody. I networked and met someone who worked at the JoAnne Fabrics chain and talked him into giving me a shot at the architecture for the mall stores. Based on that, I left a perfectly good and respectable job and went out on my own. Initially, I worked out of the house, but then moved in with another architect friend.
I realized I wanted more substantial work—and have more control—so I decided to become a developer. The fact that I had no idea how to start and run a development firm didn’t bother me at all. I figured it out.
After two other business ventures, the first being in flight simulation enhancement software and the second focusing on online training systems, I retired and started to mentor young entrepreneurs. However, I didn’t have a clear vision of why I succeeded when I did and why I failed when I did. That bothered me and I started researching entrepreneurship. The books I read seemed either academic or written by highly successful businessmen whose idea of “startup” was way different from mine, and not in tune with the average guy with an idea and no clue what to do next.
I collected and analyzed everything from Business Model Generation, Lean Startup and Steve Blank to lesser known books and reworked them into a philosophy that was more sequential, logical, and realistic. It was to be a way to build a real business for real people, a ground-level methodology that could help aspiring entrepreneur understand the actual process of getting started.
Could you give us a quick high-level summary of your background?
I started as a music composer and trumpet player, but soon learned I wasn’t good enough to succeed. I did some serious soul searching and discovered that I had competency for the practice of architecture, the mental composition that allowed me to create working visions and reduce them to a series of logical and sequential details. That ability took me to software development, which was the same process, just with code instead of CAD.
That same mindset is how I organized the Startup Assembly Manual.
Delving into your book now, who would benefit most from your book?
The book is for aspiring entrepreneurs who have a hard time relating to the “Do an IPO in 30 days” approach or “How I built a business I sold to Google in a year” or “This is how I did it” from people that somehow had millions to work with or “Here’s the structure” from academics who haven’t really sat at their dining room table wondering how to quit their job and start a business, without money, based on an idea they believe in.
I wrote it to be relevant to service (like consulting), product/service (like landscaping), tech (like apps and software), and physical product businesses. They all have the foundation for building success, which comes from finding answers to the three critical questions:
1: do a lot of people actually have the problem you think your product will solve?
2: do they have an urgent need to find solution?
3: does your product offer a compelling solution and create a motivated customer?
The book is how to find answers to these questions.
What makes your book different from other books that cover this same topic?
I probably covered that above, but mostly I think it is a road map for the average guy with an idea and no clue what to do next.
I created the ACE Methodology, a process of Assessment, Confirmation, and Execution. Assessment creates a set of assumptions, your ideas about the customer, the problem, the solution, the market, infrastructure, etc. and Confirmation is a process of, first, defining the assumptions through research (customer investigation) the validating them through trying to sell the product/service.
One thing I do that I don’t see a lot of is stress personal assessment. Frankly, many people aren’t cut out for being an entrepreneur. Often I think they generally don’t know what to expect or what it takes (or whether they “have” it or not). It’s a package of strengths, values, passions, experience, and other things that have to be aligned. It ain’t easy, and going into battle without knowing the enemy is a weak position.
What are the most important elements, messages, or takeaways of your book that you’d like readers to know they will benefit from?
- Personal assessment is important—are you ready, do you have what it takes, what does it take?
- Customer assessment is critical—you have to thoroughly understand your customer and the problem you think they have for which they are urgently looking for a solution.
- Product assessment is also critical—does your product fit their needs or solve their problems in such a way that will be compelling, can it create a motivated customer, is the value proposition substantial, is the perceived benefit greater than perceived cost?
- Business assessment is important—can you generate the three flavors of “proof of concept” (technical, economic, social), is the market big enough to generate profitability, is the price approved by the customer going to be sufficiently less than the infrastructure and product expense.
I stress a couple other things that I find destructive: many entrepreneurs believe in their product idea so much they build it assuming that other people will believe it also. My message: “You are not your customer; only your customer is your customer. If you can’t get other people to believe in your product, it won’t work.” Secondly, “Don’t build a product you can’t sell; build mockups and ASK people if they see any benefit; build a customer before you build a product.
What are the 3 steps for creating a business that you outline in your book?
According to the ACE Methodology:
1: Assessment – Personal, Customer, Product, Business. This creates an initial set of assumptions
2: Confirmation – Definition, where you test your assumptions with customer investigation and research
3: Execution – Grow, where you consolidate and strengthen the core and build the business, and Exit, where you run or sell
I have a lot of content about customer investigation, how to do it. I also cover “pitching” your idea to investors at length.
What is the best piece of advice from an entrepreneur you’ve ever received?
This is a good question. Hmmmm.
One I remember was from one of the most successful architects of his time who spoke at my graduation. He said he was going to give us the three most critical things about being an architect. It wasn’t what we expected, but they were: “Get the job in; get the job in; and get the job in.
He meant selling yourself; you’re a product, if you can’t sell your product, you don’t have a business. I’ll never forget that. His wisdom was pretty awesome.
Beyond that, when I was developing a new product for my last software company, my dad asked me: “So, who’s going to buy this?” I should have worked out an answer because it failed.
Give us an interesting fun fact about your book or the research you conducted for your book.
I have a lot of illustrative stories in the book that flesh out the points I make. I use my first “real” business, SimuTech Corporation, and run that through all the stages of ACE (without knowing it, yet). I also wanted to tell the story of a more typical business building experience, so I made one up using a product for which I have a patent. It’s a unique urinal target named ChamPEEon (“Be a citizen of the Urination”). I’ve written four novels (two good; none published) so I really got into it.
Where can people find out more about you and/or your book?
See more reviews of this book on Amazon.com by clicking here.
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