All great things start with someone dreaming big about an idea. Experience of dreaming about such an idea is joyful and you soon realize it’s the next big thing. This state of mind gets shattered when this idea reaches the point of execution. Reason for this is the dreams are seen in perfect world mindset and execution takes place in real world.
This book helps the entrepreneurs to come out of the perfect world and accept the reality in making the business venture a success. Therefore “Reality Check” gives a pulse of the bitterness of real world when it comes to starting and nurturing a business.
“Reality Check” is an in depth explanation of Kawasaki’s “The Art of The Start”. Topics are discussed in greater detail by bringing in specialist opinion for related topics and diving in to technicality with greater detail.
Continuing his style of breaking the topics based on the phases of a startup, Kawasaki explains the reality of many key milestones. Some of the notable elements from these chapters are as follows.
- Conceptualizing and funding the idea of a startup are crucial as the entrepreneur is moving from a “The idea” mindset to a “Will it work” mindset. Kawasaki starts the discussion with the fairy tale of entrepreneurship. Then he provides guidance on how to overcome the shocks mainly in identifying the time to “commercialize the idea”.
The approach of educating the reader about investor mindset through his personal experience and expert opinion would be valuable for a reader who has plans of becoming a venture capitalist. He also introduces his unconventional “Venture Capital Aptitude Test” model which can be used as a tool to evaluate the qualifications to become a venture capitalist.
In an attempt to provide insight to venture capital law, Kawasaki has included an interview of Fred Greguras who is a specialist on the subject matter. As the legal explanations are deeply technical, attractiveness of the reader diminishes.
- Planning, executing & innovating are the most critical phases of a startup. Also these are continuous processes which require high level of focus. Kawasaki shares his wisdom in these areas in a chapter named “Zen of business plan”. The most attracting factor is the link he bridge between pitching and planning, which would benefit the entrepreneur in many aspects including funding.
Advising on execution, he explains the challenging aspect of it and hence to make it a worthy effort. Then Kawasaki writes the best chapter of this book “After the Honeymoon”. This focuses on few highly practical issues faced by a startup immediately after the initial success phase. What makes this chapter special is the candidness of problems highlighted, it signifies the causes and most importantly it provides practical solutions which meet the reader’s expectations.
This also includes the story of building one of his startups “All top” presented in a very interesting manner.
- Marketing, Sales& Communications are equally important for any startup to get the bucks to flow and spread the name across. This becomes a challenge with initial financial constraints and over spending can bring things to a grinding halt.
This section of the book stresses the importance of balancing market adaptation without trying costly, ineffective approaches to add numbers which hinders real market adaptation.
The reader would also come across guidance on startup focused branding techniques, aspects to be mindful in delegating marketing activities and importance of managing the extent to which the customers should be influenced in selling.
Many young entrepreneurs struggle when they are exposed to corporates in business development aspects. One of the main reasons for this is weakness in communication and lack of presentation skills. Therefore, Kawasaki has dedicated special emphasis to this sharing his own amazing techniques which he believes that would result in standing ovation, a chapter from Garr Reynolds and an in-depth analysis of Majora carter’s TED Talk.
- Beguiling &Competing is important especially after the launch of a startup. Beguiling assists an entrepreneur to attract and influence people in network building and recruitment. In this chapter Kawasaki stresses the importance of capitalizing on networks an entrepreneur builds. He points out frequent mistakes done in following up with the built contacts and signifies how costly it could be.
When network building results in business partnerships, getting partners to deliver results become challenging. This often happens when the partner has higher bargaining power compared to the startup. In order to overcome this, Kawasaki points out the ground rules to be laid, how exit strategies to be put and how to drive internal acceptance to reap benefits from such partnerships.
Focusing on competition, Kawasaki recalls his experiences at Apple’s Macintosh division where competition was at peak internally and against IBM. He guides the reader how to take the tide and how not to get carried away with competition. Emphasizing on understanding the mindset of competition, Kawasaki also lists down some of the best examples including how Virgin Atlantic took on British Airways in 1986 which proves that competition is best handled by tackling minds.
- Managing HR &Operations would not be the task an entrepreneur will handle in the mid/long term. But the way an entrepreneur handles this at the inception would determine how it would be practiced as it would embed to the culture. Therefore, hiring, firing & managing day to day operations is been paid extra attention in this section.
Kawasaki uses his experience with Steve Jobs to explain hiring which includes the famous “A players hire A+ players” example he initiated at Apple. Among other valuable points, presenting a challenge to the candidate is noteworthy. Kawasaki mentions the challenge Steve Jobs gave to John Scully when he was recruited to highlight the importance of this.
Continuing his style, Kawasaki turns the table to guide the reader in tackling these situations as a candidate.
Vitality of being responsible, firm and providing chances in laying are being discussed in greater depth to enlighten the reader of risks involved.
Focusing on business operations, Kawasaki lists out a number of tips covering many aspects to enjoy work and be productive.
Kawasaki concludes this chapter with some “Must Read” radical topics related to work place politics and also provides his unconventional models to tackle them.
Ensuring the completeness and relevance of this book to all types of startups, Kawasaki has written the final chapter Reality of Doing Good. This section gives insights in to challenges faced in social entrepreneurship and transforming corporations in to Nonprofits. He also shares his way of viewing life in a chapter named “My Hindsights in Life” and asks ten questions from the reader which he calls the “Checklist of Reality Check”.
Mentioned below are some views about this book from a holistic standpoint
- In this book, Kawasaki’s attention to detail on key elements of a startup is commendable. Throughout the book he stresses the importance of developing simple and attractive customer interfaces to enhance customer experience which is a critical success factor.
- Also, this is a book full of lies. Truth about lies that Entrepreneurs, Venture capitalists, Engineers and Lawyers tell each other when they play their part. These are real lies which you would tell/hear and hence provides guidance to how to be creative in telling new lies.
- This book consists with number of chapters where technical experts were interviewed. In many instances these chapters are discussed in greater detail. This has negatively impacted on the flow as it dilutes focus from the core subject matter. Alternatively, a summarized version in Kawasaki’s own opinion would have added more value.
- Another distinct feature about Reality Check is that it puts the reader in to many different tough situations and provides guidance to tackle those situations. Advising on handling situations such as founder not performing is a clear evidence for this.
In conclusion, Reality Check would gain a rating of 6 out of 10 for the validity of points mentioned above. Better selection and sequencing of sub chapters, less number of expert interviews anda much brief approach would have resulted in a better rating.