Seth Godin: The Bootstrapper’s Bible (2004)

Pflichtlektüre für jeden Solopreneur und jeden Lifestyle Entrepreneur. Es ist gratis zu haben, also gibt’s keine Ausreden!

Völlig legaler Link zum Buch als pdf

Section 1: The Joy of Small

What’s a big company got that you haven’t got?

„Just as playing table tennis is very different from playing Wimbledon tennis, bootstrapping your own business is a world apart from running IBM. You need to understand the differences, and you need to understand how you can use your size to your advantage.“ (S. 8)

  • Das ist auch der Grund, warum es eine spezielle Solo-BWL braucht. 

„If a market can be bought with cash, a big company will do it.“ (S. 10)

  • Große Unternehmen setzen einfach ihr Kapital ein, um die Konkurrenz platt zu machen. Sie kaufen sich einfach den Markt.
  • Die Chance für Solopreneure liegt darin, Märkte zu finden, die lukrativ sind, aber viel zu klein, um die Big Player zu interessieren (zumindest im Moment).

„Big companies have better distribution, access to money whenever itʼs needed, a brand that customers trust, access to the people who buy, and great employees. Theyʼve got lots of competition, big and small, and theyʼve sharpened their axes for battle. Do you have a chance to succeed? No. Not if you try to compete head to head in these five areas. Not if you try to be just like a big company, but smaller. If you try to steal the giantʼs lunch, the giant is likely to eat you for lunch. […] You have to go where the other guys canʼt. Take advantage of what you have so that you can beat the competition with what they donʼt. Many bootstrappers miss this lesson. They believe that great ideas and lots of energy will always triumph, so they waste countless dollars and years fighting the bad guys on their own turf.“ (S. 12)

  • Wenn du auf dem Spielfeld der Großen spielen willst, wirst du verlieren. Du musst dein eigenes Spielfeld finden.

„Thatʼs why the gourmet food business bugs me so much. Every year, another 2,000 gourmet items—jams, jellies, nuts, spreads, chips—are introduced. And every year, 1,900 of themfail. Why? Because the bootstrappers behind them are in love with an idea, not a business. Successful bootstrappers know that just because they can make a product doesnʼt mean they should. Making kettle-fried potato chips from your grandmotherʼs recipe may sound appealing, but that doesnʼt mean that you can grow the idea into a real business.“ (S. 13)

What’s a bootstrapper got that big companies haven’t got?

  1. NOTHING TO LOSE. „This is huge. Your biggest advantage. Big, established companies are in love with old, established ways. They have employees with a huge stake in maintaining the status quo.“ (S. 13)
  2. HAPPY WITH SMALL FISH.
  3. PRESIDENTIAL INPUT. „But in big companies, the president is far removed from the action. Heʼs surrounded by people with their own agendas.“ (S. 15)
  4. RAPID R&D. „Big companies will almost always try to reduce invention risk by assigning a bureaucracy. You, on the other hand, can do it yourself. Or hire one person to do it.“ (S. 17)
  5. THE UNDERDOG. „Big companies donʼt treat people very well sometimes, and people respond in kind. You, on the other hand, run a small company. So you can acquire the distribution rights to a video series for no money down. Or convince Mel Gibson to appear in your documentary for union scale. Or get your lawyer to work for nothing, for a while, just because youʼre doing good things.“ (S. 17)
  6. LOW OVERHEAD. „By leveraging your smallness, you can often undercut bigger competitors, especially if the product or service you create doesnʼt require a lot of fancy machinery.“ (S. 18)
  7. TIME. „The big companies donʼt have a lot of freedom in the way they deal with time. […] You, on the other hand, are a stealth marketer. No one is watching you. Sometimes, when it counts, youʼll be ten times faster than the big guys. But when you can make a difference by taking your time, you will—and itʼll show.“ (S. 18)

„Position yourself against the brand leader. Be “cheaper than Fritoʼs” or “faster than Federal Express” or “cooler than Leviʼs.” The more the other guyʼs brand gets publicized, the more your positioning statement increases in value. Be brazen in the way you compare yourself to the market leader. Your story should be short, solid, and memorable.“ (S. 22)

„This manifesto, like most business books, may seem a little intimidating. Itʼs filled with countless things you must do right and countless things that can go wrong. In fact, you may feel like giving up.“ (S. 23)

  • Dieses Lehrbuch, wie alle Lehrbücher, in denen man wirklich was lernt, kann overwhelming sein. Man kann so viel falsch machen. Man muss an so vieles denken!
  • Es ist (auch) unangenehm, dieses Buch zu lesen.
  • Diese Tatsache auch in meinem Solo-BWL-Buch ansprechen. 
  • Wie damit umgehen? Where to put the tired?

„Which brings me to the most important, most concrete, most useful piece of advice in the whole manifesto. Simple, but indispensable: Donʼt give up. Surviving is succeeding. Youʼre smarter than most people who have started their own businesses, and smarter still than those who have succeeded. Itʼs not about what you know or even, in the end, about what you do. Success is persistence. Set realistic expectations. Donʼt give up.“ (S. 24)

„YOU CAN’T WIN IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE GAME. A lot of this manifesto is about survival. A true bootstrapper worries about survival all the time. Why? Because if you fail, itʼs back to company cubicles, to work you do for someone else until you can get enough scratched together to try again. […] keep playing until you win.“ (S. 24)

Section 2: A great idea can wipe you out

„There are enough obstacles to success in choosing your business. Overcoming a flawed business model shouldnʼt be one of them.“ (S. 25)

„Donʼt rush it. Donʼt just pick what you know, or what you used to do, or even what you dreamed of doing when you were a teenager. Itʼs way more fun to run a successful vegetable stand than to be a bankrupt comedy club owner. The first law of bootstrapping: Great ideas are not required. In fact, a great idea can wipe you out.“ (S. 25)

„Whatʼs a great idea? Something thatʼs never been done before. Something that takes your breath away. Something so bold, so daring, so right, that youʼre certain itʼs worth a bazillion dollars. An idea you need to keep secret. Great ideas will kill you.“ (S. 25)

„Coming up with a brilliant idea for a business is not nearly as important as finding a business model that works. Whatʼs a business model? This classic MBA phrase describes how you set up a business so you can get money out of it. […] They are formulas that take the assets of a company and turn them into cash. Without a business model, a company can get publicity, hire employees, and spend money—but it wonʼt make a profit.“ (S. 26)

Business models should have the following five attributes (S. 28ff)

  1. They should be profitable.
    • „Youʼd be surprised at how often people start businesses that lose money on every product and then try to make it up in volume! […] you need to make money to stay in business.“ (S. 28)
    • „Almost no business is profitable on the very first day. […] The question is: How long before profitability? Write down a target date. If you go way past it, figure out how to fix the problem or quit.“ (S. 28)
  2. They should be predictable.
    • „A profitable business, as mentioned earlier, is going to attract competitors. What are you going to do when they show up?“ (S. 29)
  3. They should be self-priming.
    • „One of the giant traps bootstrappers fall into is inventing business models that donʼt prime themselves.“ (S. 30)
    • Sich selbst erhaltend, sich selbst in Bewegung setzend, sich selbst fortsetzend
  4. They should be adjustable.
  5. There should be an exit strategy (optional)

„Just because itʼs cheap to start doesnʼt make it a good business.“ (S. 35)

Do you want to be a freelancer or an entrepreneur? (S. 36f)

  • „A freelancer sells her talents. While she may have a few employees, basically sheʼs doing a job without a boss, not running a business. […] There is no exit strategy. There is no huge pot of gold. Just the pleasure and satisfaction of making your own hours and being your own boss.“
  • „An entrepreneur is trying to build something bigger than herself. She takes calculated risks and focuses on growth. An entrepreneur is willing to receive little pay, work long hours, and take on great risk in exchange for the freedom to make something big, something that has real market value.“
  • „Both situations offer tremendous opportunity to the right person, and millions of people are delighted that they left their jobs to become a freelancer or an entrepreneur. But for you, only one of them will do. And you must figure out which one.“
  • „This manifesto is focused on freelancers and early-stage entrepreneurs.“

Everyone is not like you (S. 43)

  • „Novelists are encouraged to “write what you know.” And the business you run should reflect what you know and love and are great at.“
  • „But donʼt fall into the trap of assuming that everyone needs what you need, wants what you want, buys what you buy.“
  • Das ist auch für Gründungsberater ganz wichtig, sich das vor Augen zu halten: Ein gutes Business ist nicht nur das, was man selbst für gut hält. Gute Produkte sind nicht nur die, die man selbst kaufen würde. Wir haben Expertise, aber gleichzeitig haben wir keine Ahnung.
  • „Instead of starting the business that makes stuff for people just like you, do some real research. Go to the library. […] find a thriving industry and emulate and improve on the market leader. Sheʼs already done your homework for you.“ (S. 44)

Consumer products are almost impossible to bootstrap.“ Weil: „The cost of sale is enormous. Getting the first person to buy the first sharpener is unbelievably expensive.“ (S. 46)“Successful bootstrappers know this: Your business is about the process. Itʼs not about the product. If you structure a business model that doesnʼt reward you as you proceed, it doesnʼt matter how much you love the product. Pretty soon there wonʼt be any product to love.“ (S. 47)

  • vgl. Es geht um die Produkt-TREPPE, nicht um das einzelne Produkt!

„You can pick any business in the universe to bootstrap. I recommend picking one thatʼs friendly to bootstrappers, that wants you to succeed, that will likely give back what you put in. Itʼs easier to tell you what to avoid than to point you in the right direction. Businesses that are also hobbies usually cause bootstrappers the most trouble: restaurants, toy design and invention, creating gourmet foods.“ (S. 48)

She succeeded because she understood what her market wanted and because she persevered for years and years to build her reputation. She was careful with expenses, didnʼt waste her equity, and set herself up for success while protecting against failure. […] All because she picked the right business model, selling a product in a way that made sense to people who wanted to buy it.“ (S. 50)

  • Das Rezept ist wirklich sehr einfach – aber nicht leicht! Mit dem Markt „sprechen“ und dran bleiben!

„A lot of what Iʼm talking about in this manifesto might dissuade you from taking the bootstrapper journey. So many opportunities to fail, so few to succeed, it seems. But when it clicks, the magic that takes over is intoxicating. Your work, embraced by a stranger. Itʼs a rush.“

  • Es gibt so viel zu beachten! Man kann so viel falsch machen!
  • Deswegen wollen sich so viele lieber gar nicht mit BWL beschäftigen. Dann weiß man wenigstens nicht so genau, was man alles falsch macht. Ignorance is a bliss!
  • Das ist natürlich eine völlig irrationale Herangehensweise, aber so sind wir Menschen nun mal.
  • Aber es würde sich auszahlen, die Sache richtig (oder so richtig wie möglich) zu machen, weil die Belohnungen der Kund*innen umso zahlreicher werden würden.

„Most people hate to be wrong. They hate to make a statement (or, even worse, to write something down) and then be proved wrong. […] Starting a business is the most public, most expensive, riskiest way of all to be wrong. […] Thereʼs never been an entrepreneur with a crystal ball. Thereʼs no way to know for sure whether your business is going to work, whether your targeted customers will buy, whether your choice of technology is a good one. Youʼre going to be wrong. Get used to it!“ (S. 52f)

„Hereʼs my best advice to you: Stop planning and start doing. You donʼt have to quit your day job. But you do have to get out there and do it. The more you do, the more you do. Doors will open. Opportunities will appear. Your model will change, your reputation will increase, you will become a magnet for smart people, good customers, and investors. But none of this will happen if you stay inside and keep planning.“ (S. 54)

Section 3: Doing the Math

„If you donʼt run out of money, you get to keep playing. If you end up with more money than you started with, you win.[…] Most entrepreneurs donʼt think about money too much when they decide to start a business. […] But without money, there is no business. […] Planning for the money doesnʼt have to be complicated. But you do have to be consistent and, most of all, honest with yourself.“ (S. 55)

„Once you realize that changing the amount of money you need to live on can dramatically increase your chances of success, you have an important choice to make: How much are you willing to sacrifice for the business? One surefire way to determine if a bootstrapper is going to succeed or not is to check out how she changes her lifestyle when she starts the business.“ (S. 58)

  • So eine wichtige Frage – auch für SILBE und mich! z.B. Will ich noch zu Konzerten gehen (Zeit und Geld)?

Do you have enough money in the bank to make it if everything goes wrong? If you do, congratulations.Go run your business with focus and with confidence. Stick with the high road and do the things you need to realize your business plan.“ (S. 60)

  • Das gilt für SILBE und mich!

Über Hybride Unternehmen

  • „There are a lot of advantages to the multiple income source strategy. First, having a cash flow is a good feeling. It makes you more stable, more confident, more likely to have a successful business. Second, and just as important, those freelance gigs can easily turn into things that will help your core business.“ (S. 61)
  • „Again, the time to develop a multiple income source strategy is not when you run out of money. Then it will be too late. Right now, plan for the money.“ (S. 61)
  • „While Iʼm a huge fan of the multiple income source strategy, thereʼs an important caveat: Donʼt let the sideline take over (unless you want it to). Itʼs so easy to get focused on the short term, on the “now,” that you ignore the reason you started the business in the first place.“ (S. 61)

Die einzigen Kennzahlen, die man braucht (S. 62)“Write them down. Share them with your spouse and board of advisers.“

  • Cash in this month:
  • Cash out this month:
  • Money in the bank right now:
  • At the current rate, how many months until no cash left:

„My rule of thumb is that debt is bad.“ (S. 62)

If you have sales, you have (almost) everything

  • „Be sales-focused.“ (S. 65)
  • „A company with plenty of sales can almost always fix its other problems. But a company without sales is close to dead.“ (S. 65)
  • „Please, please donʼt underestimate how important this is. Once you have sales, youʼre in the driverʼs seat. You can dictate whom you buy from, whom you hire, just about everything about your business.“ (S. 66)
    • Für Lifestyle Entrepreneure gibt es keine Freiheit ohne Sales!
  • „The customer is king because the customer has money. If you figure out how to get the money, you become the king!“ (S. 66)

Die zwei wichtigsten Sales-Regeln. Nicht mehr, nicht weniger:

  1. Sell something that people want to buy (and know how to buy!).
    • „Figuring out what people want to buy is a two-step process. The first step is figuring out what theyʼre already buying. The second step is getting people to switch.“ (S. 67)
    • „Itʼs so much easier to sell something that people are already buying.“ (S. 68)
    • „“What will it take to get people to switch from what they already use to what I sell?” Believe it or not, the answer is almost always not money.“ (S. 68)
    • „Usually, you need to make a product that is significantly easier or more effective. Easier to buy. Easier to use. Easier to teach other people how to use. More effective at solving the problem.“ (S. 68)
    • „A combination of more convenience, better service, aggressive pricing, and better results will make you irresistible to some people. It wonʼt work for everyone. Some folks may never switch. But thatʼs okay. You donʼt need everyone. Just enough to keep you busy and the cash flowing!“ (S. 69)
  2. Own the sales process
    • „Iʼm not telling you this to discourage you. Far from it. If it were easy to sell, then everyone would do it and thereʼd be no room for your new business.“ (S. 70)
    • „For too many bootstrappers, sales is an afterthought. Itʼs the thing you do that allows you to do what you really want to do. Big mistake. In fact, sales is the reason for your business to exist. If you canʼt sell what you make, you canʼt help anyone, influence anyone, or make anyoneʼs life easier, better, or more convenient. If you canʼt sell what you make, you canʼt pay yourself. Youʼre finished.“ (S. 71)
    • „Many bootstrappers are tempted to delegate the sales process to a representative, an agent, or an employee. Big mistake. The sales process—regardless of your business—is the heart of your business. As long as you control it, you control your company. Without it, you are at the mercy of whomever you delegate it to.“ (S. 72)
    • Once you have a cash flow from sales, youʼll be amazed at how easy it is to buy everything else you need. As a buyer, you have all the power. You can pit suppliers against each other in bidding wars to get you the lowest price. You can find spectacular freelancers who will build, assemble, design, draw—whatever you need done, you can buy.“ (S. 72)
    • „What should you do if you hate to sell? What if the idea of getting in front of a customer fills you with dread? Basically, you have two choices: You can find another line of work. Or you can focus all of your energy on hiring someone who can sell better than you can. Faking your way through isnʼt going to work. Hoping that the sales process will go away wonʼt help either. As a bootstrapper you must sell yourself and your business. Otherwise, no business.“ (S. 72)

Section 4: Ringo was the Luckiest Beatle

There are no guarantees in life, but the odds are that if you can take care of these nine things in your business, the rest will take care of itself.

Rule 1: Find people who care about cash less than you do

  • „In a competitive marketplace, credit is often the tool that suppliers use to differentiate themselves.“ (S. 74)
  • „Consultants, lawyers, designers – none of them have much in the way of out-of-pocket expenses, so floating you some credit doesnʼt cost them very much.“ (S. 75)
  • „It helps to start with a salesperson who will take the time to teach you what you need to know. […] I persuaded her to buy me lunch (always let the salespeople pay!) and then quizzed her for two hours. What she taught me about printing would have taken years to learn without her help.“ (S. 75)
  • „Guess what? Over the next few years, Donnelly got lots of business from my company. They always gave me 90 days to pay my bills. I paid all their bills within a few months. And even better, Beth is now one of my best friends.“ (S. 76)
  • „The second great source of capital is customers. Thatʼs right. The people youʼre trying so hard to sell to are also a great source for money.“ (S. 76)
  • „Of course, sometimes itʼs not that easy. Sometimes you need to give the customer an incentive to pay early. A discount, or a free gift. But you wonʼt get the money unless you ask. Always ask.“ (S. 77)

Rule 2: Survival is success

  • „As youʼll see in rule 5, things get better. But first, youʼve got to survive.“ (S. 77)
  • „At the beginning […] you might be tempted to be very choosy about which projects and which customers you take. Donʼt do that! (At least not too much). Watch the money. Take the money. Allocate a percentage of your week to making money. Any way you can that doesnʼt distract from the core business. If a project makes money, itʼs a good project. If a product makes money, itʼs a good product.“ (S. 78)
  • „The vast majority of start-ups go under within five years. So if youʼre still around, youʼre a winner. And itʼs probably because you were focused on survival.“ (S. 78)

Rule 3: Success leads to more success

  • „Being in front of people will lead to new opportunities, new products, new engagements. Be in motion, because customers like motion.“ (S. 78)

Rule 4: Redo the mission statement and the business plan every three months

  • „Building a business from scratch is like walking through a maze with many, many doors. Once you open one, 100 new doors present themselves. As you move your way through the maze, you need to stop and check your location.“ (S. 80)

Rule 5: Associate with winners

  • „Four groups of people will dramatically influence how your business evolves:
    • Customers
    • Employees
    • Vendors
    • Peers“ (S. 81)
  • Customers: „Most businesses wouldnʼt even consider firing a customer. But sometimes itʼs the smartest thing you can do.“ (S. 82)
  • Suppliers: „If the vendors you work with are responsive, high-quality organizations focused on your success, youʼre much more likely to succeed. Obviously, not every vendor is going to meet this criterion. So you need to invest time and energy in finding alternate sources and in training and rewarding vendors to work with you better.“ (S. 86)
  • Peers: „Finding peers is difficult. […] The best way to find peers is to devote several hours a week to doing favors for people. Favors with no intent of being repaid. Do some favors for strangers and some for friends. […] A few hours a week ought to net you a group of 100 or more peers who will benefit from your efforts as much as youʼll benefit from theirs.“ (S. 87f)

Rule 6: Beware of shared ownership (Or, Why Ringo was the luckiest Beatle)Rule 7: Advertise

  • „From the first day, allocate a percentage of your income to marketing. Do marketing before you take out money to pay yourself. Letters, phone calls, banner ads, space ads, even TV—theyʼre all cheaper than you think. And youʼve got to spend the money to get the money back.“ (S. 92)
  • „Advertising feels like an expense. Itʼs not. Itʼs an investment. An investment that takes a little while to pay off, but when it does, itʼs magic.“ (S. 93)
  • „The coolest thing about marketing is that when you mix two ingredients—time and money—you get an enormous return. A consistent, persistent, intelligent ad and marketing campaign, done for months or years is nearly certain to pay off.“ (S. 93)
  • „Remember, sales are what make your company work. And sales happen when you get access to people and they trust you. Advertising makes sales happen.“ (S. 93)

The four most important rules of advertising

  1. Spend regularly on advertising
    • „Yes, advertising is scary. It seems like a crap shoot. You pay your money and nothing happens. You pay your money again and nothing happens. Then, after a while, it starts to pay. But most bootstrappers get impatient and give up too soon.“ (S. 93)
    • „The way to plan your advertising is to budget for it. Figure out approximately how much your competitors advertise. […] Then, every month, whether you need it or not, spend that money. Spend it when times are good. Spend it when times arenʼt so good.“ (S. 93)
  2. Persistance is the secret to success
    • „If you persist, directing your advertising to the same people over and over and over again, youʼll make a dent.“ (S. 94)
  3. Be clear
    • „You definitely donʼt have enough money to be obtuse. You probably donʼt even have enough money to be hip. What you do have, though, is an opportunity to be direct. To be blunt. To clearly and succinctly outline exactly why people should buy from you.“ (S. 95)
    • „Be crystal clear about whatʼs in it for the prospects. And then make it unbelievably easy for them to do what youʼd like them to do.“ (S. 95)
  4. Test and measure
    • „If an ad doesnʼt work, change one thing and try again. […] The more you measure, the better your ad gets. Be a control freak about testing.“ (S. 95f)
    • „This is harder than it sounds, but itʼs worth it. No matter what sort of business youʼre running, you need to figure out a way to measure what works and what doesnʼt.“ (S. 96)

Rule 8: Get mentored

  • „Nowhere does it say youʼve got to do this all alone.“ (S. 96)
  • „I donʼt know about you, but I love seeing people succeed. And if thereʼs a way to help someone else reach a goal, most people are eager to pitch in.“ (S. 96)

Rule 9: Observe those little birds that clean the teeth of very big hippos

  • „Thereʼs a lot a bootstrapper can learn from these little birds. By creating a mutually beneficial relationship with a hippo, you can make a lot of money, generate credibility, and avoid being eaten. Find bigger, richer, more stable organizations. Partner with them. It gives you credibility and access and sometimes, cash flow.“ (S. 99)
  • „Corporations large and small are eager to find bootstrappers who can turn their wasting assets into cash.“ (S. 100)
  • Große Unternehmen können gar nicht alle Gelegenheiten nützen, die sie haben. Sie vernachlässigen Ressourcen, Produkte, Kunden, Potenziale. Sie sind froh, wenn wer kommt und sich darum kümmert – und sie ein bisschen bei dem mitverdienen können, was sie selber nie gemacht hätten.

Was ist über das Buch zu sagen?

  • Es ist natürlich großartig. Es ist ganz nah an dem dran, was ich mit meinem Solo-BWL-Buch schaffen will. Es geht darum, dass man aus wirtschaftlicher Sicht auf sein Business schaut und einfach nicht zu viele „wrong mistakes“ macht.
  • Das Problem ist das gleiche wie mit den allermeisten Büchern von Seth Godin: Es ist sehr gescheit. Es ist sehr, sehr dicht. Jede Zeile ist gescheit, es müsste so viel unterstrichen werden. Auch wenn das Buch sehr kurz ist, beinhaltet es so viel Beachtenswertes.
  • Das Buch ist super geschrieben und flüssig. Die Anekdoten und Fallbeispiele sind interessant und illustrieren wirklich das Gesagte.
  • Man merkt, dass sich Seths Stil seither weiterentwickelt hat, aber er war damals schon sehr gut.
  • Ein Problem des Buches, das auch ich haben könnte: Es erzeugt unease, es zu lesen. Es gibt so viel zu beachten, man kann so viel falsch machen. Das nimmt einem den Nipf. Man hat auch Angst vor jeder neuen Seite, dass es noch etwas zu beachten gibt oder, noch schlimmer, dass man sich bei noch einem Fehler ertappt.
  • Insgesamt lässt einen das Buch mit dem Gefühl zurück, dass man nicht besonders schlau ist. Seth ist nicht unsympathisch, gar nicht, aber er ist schon der Lehrer, der weiß, wie es geht. 
  • Es ist ganz wichtig, dass er immer wieder Beispiele aus seinem eigenen Business-Leben nennt, damit man sagen kann: Ah, ihm ist es genauso gegangen. Er ist auch nicht besser. Das ist wichtig für die Moral.
  • Spannend finde ich auch, dass sich Seth auf wenige Bereiche beschränkt hat – und trotzdem eine Fülle liefert. Das Buch dürfte gar nicht länger sein! Ihm fehlt auch nichts, obwohl Seth längst nicht alles behandelt – schon gar nicht in aller Ausführlichkeit, Nuancierung und Tiefe, die möglich wären.