I knew Lost and Founder was going to be good before I opened it. How? Because I have heard Rand speak, followed his blog and the roller coaster that was Moz. I have used their tools and still do. In the meantime, I accidentally started my own business beyond just writing fiction and writing freelance on my own.
Mine is not a typical startup. It is more of a bootstrapped, grow as we go and see where it leads type business. It leaves me, the owner and founder, in pretty solid control with no specific investor obligations. It’s one of the methods Fishkin talks about in this great book, along with the rest of the startup world and the methods for founding, growing, and exiting your business.
Here’s what I can tell you. This is the most honest book I have ever read about starting a business, business leadership, and all the ways that Rand and Moz did it well and all they ways they failed. It is not just a tale of a company though. The story is filled with lessons learned, myths debunked, and the truth about success, failure, depression, victory, and money.
So many books are simply filled with the glory story of how the author succeeded, and how if you follow their simple formula, you will too.Lost and Founder is much more practical. From the fact that founding a startup probably won’t make you rich even if you are in the top 5% to the fact that growth hacks are just that, hacks. There are much more practical solutions to real, sustainable growth.
I don’t want to share all of the tips, tricks, and cheat codes in this book—the ones that will make you better at business and a better founder, leader, manager, and overall a better person. I do want to share these few important takeaways for me.
Great Founders Don’t Do What They Love, They Enable a Vision
Love writing, editing, and everything about the publishing world? If you start a publisher, you won’t really do a lot of those things. You will be a marketer, speaker, manager, and enabler of others who do those things. Being a CEO is a hard job, and sometimes it even sucks. You have to do things that you are not good at to build a company that is good at what you love.
That is also not entirely true. Being a founder and CEO has its own rewards, but they usually do not include doing what you love all the time. It is an important lesson to understand, but similar to writing a novel, the arduous process is addictive, and once you found a company, grow it, and sell it despite all the pain it caused you, you’ll probably want to do it all over again, and it will be easier the second time around.
Startups Carry Their Founder’s Baggage
If you found a company, it will somewhat take on your personality, and the culture will emanate from you. That means your weaknesses will be your company’s weaknesses. If you are not the most tech savvy person, your company will struggle to be as tech savvy as it should be. If you are a great marketer, your company will be great at marketing.
The point is that especially in the early stages, having core personnel that have strengths that mirror the weakness of the founder is essential. Diversity not only in culture but in skills will make your company much more successful in the long run, but that is often not what happens. Founders and startups hire people for company culture and people who are like them. They tend to have similar weaknesses and that is perpetuated throughout the history of the business.
Living the Lives of Your Customers
I learned this one early on in freelance writing and SEO. Your customers see things differently than you do, and as a content strategist and freelance writer, the more I can step into their shoes, the better the product I produce.
If I could trade places with them for a day, and understand their jobs, would it change the way I do things in a fundamental way? Rand did just that with the CEO of another company, and the results were eye opening. They probably will be for us too, if we can put ourselves in someone else’s life and occupation for a brief amount of time.
The thing is, there are creative ways for you to do this as a startup founder, CEO, or manager. If nothing else, this chapter will get you thinking.
Self-Awareness is a Superpower
Probably this was my number one takeaway. Both personally and professionally it took me a while to be truly self-aware. I had to learn my weaknesses and strengths and how to play to them. I had to learn it was better to do one thing really well than to try to do all the things.
It is not enough to be just self-aware though. You also need to be transparent about it. This is one of the hardest things, and a theme that runs throughout the book. I have seen it time and again in my working career and my personal life. You have to be transparent, and as soon as you are not, things start to go sideways.
There is so much more here, more that I can share in a blog post review. I’ll just tell you that as a person, as a business owner, as a writer, and as a person who has been through ups and downs in a number of areas,Lost and Founderspeaks to me in a number of ways.
Rand is a great speaker, and smart man, and a damn good writer. If you are in business, plan to be in business, or want to start any kind of company ever, read this book first. Keep it handy on your shelf and refer to it often. Try not to forget these cheat codes and lessons.
Your business might still fail. You might still feel down and alone sometimes. Every day may not be a dream day. However, you will avoid some common mistakes. You’ll go into things with your eyes open, myths busted. You’ll know the painfully honest truth before you ever get started.
If you take away only a few of these things from this book, it is well worth your time to read. Five stars, more if I could give them. Pick up this book and check it out today, and follow Rand’s new adventure at sparktoro.com.
Also published on Medium.