Book Review – The 7 Day Startup By Dan Norris

7 day start upThe title of this book makes you wonder weather it is one of those books written by someone who’s written a book to get people’s attention and sell a couple of copies, but The 7 Day Startup written by Dan is truly a book in which he launched a startup in 7 days and now wants to teach us how he did it in this book. While this book has 7 chapters, don’t expect a chapter to be dedicated to each day of the startup journey, Rather Dan Norris covers all the days in just one chapter and then rants about a lot of things related to a startup. Let’s look at what each chapter covers very briefly.

CHAPTER 1 – YOU DON’T LEARN UNTIL YOU LAUNCH

Dan discusses four things in this chapter and they act as a good way to set the scene for what he will discuss later. He writes about his first business idea, a really great one at the time. Unfortunately it only went as far as a school project. Dan never launched. Next he writes about his first business building websites for people. He did launch this one and make enough but not enough considering the effort going into it. He solf the business and launched into a startup building an analytics dashboard. He made even less money than his first business and was at the point of giving up when walked into the idea that became his 7-day startup because he launched it in 7 days not because he planned it that but due to necessaity to get something out quick or give up totally on business.

His 7 day startup led to a successful business providing WordPress services. the company was called WP Curve (though this isn’t in the book but it’s been bought by GoDaddy so it must  have been quite successful.

Another thing, for Dan’s 7 Day startup he avoided doing some of the things which he’d done for his first two businesses:

  • he avoided what he calls sexy ideas, he’s aim was to solve a problem and sell a service fast.
  • he didn’t ask for opinions about his business idea, he jumped syragith into it.
  • he launched without testing his startup assumptions
  • he put up the website in one day without worrying over a logo, business name or design
  • he also didn’t agonise over the right pricing strategy or the perfect payment gateway. He just used Paypal buttons.

He launched and within a couple of days had paying customers. It is the mindset behind this kind of launch that Dan wants to teach us in this book. Now Dan makes it clear, don’t expect to create a world-class business in 7 days but you can at least launch it in that time.

CHAPTER 2 – WHAT IS A STARTUP?

According to Dan, a startup is different from a business. I did find that a bit confusing since i also differentiated between a startup and a business but saw business as what eventually grows out of a startup but Dan sees it differently.

Here he defines a business as anything that derives a wage for its founder. But he believes a startup has high impact potential, high levels of innovation and high levels of uncertainty. He prefers the term startup hence his main focus in this book is launching a startup.

CHAPTER 3 – IDEA, EXECUTION, HUSTLE

This chapter focuses on the three necessary ingredients of a successful startup. The first ingredient is an idea and every startup needs one. Dan spends some time on day 1 discussing ideas and helping us to choose the best one.

The second component is execution. According to Dan:

Execution is your ability to present your idea just as well as th best ideas in the world.

While Dan makes it clear that you can’t execute an idea to the level of best in class businesses in 7 days, that should be something we aim for in the medium term.

Hustle is the last component and Dan describes hustle this way:

Hustle for an early stage startup is generally about spending your time on the things that are most likely to bring you customers.

This means doing necessary to . It could make your startup a success and it will vary for different startup content marketing for some, cold calling for others and some people might need to focus on networking. Hustle is what separates entrepreneurs from wantpreneurs. This is what Dan has to say about wantpreneurs:

Anti-hustle is what wantpreneurs do. They do everything other than what needs to be done. They keep coding. They design new features. They optimize their site. They think up new idea world-changing ideas.They hang out at startup events discussing the ir idea. they go to startup weekend and launch a new idea. They do everything other than what they need to do.

Danny advises that if you don’t like executing or you are not willing to do the hustle then find a co-founder who is strong in those areas.

CHAPTER 4 – WHY 7 DAYS?

So why launch in 7 days? Because in 7 days you don’t have the time to assume anything. You only have the time to launch first and assume later.

The ability to learn from real data is why the 7 Day Startup works. You wipe assumptions off the table. Your focus is on launching in 7 days.

Here Dan suggest that we should avoid failed validation techniques and he uses his own experiences to back that up. Some of his assertions are:

  • Validation doesn’t work well when the answer isn’t an obvious ‘Yes’
  • Email Opt-in/Beta signup tools do not indicate purchase intent
  • People saying it’s a good idea doesn’t mean it is
  • Coverage in tech press doesn’t work
  • Targeted surveys don’t work
  • Pre-selling is a flawed experiment
  • The concept of validation is too simplistic

I’m sure many people will have mixed feelings about these assertions and Dan does write in detail about why he thinks this way based on his past business experiences. But we must remember that they are his experiences and just because they truned out that way for him doesn’t mean it will be that for others. Nevertheless there is a lot of value in his assertions and it’s worth reading why he thinks that way.

What Dan does advice us to do is work more efficiently and think like an entrepreneur. Set a deadline to launch your startup and work towards doing that. Stop fussing over things like logos and website copy rather launch your product or service and get about selling to customers. Don’t be a wantpreneur always thinking about big ideas you could launch instead of actually launching them.

Once you start something with a clear end date, it drives you forward

Dan also clarifies the kind of startup you can launch in 7 days. It’s not one that you need six months to test. And the 7 day launch will not involve pre-launch tasks such as finding your ideal market, creating your unique selling proposition, or practicing your elevator pitch.

CHAPTER 5 – THE 7 DAY STARTUP

In this chapter Dan goes through what is involved in each of the seven days. They are reviewed below.

Day 1 – You need to have an idea. Here Dan explains the 9 elements of a great bootstrapped idea. You need an idea to launch your startup and Dan states that a good bootstrapped business idea has these qualities:

  1. The business must consist of doing daily tasks you enjoy since you will need to do them consistently to build the business even after your 7 day launch.
  2.  Product / founder fit. Your idea should fit to your skills and abilities. Remember this is a bootstrapped business. You must have the abilities to do what is required to get the idea off the ground.
  3. Scalable business model. The business must have the potential to grow. Dan writes that, “startup founders should have the ambition to grow their business into a larger company. If you don’t have ambition, what you are creating is not a startup.”
  4. Operates profitable without the founder. The business needs to be able to survive without you. Dan writes that, “you need to be able to a point where you can hire in staff or systems to replace you and still continue to generate a profit. At that point it becomes a real business.”
  5. An asset you can sell. The business should create an asset you can sell. One that can earn recurring income.
  6. Large market potential: It must have large market potential.
  7. Tap into pain or please differentiators.
  8. Unique lead generation advantages. Must have a unique way of generating leads for the business.
  9. Ability to launch quickly. It needs to be something you can launch quickly.

In addition to discussing these 9 criteria for a good idea, Dan encourages us not to pick low hanging fruit in other words not go for the easy option but at the same time not try to be like Steve Jobs (late) by trying to create something new.It may fail. The task for day 1 is:

Brainstorm a bunch of ideas and evaluate them against the checklist (of the nine criteria). Choose the idea that stands out as being the best option for you.

 

 Day 2 – You need to have something to launch at the end of the seven days. Here Dan discusses the concept of a minimum viable product or MVP and suggest that on day get out a proper MVP that actually works to deliver a service. His MVP on day had live chat somewhere for people to request jobs, a developer ready to do the jobs which was him and a support email address. My view about is that, it worked for Dan because he already had some resources left over from previous businesses. This might not be viable for someone starting out for the first time with very little resources, so i personally question whether day 2 as described here by Dan is generally applicable.

Some examples from AppSumo, Underground Cellar and Baremetrics are used as examples to illustrate what a day 2 MVP looks like. So the task for day 2 is.

Write down exactly what you will launch on day 7. What will your customers get, what is included, and what is excluded?If necessary write down what is automated and what will be done manually in the short term.

Day 3 – You need a name for your business so this day focuses on choosing a business name. Dan advises us not to spend more than a day on choosing a business name because spending too long on it can distract us from what is important, the business will probably have to change later on, the business will eventually grow into what you give it so the name really means very little when it is first conceived, the business name can be changed later and customers really don’t care. But Dan does present some questions that can help us quickly choose a business name which are:

  • is it taken?
  • is it simple?
  • is it easy to say out loud?
  • do you like it?
  • does it make sense for your idea?
  • Choose a broad and not too specific name you can grow into.

The task for day 3 is:

Come up with a bunch of potential business names and evaluate them against the criteria above. Choose whichever one makes the most sense. Grab the best domain name you can for that name.

Day 4 – Build a website in one day for under $100. You need a landing page or some type of online presence. This is important to start communicating with customers and learn how they respond.

You don’t want to spend weeks or months on the landing page. One day is a reasonable amount of time to get a page ready.

Three approaches that you can take to set up your site according to Dan are:

  • create  a site designed to capture email addresses before you ultimately launch in four days time.
  • create a site that “pre-sells” your product before you launch.
  • create the actual sales page that you will use on launch day.

Dan discusses how to set up a word press site in a day but we know there are so many options now besides WordPress that can be set up quickly. Other things discussed here are:

  • steps for creating a simple lead capture page (based on wordpress)
  • steps for creating a themed WordPress page
  • How to create a marketing funnel

The task for day 4 is to build yourself a website.

Day 5 – This day is about how to market your business. Dan discusses how we can use free methods to get out business in front of enough people to decide if it is viable enough to continue. Ten ways to market our business are discussed and they are:

  • creating content on your site
  • start sending emails (this is about creating an email list)
  • recording podcasts
  • participating in relevant forums and online groups
  • doing guest blogging
  • listing sites (adding your site to comparison sites)
  • delivering webinars
  • presenting through local in-person events
  • doing free work
  • getting media coverage

Task for day 5 is:

Build a list of what marketing methods you are going to choose. Put together a rough plan for the first week or two of your launch.

Day 6 – This day is about measurement. Dan writes that, you need to measure what success means to you. The last thing you want is to launch  and then not know whether you have a hit few weeks later. On this day you need to set targets that will allow you to collect customer data to measure your success later.

Task for day 6 is to:

Create a spreadsheet that covers the first few months in business, the number of signups, revenue, estimated costs, and monthly growth.

Day 7 is launch day. You have to launch. Some actions you can take to launch are:

  • put up your website with a payment button with options for people to contact you.
  • email anyone on your pre-launch list.
  • post an update on a social network and forums you are part of
  • publish a post on your blog
  • tell friends and family
  • ask for press coverage

The task for launch day is simple:

Launch and start executing your marketing plan

CHAPTER 6 – REFINE YOUR BUSINESS MODEL

After you’ve launched Dan says it’s time to refine your business model. What does this mean? You need to get real paying customers, you need to make the business profitable and grow it and you need to build a self-sufficient model. According to Dan you need to start thinking this way once you’ve launched.

Here you will also learn about building a business that couldn’t grow. These lessons come mostly from Dan’s own experience but you can learn a lot from it. He specifically sites the examples from his previous agency business.

He then moves on to discuss how to build a business with growth potential. The specific topic he uses for this section is, “Build a business with growth in its DNA.” The five criteria he discusses for doing this are:

  • It must have a reasonable profit margin
  • Large market to operate. Dan does not believe in niches.
  • Ability to build valuable assets into the business
  • It should have a simple business model
  • Recurring or predictable revenue

A number of examples in a tabular format are used to illustrate business models that fit the criteria.

CHAPTER 7 – 14 BUSINESS RULES TO LIVE BY

This is the final chapter and here Dan presents to us 14 business rules to live. These rules are:

  • Test every assumption: launch quickly and pay attention to real data rather than making assumptions.
  • Solve problems as they arise: Don’t solve problems that you don;t have. Focus on the problems you have now.
  • Do what you say you will do: Deliver what you promise your customers. Don’t let them lose trust in you.
  • Benchmark against the best: Launch quick and as your business grows concentrate on quality, compare yourself to some of the best in the market so you can get up there also.
  • Learn from others and yourself: learn from what others are doing that is successful and implement decisions quick and learn from the data.
  • Outlearn your competition: Businesses that learn the quickest win.
  • Consider how your business looks without you: be conscious of how your business will grow and function without you.
  • Look for sources of momentum: Do more of what works. Focus on what moves your business forward.
  • Manage motivation: It is important to manage your motivation so you don’t lose it running the business. Do thinks that keep your motivation up in the business even if that meets looking for a co-founder.
  • Cull difficult customers: Get rid of difficult customers. They will waste your time and money and affect your motivation negatively.
  • Focus on retention: You need to do everything to keep your customers.

Avoid short-term thinking: According to Dan, “building a startup takes time. Chasing short-term projects or launches is easy, but it doesnt build an asset.” Don’t focus on only what makes you quick money in the short term. Build assets that will grow the business in the long term.

  • Focus on the product: Don’t get distracted. focus on your product. Anything you can do to improve the product and improve the customer experience is a sound investment
  • Love your work: According to Dan, “if you don’t the rest will fall apart.”

The book concludes with an epilogue titled, Where to go from here? And to end Dan challenges the reader with some key advice which is mostly a reminder of the 14 things he discussed in the previous chapter.

What’s my verdict about this book? If you are interested in business please read it especially if you are aiming to build larger business. In all honesty it’s really not from those who want to build side hustles but there are lots of lessons in the book that can be applied to a side hustle.

For someone who is interested in side hustle, three key lessons that i believe can be transferred to creating a side hustle are:

  1.  The importance of idea, hustle and execution
  2. Adapting the 7 day launch actions to launching a side hustle
  3. Lessons from some of the 15 business rules that can be applied to developing a side hustle.

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