Book Review – Will It Fly by Pat Flynn

Will it flyWill It Fly as the title suggests was written to help us test our business ideas and while the concept of testing business ideas is not new, Pat has approached it in a unique way, at least from my perspective.  The book is divided into five sections and each section contains  information to help us validate our business ideas. Pat describes them as our ‘flight plan’. Before going into the five sections, there is a sizable introduction which tells us a bit about the author’s own business experiences, lessons he’s learned from his son and a reminder of why we should not sit on our ideas. On this topic I like some of the quotes used:

An idea is salvation by imagination – Frank Lloyd Wright

Good ideas are common, but those who are willing to take action and execute those ideas are far more rare – The Author

There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction – John F. Kennedy

Now let’s move on to look briefly at the five sections.

PART 1: MISSION DESIGN

This part of the book consists of five chapters.

CHAPTER 1 – BEFORE YOUR JOURNEY BEGINS

When we talk about business ideas the main question tends to be that is there a product-market fit? But Pat flips this around to ask another key question, does the business idea fit into your life? So this part of the book is centred on helping us identify our life’s goals and then asking whether the business idea that we have supports them. Pat makes a key statement here which is:

Building a successful business, however is not synonymous to building a successful life.

In other words, you can have a successful business and a miserable life and Pat wants to help us avoid that. According to Pat:

The purpose of Mission Design is to help you understand what your goals are in all areas of your life and help you determine whether or not your target idea supports them.

How your target idea will perform in the market means nothing if you can’t validate how it can support you first.

Why is it important to ensure your business idea also supports your life? Because if you don’t enjoy it, you will eventually get tired of it and lose motivation. That’s what Pat believes.

Mission Design consists of a number of experiments or assessments to help us think about our future and how our business idea supports or does not support the life we want.

Pat also points us to a companion course he has created with a resource that can help us follow along as we go through the book, particularly the assessments.

CHAPTER 2 – THE AIRPORT TEST

This test is about looking into the future and writing down what your life will look like then. The future in this case means five years time. It’s called an airport test because it involves you sitting in airport in the future and meeting an old friend you have not seen for a while who asks you – How is life treating you these days? Your answer to the question is ‘AMAZING! Life couldn’t get any better.’

The key question then is:

What’s happening in your life five years from now that made you respond like that?

Pat introduces us to an exercise, which will help us reflect on, who we are, what we want, what our goals and ambitions are. It is when we can conveniently answer these questions that we can compare them to our business idea and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the idea based on whether it fits with the kind of life we want.

Now for the exercise

  1. Step 1: Set up your sheet – Print out the worksheet for chapter 2 from the companion course or get a plane sheet of paper which should be folded in half in both directions so you have four small spaces to write on.
  2. Step 2: Write down the most important four important categories in your life. Each category will occupy one of the four spaces on the paper. For Pat they were, family, professional, finances and health.
  3. Step 3: Determine why life is awesome five years from now – For each of the categories write down what your awesome life will be like five years from now.

Pat gives examples of what his life will be like in each category.

Now that you have done this exercise, you will need to ask yourself again, how does the business idea fit into your future self. While the future can’t exactly be predicted expresses Pat, he does believe that, ‘the purpose of this question, and the secondary goal of this exercise, is to catch any red flags. We want to find out now if it’s obvious that the idea you have in your head isn’t one that makes sense for you and your future self.

That question may have been answered after this test and it might clear that this is either not the idea for you or you feel it’s the almost perfect one. Any way you decide at this point or don’t decide, there is another helpful test in the next chapter.

CHAPTER 2 – THE HISTORY TEST

Unlike the Airport Test, with the History Test you are going to the past. The aim of this test is to look at what you’ve already done such as jobs you have had and use them to learn about yourself.

This is what Pat writes about the history test:

In the History Test, you’re going to trace all of the jobs, positions and volunteer work that you’ve ever done. By creating a chronological roadmap of your past work experience, you’ll be able to discover some very interesting patterns about who you re and what works for you.

Here are the steps.

  1. Step 1: The What – What were you doing. For instance what was the job?
  2. Step 2: The When – When did you do it?
  3. Step 3: The Good – What did you enjoy about it?
  4. Step 4: Your favorite memory – What is your single favorite memory about the job?
  5. Step 5: What did you not enjoy about it?
  6. Step 6: Grade – rate this particular experience based on how you enjoyed it. A rating scale is provided.

Use these exercises for as much experiences as possible such as your past jobs. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What one or two things seem to motivate you the most about the work you do?
  • How much is your answer to the previous question reflected in what you do now?
  • How can your future business be shaped into one that allows you to enjoy your work and continue to stay motivated?

The third question is the most relevant one and it helps you think about what is in your past or what you’ve done in the past that has a good alignment with the business idea and can help you set it up successfully.

CHAPTER 4 – THE SHARK BAIT TEST

This is the final test for this section. It is based on an imaginary question from Kevin O’Leary from the US television show, Shark Tank. The question is, So why should I be interested in working with you? What makes you special? According to Pat, this is a harsh question to begin with, but it’s absolutely necessary for you to answer, because if you can’t, you’ll get left behind.

Pat uses the example of one of his own businesses to explain the importance of being able to answer this question. His story shows that small businesses can compete with much larger businesses if they have a credible answer to this question.

Pat sates that what that question is really asking us is:

What can you bring to the table that no one else can? What is your unfair advantage?

Pat uses a number of stories from successful businesses to explain what he means by unfair advantage. He also makes it clear that by unfair advantage he’s not talking about a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Here is one of the descriptions of unfair advantages from one of the examples shared:

She describes an unfair advantage as a skill or asset that you have that no one else has, or very few others might have in a specific niche. It’s your competitive edge, and whatever that edge may be, it’s your job to use it to your advantage as much as possible as you shape and create your business.

The exercise for the assessment here involves sending an email to 10 friends and colleagues and ask them to identify your superpower (unfair advantage). Hopefully the answers you get should indicate what is special about you.

CHAPTER 5 – FOLDING YOUR WINGS

In this chapter we are encouraged to take actions that reminds us about our business goal and why we are working towards it because if we lose focus we can easily lose motivations.

PART 2 – DEVELOPMENT LAB

I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through – then follow through.

CHAPTER 6 – BEFORE YOU PRINT OUT YOUR BUSINESS CARD

The advice in this chapter is simple, before you put time into printing business cards, finding the perfect name for your business, creating logos and a website, is your idea fully formed and ready for launch? Or are you using all those things previously mentioned as a way to feel excited about your business while not really working on the business itself.

Pat writes that this section will focus on helping you develop your idea and by the end of it you will be able to pitch your idea clearly and of course expect to do some exercises.

CHAPTER 7 – GERMINATION

The aim of this chapter is to help you get ideas and thoughts related to your business down and specifically into a mind map. Pat guides us to choose either an appropriate mind mapping software or opt to use post it notes.

The first step in this exercise is called the brain dump where you  set a timer for 10-minutes and for that duration write down as many ideas and thoughts as possible related to your business idea. You don’t try to critic or filter them, you simple write them down.

The next step is to clean up your brain dump. This involves grouping the ideas into categories that are connected. You can group this by post-it notes or you can do the grouping using mind mapping software. There is no right way to do this so do the grouping according to what you feel is right.

The next step is to prune your categories so that what is not necessary or needed is removed.

CHAPTER 8 – ONE SENTENCE

In this chapter you will learn how to translate the information in your mindmap into something that people can easily read and understand. You will go through an exercise that will involve turning the mindmap to one page of information, then one paragraph and finally one sentence. Going through this process will help you refine your idea down to a single sentence.

CHAPTER 9 – CONVERSATION AND OBSERVATION

The conversation aspect of this chapter is really interesting. Pat encourages us to write down our business idea, take it with us everywhere and talk openly about the idea. Pat states that in the process you will further refine the idea as you get feedback from people. As he’s done previously, Pat uses stories of others and his experience to illustrate this concept.

As we talk to people, Pat encourages us not to get too caught up in negative comments as they can easily discourage us. So the message here is, don’t focus on haters.

There are also tips on how to share our idea with people which include:

  • Don’t give any opinions leading up to the conversation, just share the idea and ask for feedback.
  • Don’t sell yourself or your idea short. Just talk about the idea.
  • For people you’ve never met before, help them first then asking for their feedback.

And here are some tips for how to listen:

  • Consciously listen to the person’s response.
  • Don’t take notes or record the conversation.
  • Let the person speak.
  • Dig deeper by asking quick follow-up questions.
  • Don’t just listen to the words.

Pat reminds us that, positive feedback from people does not equate to a potentially successful business idea.

PART 3 – FLIGHT PLANNING

CHAPTER 10 – DIAGNOSTICS

While part 1 of this book saw us exploring our strengths and weaknesses and part 2 allowed us to work on defining our business idea, this part of the book, is where your seed idea comes alive and grows into something more defined and refined. As in the previous parts, there are exercises in this part too that will help us explore and assess the environment in which we intend to build our idea.

CHAPTER 11 – YOUR 1000 TRUE FANS

You don’t have to go big in the world to experience success. You just have to be big in somebody’s world.

The message of this chapter can be summarized in a simple and single sentence:

Target a niche where you can have a positive influence over a certain amount of people. You don’t have to go big.

The riches are in the niches

CHAPTER 12 – THE MARKET MAP

This chapter teaches us how to create a ‘Market Map’, which refers to the places, people and products that already serve your your target audience. To create a market map involves finding the 3-P’s (places, people, products) within your market.

  1. Places: To find places where you target audience are, you can start by finding the top blogs in your niche, Pat shows us how to do this. Next you can also find the top forums and social media groups and Pat shows us how to do this too.
  2. People: The next of the P’s is People. This is about identifying the people who are already serving the people in the places you identified earlier. This is a good idea because you can follow these people and learn from them. You can search for top people in these places using tools such as social media, iTunes and BuzzSumo.
  3. Products: The last of the P’s is to search for the top products, services and books already being offered to people in your audience space. Pat writes that, looking at what your audience is buying, you’ll be able to determine what kinds of offerings already exist, and what else might be missing. One of the best ways to learn about products according to Pat is through Amazon and he gives some examples of how to do that.

CHAPTER 13 – THE CUSTOMER P.L.A.N

According to Pat this chapter focuses on helping us, ‘dig deep into understanding your target customer’. To do that Pat introduces us to a framework he calls P.L.A.N which stands for:

  • Problems
  • Language
  • Anecdotes
  • Needs

He writes that:

After you discover your customer P.L.A.N, you’ll know exactly how your target idea fits into your target audience. You can then align and adjust accordingly before we test this out to give yourself the best chance of landing on something they’ll buy.

The rest of the chapter goes on about how to complete your P.L.A.N.

P:Problems

This is about finding the pain points of your audience so you can provide a solution.

When you can extract the pain, the marketing takes care of itself.

Unfortunately, too many people just dive into their business without a true understanding of their potential customer. They might have an idea, but they never take the time to get to the core of the pains and problems plaguing the people they’re trying to serve.

Here are some ways suggested to learn about your audiences’ problems:

  • Having 1-to-1 real time conversations with people which can be through email but better through face-to-face or over the phone conversations.
  • Running surveys. Pat discusses an example of a survey he ran.
  • Paid traffic by paying to advertise and get cold traffic to a web page where you can survey your target audience.

L:Language

According to Pat:

When you are starting a business, one of the mot important things you can do is understand the language your target customer uses to communicate. What words do they use to share their pains and struggles? How do they describe their aspirations and goals? When you can learn the language of your audience, you can more easily make a connection with them, and ultimately they can begin to trust you more. 

By collecting and analyzing questions, complaints and keywords your audience have, you can begin to understand their language. Again Pat shows us some ways to collect data in these three areas to understand our target market’s language.

A:Anecdotes

Anecdotes are short and interesting stories that can be used to teach lessons and illustrate concepts. They are great for engaging people. To understand your audience more you can search for real stories about them. You can get some of these stories through one-to-one conversations as people tell you about their pain points. But another great place to get them are in forums. Pat goes into some detail on how to do this. He also lists listening to audio interview podcasts as another great way to find audience stories.

N:Needs

This is the final component of the PLAN framework. The previous three components of the framework have helped to gather information about the audience. This step involves going into that information and writing down a list of the needs that the target customers have.

Pat clarifies what a need is by writing that:

You must understand that a need is different than the product or business that you’re potentially going to validate and build. A need is what you believe your customers require to solve a problem, and the product or business becomes the mechanism to fulfill that requirement.

One of the things things Pat suggests at the beginning of this exercise is to set up a master spreadsheet to collect all the information. By the time you finish the exercise you will have a spreadsheet with problems, language, anecdotes and needs related to your target audience.

CHAPTER 14 – ELIXIRS

An elixir is described as a remedy or cure for a certain disease. In that sense the products and services we create are like elixirs because they help to solve people’s problems. This chapter serves to help us finalise our P.L.A.N by coming up with the elixirs that address specific problems and needs of our target audience. Pat writes that, these will become a potential solution you can test and run through the customer validation method in the next part of the book.

The process involves:

  • Adding an extra column to the P.L.A.N spreadsheet we created earlier.
  • Coming up with a solution for each need and /or problem identified.
  • Once you finished doing that looking through and then picking a single solution.

What was P.L.A.N has now become P.L.A.N.E and you will now need to pick a row in your P.L.A.N.E that will work for you as the idea to develop into something you can offer your target audience.

After that Pat advices that we should:

  • Eliminate all but one row and one solution from the spreadsheet matrix.
  • Sit on the idea for a day.
  • Conduct a second mindmapping exercise with the new target solution as the focal point.
  • Go through the one page, one paragraph and one sentence exercise for the single idea we picked.

PART 4: FLIGHT SIMULATOR

CHAPTER 15: THE SILENT HERO

This chapter introduces us to this part of the book, which is to test and validate our chosen idea on a small scale. Pat states that different solutions require different validation techniques some of which are covered in this part of the book.

CHAPTER 16: PRINCIPLES OF VALIDATION

While this chapter is aimed to teach us about principles of validation, Pat gives us too initial bits of very important advice when building a product or service. Here they are in his exact words:

 The worst mistake you can make when building your business is the one that I made in 2010 when I was trying to build two premium WordPress plugins and lost $15000 in the process. I tried to keep everything secret.

The second worst mistake that you can make is building your business based on someone’s word that it’s something they would buy or use.

Here are a couple of principles presented here to have in mind as you validate your product.

  • Listen to others but trust your numbers – people’s actions are more important than what they say. So your evidence comes from what people do and not what they say.
  • You will never know with 100 percent that your idea will work until you build it but it is still a good idea to test the possibility of it succeeding.
  • You receive invaluable feedback from the actions people take. If you can get people involved earlier on the process of building your product, the feedback you get from their actions will help decide whether to move forward or not.
  • You get early experience selling something. If you pre-sell your product as a way to validate it. This can help you to sell even better much later as your product gains momentum.
  • By pre-validating your product through selling it, you can get money in your pocket upfront.
  • If you see that the process of pre-validating shows the possibility of success in your product, it will motivate you to follow through and get things done.

CHAPTER 17: THE VALIDATION METHOD

According to Pat:

Validation is not based on someone telling you they would buy, like, read, consume, watch or listen to something you create. Validation is based on certain actions they (people) take. The basic formula follows this exact sequence:

  1. Step 1: Get in front of audience – To validate you must get in front of the audience in your market.
  2. Step 2: Hyper-target – After gaining access to an audience you need to get people to identify as wanting to buy your product.
  3. Step 3: Interact and share your solution – This involves interacting with those people identified in the previous step. Not selling to them but rather engaging them.
  4. Step 4: Ask for the transaction – This final step involves asking people interested in your product to validate with a transaction which might involve asking them for a payment even before you’ve built your product.

Pat goes into great detail explaining these four steps and after reading this chapter you will learn a lot about how to validate a product.

CHAPTER 18 – VALIDATION IN ACTION

This chapter brings to life the four steps discussed in the previous chapter. It shares five case studies of how people validated their products in detail. The five cases studies are:

  1. Joey Korenman, Founder of School of Motion
  2. Bryan Harris, Founder of Video Fruit
  3. Jennifer Barcelos, Founder of Namastream.com
  4. Jarrod Robinson, Founder of the PE Geek
  5. Noah Kagan, Founder of Sumojerky.com

PART 5: ALL SYSTEMS GO

This is the last part of the book and it has just one chapter.

CHAPTER 19: COUNTDOWN

Pat encourages us that if we’ve got to this stage, whereby we’ve identified a business idea that aligns with the life we want, explored an audience, identified problems, created a product that can solve those problems and validated the product then we cannot stop, we must move on to launch.

But just before he closes off, Pat shares with us five final thoughts in the form of a count down starting from 5 as follows:

5 – As you move forward with your business break down your goals into small manageable tasks along the way and celebrate small wins and successes in the process.

4 – Get support. Pat writes that, behind every successful entrepreneur are people who support what they do and add value to their lives. You don’t need to build a team but engage people who can support you.

3 – Treat your customers like Gold. This is an obvious one.

2 – Remember why. It is important to remember why you are doing this because it takes a lot of effort. So never forget your ‘why’.

1 – Enjoy the ride. Your entrepreneurship ride will have its challenges but at the same time you must enjoy it.

At the end of the book are lots of suggested resources which can help us to build our business, they are worth having a look at.

As this review is aimed at those who want to build side hustles and those already building it, I definitely recommend this book particularly for the exercises. You can adapt them to help you think about what side hustle you want to do and how it will fit into your life. If you are the type of person with dozens of side hustle ideas, then this book may help you narrow it down to one so you can focus. Off course, there are also the lessons on how to validate a product, this will prove useful for your side hustle too. In the end my verdict is, READ THE BOOK!

Thanks for reading the review.

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