Business Made Simple

Physical Copy:

By: Donald Miller

Rating: A

I think I have read 4 or 5 Donald Miller books. Donald has a gift of communicating clear and engaging messages. I really liked this book. He breaks a business down into different parts and explains them in simple ways. I highlighted and dog eared so many pages in this book. There are so many clear phrases to describe and prescribe good business sense. This is one of my longer reviews. I really tried to consolidate this one but there is so much good meat! Enjoy!


Chapter 1: The Ten Characteristics of a Value-Driven Professional

Beyond integrity and a strong work ethic, how are successful people different from unsuccessful people?

  1. See themselves as an economic product on the open market and are obsessed with giving people a great return on their investment. A dream team member for any employer is a team member who actively tries to get their boss a 5X or greater return on their investments.
  1. See themselves as a hero on a mission, not a victim. The difference between being a victim and a hero is that a victim lies down while a hero rises up and succeeds against all challenges and oppressors. 
  1. Knows how to de-escalate drama. Every person has a certain amount of energy to spend each day. With that energy they meet their own needs, the needs of their coworkers, and the needs of the people they care about. Dramatic people, however, steal your energy.
  1. Establishes a routine in which they get feedback from people they trust. They then use that feedback to grow in their career. A mark of a competent adult is their ability to accept feedback. The mark of a child is their expectation of praise without merit. To establish a feedback loop in your life, consider these ideas:
    1. Choose people who have your best interests at heart.
    2. Schedule meetings in a repeating routine – every quarter or every month.
    3. Establish a routine set of questions:
      1. Have you seen me act unprofessionally?
      2. Have you noticed that I’ve been missing something?
      3. What am I doing that I can improve upon?
  1. Knows the right way to engage conflict.
    1. Expect conflict.
    2. Control your emotions.
    3. Affirm the person you are confronting.
    4. Understand you could be wrong.
  1. Wants to be trusted and respected more than they want to be liked. Everybody respects these 3 things in a leader: 
    1. Clear expectations.
    2. Accountability.
    3. Rewards for good performance.
  1. Has a bias toward action. Successful people dream and then make real things happen in the real world. 
  1. Do not choose to be confused about the right decisions they need to make. What often masquerades as confusion is our desire to avoid conflict and our unwillingness to take action.
  1. Knows that relentless optimism gives them a higher percentage chance of experiencing more success in work and life. If we aren’t careful, our desire to avoid risk can mask itself as cynicism. High-impact people believe amazing things can happen. And when they try and fail, they forget their failure almost instantly because they are so excited about the next opportunity.
  1. Approaches the world with a growth mindset, believing they were designed to grow and get better in every area of life. To transform from a fixed mindset into a growth mindset we must see the world differently in these categories:
    1. Challenges. We must embrace challenges rather than avoid them.
    2. Obstacles. We must persist through obstacles rather than give up.
    3. Effort. We must see effort as a path to mastery rather than as a fruitless endeavor.
    4. Criticism. We must learn from criticism rather than ignoring useful feedback.
    5. Success of others. We must be inspired by the success of others rather than feeling threatened.

Chapter 2: How to Lead – Create a Mission Statement and Guiding Principles

Leadership in a nutshell:

  1. Invite a team into a story.
  2. Explain why the story matters.
  3. Give every team member a role to play in the story.

1. Write a good mission statement:

To unite and motivate a team, learn to write a mission statement that is short, interesting, and memorable. Here is a formula:

“We will accomplish _________________ by _______________ because of _______________.”

Example: A plumbing company: We will service ten thousand customers within the next five years because everybody deserves plumbing that works and service that makes them feel valued.

2. Define Key Characteristics:

Define the key characteristics you’ll need to develop in order to accomplish your mission and you’ll transform yourself and your team.

Key characteristics serve two purposes:

  1. Aspirational. It helps the team know the kind of people they need to become in order to achieve the mission.
  2. Instructive. It tells the team the kind of people they need to be when the pressure gets high.

3. Determine Critical Actions:

Define three repeatable critical actions every person in your organization can take that will contribute to your mission.

4. Tell a Great Story:

Attract people to your mission by telling your story. Your history is not your story. Your story is different. Your story is a way of explaining what you do that engages people and makes them want to join.

5. Define Your Theme and Your “Why”

Define the theme of your mission so you and your people will know why your work is important.

A tip to help you define your theme is to add the word “because” to the end of your mission statement, and then finish the sentence.

“We have created an accessible business curriculum because everybody deserves a life-changing business education.”

Chapter 3: Productivity Made Simple

1. Make Wise Daily Decisions

Create a routine of morning reflection by asking yourself the question:

“If this were the second time I was living this day, what would I do differently?”

This momentary pause helps us think about our lives with careful consideration.

2. Prioritize Your Primary Tasks

Prioritize your highest return opportunity. What’s the most important thing you can do today?

Create two task lists each day:

List 1: High return tasks. Limited to three items. Work that moves us closer to our objectives and goals.

List 2: Odds and ends that need to be accomplished before the day is done. These are tasks such as returning emails, picking up your dry cleaning, and such.

3. Maximize Your “Power Hours”

Prioritize your important work for the morning while your mind is fresh.

4. Say “No” to Distractions

Say no to distractions so you can say yes to priorities.

5. Block Your Time and Get More Done

Block your time into 30-45 minute blocks of focus to create a rhythm of productivity.

Chapter 4: Creating Strategy – How a Business Really Works and How to Keep It from Crashing

1. Understand How a Business Really Works

A business works like an airplane. A business exists to solve a problem for customers.

The Body: Overhead

The body of the airplane represents your overhead. These are necessary expenses because it takes people and supplies to solve customers’ problems in exchange for revenue.

The Wings: Products and Services

Your products and services are what give a business lift. The wings of the airplane represent everything you sell.

The Right Engine: Marketing

Your marketing effort should come first, even before sales. The reason is the marketing effort is usually cheaper, and until it exists, your sales team will not have a clear message. 

The Left Engine: Sales

Your second engine is your sales effort. Your sales team brings in even more money so the business can afford to grow and scale.

Fuel: Capital and Cash Flow

Fuel represents cash flow. A business may glide a little when it runs out of cash, but eventually it will crash and everybody onboard the body of the business will lose their livelihoods.

How Do You Keep the Business Flying?

The right and left engine must produce enough thrust to move the plane forward, and the wings must be big enough to create lift. The body of the plane must be light enough to be lifted by the engine and the wings. And, of course, the plane must have enough fuel to stay in the air.

Using the metaphor above, smart business leaders keep these in mind in running a company or department:

2. Keep Your Overhead Down

The body: Keep overhead as light as possible.

When a business fails, it fails for one reason: Overhead got too high for sales to cover.

Here are some questions to ask in order to keep the business lean, light, and safe.

  1. Whose time is going to be taken up to create, launch, and sell this product?
  2. What new people need to be hired to run this project and what will they need to be paid?
  3. How much will our overhead increase if we launch this product?
  4. Are there unnecessary costs we can cut in this launch to make sure the entire plane doesn’t get too heavy?

3. Make and Sell the Right Products

Wings: Is there a demand for the products we are selling and are they profitable?

When choosing what products to focus on, you want to choose products that have two critical characteristics:

  1. They are light. They can be sold for considerable profit or a smaller profit but at volume.
  2. They are strong. There is a strong demand for the product in the marketplace.

4. Prioritize Marketing

Right engine/marketing: Test how you’re going to market the product.

Here’s a rule: If you don’t attract people to the thing you built, they won’t come.

Before launching a product, build a landing page. Place a “join the waitlist” button to see how many people click the button.

Building the marketing collateral before the product even exists does two things:

  1. Helps you clarify your marketing language.
  2. Confirms consumer interest.

5. Run a Sales System

Left engine/sales: Create a step-by-step path your customers can take to make a purchase, and monitor the progress of every lead.

  1. Qualify the lead. 
  2. Send the lead information and schedule a call.
  3. Engage in an intake meeting.
  4. Send a proposal highlighting predetermined talking points.
  5. Enter into the closing sequence.

6. Protect Cash Flow

Fuel: Watch cash flow closely because if you run out of cash, the business will crash.

In every decision you make, ask yourself how the decision will affect cash flow.

Chapter 5: Messaging Made Simple: How and Why to Clarify Your Marketing Message

1. Use Story to Engage Customers

The only tool known to man that can stop people from daydreaming is story. When we start to hear a story, we stop daydreaming and pay attention.

The Elements of a Story:

  • A Character That Wants Something
  • The Character Encounters a Problem
  • The Character Meets the Guide
  • The Guide Gives the Hero a Plan
  • The Guide Calls the Hero to Action
  • Define the Stakes – Success
  • Define the Stakes – Failure

Know how to filter your marketing message through the elements of a story in order to engage an audience.

2. Position Your Customer as the Hero

When clarifying your marketing message, never position yourself as the hero. Always position yourself as the guide.

“I know what you’re struggling with and I can help you get out of it.”

3. Talk about Your Customer’s Problem

When clarifying your marketing message, know the problem is the hook. Define the problem you solve.

4. Create a Clear Call to Action

When clarifying your marketing message, define what action you want your audience to take.

5. Define the Stakes and Create Urgency

When clarifying your marketing message, define what can be won and lost if people don’t engage in the story you’re inviting them into.

Chapter 6: Marketing Made Simple: How to Create a Sales Funnel That Converts Potential Customers into Buyers

1. Understand a Sales Funnel

All sales are relational. People hear commercial messages about products and services all the time, but they mostly discard the information. That is, unless they hear about products and services from people or brands they trust.

All relationships move through 3 stages (Sales Funnel): curiosity to enlightenment to commitment.

When people first meet us, they are either curious to know more about us or they are not. 


In order to pique someone’s curiosity, then, we have to associate our products or services with their survival.


Enlightening a customer about how your product can help them survive simply means telling them how.


A commitment simply means the customer is willing to give their money in exchange for the item they believe will help them survive. 

2. Write a One-Liner That Generates Sales

A great marketer knows how to craft a one-liner.

Your one-liner has 3 components:

  1. A problem
  2. Your product as a solution
  3. The result

3. Wire-Frame an Effective Website

Wire-frame a website that passes the grunt test. In only five seconds, would a caveman be able to clearly state the answer to these three questions:

  1. What do you offer?
  2. How will it make my life better?
  3. What do I need to do to buy it?

4. Collect Email Addresses

A great marketer captures email addresses by offering free value. Rules for creating something people will exchange for an email address:

  1. Make it short.
  2. Give it a cover.
  3. Make it solve a problem.

As the third element of your marketing plan, create a lead generator that captures email addresses.

5. Email You Customers

A great marketer builds relationships and closes the sale with an email campaign. As the fourth element of your marketing plan, start an email campaign that earns your customers’ trust and asks for their commitment.

Chapter 7: Communication Made Simple: How to Become an Exceptional Communicator

1. Give a Great Presentation

Open your talk by telling the audience what problem you are going to help them solve.

2. Create Subpoints in Your Presentation

A great communicator makes sure all the subpoints in their presentation fit within the boundaries of the overall plot of their talk.

The audience will continue to listen to you if you do two things:

  1. Reveal a simple plan to help your audience solve their problem.
  2. Position each step of the plan as a subplot in the overall narrative.

No more than three subplots.

3. Foreshadow a Climactic Scene

Tell the audience what their lives could look like by foreshadowing a climactic scene. What will life look like if people actually do what your presentation is asking them to do? Have you painted a picture so the audience can imagine that better life? The harder your climactic scene is to visualize, the less power it will have to engage your audience.

4. Challenge the Audience to Take Action

A great communicator includes a strong call to action in their presentation.

5. Determine the Theme of Your Presentation

A great communicator states the theme of their talk at the end of their presentation.

The main point of my presentation is _______________________.

End your presentation by stating the theme, so your audience will know why your presentation matters.

Chapter 8: How to Sell – Sales Made Simple

Selling is really about clearly explaining to a person how your product or service can solve their problem and then guiding them through a process that leads them to make a purchase. 

Human beings resent being coerced into buying things.

A good salesperson works within a framework that invites a customer into a story in which they solve a problem and feel good about themselves in the process.

1. Qualify the Lead

Cast the right characters: Qualify the lead.

Does the customer have the problem the product solves? Can the customer afford to buy the solution? Does the customer have the authority to buy the product?

Create a list of criteria that qualifies leads so you can move them into a story that solves their problem and changes their lives.

2. Invite Customers into a Story

Introduce your qualified leads to the story arc your product or service makes possible.

To create a custom story arc for every one of your clients, use this formula:

  1. I see you are struggling with X problem.
  2. I see that X problem is causing Y frustration.
  3. Our product or service resolves Y frustration by resolving X problem.
  4. We’ve worked with hundreds of clients with X problems and here are their results.
  5. Let’s create a step-by-step plan so your problem and frustration get resolved.

Identify your customers’ problems and invite them into a story in which their problems are resolved.

3. Repeat Your Talking Points

Play the guide and know your lines. 

What does a guide do?

  1. Reminds the hero what the story is about.
  2. Gives the hero a plan to resolve their problem and win the day.
  3. Foreshadows the climactic scene of the story.

4. Create a Great Proposal

Lay out your proposal using the formula of a storybook.

Proposal Template:

  1. The customer’s problem
  2. The product that will solve the problem
  3. The plan to implement the solution (product) into the customer’s life
  4. The price and options
  5. The climactic scene (the result of the resolution of the problem)

Create clarity around the decision you want the customer to make.

5. How to Close the Sale

A great sales professional calls customers to action with confidence. Don’t fear rejection!

Chapter 9: Negotiation Made Simple

1. The Two Types of Negotiations

A win/lose mode of negotiation is called competitive while a win/win mode is called collaborative.

A general rule about negotiation is that if one party is competitive and the other party is collaborative, the competitive negotiation technique is going to win and the collaborative will lose. If you are in a collaborative negotiation mode and you sense the person you are negotiating with is in a competitive mode, you should switch to competitive immediately. Why? Because they are not looking for a win/win.

2. Go Below the Line

When negotiating a deal, find out if there is anything below the line you can offer your counterpart as a way of making the deal more satisfying and bringing it to a close.

3. Make the Initial Offer

Make the opening offer and establish an anchor for the rest of the negotiation.

4. Don’t Get Emotionally Hooked

A good negotiator diversifies their interests to avoid being emotionally hooked.

Chapter 10: Management Made Simple

Management is all about helping other people win so the overall team can win.

1. Establish Clear Priorities

A great manager establishes clear priorities. They know how to define a specific output that is measurable, profitable, and scalable.

2. Identify Key Performance Indicators that you will measure

A good manager loves to measure things. They love numbers as much as they love people because numbers tell them how to challenge their team, how to grow their team, and when to celebrate their team’s various victories. The team that works for you is always wondering how they are doing, and unless you are able to measure progress around KPIs, you won’t be able to tell them.

Set lead indicators as goals. Lead indicators are the actions that lead to success while lag indicators are the measurements of that success. For instance, 1,000 sales in the month of January is a lag indicator. Those sales have already happened and there’s nothing we can do to increase them. Making sure each of our sales reps makes 15 calls per day, however, is a lead indicator that causes the lag indicator.

3. Create Streamlined Processes

Create processes that increase the activity-to-output ratio.

How can we produce more of what we produce without losing quality or increasing activity?

What is the limiting factor in our division, and how can we decrease that limitation?

4. Give Valuable Feedback early and often

Coach Carroll brought the team close and celebrated the wins from each practice. Why? Because you will never turn a human being into a machine. They must always receive human connection and human affirmation.

5. Be More Than a Cheerleader, Be a Coach

A good manager is a coach, not just a cheerleader. Coaches transfer their business knowledge to their team members and thus duplicate themselves within a growing organization. 

5 Traits of a Good Business Coach:

  1. They want each member of the team to succeed in their job and in their career.
  2. They have an honest, objective assessment of each team member’s skills and motivation.
  3. They teach practical frameworks and skills to their team members rather than expecting them to know things they’ve never been taught.
  4. They offer routine, safe, and constructive feedback so team members can get better.
  5. They praise a team member’s individual success and affirm the transformation of their identity.

Chapter 11: Execution Made Simple

1. Hold a Launch Meeting to launch a project or initiative

The way to get things done is to break the project down into its parts and then manage the completion of those parts using an execution system.

Create a “Project Scope” worksheet.

  1. Set a clear view of success.
  2. Assign the leaders.
  3. Identify resources needed.
  4. Create a timeline with key milestones.

2. Have each member of the team fill out a One-Pager 

This helps to be crystal clear about two things: the priorities for their department and their personal priorities.

Download template

3. Hold Weekly Speed Checks

Many projects die directly after they are launched. This happens for 2 reasons:

  1. People get distracted with other important tasks and obligations.
  2. People forget the details and importance of the new project.

Solution: Hold weekly speed checks (less than 20 minutes) to go through these statements and questions:

Three Review Statements:

  1. Read the “clear view of success” statement for the given project.
  2. Review the priorities of the team member’s department.
  3. Review the team member’s personal priorities.

Three Questions:

  1. Answer the question “What has each team member gotten done?”
  2. Answer the question “What is each team member going to do next?”
  3. Answer the question “What’s blocking any team members from making progress?”

4. Keep Score and measure your success

There is nothing you can do to boost morale and energize a team more than to have everybody on that team understand the rules of the game, feel that they are being coached to victory, and have proof of their progress on a public scoreboard.

Measure lead measures not lag measures! Be careful not to measure more than three items.

5. Celebrate Your Team’s Victories

Celebrating wins is paramount to a team’s success. Sadly, many competitive leaders don’t notice wins.

In order to celebrate wins, you’ll need to:

  1. Notice them.
  2. Memorialize them.
  3. Acknowledge those responsible.

Next Actions:

Present this to my team. What are 3 takeaways we should implement from this book?

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