The business book you should read this month: I Don’t Work Fridays

The new book from Martin Norbury looks at how you can scale your start-up to build a business that will work for you. Here's why it's worth a read...

I don't work fridays cover

If you want to build a business that will enable you to work flexibly while making big profits then Martin Norbury’s I Don’t Work Fridays will appeal to you.

A combination of Tim Ferris’ popular 4 Hour Work Week and Verne Harnish’s Scaling Up, the book sees Norbury offer insights on how to grow a business using his “proven formula” based on an acronym of S.C.A.L.E – Set up, Congruence, Alerts, Lessons Learned, and Exist, Experiment or Expansion.

What is I Don’t Work Fridays about?

One of the opening statements from I Don’t Work Fridays offers a good insight into the book’s premise. Norbury promises “to show you the ‘how’ which will reward the ‘why’ you started in the first place.”

Throughout the book, Norbury shares how his own personal and business background has helped shape his S.C.A.L.E strategy – from building successful start-ups to multi-million pound rescues and family tragedy.

In line with the title, the book also explores how to create a business that works for you instead of working for a business that owns you so that you, like Norbury, can choose to take a three day weekend. Major themes include strategy, progression and making “smarter decisions” so that you can make your business “better than it was yesterday”.

Target audience?

The book is aimed at start-ups and existing small business owners that want to take their business to the next level.

What’s the best bit of I Don’t Work Fridays?

The various ‘lessons to learn’ sub-sections in chapters act as a useful summary and tie in the autobiographical events with the business lessons and strategies. There is a range of pointers on everything from managing staff to business confidence and execution.

For business owners just starting out Chapter 7 – titled Where entrepreneur and opportunity began to make sense – is especially valuable as there are several business lessons on acting on gut belief and instinct, choosing a business name (Norbury named his first business SOLFAN which stood for ‘Sick of Looking For A Name’), and spotting opportunities at the right time.

Why should business owners read I Don’t Work Fridays?

While the book reads as less of a business guide and more of an autobiography at times with Norbury’s discussions of ballroom dancing, magic and personal joys and tragedies, it raises a number of new ways of thinking about growth and what ‘scale’ actually means.

It also provides advice on when, how and why you should exit your business, and touches on the debate that sometimes, once you’ve scaled your business, you’re not always the best person to run that ‘scaled’ company. In the words of Norbury, sometimes it’s best to “scale your business and then sack yourself”.

3 top takeaway points for start-ups:

  1. Accept that achieving scale will mean you make mistakes along the way: (P. 41) “When you are developing, systemising and streamlining the processes behind the product that you are delivering to your customers, you are going to make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from the mistake, find a way to remove or manage it, and then (this is the massive learn) ensure that it is highlighted if it happens again. If you do not have alerts in place to tell you that there is a problem in the system, then you will never get your business to a place where it can bring you perfectly executed results.”
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of PR: (P.66) “For business owners with an ambition to grow, you cannot do it by simply being good at what you do. Others need to know of you and understand what you can do for them; the old-fashioned English reserve of ‘if they want me they will find me’ just doesn’t work.[…] Today’s modern media means that ‘being known’ is even more critical than it was back then. The good news, though, is that if you get yourself known by the right people, in the right places, in line with your business goals, then eventually the effect will become self-perpetuating.”
  3. Hiring decisions make all difference between scaling and failing: (P.75) “It would be foolish to play Lionel Messi as a centre-back, ask Michael Macintyre to anchor the BBC’s news channel, or to expect Gordon Ramsay to be a particularly patient waiter on the restaurant floor. It is exactly the same in business. Whether you are trying to make the most of your own abilities or those of your employees, it is so much more than simply finding the right person for the right job. To get the best from anyone and to manage their individual scalability you need to match their skills (which are ever-changing), their interests (at that specific stage of their career/life) and their desire to engage with the company’s bigger picture (which they should, at the very least, be made aware of). Any brilliant person, pushed into the wrong role will, ultimately, be a waste of time. Likewise, the right person in a role they have outgrown, or have lost their passion for, is a waste of talent.”

Excerpt business owners can learn from:

“In one of the best business books I’ve ever read, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, there is the famous scene where Alice meets the Cheshire Cat. Their conversation goes like this:

‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where…,’ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘…so long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘If you only walk long enough.’

“Most businesses run this way – they are just going. Some are failing at everything, but even many of the ones that are making money, or maybe even growing and giving a reasonably good service – are just going, which means that they are in serious danger of falling down suddenly and very hard. You see, if a business has no visible ‘guiding principle’ or clear ‘targeted destination’ directing it, then every decision its owners make will be an emotional one, based on the short-sighted information at hand. If a business is being driven by its growth, instead of the business driving the growth, then it will always be vulnerable to what I’ve heard many accountants call ‘growing broke’.” (P.80)

Book name: I Don’t Work Fridays: Proven Strategies to Scale Your Business And Not Be A Slave To It
Author: Martin Norbury
Date published: January 2016
RRP: £11.99
Synopsis: Entrepreneur, mentor and “scalability coach”, Norbury shares advice on how business owners can scale their company using his experiences of building successful start-ups, exiting businesses, and working with other fast-growth companies.

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