Review – “Five + One”

Five + One

The Entrepreneurs Formula for Success

–Chas Wilson–

five_plus_one

Premise

I’m going to quote the back cover blurb, because, for full disclosure, I did not read all of this book. More on that later.

“There is a simple path and track to follow that will help entrepreneurs be successful in any business. This book outlines the fundamental things that a business owner needs to understand and the things they need to do to make their business successful.”


What It Says

Five + One presents a series of instructions for entrepreneurs that promise to deliver success in those businesses. The “Five” are separate disciplines, and the “One” is one skill.

The disciplines are thinking, targeting, tracking, timing, and team building. Yes, these are disciplines that are necessary for entrepreneurs to develop. Case in point, I’m woefully inadequate at tracking things like my time, expenses, and projects. I know this. I know it’s a discipline I should be better at. Would being better at tracking be the solution to my problems? Probably not.

The skill is networking. It’s no surprise that this is Wilson’s final piece of the puzzle, as he is the founder of a networking business, Master Networks. I have no problem with this. We all do it. We all believe that our own unique characteristics are what’s going to change the world. However, I just can’t get past the presentation of the entrepreneurship overview to determine if the networking system has value or not.

I think I only got to page 104. That’s just a little over halfway through the book. The rest of this critique (it can’t be considered a review, as I didn’t read the whole thing) should be instructive for others who wish to produce their own book, as well as a warning to those who might be thinking that picking up Wilson’s book is going to be the secret to their success.


The Good

Let me say, I do believe there is information here which could be valuable to an entrepreneur. The idea of networking, of building a relationship-based business, is absolutely something that could greatly vault one into the ranks of successful business owners. And therefore I suspect that the networking advice and tips that Wilson gives in the final chapter would be valuable to those entrepreneurs who are attempting to build that network.

Look, I get it. Master Networks is a networking organization, and Wilson is trying to drum up business for that organization. So he writes a book, promotes it, and uses it as his lead magnet. It’s not rocket science.

Unfortunately, and this is something I’ll expand on more later, the good of the networking advice is overshadowed by the poor business advice given first. And maybe it’s not so much bad, as it is just superficial.


The Bad

By “bad” I don’t necessarily mean wrong, out-of-date, or misleading. It’s just that it’s not enough. I felt like, when reading this, that the “entrepreneurial skills” training that’s presented in the first  150 pages or so was very, very shallow. It just wasn’t good enough to make me believe that Wilson knows what he’s talking about here.

Here are two examples. In Targeting: Part #6 – Converting Your Leads, he lays out basic steps to lead conversion, in the Lead Conversion A.R.C. Those steps are Acquire, Respond, Communicate, Agreement.

If you’re counting correctly, those are 4 steps.  But the acronym is only 3 letters – A, R, and C. What happens to the 4th letter, the last “A”? This just seems either sloppy or a bad choice of names for the steps and the corresponding acronym.

Second, in Tracking: Part #4 – The Seven Key Numbers, he provides an example of what a tracking system might look like. This is woefully inadequate. I’ll reproduce it here, but he’d scanned in a snip from his own Excel workbook (an amateurish presentation – at least develop a new chart for the book).

A B
  TOTALS
Productivity  
Leads 0
Appointments 0
Sales 0
   
Growth  
Customers in Database 0
   
Profitability  
Income 0
Expenses 0
Profit 0

 

That’s it. 2 columns, filled with 0s.

I say this type of example is inadequate because anyone who’s done any kind of tracking knows that you will be wasting your time to just track totals, without some kind of benchmark of where you should be, where you were, and whether or not you’re on track. So for Wilson to say, “here’s a set of numbers that you should track, just pay attention to the totals, and you’ll be on your way to success” is not helpful.

A better chart (because it’s actionable) would look something like this:

  MONTHLY TOTAL MONTHLY GOAL ON-TARGET? YEARLY TOTAL YEARLY GOAL ON-TARGET?
Productivity            
Leads 32 31 YES 165 133 YES
Appointments 7 10 NO 43 40 YES
Sales 3 5 NO 10 6 YES
             
Growth            
Customers in Database 168 178 NO 198 215 NO
             
Profitability            
Income 3,500 3,800 YES 23,800 27,500 NO
Expenses 3,000 3,600 NO 22,150 18,500 NO
Profit 500 200 NO 1,650 9,000 NO

 

And this is a very simplistic presentation. The advantage is not only do you see where you are, you see where you should be and if that’s a problem or not. If I were designing appropriate metrics, I would have not only what is going on in the month, but what the trend was, and what would be needed in whatever time remains in order to catch up and hit targets.

As a result, this gives the impression that Wilson doesn’t know enough about tracking, and the reader would not be well-served to take his advice.

Overall, I think there was too much of the Five, and too little of the One.

I think readers wold benefit more from a much shorter exposition of the Five Disciplines, perhaps as a 20 page outline, with an index to further reading, complemented by a significantly expanded treatment of the One Skill of networking.

That’s really what this book should be about.

Many, many others have presented the same ideas as Wilson for the Five Disciplines, and done a better job, in the hundreds (or thousands) of entrepreneurial books published in the past. What Wilson has brought new to the table, and what this book really should be about, is the One Skill, because that’s where he actually provides a new perspective on the world of entrepreneurial business building.

I think. Again, I didn’t read it, so I can’t comment. But based on the back cover and the introduction and a brief skimming after I stopped reading, I believe I’m justified in that evaluation.

If he had presented the first section as an introduction to entrepreneurship, with the focus of the book expanding on his networking platform, I would have read it all. I would probably have highly recommended it. But as it is, I cannot.

And that’s not because of my limited abilities to understand the book.

It’s because of Wilson’s inability to present his ideas in a compelling way.


The Ugly

I’m not a fan of the layout, and there are simple formatting / proofing errors that throw me out of the text. These together just mean that each page I read allows me to slide down the trust index further and further, to the point where I just don’t believe Wilson knows what he’s doing any more.

First, the paragraphing. This is done as no-tab, double-line between paragraphs, with a sans-serif font. That’s the preferred way of formatting your words online, for good reason. You need to allow for variable screen sizes, so you shouldn’t try to define how wide a tab is. And since you need a way to show paragraph breaks, you need spaces. Plus, taking the serif off the fonts (the little flairs at the ends of the letters) mean that when screen resolutions shrink or grow, the fonts are still legible. It’s understandable why he might think it would be okay, at least while drafting.

Frankly, this is the default setting for Microsoft Word these days, so the shortcut is understandable.

The problem with this is that Wilson is publishing a book. A real, tangible, dead-tree book. That means he should be following book publishing conventions, not online conventions: no double-space between paragraphs, use tab stops, and use a font with serifs. Because your words are going to be static on the page, and you don’t have to worry about all of the online restrictions, it means you can lay your book out to look more like your audience expects a book to look like.

Second, the layout of the pages throws me off. Each major section, whether devoted to the discipline or skill includes a small graphic at the lower outer edge of the text. I presume this is to allow the reader to follow along which section she’s in, without having to flip back and forth to the start of each chapter. Understandable, but distracting, because the paragraphs then get broken up at the bottom of each and every page. And there are more nits to pick, but I’ll leave them for now.

The essence of these two points is that presentation matters. This is a design feature that I’ve railed against other places, too. [See this critique of Unconscious Branding] You need to match audience expectations very closely, or else they’ll turn off. Unless you have a stellar, ultra-compelling message, which this book doesn’t. Thus my giving up halfway through.

A next point: the subtitle is “The Entrepreneurs Formula For Success”. My beef with that is that he’s spelled it “entrepreneurs” instead of “entrepreneurs”. And it’s not just one typo, it’s intentional. Every time the word is written, there’s no apostrophe. You might think the difference is subtle.

But it’s a real error, and it significantly affects my trust of the author. In the used case, the subtitle tells me this is a statement about multiple entrepreneurs. In the appropriate, possessive case, it tells me that this is a book about the formula that an entrepreneur can own.

In that sense, if I’m just randomly picking up this book and I see “entrepreneurs”, I’m expecting stories of a bunch of entrepreneurs and how they found success. I’m not expecting a system that I am supposed to use, which I would think was true if I see entrepreneur’s. Again, a disconnect between the expectation created in the audience’s mind and the delivery.

Finally, I’ll point out that I’m highly skeptical of anything claiming to guarantee success. Success is not only so nebulous as to be virtually undefinable, it’s also impossible to control or determine on your own. I’ll bet that there are hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs around the country who have mastered all five disciplines and the one skill, and yet don’t have success, due to factors out of their control: economic or regulatory environments, competitive pressures, general marketplace disinterest in their product, incorrect pricing, fraud, etc. For this book to claim that all you have to do is get really good at these six steps and you’ll get everything you want is bordering on fraud.

So, no, I’m not a fan of Five + One. I don’t think you should be, either.


How You Should Use It

  1. At this point, I would say don’t bother.
  2. If you ever hear there’s revised version, let me know and I’ll give that a look. Maybe then we’ll be able to understand the advantages of the Master Networks system, without being handcuffed by the limiting presentation.

 


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