Book Review: "EntreLeadership" By Dave Ramsey

Cover shot of the book "EntreLeadership" by Dave Ramsey
A few years ago, I attended the EntreLeadership 1-Day event in Dallas, Texas. I was already a fan of Dave, having read "Your Total Money Makeover" as well as attended and coordinated his Financial Peace University class at our church and my former employer. His book, EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches (Amazon Affiliate Link) was released in September, 2011 and has been on my "to read" list since then. I finally caught up with it last week, and I'm glad I did.

Much of the information I remember from that event was included in the book, and a whole lot more. The ideas included in the book aren't just a bunch of theories put together by someone who hasn't "been there and done that." Instead, it is filled with practical knowledge that lets you learn from someone with experience (read: learning from someone else's mistakes).

The book is laid out quite well and is filled with stories from Dave's experience starting his business on a coffee table in his home to the multi-million dollar enterprise it is today. There are chapters covering:
  • Setting goals and creating mission statements
  • Time Management
  • Making tough descisions
  • Marketing
  • Launching your dream
  • Hiring and firing
  • Sales (selling by being a servant)
  • Money issues
  • Communication
  • Building unity and loyalty in your team
  • Recognition and inspiration
  • Dealing with contracts, vendors and collections
  • Compensation plans
  • Delegation
Each chapter is built with information, illustrative stories and different ways to approach different challenges with pros and cons of each. While Dave points out the things that led to his success, he also shows there are sometimes more than one way to solve a problem. I got the iBooks version which also came with videos that further illustrated finer points of the chapter's content.
Here are some quotes from the book and some ideas they brought to mind:
The big deal here is to remember that the very things you want from a leader are the very things the people you are leading expect from you. You must intentionally become more of each of these every day to grow yourself and your business. And to the extent you’re not doing that, you’re failing as a leader.
Dave mentions throughout the book that leaders should follow the "Golden Rule" and treat others as they would like to be treated. This is key to help leaders treat those they lead with dignity and respect.

... it means you are more than a corporate bureaucrat who treats his people like units of production.
"Leadership" does not equal "management." You lead people, and to the extent you look at them as "units of production" you fail as a leader. This type of “leadership” doesn’t work as well as people think.

Passion is so key in leading and creating excellence that I will hire passion over education or talent every time. I prefer to have both, but given a choice I will take passion. La Rochefoucauld once said, “The most untutored person with passion is more persuasive than the most eloquent without.”
Passion is so important to look for when hiring. Look for those who are passionate about your products and services. This also applies to those who are looking for work. If you can't be passionate about who you work for, then you should start looking for another place to be.

Big decisions should take big time and little decisions should be done instantly. The more money involved the more you should slow down. The more time involved as a result of the decision, the more you should slow down.
This is a good formula for figuring out the difference between big and small decisions.

There was a line forming at my office to ask permission and direction on every single detail. This is a normal progression for the small-business person to grow past emotionally, but be quick to recognize this as a bad process and grow your people to make the call.
I was once part of an organization where the head of the unit pulled all his junior leaders (20-30 people) into his office every morning to tell them what their teams were going to do. What a complete waste of time and energy! Once you grow beyond 12 or so people, you have to start splitting things up. Start developing leaders NOW!

Sometimes as organizations grow they get confused and stick by the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. People who never change the process, who worship process, are called bureaucrats. If your team can’t explain why you do something, you are filling your building full of bureaucrats and you have sown the beginning seeds of your destruction.
This is very wise … an important lesson.

With social media like Facebook and Twitter you can ask your customers their opinion quickly, easily, and inexpensively.
The web can be the greatest and least expensive focus group you can use. Get feedback from real customers to learn how to improve products, or what new products might be needed.

Have you ever sat down with a friend to discuss a problem and by the time you finish describing the problem you know the answer and don’t need his advice anymore? The reason is simple: when you force your thought process through another layer and verbalize your thoughts, you reach a higher level of understanding. This escalation of your thought process happens yet again when you write out your problem. Thoughts are one level, verbalization is another level, and by writing out a problem you have processed it once more.
Sometimes the best solutions come from just talking about it for a few minutes. I remember once I was writing code for a complicated web application and got stuck on this one part. I spend the better part of a week trying to work out the logic for this one piece of the process. I happened to be talking to my mom toward the end of that week, and, as sometimes happens, I started telling her about how work was going. I started to describe the project I was working on and how I was stuck on this one part. As I described the process to my non-nerd mom, the solution came to me. It was through the process of explaining a complex problem so it would be understood by someone outside that the solution came to me.

People don’t want to be “marketed to,” they want to be “communicated with.” - Flint McLaughlin
"Markets are conversations." Check out The Cluetrain Manifesto.

... a guy who owns a heating and air company thought ... he just did HVAC repair and replacement, but by flying over his “field” ... he saw something new. He went home and changed his website to reflect the funnel. He first offered free downloadable reports on how to make your furnace, air-conditioning, and hot water heater last longer with some simple free maintenance tips. ... He asked for an e-mail address to get the free reports and offered his e-mail newsletter to continue the free education. ... Next down the funnel he offered a $59 HVAC tune-up, which included a fourteen-point checkup and cleaning to make the system run better ... and make sure the unit is safe. Of course sometimes the tune-up led to the discovery that the system ... would have to be replaced. So the funnel started with a free report and ended for some folks with a $3,500–$5,000 purchase. ... He sent me a note to say that simply viewing his product offerings through the funnel had opened up a ton of new business for him.  
The funnel approach is simply having some inexpensive or free and quick ways to interact with your company. The quicker and cheaper the product or service, the more people you will draw. This can be as simple as having lots of quality content that the customer can get for free on your website.
This is a great example of content marketing. Anyone can "Be That Expert."

We were there working hard, helping people, doing media all along. The national media just happened to notice and I wanted our team to understand that this particular event in our company wasn’t random. Instead it was more like we had worked our tails off for fifteen years and we were suddenly an overnight success.
There is rarely the real “overnight success.” Most of the people and brands that seemingly come from nowhere have been working hard for a long time before they got noticed by a larger audience. Hard work pays off and there are no real shortcuts.

Companies whose stock is publicly traded often fall victim to worrying about Q1 profits so much that they lose focus on the future.
It's sad to see companies sell their future for one quarter of numbers instead of looking to see where they will be (or want to be) in 5 or 10 years.

Two years ago we alternated three different types of graphics on our website to sell live event tickets. The one that I hated sold the most. So we dropped the other two and went with what worked. So your ego and your best guess may be proven to be as pitiful as mine was.
A/B Testing - Do it!

Not only do I want to convince you that you as an EntreLeader are always selling, but I want you to convince your whole company that they are in sales. Customer service is sales, shipping is sales, production is sales, and quality control is sales. If the customer has a wonderful total experience they will remain a customer and send you more customers.
This is so true. Think about your team members driving around town with your logo on the truck. Everyone is involved in the sale!

The trick in our business is to create such quality that we go viral with positive referrals in the community and on the Internet, creating instant rapport. And we must be very intentional about pushing referrals into the market as part of our sales plan. That can be as simple as asking for referrals.
This can also apply to asking satisfied customers to review your business online. A sticker on the door or a message on the register receipt might be enough of an ask.

Once you have that connection you should do research on the person to learn additional points of common ground before you meet with them. Again, we are not trying to be manipulative; we’re trying to avoid major rapport mistakes by knowing who you are talking to. My personal assistant will have a bio on you on my desk before we talk on the phone or have a meeting. We do that so I do not say something offensive or stupid, not knowing any better. Do a little simple research and find out who you are meeting with before you enter a meeting.
This makes a lot of sense. I agree that it's not good to do this as manipulation, but as a way to build bridges.

In order to serve your customer with passion you have to know so much about the competitor that you know why you are better. You can point out the brand differentiation without trashing your competitor. I am sure you have noticed that it is hard for you to trust someone who is selling you by tearing down their competitor. Just point out the differences and why you believe you are a better choice. You cannot do that if you have not studied your competitor in detail, as if you were going to sell their product
This is very key. It's like what Santa did in "Miracle on 34th Street." If Macy's didn't have it, they referred customers someplace that did.

It is really hard to imagine, but people actually think using a credit card to finance a business is smart. The person who thinks that is a very naive businessperson—basically, a gambler. Yet according to Businessweek 50 percent of small companies use credit cards, with 71 percent of them carrying balances. This extremely expensive form of debt is an indicator that the person running or opening the business isn’t putting much thought into the finances. They are under the illusion that they can outearn their stupidity.
I can speak from experience that this is true. I tried financing my first internet business with credit cards after reading an article in Entrepreneur Magazine telling how much it made sense. I finally paid off those credit card balances 7 years later. A very expensive lesson!

Annual reviews are often the one time a person gets real feedback on their job and personal performance, and the time that a raise is given. At our place job and personal performance get continuous, almost weekly feedback, positive or negative. I do not wait a year to course-correct mistakes. Team members don’t need to wait a year to bring problems to leadership either; that is silly ... We do not use the annual checkup as a job-performance discussion; I require my leaders to make that a fluid ongoing discussion.
Even if your company does do annual reviews, you shouldn't wait a year to give feedback. Meet with your team members weekly. Let them know what's going on and where they stand. Don't wait until things become a huge problem before dealing with them.

One of the hallmarks of winning companies is they are very intentional and effective at communication. As a matter of fact the EntreLeader’s goal should be to create a company culture of communication. Communication is the grease in the gears. You can have great gears in your company and it will still freeze up, grind to a halt, if you don’t put the grease of communication into the engine. When the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, great frustration and distrust sets in.
The more you communicate the better. Even if something comes up you can't talk about due to special circumstances, because you are open about everything you can be, people trust your judgement.

Jacques Plante, Hall of Fame NHL goalie, said, “How would you like a job where every time you made a mistake a big red light goes on and eighteen thousand people boo?”
OK - big bonus points to Dave for having a Jacques Plante quote!

... the EntreLeader values his team and never mistreats them, but I am discussing our legal obligation. We don’t have, nor will we have, a legal employment obligation arising from a contract. I don’t want someone to stay on my team because of their contractual obligation; this would mean they have no passion, have no creativity, and add a lousy element to our culture. Nor do I want to be forced to keep someone when it is time they leave.
This illustrates the difference between building a team and hiring a bunch of "employees."

Are they compensated like a valued partner or like a unit of production that can be tossed to the curb like last week’s garbage? If you have team members like I am describing and you make a net profit of $10 million this year, would you be okay with paying them $1 million? ... Realize your team is your secret weapon. Bad companies become so worried about Q1 profit that they squeeze their secret weapon and kill the culture that brings profit. When in doubt, be generous. You will live with fewer regrets and you will profit more by attracting and keeping extremely talented and passionate people.
This is a question every business needs to ask itself. Of course shareholders deserve a return on the money they risk investing in your company's, but are they more important than the people who make success happen day in and day out?


EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches (Amazon Affiliate Link) by Dave Ramsey. Great book filled with leadership and business knowledge. This book is ideal for anyone aspiring to leadership and those who run (or who are thinking they might one day run) a business.

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