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How Todd Combs Read His Way Into A Job With Warren Buffett

todd combs warren buffett read growingstartup books

He was among 165 students in a Columbia University investing class.

Combs didn’t meet Buffett that day but says, “I still remember it like it was yesterday.”

One of the students asked what he could do now to prepare for an investing career. Buffett thought for a few seconds and then reached for the stack of reports, trade publications and other papers he had brought with him.

“Read 500 pages like this every day,” said Buffett, or words to that effect. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

Remarkably, Combs began doing just that, keeping track of how many pages and what he read each day. Eventually finding and reading productive material became second nature, a habit. As he began his investing career, he would read even more, hitting 600, 750, even 1,000 pages a day.

Combs discovered that Buffett’s formula worked, giving him more knowledge that helped him with what became his primary job — seeking the truth about potential investments.

After graduating, Combs worked as a bank regulator and in the pricing department of Progressive Insurance and, five years later, he began running Castle Point Capital, a private investment fund in Greenwich, Conn., where he lived.

His road to Omaha began when he met a money manager from Australia who was going to California to see Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire and a confidant of Buffett’s. Combs remembers thinking, “I’d like to meet Charlie some day.”

Not long afterward, Combs was headed to California and called Munger’s office, figuring it was “pretty unlikely” that he would get to see Munger.

To his surprise, Munger offered to meet him at the California Club for breakfast. “I was terrified,” Combs said. He had attended two of Berkshire’s annual shareholder meetings in Omaha and knew that Munger often gave blunt assessments of people and businesses.

“But we really hit it off,” Combs said. “He’s the most warm, gentle man.”

The two talked for hours, and Munger offered to get together again. Combs quickly arranged to return to California. Eventually, Munger told him, “I really think Warren would like to meet you.”

Combs, of course, needed no persuasion and, in the fall of 2010, he was invited to Buffett’s office. He arrived at 10 a.m., met people and talked, went with Buffett for a two-hour lunch at Piccolo’s restaurant and returned to the office.

“We just talked and talked and talked,” Combs said. “I’ll never forget it. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know you’ve met someone very special. It’s really hard to describe.”

Eventually, Buffett began talking about his plan to hire a money manager. Combs — this is true, he insists — started thinking about another person he could recommend. But Buffett had another idea.

“He said, ‘Well, I think we’re kind of thinking of you.’ Flabbergasted would be an understatement,” Combs said.

As the stunned Combs listened, Buffett talked about compensation and suggested they both think about the offer. Combs returned home and talked with his wife, April, about the job and Omaha, then accepted Buffett’s offer.



Interested in knowing how to grow a 7 figure business? Go here

Extra-How to read a 300 page book in 2 hours

Book Review: Bloomberg By Bloomberg

This book is the autobiography of Michael Bloomberg.

He is the founder of Bloomberg LP

According to Forbes magazine his net worth is 40.9 billion USD (2015)

Purpose: I read this book to understand what it takes to build a technology and media company that is both private and profitable.


Michael Bloomberg started out on Wall Street at Salomon Brothers selling stocks sold by large institutions.

He rises up the ranks to partner but is later demoted to the information technology department where he was up until Salomon Brothers merged with Phibro; the commodity trading firm.

Bloomberg was fired when the merger took place and according to him, he had no plans of ever leaving Salomon brothers because he was embarrassed and hurt. He ended up with a severance check of about $10 million dollars because he was a partner.


Even after being told he was going to be fired, he still worked up to 12 hours a day until his final day. What I got from this was to keep doing what is right and not allow circumstances to ruffle you.


At the time he was fired, he had gotten a deep understanding and unique insight into two things that would help him start his own business.

He had a deep knowledge of the securities, investing and of how technology could be used to make the financial world efficient.

Many people work at places for years and do not learn enough to be exponentially more valuable and productive than before they got hired. This is a mistake.

Years ago, when I was employed by someone else, I made sure I was a sponge and studied every piece of knowledge I found valuable. Within 6 months after leaving, I had a freelance business that paid me over 4 times what I was receiving as salary from my previous employer.

Value Creation

He created a business to solve a problem he had noticed while working at Salomon brothers. He had the financial capital but most importantly he had the mental capital to create a great product.

Since he wasn’t technical, he decided to work with people who were and focused on sales.

Even though he did not have a fully operational product, he pitched Merrill Lynch and used the risk reversal strategy.

He offered to built them a product and deliver in 6 months. His offer was that they did not have to pay him if they were not satisfied with the final product.

Even on the final day of his presentation, the product was still not working properly but at least the minimum viable features were enough to get him a deal for the delivery of 22 terminals. This step of faith led to global clients including the Vatican, World Bank and every Federal Bank.


Build a product that works as fast as possible and launch. It may not be perfect but it should be useful and productive enough for your client to get value from it.

The Bloomberg Terminal as it is now known, is an interactive real-time system that is user friendly enough for nonspecialists. It is able to take information about different investment types — stocks, bonds, currencies — and reveal a firm’s position and show what is moving where so traders could see investment opportunities previously unseen because of too much (and too inaccessible) data.


Products that help people who are not specialists to achieve the same or similar results are usually welcomed.

Marketing, growth and sales 

Bloomberg built the company in the initial stages by doing sales calls and building a brand.

He changed the name from Innovative Market Systems to Bloomberg LP to leverage on his name as a brand.

Instead of growing by acquisitions, he grew the business on profits by innovating in areas such as media, news and television.

It’s interesting to note that their strategy has been so sound that for over 3 decades they hardly have any competition that has their results and reach.

Quote from Page 200:

It also encourages me to delegate and let others run parts of our organization so we can go into new areas and products. I don’t want any manager here to do the same thing for too long, and I shouldn’t either. If everything works, I get paid; if it doesn’t, I shouldn’t, and with our structure, I won’t.

Most companies, most of the time, grow and contract with the market they’re in. Management often makes the difference only at the margin. Changing executives periodically almost always improves results. No matter how entrenched the CEO is. Mythology to the contrary, no one’s irreplaceable and there are few revelations in business. The corporate change that works is evolutionary change, not revolutionary change:The quick fix, like buying a competitor or growth through acquisition, usually boosts earnings only for a short while. Corporate fixes through public relations and industry analyst “stroking” aren’t worth much either. Stock P/E ratios go with the group, which is why they call it the herd instinct.

Lessons from school:

Bloomberg mentions that at Harvard, most of the people he admired for their noble birth or admirable backgrounds never ended up doing anything remarkable with their lives.

He also mentions that Harvard brought him before classmates who were ambitious and would challenge you if you spoke without getting your facts straight. He counts this as preparing him to work on Wall Street.

I like that observation because I have been in a lot of conversations where people feel compelled to speak when they have no facts. This reminds me of Proverbs 18:13
He that gives an answer before he hears is a fool, and is brought to shame.

 What I didn’t expect to find, but did.

Media distribution

In Chapter 5, Bloomberg explains the fundamentals of how content is created an distributed. Even though he is a technology entrepreneur, he is not jaded in thinking that technology solves all problems in media distribution. Media companies still need to have great content that their audience wants to consume.

Corporate governance and management

This book is filled with gems on corporate governance and there’s even an entire chapter on Management which I found very useful in many respects.


At the time of writing, Bloomberg wasn’t the mayor of New York yet but his opinions on important topics such as education are pretty solid.

The parts I didn’t agree with: 

I don’t think he gives good marriage advice and maybe one or two of the management tips may not be applicable to every industry.

For example, he frowns on employees starting a side business and even says…

“why is the second idea they come up with not the property of the firm paying them to work full time? Or they invest personally outside their companies. “

This is funny to me because I don’t expect to own the ideas of my employees.

It is my observation that most men are good at a few things when they give advice on things outside of business, it’s invariably wrong.

My impression about part of what he believes made him successful is hard-work. This as we know isn’t enough since there are many people working 14 to 16 hour days who are not as productive as others who work less than they do but have wisdom that produces exponential results.

Diligence in work counts but diligence without wisdom is just activity without productivity.

Interesting quote from Page 180:

The primary function of those at the top is the care and feeding of the company’s most valuable asset, its employees, including designing and administering a compensation system that encourages cooperation, rewards risk taking, and gives inducements to work — Job One for the CEO

Conclusion and closing notes

In my opinion, from what I can infer from the book, Bloomberg’s success was due to his mindset regards to how to deal with people and his boldness to do the things he believed were right.

What I found most impressive about Michael Bloomberg is how quickly he implemented ideas. Secondly, that he built a private billion dollar(by revenue) business is definitely a good reason to read this book.

Rating in relation to my reason for reading this book(see beginning of the post)

4 out of 5

Extra notes:

I have noticed that a lot of traffic that comes to is people who read my book reviews. I’m taking my wife’s advice by sharing my notes on the business books that I read.

If you have any books that you would like me to share my review on, please email me at I rarely review fiction and I usually read business books or auto/biographies that have lessons on marketing, sales, leadership and success.

Michele Hoskins And The Success Of Michele Foods

Michele Hoskins black million story

Michele Hoskins, founder of Michele’s Foods, became most notable after appearing on the Oprah Show discussing her $8 million salary from her famous Honey Crème Syrup, now being sold in over 10,000 grocery stores across America. Hoskins left conference attendees in awe with her testimony revealing her multi-million dollar enterprise began with no funds and just three simple ingredients: honey, cream and sugar.

Hoskins, who went through a bitter divorce and was left to raise her two daughters alone, stood in the food stamp line when she came to realize her life was more than her current situation and Hoskins managed to bottle up enough syrup to take to one of the popular grocery chains in Chicago.

Within a few days she received a call from the owner who loved her syrup and signed her a deal to sell her syrups in all of the stores nationally. After a couple of years Hoskins decided to contact Denny’s restaurant during a time where Denny’s was hit with several discrimination lawsuits by minorities for racial bias. While many minorities took the boycotting route, Hoskins saw an opportunity to help rebuild their image.

It took a lot of persistence and convincing on her part yet she contacted the corporate office for two years, every Monday at 10:30am without interruption, while doing so she built a professional bond with the company to the point when Denny’s eventually caved in and gave her a $3 million contract with free advertisement. Hoskins maintained her positive attitude. At the conference, she concluded by stating, “You don’t need money to make a business; you need a business to make money”.

Culled from here.

Here is more of her story.

Twenty years ago, Michele Hoskins had left her husband, moved her family back home and was producing pancake syrup in her parents’ basement. At first, she made just a little at a time to sell locally to markets in the African-American community in the Chicago area.

Today, she sits atop a burgeoning empire as owner of a multimillion-dollar company, Michele Foods, that produces a line of syrups and pancake mix. Michele’s Honey Crème Syrup, Butter Pecan Syrup and Maple Crème Syrup and Michele’s Gourmet Pancake Mix (as well as a low-carb line) can be found in 10,000 stores nationwide, including Winn-Dixie, Giant, Safeway, Kroger and Super Wal-Mart.

In her book, Sweet Expectations: Michele Hoskins’ Recipe For Success, the Chicago native introduces readers to a life sweetened with success and triumph and leavened with challenge and trouble.

What Hoskins, president and CEO, offers isn’t just any pancake syrup. It comes with an astonishing story. This recipe was passed through the generations from her great-great-grandmother, America Washington, an enslaved woman who created the recipe for the family she worked for.

The syrup, in the original recipe, was made of churned butter, cream and honey.

Her ancestor stipulated that only the third daughter of each generation could get the secret recipe, something that puzzles Hoskins to this day. And it wasn’t just any third daughter. The recipe had to be passed only mother-to-daughter. Her mother won the prize recipe but she had only one daughter — Michele.

Hoskins managed to persuade her mother to share the recipe with her. She said that she wanted to pass the recipe to her third daughter, Keisha. Her mother relented.

“If I wasn’t doing this, I’d still be an entrepreneur,” she says. “I visualize America Washington sitting on a porch wondering what to develop. I was reincarnated in America and hoped I would be self-sufficient and a self-starter.”

Sweet Expectations, written with Chicago journalist Jean Williams, is a folksy primer of business tips that Hoskins honed the hard way. It is also the story of a voyage from uncertainty and poverty to success.

Along the way, Hoskins learned how to produce the syrup for mass distribution and figured out the nuts and bolts of business, accounting and other critical elements of running a company. She mowed down or side-stepped racial and gender obstacles to get her product on the market. Little of it was easy.

“The difficult part was really not knowing about this business, walking into large corporations trying to sell this product. And I was an African-American woman, not being taken seriously. The hard part was just persevering. I had to keep going because I was on a mission,” she says.

“Entrepreneurs are risk takers and kind of naïve — not knowing the obstacles ahead. Passion, perseverance and patience — just endure and let the success happen.”

She writes, in a compelling way, about fear of failure. At one point, she had “a legal fight with my own family for the right to use the recipe as the basis for the business.” The conflict, she writes, was resolved and “made us stronger.”

At another point, Hoskins had a brain tumor removed in emergency surgery.

One day, her fear of failure came down to filling out forms to get her product to Jewel stores in Chicago. She was daunted but didn’t want to show it. This was her first big sale, and she was determined to look professional.

“I took the forms home with me and pored over them, trying to make sense of them,” she writes. “I had come too far in this process to screw it up now.”

She “swallowed her pride” and confessed to the store that she needed help — and got it.

What she values:

•Faith. “My basis and foundation has always been God. My mom told me to turn to Him because we had to have someone to rely on other than other people.”

•Helping others. She started a national mentoring program, From Recipe to Retail, to help people get great recipes such as cake and jerk chicken to market.

•Her ancestor’s gift. Through it all, she carries a great deal of respect for the gift that was passed down.

“It’s ironic that the legacy started by a slave woman, my ancestor, would help liberate me,” she says.

“My great-great-grandmother was calling out to me. It’s like she reached out from the past and said, ‘I have been waiting for someone to realize that this is more than a recipe.’ ”

•Leaving a legacy for her three daughters and granddaughter. Hoskins took advantage of programs that encouraged and supported minority- and female-owned companies, rode the wave of expansion of these types of businesses in the late 1980s and early 1990s and gradually built a network of colleagues who assisted and supported her.

Hoskins has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show three times and has been interviewed in Essence, Black Enterprise and Fortune.

For Hoskins, becoming an entrepreneur was “the only game in town.”

How to pick the right books…and finish them

How to pick the right books

Do you know people who have read a lot but have nothing to show for their knowledge?

Growing up we were told to read widely. Not many people were told to read well. This is partly the reason a lot of readers do not know how to prioritize their reading. Friends tell me all the time that they have stacks of books they have barely read and yet they are still buying more. If you don’t know how to pick the right books or how to finish your reading list before you get tempted to grab another book, this is for you.

In today’s podcast I talk about how to be a strategic reader versus a tactical reader.

#1 Strategic readers have developed an internal heuristic for picking and reading books. Tactical readers read whatever is new or available at the time.

#2 Strategic readers understand that words are pictures. They understand that a man can only go where he can see. This understanding causes strategic readers to pick books that will give them a desirable outcome.

#3 Strategic readers understand that value is more important than the number of pages in a book. They look out for the value in a book and put the book down when they have found what is useful to them. Tactical readers get to page 30, realize the book is useless but will still force themselves to read the rest so they feel they have accomplished something.

#4 Strategic readers only read authors who have thoroughly researched their material or are speaking about the results they have obtained. Tactical readers will read anything just so they can brag that they are well read. The truth however is that the best kind of reading is reading that develops the mind and produces results. The right reading material also helps the reader to become relevant to people they are sent to serve. For example I heard a lot of mean things said about people like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. Critics called them the robber barons. After I read their books I realized these were men who changed the lives of millions of people. Their impact affected the prosperity of entire nations for centuries. The critics were mostly unenlightened people with an opinion. Another tip on picking the right book is to remember that just because someone is successful in business does not mean they can give you advice for general living. Many people have money but are poor mentally. They may have a successful business and be terrible parents or even be beating their spouses. Remember to take the meat and leave the bones.


Pick books that will help you become who you desire to be. You may not be the CEO of a billion dollar empire yet but reading books about John D. Rockefeller, J.P Morgan, Henry Ford and other business titans will give you the heuristics that will help you get there. Words are containers of value. When you read or hear a person who has more than you currently have long enough, you will see the same mental images as they do. Very soon you will start making decisions like them.

After I read David Oyedepo’s Success Systems“, my financial ceiling was shattered. I saw that anyone who will dare to believe God could receive a billion dollars in a day regardless of where they lived. I now know that I should not blame doubters for their words. Their minds are groping around in the dark for things some of us see too clearly. I took the images from the mouths of people who had the results I desired and started living them. This is the reason I love reading the Bible so much. Taking God’s images and living them makes you a god over circumstances. For example, seeing that Joshua could stop the sun and that Solomon had such wisdom that he could multiply wealth changed everything for me and my business.

I also saw that people like Paul and Abraham had no consciousness of limits. This is the reason I have no fears in life. There is nothing I cannot do and nothing I cannot have. All of this came from words.

Your life is an accumulation of the words you have heard and spoken.

Why not strategically build a mental bank account of the right words?

What tips do you have for picking the right reading material?

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Book Review:God’s Creative Power For Finances

Gods creative power for finances by Charles Capps
I had a meeting with a gentleman who is working on a project worth over half a billion dollars. When I asked him for book recommendations, he went into a room and pulled out this book. That was enough impetus to consume it.

Title: God’s Creative Power For Finances
Author(s): Charles and Annette Capps

Charles Capps’ was one of the wealthiest farmers in Texas over the last 30 years. He shares his secrets to abundance in very simple language.
My main takeaways were
1. Get God involved in your business by tithing and giving to the work of God
2. Always think about being a blessing with your money and never be a hoarder
3. Always speak positive things because you will have what you say.

Here is an excerpt from the book.

Several years ago, I started a housing subdivision north of the town of England, Arkansas. I had borrowed money to put in water, sewer, and streets, and I had a mountain of debt. Jesus said to speak to the mountain and it would be removed. I got all the mortgages out and laid them on the kitchen table. I called my daughter Annette and said, “I want you to be a witness that I’m going to do what Jesus said to do.” I said: “Notes, listen to me, I’m talking to you. Jesus said you would obey me. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you, I say to you, BE PAID IN FULL…DEMATERIALIZE…DEPART…BE GONE…. IN JESUS’ NAME, YOU WILL OBEY ME!”

I turned around and walked off and left my daughter standing there. She had seen me do some strange things before. Someone asked, “Didn’t you feel a little silly doing that?” No. I felt a lot silly! But feelings have nothing to do with it. Jesus said to speak to the mountain, speak to the sycamine tree, and it would obey you. So many people tend to spiritualize the Word of God, but it is very practical.

I had two houses in this subdivision that I had built to sell. I had prayed and asked God to send a buyer, but the houses hadn’t sold. One day as I drove out there, I asked, “Lord, why haven’t these houses sold?” He spoke into my spirit, “Because you didn’t do what I said to do. Do what you have been teaching other people to do.”

I got out of my truck and said, “Houses, now listen to me. I’m talking to you. Someone’s impressed with you and you will be a blessing to someone. I call you SOLD in Jesus’ name!”

The houses didn’t sell overnight, and my carnal mind said, “Now what are you going to do?” I said to myself, “I know what I am going to do. I’ll release my faith in laughter.” I drove over to one house, rolled down the window, looked both ways down the street and said, “Ha ha ha.” I drove in front of the other one and said, “Ha ha ha,” rolled up the window and drove home.

You have to learn to laugh at your problems. Tears of self-pity and sorrow never release faith. I simply did what the Spirit of God told me to do.

Over the next few months, not only did the houses sell, but I sold the entire subdivision and all the land behind the subdivision that was not developed. The notes and mortgages were paid in full!

There are many formulas that the world says will make a man wealthy but I personally have not found anyway as sure as the law of sowing and reaping.

Book Recommendation: Right And Wrong Thinking by Kenneth E. Hagin. Buy it here.

Book Review:Signposts On The Road To Success by E.W Kenyon


Make your brain work. It will sweat, but make it work. It will improve. It will develop until you become a wonder to those around you

.—E.W Kenyon

Nearly every bookshop and library has a section for books on personal development and success. Many of them are laden with tips, tricks, keys and steps to being successful. Everyone wants to be successful so there is a lot of advice on the topic. I personally have not found a book that has more absolute advice on success than the Bible so that is my default manual. However there are a few writers who have distilled that information into bitesized chunks. E. W Kenyon was one of them.

I bought Kenyon’s book Signposts On The Road To SuccessSignposts On The Road To Success a few years ago but a friend borrowed it and never returned it. The book kept calling me so I got myself another copy. I guess there was truth to the words at the conclusion where Kenyon says

“In each page you’ll find me hiding,
I’ll be living when I’m dead,
I’ll be firing your ambition
When these living words are read.”

Now that is a quote worth framing!

This book will teach you
1. How to find out what gifts you possess
2. How to develop your gifts
3. How to be responsible
4. How to be the leader in your field
5. How Love plays a role in a man’s ambitions
6. The power of confession and saying the right words
7. How to live a life without worry
8. Diligence, Determination and Sacrifice.

“We have been taught politically to hate the people who have been successful in life, that if a man has gained a position of affluence, he must be bad.
That is wrong.
Men like Henry Ford have climbed to the place they occupy by sheer efficiency and downright honesty.
Class hatred is an unfortunate thing.
It does not belong in a democracy. It does not belong anywhere.
Why should I hate the man who is smarter than I am, and who has achieved more than I have?
I should honor him and thank God that there are men of that kind.
Class hatred robs a nation of its efficiency; it robs men of the pleasure and joy of fellowshipping and working with each other “

I personally read this book at least once a year. If you want motivation and insights on how to be more fulfilled in your calling, this is a short 121 page book. If you do not know what to do with your life, read this book.

Below I will share some of my favorite quotes by E.W Kenyon

“As I study men and women, I am convinced of this: There are very few who have developed to the limit the possibilities within them. There is no over-development. Many people are in the wrong place in life. They have no gift for the thing they are trying to do. They are doing it simply to get by.”
“There is room and a salary waiting for the man who has ability and is willing to put hard work into it. Choose your work, rather than have the work in which you have no interest thrust upon you. Find out what you can do, what you like best to do.”

Reading this book the third time made me very conscious of my mandate. I feel very responsible for the economic development of entrepreneurs and nations. E.W Kenyon added some fire to my caboose and reminded me to be responsible in all my actions. It even affected my reading. For example, I find it very difficult to read for leisure now. Even if someone recommends a book, if it won’t help me to be a bigger blessing to my world and the people I am called to serve, I usually shelf it.

“I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what your handicaps are. They have never made a handicap that could hold any man down who had in him the yeast to rise.”
“Most of the people who are at the bottom are at the bottom because they will to stay there. That is where they belong. It is a hard thing to say, but it is true. I am now what I willed to be through all these years.

“The first thing to do is to find out what you want. Set your eyes on the goal. Then fight for it. There must be an objective. When you find that objective, set your compass and sail for that star”

I have noticed that indecisiveness is one of the biggest problems of this generation. A lot of people do not know what direction to go, what job to take, whether they should date this person or not et cetera. Kenyon explains how to find out which direction to be facing and how to go at it with all the resources the Lord has given you.

“I said, “I will tell you what your trouble is the way it appears to me. You have the wrong slant on life. You have talked about your failing, your difficulties until they have become a mental disease. I venture to say that the last man of whom you sought to find employment read you like a book and said, ‘I don’t want that man in my crew. He is a chronic fault finder.You have had so much trouble that you have eaten it, slept with it, dreamed it, until it oozes out of you. He said, “I know it, but how can I overcome it? It is the easiest thing in the world to overcome. Solomon’s solution was to, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon thine own understanding. In other words, go into partnership with God where you cannot fail. But that is religion. There is no religion about this. You are dead wrong. Religion is a man-made thing. This is a God-made thing. This is common sense to link up with God. You take Jesus Christ as your Savior and you confess Him as your Lord. The moment you do you receive God’s life and ability, and you cannot fail. If you will walk with Him you can no more fail than Jesus failed.” “But Jesus failed on the cross, didn’t He? Yes, but it was the greatest victory which came out of that failure that has ever been known. That was divine strategy. He will make you a conqueror if you walk with Him.”

“Let’s be careful of the words we use.
Don’t tell that story you heard the other day about this man or that woman.
Don’t let any other ears be poisoned as your ears have been poisoned with it.
Never repeat scandal. Never repeat the calamity things.
Let others do the talking about that.
You keep your lips for beautiful things,
helpful things, comforting things.
That is your job. “

The Bible and Kenneth E Hagin taught me the importance of saying the right things. Words are literally and vitally containers of whatever we put in them. Your life will go no further than the quality of your words.

“Everywhere big business is hunting for competent help.
Many mediocre men fill places of importance because no one can be found who is really fitted for the job.
It is surprising how difficult it is to find even a good stenographer, to find someone who can take charge of a department and make it a success, to find someone who will take a vital interest in the work and put it over.”
“Almost every man and woman is a “time server.”
His ambition is to get his wages with as little work as possible.
The new mental attitude is to get, without giving.
You cannot be a success and do that.
The good old days of honest labor seem to be but a dream today.
The road that leads to a good bank account is an uphill road and most of us have to build the road ourselves.
The hitch-hikers are filling the road today. They want someone else’s car to ride in. They want someone to buy the gas. They want someone to pay the taxes and give them free passage.
Are you a mental hitch-hiker?
Are you a mental hobo? Or are you one of the fellows who pay the taxes, build the roads and bear the burdens.”

“If you are a success, you will have to bear the burdens.
You will have to pay the taxes for a hundred other people.
The easy way is to hobo it.
It is the way of least resistance.
I believe a fellow can get used to going on short rations, wearing old clothes, and sleeping in the jungle; but as for me, I am going to go to the top.
I am sending out this invitation for the rest of you to come with me. “

“I sold to people who had no music in them. I sold to them because of the excessive, burning desire in my heart to make them happy.
That is the thing which sells.
Settle it in your own mind. Is the thing you are selling worth while?
If it is not, then get something that is.
If you are selling insurance, bonds, autos, or groceries, know this: If your entire ambition is simply to get the money out of it, you will fail. But if you are giving them something that is going to be a blessing, and you are enthusiastic over it, you will be a success. “

My notes are mostly personal when it comes to this book so the quotes would have to suffice.
Do yourself a favor and buy this book Signposts On The Road To SuccessHERE today. You will not regret it. It has become mandatory reading in our business.

Book review on Traction:A startup guide to getting customers. An entrepreneur’s perscpective

traction book

Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting CustomersTraction is the best book on marketing strategies for tech startups that I have read. I have even considered adding it to our library at the Goshen Institute. Technology entrepreneurship and marketing in that space has interested me for a very long time. Most of the marketing books out there are focused on selling offline products and services but thank God for Marc Ioli for steering me towards Traction. I read this book strategically using my inspectional reading template before I read it the regular way.


I wanted to know more about marketing in the tech world and how what strategies growth hackers are using to build billion dollar businesses in Silicon Valley and other parts of the world. Remember that most of my business reading is a search for value that I can give not just to the entrepreneurs I consult for but for the businesses I run.
The authors are both founders of tech companies. Gabriel is the CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo; an alternative search engine to Google and Justin run growth for a company that recently got bought by Rackspace.

Value of the book and my notes
The book’s real value is in the strategies(traction channels) and real life testimonies from entrepreneurs and founders who have made money using these methods.
The book highlights that

“Traction is a sign that your company is taking off. It’s obvious in your core metrics: if you have a mobile app, your download rate is growing rapidly. If you’re a search engine, your number of searches is skyrocketing. If a SaaS tool, your monthly revenue is blowing up. If a consumer app, your daily active users are increasing quickly. You get the point.”

Traction trumps everything. If you are not thinking about growth then you are probably distracted by something less important.
Do not major on the minors, concentrate on getting results.
The Bulls Eye framework is to traction what the Lean Startup framework is to product development. This works by picking a traction channel and testing it on a small group of customers. If it achieves the desired result then repeat. If it does not then consider trying another approach. Do not waste time on a traction channels that does not move the needle far enough for it to matter.
It’s absolutely important to always have a traction goal that the whole business is working towards. This could be 1 million appstore downloads, 10000 active monthly users or 50% of the market in 10 months or less.
Choosing the right traction goal is highly dependent on your type of business because it should align with your overall strategy. Reaching your traction goal should have a significant impact on your business such as profitability or double digit market share. (I talk more about market share and monopoly at this post.)

Examples of traction channels are

    Viral Marketing
    Offline Ads
    Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
    Content Marketing
    Public Relations (PR)
    Social & Display Ads
    Email Marketing
    Engineering as Marketing
    Unconventional PR
    Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
    Speaking Engagements
    Community Building
    Affiliate Programs
    Existing Platforms
    Targeting Blogs
    Business Development (BD)
    Trade Shows
    Offline Events

A summary of three of these traction channels are :

1. Sales
This is the process of generating, qualifying and converting leads in paying customers. Your first customer is usually someone you know. Stuff to think about
What’s the process – How does the company buy products or services like yours?
What’s the need – Is there a serious need for the product/service/solution we are offering?
Who has the authority? – Which individuals in the company have the authority to make the purchase? In consulting we call this the buyer. This is the individual who usually authorizes these purchases.
How much money? – Does the prospect have the funds to buy what we are selling? How much will not solving this problem cost them? It is important to have the answer to the second question because it is something you should absolutely add to your pitch. Telling me “Jeffrey, by not using our company’s offering, you are leaving $1million on the table every month”, will definitely perk up my ears.
What is the time commitment? – What budget are we looking at? How long is the sales cycle? When will the decisions be made?

2. Affiliate Marketing
An affiliate program is where you (as an individual or company) pay people or companies to perform certain actions (such as making a sale or getting a qualified lead). For example, whenever you see Marie from Hello Sassy Naturals recommend a product, there is a chance that she is going take a cut when there are sales through her blog. In this case Marie is the affiliate. Companies like Macys, Zappos, eBay, Amazon, and Netflix use affiliate programs to drive what the book says are significant portions of their revenue. It is said that, affiliate programs are known to be the main traction channel for many ecommerce stores, info products and membership programs.
You can also have affiliates selling or getting you leads by giving them a cut whenever they provide such services. Websites such as Clickbank and Gumroad have become a goldmine for thousands of affiliates worldwide. Some of these affiliate marketers receive over $1 million dollars a year by selling other people’s products to their list of leads. Some affiliate marketers have hundreds of thousands of prospects waiting to be marketed to. A VP of growth at a public company worth over $100 billion once suggested that I look seriously at affiliate marketing since it holds such good rewards and is a crash course on marketing online. James Idayi is also an expert in the field.

3. Business development
This is almost like sales BUT with one key distinction: the primary focus is to exchange value through partnerships, whereas most sales focuses primarily on exchanging legal tender (dollars or cedis etc) for a product or service.
Sales is focused on selling to the customer, whereas BD is partnering to reach customers in a way that is mutually beneficial.
Google used BD early on to gain traction. They did this by partnering with Netscape to be the default search engine in the browser and also with Yahoo by powering their searches.

Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting CustomersThe book deserves 4 out of 5 stars for focusing on the reason most people will pick it up. There is less than 10% of fluff in my opinion and it reads more like a textbook than a business or marketing book. If your goal is to learn how to market in this digital age or if you desire to work in sales, BD, marketing or growth at a startup, this is a must read.
You can get it Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customershere.
Have you already read Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting CustomersTraction? Do you recommend any other books on marketing for startups in this digital age?

The Man From Zara book review: An entrepreneur’s perspective


The Man from Zara: The Story of the Genius Behind the Inditex GroupThe man from Zara by Covadonga O’shea

I promised to share a book review often, especially from the perspective of an entrepreneur. This week I will share what I got from The Man From Zara. This is the story of Zara and how the world’s most successful fashion retailer was born. I usually look out for topics such value creation, marketing, sales, culture and innovation. My notes are usually written as TO-DO’s. You can get the bookThe Man from Zara: The Story of the Genius Behind the Inditex Group here!

Zara is the world’s most successful fashion retailer and Amancio Ortega has done an awesome job of building one of the strongest brands in the world. What I appreciated most about the book is Ortega’s focus on producing beautifully designed clothes at affordable rates. I also found it interesting that he has dominated the world in fashion retail without having to learn to speak English or move his headquarters to any of the world’s fashion capitals.

What made Zara successful?

      Investing in the latest trends


        A quick turn around on production: Stock turnover twice a week


          Create a limited supply


            Excellent location of shops


              Focus on the customer


                Extremely careful merchandising


                  Good quality clothing


                    Exquisite customer service


                      Effective logistics and distribution


                      Learning from their mistakes

                    The book is not as deep into the story of Amancio Ortega or Zara as it could have been. You may end up skipping some paragraphs as the author talks about her experiences. However to her credit, Covadonga O’Shea seems to be very observant and this shows in her monologues.

                    My notes according to the book
                    Zara believes in studying human behavior and trends. Their speed and efficiency is novel.
                    Bringing well-made clothing within the reach of a large proportion of the population has worked well for Zara.
                    In what fields can I be an expert? Amancio Ortega is an expert at fashion merchandising.

                    What am I a force of nature at?

                    Zara targets middle class women and that’s 78% of their income.

                    Pull and Bear is owned by Zara and that brand is supplying casual clothing to under young people under 25 years old.
                    Massimo Dutti; another Zara owned brand targets customers of both sexes in the medium to high income bracket
                    Berskha’ another Zara owned brand for disco frequenting teens

                    Fun fact: For years Ortega refused to take pictures, even with the author of the book because he prefers a quiet life. He did not want to be the billionaire who cannot walk down the street because everyone knows him.

                    One of Zara’s strengths comes from their vertical integration. This plays out in textiles, fabrication, logistics, marketing, construction, real estate, finance and power generation.

                    Gap and H&M are competitors who design and sell but do not manufacture unlike Zara.
                    Benetton designs and manufactures but sells through franchisees.
                    Ortega leases some stores.
                    Four points to note : flexibility of supply , instant absorption of market demand, response speed and technological innovation.

                    Zara’s marketing genius is that their strategy has re-educated a customer who was used to buying late to adapting to a climate of scarcity and opportunity. Zara shops are stocked twice a week in Europe so the fear of missing out works in Zara’s favor.

                    One of Zara’s greatest innovations is actually an immense benefit for the customer. The status quo was two collections a year. Ortega did as many as he could for the customer.
                    Decisions are made by those closest to the customer and Ortega picks which strategy works best.
                    Cutting was done in the factory and given to workshops or women in flats who work on individual parts of the outfit.

                    The Man from Zara


                    The book talks about Castellano’ Ortega’s former right hand man. Ortega has deep insight in commercial, product, merchandising and retail ideas. Castellano was a genius at the financial and corporate side of the business. This strengthened my belief that most entrepreneurs need to partner with someone who is well versed in corporate, sales and financial matters if they themselves are not.
                    Focus on the business. Focus on excellence in standards. Have ambitious goals greater than everyone else.
                    Fun Fact: Ortega is a giver and the book professes that he is a Christian

                    You always mess up the competition when you give the market what they need.

                    China, Korea, Singapore,Vietnam, Boston,Washington,Chicago, San Francisco were the places he was interested in at least partially
                    Eastern European women like clothes more than anything. Slavic women like to show off. What’s the mentality of my target?
                    Combined manufacturing, the shop, logistics and design



                    The book does not flow as seamlessly as I would have liked it to and there could have been more insights into how exactly they market the brand. It’s a good book and I would give it 3 out of 5 stars.

                    P.S Here are some Advanced strategies for growing a business.
                    Special thanks to @mradjaye for giving me this book.

                    The Method I Use To Read A 300 Page Book in 2 Hours Without Speed Reading.

                    Reading a 300 page book in 2 hours

                    Yes. I can teach you how to read a 300 page book in only 2 hours without speed reading.
                    Yes. You can do this with ebooks as well.

                    An old buddy reminded me to share my insights on how to read a 300 page book in 2 hours or less using strategic reading methods. I was taught these principles a few years ago and it has greatly improved many parts of my business. Thanks to a gentleman called Tommy Offe. I have also personally shared these methods with people of varying ages and even languages on 3 continents. Thanks to John Mark Gladstone Jr for reminding me to share these. I also recorded a voicenote for him that I will share here. Click this link for the voicenote.

                    Below is the simple template that I and many others use. It is based largely on Inspectional reading. I will go into more depth on this in a later post but you can check out Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book)How To Read A Book. It will give you a primer on some reading methods.


                    Strategic and Value Driven Reading Template

                    Name of Book/Article/Blog:

                    1. Purpose/Goal
                    Why are you reading this book/blog/article? What can you use this information for? (Please list your reasons)

                    Eg. I am reading this book gain insights on sales and marketing ideas I can use for my business.
                    2. Quantitative goal

                    Eg.i am going to retrieve 80% of this book in 2 hours.

                    Please tick off each section below as you complete them

                    2. Copyright Date
                    3. Number of Pages
                    4. Look at the Cover and Back of the book
                    5. Conclusion and Introductory paragraphs
                    6. Content page/Table of Contents
                    7. Headings, Sub Headings, Pictures, Tables, Equations, Charts
                    8. Trigger Words/Index -Look through the index and curate between 20 to 30 of the most frequent and important words throughout this document.
                    9. Summary-What is the writer’s main argument? In your own words, why did the author write this book?


                    10. 10 Points of interest
                    Read the 10 interests that fit your purpose based on Number 6 in the Preview.(These pages have to be of interest to you)


                    Extra:To Do

                    What can I do with this information? How can i apply this information to my life? What are the principles? What are the examples that I can improve upon?


                    I always write down my To-Do’s because you are only wise if you use the knowledge you have acquired. Just having a lot of information is not very useful.

                    I will explain in later posts, other details that will help you read at least 5 times faster than you currently do and still comprehend what you just read.

                    Did you find this useful?

                    Please comment below.


                    An Entrepreneur’s book review of :Made In America-Sam Walton part 1


                    I tend to read books for lessons that will improve my business or the business of someone else’s. This focus primes my mind to look out for the parts of a book that are of value to an entrepreneur. I don’t really care for the fluff and many of the personal opinions of the writer. I will be sharing book reviews every week starting from today and I promise to only share the parts that will be of value to an entrepreneur who wants to grow his or her business. First book will be Sam Walton’s Made In America. In a latter post I will teach you how to read a 300 page book in 2 hours and how to take effective notes.

                    A little while ago I met an entrepreneur who was not embarrassed to say he did not know what was working for his competitors. He did not even know what their prices were. I am still cringing. He obviously has never read Sam Walton’s Made in America. One of my favorite quotes from the book is
                    “Check everyone who is our competition. And don’t look for the bad. Look for the good. If you get one good idea, that’s one more than you went into the store with, and we must try to incorporate it into our company. We’re really not concerned with what they’re doing wrong, we’re concerned with what they’re doing right, and everyone is doing something right.”


                    The foundation for Walmart’s success comes in 3 parts. They are
                    1. A Retail concept that works +
                    2. A professional management team +
                    3. Systems that support growth.

                    Here are some of the insights I got from the book. Some of them are direct quotes and most of them will help most retail entrepreneurs.

                    1. Hire people you can live with not just managers.
                    If a man can manage his own finances by saving, he can manage a store.
                    Have promotions of a lot of items at one time but discounted in store or in front.
                    Have a greeter outside.—Having a greeter outside curbed theft and also improves the customer’s perception of the brand.

                    Samples: giving samples is a way to get customers into your store or introduced to your product or service.

                    Merchandise driven people are always looking for how to promote something. Operations people are good at reducing expenses and improve efficiency. You need both people in a retail business especially at scale.

                    2. On buying trips, expenses should never exceed 1% of purchases. This was Walmart rule at the time.
                    His one true passion is what he studied all the time and that was discounting: Develop your passions till you can be the best at what you love.
                    Encourage happiness by taking care of customers, taking care of the stores and taking care of the store staff so their happiness will make an impression on customers.

                    3. Goal Setting: Set goals and pay the price it takes to get there.
                    Figure out your pricing and study how to have effective distribution.

                    4. Networking: Sam Walton joined an association for retailers and this led to him learning about computers and how to use them in retail. This later gave Walmart an edge that many of their competition have yet to recover from. It’s important to join an association of like minded people who are as ambitious as you are.

                    5. Personal education: Enroll in classes that advance technology or innovation in your field.
                    Copy and Improve: Take the best out of everything and adapt it to your own needs.

                    Make employees question their decisions before giving them money so they think harder about what they use money for.

                    6. Own a majority share of the business and give equity to managers and others.
                    Walmart saw that a lot of business would come from small towns. He saw that in many States, most people moved from the suburb to the cities and ended up commuting from the cities to the suburbs to work.

                    Dominate a lot of little tribes of people or towns or schools or places that people don’t respect and you’ll have a lot of small stakeholders. Small groups or the unloved respond very well to attention

                    Merchandising, finance and distribution are important areas in retail.

                    7.Put stores in places where tourists visit before you move to where tourists live.
                    See which way the population is growing and put the store in the way.
                    Stores on the outskirts of cities were a day’s drive from the warehouse.
                    Study development patterns because it will inform your decisions on where to place stores.

                    Have you read Made In America? What were your thoughts?

                    Important questions that could lead to answers for any entrepreneur

                    bill swad growingstartup business growth for startups

                    Answers come to those who ask the right questions.

                    Bill Swad Sr asked the following questions in his book, You Can Do It, TOO!” target=”_blank”>You Can Do It Too and I find they apply to young business owners as well. Please write down your answers as you read.
                    1. What do you plan to be doing ten years from today?

                    2. What would you do with the rest of your life if you suddenly inherited $1 million?

                    3. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

                    4. What is the number one goal for your business and professional life?

                    5. What is the number one personal goal for your future?

                    6. If you could add one new positive habit, what would it be?

                    7. What are the three most important goals you have for your family?

                    8. If you had to list your two most important self- improvement goals, what would they be?

                    9. How would you spend the next six months if the doctor told you that was all you have to live?

                    10. What do you consider the most important spiritual objective of your life?

                    Any other questions you think could be added or taken out of this list?
                    Which of these was your favorite question?

                    Get the book You Can Do It, TOO!