Book Review: You Call the Shots

“Entrepreneurship is more than a type of career; its a way of life.” and Cameron believes that “…anyone can do it. It’s never too early to start a successful business – and it’s never too late, either.”

Cameron Johnson is a prodigious kid that have started 12 successful business before he turned 21. He has served as a business consultant to large companies and even as economic advisor to the current government administration. In his book, You Call the Shots: Succeed Your Way– And Live the Life You Want– With the 19 Essential Secrets of Entrepreneurship he shares how he has succeeded and gives tips on how everyone can succeed on their own business and their own lives. I am quoting him on the highlights of his book, but for the whole story and ideas you should buy the book and read yourself (if you do not mind a sometimes egocentric way of writing that is so typical of auto-biographies).

Cameron believes that people who start a business should stay within their limits, just as people should run their lives within their means. He doesn’t believe in taking huge loans, and avoids loosing control in exchange of venture capital. He believes that a valuable skill of the entrepreneur is to value money and resources. He doesn’t believe in spending money in non-effective advertisement () or in unnecessary luxuries like plus offices or lots of T&E expenses. Many of the business he has started have been with close to zero budget. He does, however, strongly believes in “reinvesting a substantial portion of the profits into the growing business”.

“The Internet boom isn’t over. Far from it. In fact, I think it’s just begun.” Most of Cameron’s enterprises have been on line ventures that he has started, got into a growing state and sold at profit. Many of his business haven’t even had an office. He has learned to manage contractors across the world to do most of the work. He has learned that “it’s not reasonable to think you can expect to master all aspects of your business.” And he has learned that knowing when to end or sell a business can be “even more significant than how I (he) started them”.

“If they don’t like you, … it doesn’t matter how much they like the product you’re selling, they won’t buy it”. He also subscribes to the “you are the brand” principle, and believes you should use try to get as much press coverage for you and for you and your business. “Nothing gives you credibility like the press”.

Important business skills you might want to brush up: on your public speaking skills, “ask(ing) for what you want” and being a great negotiator. For those skills the most important thing you have to do is “be prepared – very prepared”. If you are ever afraid of public speaking, prepare well: “If you have something valuable to tell them, they will cut you the slack you need.” Also, “…travel [is] a valuable education; … how to adapt to different customs and cultures and styles of interaction [is] every bit as important as academic learning”.

He sticks to the idea that you should start in an area that you know very well. Products or services that you understand, preferably from the potential client’s point of view. “…you don’t necessarily have to come up with a brand-new idea.” “…biggest is not always best.” “And even being the first to market with a new concept is not always best.” He also thinks you must be passionate about what you are going to do. “I’m always genuinely fascinated to know why people wouldn’t want what I am selling”. Exceptional customer service is the key. “…figure out what your customer needs and wants, and then provide that in the form of a great product, at a great price, with great customer service. The only way anyone can take it away from us is to match our price and offer better service. And as long as we continually improve, they won’t be able to do either.”

Personal finance is important for him as well and he devotes an entire chapter on it: “If you take care of your money, your money will take care of you. If you don’t, it can enslave you.” He believes in stock market investment and in funding Individual Retirement Accounts as soon as you start earning income, even if you are 13 years old, because the sooner you start, the longer the money has to grow in an exponential way. He quotes David Bach: “I believe God put each one of us here to do something special. Most of us aren’t doing whatever it is we where put here to do, because we’re living paycheck to paycheck.”

Something he makes people realize is that a businessman is a salesman. But he is very good at establishing that you should not do hard-sales or go astray of ethics. “…your goal in sales is not to convince anyone that they want what you’re selling; it’s to help remove any obstacles to their getting what they already know they want.” He gained this insight from brick and mortar sales on a car dealership.

The book is good. It inspires people and makes people understand that starting a business is not rocket science. None of the business that Cameron has started are of the same caliber as the Fortune 500 companies so don’t expect the miracles of Michael Dell or Bill Gates. He is just a very smart kid that has made great use of his potential and wants everyone else to do so. I admire this kind of people.