#51/111: Predictable Success

What is it about?

What are the ingredients for a successful business? Les McKown thinks money, people and structure. You can see a illustration of his business cycle theory below. On the x-axis is time and on the y-axis success.

(Picture from Les McKown’s Blog)

What can I learn?

Whitewater: While you are growing things get more complex. Your company slows down. To get to the next stage you have to introduce some processes and structure to manage your company.

Predictable Success: In this stage there is a equilibrium between entrepreneurial zeal and structure. This is the ideal state and theoretically you can be in this stage forever. An important key attribute in this stage is ownership and self-accountability, i.e. your employees are accountable for results. You focus on people instead on processes.

Treadmill: Your company gets into this stage if processes take over risk taking and entrepreneurial zeal. Processes become more important than people and individual gaols. To get back to predictable success you have to cultivate personal development. Focus on results rather than on compliances.


At the beginning, Les McKeown writes that he became an accountant and learned that financing are is the most important factor for a company. I was really disturbed and though: That’s why accountants don’t start companies. However, later he revised his answer. In Predictable Success, McKeown describes each stage thoughtfully and with examples. It’s a real pleasure to read this book because he tells a lot of his own experiences as a business owner and consultant. A clear recommendation for everyone who want to know how to a company transforms over time and how to achieve predictable success.

#50/111: Don’t Make Me Think

What is it about?

Steve Krug writes about Web Usability, i.e. how can you make it easier for your audience to use your website/web application. He shows how to conduct simple usability tests, how to fix major problems and how people actually use websites.

Key points?

Create self-explanatory websites: Most people don’t read, they scan and try to muddle through your site. Your first goal should be to design your site so that most people can use it intuitively and safely.

Use visual hierarchy: A simple example is a blog post. There is a headline, which is big, some sub headlines, which stands out of the normal text and of course the normal text. This allows your readers to recognize which information is more important.

Conduct simple usability tests: You don’t have to invest $50k to do usability testing. Steve Krug recommends to start with about three people every month. It’s important to record every session, you can use tools like Camtasia for this. But what should you test? Give people assignments to do something, e.g. add a new customer and let them muddle through. You could also ask them what they want to do and why.


Don’t Make Me Think uses his own recommendations which is pretty great. Steve Krug uses lots of examples and shows how real websites could be improved. The book is pretty basic. However, you will receive the most insights from testing your product. Nice book!

How to create advertising that sells (by David Ogilvy)

Read: How to create advertising that sells

What can I learn?

Make your product great and beautiful: A great product allows you to promise great benefits which the product can actually deliver. In addition, your product should look beautiful. Man is a visual animal. If you product looks awful, they conclude that you product is awful.

Sell in the headline and caption: The most people scan pages. They see the headlines and captions. Don’t miss these opportunities to sell your product.

Use news: Often marketers neglect this opportunity (however bloggers often get it). How can you react to topical news? Imagine that there is big news on digital data theft. Depending on what you are selling, you could write an article about preventing data theft, release an ad that your servers are more secure or, if you have deeper knowledge, giving interviews to journalist.


This is a pretty remarkable ad. Firstly, Ogilvy & Mather understood in den 70ies that you can increase your sales if you give away valuable information. Secondly, the last paragraph is brilliant. They show you their 38 principles of successful advertising but say:

Ogilvy & Mather has developed a separate and specialized body of knowledge on what makes for success in advertising food products, tourist destinations, proprietary medicines, children’s product – and other classifications.

That is, you can tackle the problem on your own or hire experts who are specialized into these sectors and who can afford to give away valuable information for free.

(via 1,900 word ad “How to create advertising that sells” written by David Ogilvy)

#49/111: How to Write & Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit

What is it about?

Writing a novel and becoming a full-time author is a dream of lots of people. But it is really hard. How about writing a how-to book? Robert W. Bly shows how to write how-to texts and how to market and sell them.

What can I learn?

Research your topic: Before writing your article, blog post or booklet, you should research your topic. You can conduct interviews or read books about this topic. Though, the best thing is to actually do it by yourself. If you want to write an article about fishing, go fishing. If you want to write an article about online marketing, do some online marketing.

Clarity, Concise, Compelling: These are the main guidelines for writing good how-to content. That is, you should write as few words as possible and use a clear structure (headlines, sub headlines, etc.). Furthermore, your content should be easy to read, i.e. no unusual words or too much jargon. Lastly, use examples to give your articles more life.

Break your content down to steps: The last thing to remember is breaking your instruction down to several steps. It’s easier to follow for your readers and supports the structure. In addition, people like lists. Think of Top 3 ways of X, Top 10 Y on twitter or How to eat healthier in three steps.


Originally I read the book because I wanted to know how to improve my writing style. Sadly, only 12 of about 220 pages explain how to write better. The rest is about various formats (books, booklets, articles, etc.) for your content and its marketing. Though, if you want to make money with writing how-to texts this is a great book for you.