TinyMBA — A quick read full of profound strategic ideas

I’ve been in business since 1995. And I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. When I speak with other people who have been in business, I find that I’m not alone; we’ve all make a lot of mistakes along the way.

It’s not because I didn’t seek out advice. Heck, I asked for advice from everyone I knew, and sometimes that advice was really useful. Other times, the advice was … well, let’s just say that it was less than useful. For example, when I was just starting up, someone told me to never say “no,” no matter what a client was asking me to do. This was probably the worst advice I have ever gotten, but it took many years to realize just how profoundly wrong it was.

Some of the advice I got was excellent, but tactical: Here’s how to submit a proposal. Here’s how you should approach a meeting. Here’s how to invoice your clients. All of this was interesting and useful, but it wasn’t enough.

What really changed my business, and my life, for the better was strategic advice. Such advice doesn’t pay off right away, but it does pay off over the long term — and I’m living proof of it. Strategic thinking means considering what you do, what sorts of clients you want to attract, and how you present yourself to them. It means thinking about the types of products and services that you can offer, making sure that they align with market needs, and then making sure that potential clients find you are are delighted to pay you to service those needs.

It’s still somewhat humbling and amazing to find myself e-mailing with the training managers at Fortune 100 companies, filling my schedule with courses many months in advance. But I credit it all to a change in my strategic thinking.

Alex Hillman is well known not just for his own successful businesses, but for helping many other people to create and sustain successful businesses. In his new e-book, “The Tiny MBA,” Hillman gives you tons of useful strategic advice for building your business. Each of these nuggets of wisdom is written in one or two sentences, making the book a very quick read.

Anyone who knows about Hillman and his products won’t be surprised to hear that he tells you to look for customers rather than investors, that the feast/famine cycle an indication of problems in your business, rather than inevitable, and that you should look in the mirror when trying to figure out why all of your clients are cheapskates and difficult to deal with. At the end of the book, he gives advice that is counter to everything we hear from Silicon Valley and investors: It’s OK to own and run a profitable business for a long time. You don’t need to sell. You don’t need to go public. It’s not a shame to do this — on the contrary, it’s something to enjoy and be proud of.

He says things that seem so obvious to me now, at the age of 50 and after having run a business for a while, which I would have thought were bonkers way-back-when. For example, I’m a programmer, and have thus come to believe that the more I can automate my business, the better. And indeed, I have automated many processes in my business, and I’ve benefited as a result. But when you’re releasing a new product, or you’re trying something new, it’s just not worth investing the time to automate everything. First do things manually, a process that he calls “Flintstoning,” referencing an article by his business partner (and powerhouse writer) Amy Hoy.

And his pricing advice? Completely spot on. Pricing products and services based on your personal budget and willingness to spend is as foolish as it is common. As he writes, “Odds are that you will underprice yourself because you set prices based on what you would pay, not what they already spend.” As someone who provides corporate training services, I know that what I charge is par for the course at big companies — but far beyond what most individuals would spend.

But of course, there’s a reason for that. As Hillman writes later on, “They aren’t buying your time so much as they are buying back their own time, which again, they perceive as finite and valuable.” When people hire me to teach Python to their engineers, they’re not hiring me by the hour. Rather, they’re making their engineers more efficient — something that is very much worth a five-figure investment.

Just about everything I read in the book seems obvious to me now, but was far from obvious to me years ago. If you’re starting a business, then you would be wise to follow this advice, or at least have a plan in place to follow it — and the sooner, the better. In many cases, Hillman points you to articles and references that explain topics in greater detail; I would have liked to see more of these, but perhaps the point of “The Tiny MBA” was to distill things down to the minimum, not to give you a semester-long reading list. That said, a longer list of articles and resources would have been welcome.

My biggest concern about this book is that the people who need to read it — people in the early stages of running their own business — will not appreciate the truth or depth of the short statements Hillman makes on every page of the book. They’ll second guess what he writes, or will think that these ideas are applicable only to someone who is already successful, not to someone who is only starting out. It’s also so easy to get sucked into the seemingly glamorous world of VCs, startups, and “growth hacking,” when it’s both satisfying and profitable to have a small business that makes money by doing things that help others.

The Tiny MBA” is indeed short, but its message and ideas pack a wallop. Read it, enjoy it, and take its advice to heart. And if you’re only starting your business, know that many of us took years to figure out the truth in what Hillman writes here.

Last chance to get $1400 of Python courses for $25

Only a few hours remain before the massive Humble Bundle for Python courses + PyCharm closes its doors! No matter where you are in learning Python, you’ll find something here to improve your skills.

I’m offering three courses in this bundle, one in each of the three “tiers”:

  • Tier 1: Comprehending Comprehensions
  • Tier 2: Object-oriented Python (+ Tier 1)
  • Tier 3: Any one cohort of Weekly Python Exercise (+ Tier 2)

There are also courses from Talk Python (Michael Kennedy), Real Python (Dan Bader), Julian Sequeira + Bob Belderbos), Matt Harrison, and Python Morsels (Trey Hunner), among others.

Part of the proceeds go to the Python Software Foundation and Race Forward. So you’re not only getting a great deal for yourself, but you’re supporting organizations that promote Python and work to eradicate racism.

This deal will end in just a few hours. So head over to https://www.humblebundle.com/software/python-programming-software before it does, and get some great training at an amazing price!

There’s still time to get amazing Python course deals via Humble Bundle

Humble Bundle for Python

If you haven’t yet taken advantage of the massive Humble Bundle for Python courses + PyCharm, you only have a few days left to do so before it ends! Whether you’re just starting out with Python or are an old hand looking to learn some new skills, you’ll find something here.

I’m offering three courses in this bundle, one in each of the three “tiers”:

  • Tier 1: Comprehending Comprehensions
  • Tier 2: Object-oriented Python (+ Tier 1)
  • Tier 3: Any one cohort of Weekly Python Exercise (+ Tier 2)

There are also courses from Talk Python (Michael Kennedy), Real Python (Dan Bader), Julian Sequeira + Bob Belderbos), Matt Harrison, and Python Morsels (Trey Hunner), among others.

Oh, and part of the proceeds go to the Python Software Foundation and Race Forward. So you’re not only getting a great deal for yourself, but you’re supporting organizations that promote Python and work to eradicate racism.

This sort of deal doesn’t come along very often, and it’s ending in less than one week. So head over to https://www.humblebundle.com/software/python-programming-software before it does, and get some great training at an amazing price!

“Python Workout” is available in print!

If you’re like a lot of people, you’re able to get things done in Python, thanks to a combination of intuition, searching on Stack Overflow, and messing around. But you don’t feel fluent with the language, in that you’re always wondering just why things work the way they do.

The way to overcome this is practice. Lots of practice.

My book, “Python Workout,” is all about learning through such practice. In 50 exercises (and another 150 extensions to these exercises), you improve your Python skills, one exercise at a time.

Reuven Lerner holds a printed copy of "Python Workout"

And as of earlier this week, “Python Workout” is now available in print, as well as online. It has tons of features — from walkthroughs on the “Python Tutor” site to screencasts of me solving the exercises — to help improve your fluency and understanding when programming in Python.

Check out Python Workout, at https://PythonWorkout.com/!

Level up your Python skills with a supercharged Humble Bundle!

Want to improve your Python skills?

Yeah, I know. Of course you do.

Well, then you should grab an amazing deal from Humble Bundle, with content from a bunch of online Python trainers — including me!

Buying the bundle not only gives you access to some amazing Python training at a great price. It also supports the Python Software Foundation (which handles the administrative side of the Python language and ecosystem) and Race Forward (which works to improve race relations in the US).

There are three tiers to the bundle, and I have a course in each one:

  1. Comprehending Comprehensions
  2. Object-oriented Python
  3. Any one cohort of Weekly Python Exercise

Included in the bundles are also courses and books from Michael Kennedy, Trey Hunner, Matt Harrison, PyBites (Bob and Julian), Real Python (Dan Bader), and Cory Althoff. Plus it includes a subscription to the PyCharm editor.

So don’t delay! Sign up for this Humble Bundle, improve your Python, help two good causes, and save some money. But it’s only available for another 20 days, so don’t delay!

Sign up here: https://www.humblebundle.com/software/python-programming-software

Reminder: Python for non-programmers continues tomorrow!

We’re still going with my live, weekly (free) “Python for non-programmers” course. Our next meeting is tomorrow (June 5th) at 10 a.m. Eastern.

You can join at https://PythonForNonProgrammers.com/ .

If you haven’t yet signed up, it’s not too late! Anyone who signs up gets access to all previous videos, and to our private forum with discussion and homework assignments.

Many participants have previously tried to learn programming, and have come away frustrated… but they’re learning from this course, and enjoying it, too!

So join me (and 1,800 others) in this free, live class, at https://PythonForNonProgrammers.com/ !

“Python Workout” is Manning’s Deal of the Day!

Good news: My book, “Python Workout,” is almost done; I’m working on the videos and final edits, and it’ll soon be available in its final form from Manning, both online and in print.

Better news: “Python Workout” is today’s “Deal of the Day,” along with two other Python books: “Data Science Bookcamp” and “Practices of the Python Pro.”

That means that for today (May 25th) only, you can get 50% off any of these books.

If you want to improve your Python skills, then you should definitely take a look at this books — and save some money, if you buy them in the coming 24 hours.

Just go to https://www.manning.com/dotd to learn more and get these books at half off.

Understanding bitwise operations in Python

Have you ever wondered about bitwise operations in Python? They’re not that common nowadays, but they are still in the language, and can be useful in some cases.

A subscriber to my “Better developers” newsletter asked me to explain these. I made a video doing so:

Here’s the Jupyter notebook I used in creating the video, which you can download and use yourself:

If you have Python questions, then send them to me at reuven@lerner.co.il, or on Twitter as @reuvenmlerner. I’ll try to answer them, here or in my newsletter.

Today’s lesson in “Python for non-programmers”: Dictionaries

My free, weekly “Python for non-programmers” course continues!

Our topic for today: Dictionaries, the most important data structure in Python.

If you’ve always wanted to program, then it’s still not to late to join us. The course is completely free of charge, and gives you free access to the course recordings (including previous lessons), forever — as well as to our private forum.

Join me at https://PythonForNonProgrammers.com/!

Questions or comments? Contact me at reuven@lerner.co.il, or on Twitter as @reuvenmlerner.

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