Book Review: The Zigzag Principle by Rich Christiansen

I read this book as part of the 12 Books online book group during the month of May 2012. I admit that when I first read the title I was a little confused. I love anything to do with entrepreneurship despite my rather poor track record thus far. The reason I was so excited to read this book is because the author has just an established track record in starting successful companies. Rich has launched over 30 companies with less than $10K in capital and among those over 10 went on to be BIG successes.

The book is really about helping entrepreneurs understand that the best way to get somewhere isn't always a straight line. In my reading, this major concept took a little while to sink in but as I moved from chapter to chapter I really discovered that the material is designed to give an entrepreneur a new type of road map that allows one to chart a course that is most likely going to lead to success.

The three main zigs and zags were critical components that talk about things that most of us understand are critical to success. Getting to profitability quickly, failing efficiently, adding resources, scaling the business, setting goals, and motivating a team. Most students of business are already familiar with these necessities but having them as part of an effective road map is the key to getting off the ground.

As I reflect on my reading of the book I feel like there were a few golden nuggets that will really stick out to me as I move forward in my career.

First, as elementary as it sounds, I think a key insight for me was the need to get to profitability before scaling the business. All too often I think people (myself included) are too eager to make the business big before we discover the key system that generates profits on a consistent basis. The Zigzag Principle taught me that you always focus first on a profitable and dependable model before you invest in scaling the business.

Second, Rich's insights about living a life of balance were really compelling. I have fallen victim one too many times to the attitude of “just this one big project” and I'll be able to spend more time with the family (or insert other life goal). There will always be one more project, trial, or other issue. As individuals we have to determine what our real goals are and create “guardrails” that keep us on our path and within our boundaries in business and every other aspect of life.

A great read and a great experience with the author as part of the book group. If you are reading this before March 25, I would invite you to join me in a live Q&A with the author.

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