Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Seven Years to Seven Figures

Seven Years to Seven Figures,
the fast-track plan to becoming a millionaire
© 2007 Michael Masterson; $24.95;
John Wyley & Sons, Hoboken NJ

Review by Steve Glines

I’ve been doing everything right so how come I’m not rich. I’m a perpetual entrepreneur, I love to write and I have a million good ideas. That’s the gist of this book. There are dozens of great rags to riches stories in this little inspirational volume. There is the guy that was a fantastic salesman who quit his job, went into the import/export business only to fail, declare bankruptcy and resurrect himself as a copywriter and is, of course, now a multi-millionaire. There is also the tireless want-a-be writer-housewife who eventually buys a mail-order copywriting course (conveniently written by the same author) and ends up a millionaire.

What is never mentioned is the luck, blind ability to sell anything and friends with lots of cash that always accompanies the successful stories. There are people who can sell sand to the Saudis or ice to the Eskimos. Occasionally those people fail for one reason or another but if they do they pick themselves up and sell something else. There is such a thing as a natural talent in sales just as there is such a thing as a natural talent in sports, writing and every other occupation. It’s not news that a natural salesman succeeds nor is it news when someone succeeds by being in the right place at the right time. As Woody Allen once said, “90% of life is just showing up.”

An acquaintance of mine was a computer salesman in the early 1980’s. There were lots of small computer companies around then most of which went broke. He had been working for one small computer company that was faltering so he looked for another, similar job. As luck would have it the only job that was offered to him was as the second salesman for a startup that went on to become the third largest computer manufacturer, a name brand and a darling on Wall St. He retired when his sales commissions exceeded $10 million dollars and the company decided that the customers should be house accounts. We all wish we were that lucky but most of us are not.

Most entrepreneurs fail, not because they don’t have a good idea, not because they aren’t willing to work hard enough but usually because it takes longer to sell whatever it is that they are selling than they thought or the items cost more to manufacturer, store, support and ship then they thought. You never see these stories in the “jack-em-up-and-gloss-em-over” style of success books. Success is more often than not a combination of persistence and luck.

I went to a lecture by the founder of a large supermarket chain. He was honest enough to admit that luck played an enormous part in his success. His first venture was a produce stand, which quickly went broke. His second venture was in a small “mom and pop” grocery store. It too went broke. Then he launched his mega-chain supermarket by accident. Someone in the audience asked what was the difference between venture #2 and the successful one was. His answer surprised everyone. He said he got so far in debt that his bank and his suppliers couldn’t afford to let him go broke and that as long as he kept opening up new stores both his bank and his suppliers thought, hoped, wished for his success. Eventually he was successful but he admitted that his suppliers and his bank were foolish to give him the credit and that his experience taught both his suppliers and his bank never to do that again. He was very lucky, and very rich.

I will confess that reading “Seven Years to Seven Figures” got me excited. After all most of the success stories were build around copywriting, which is what I do. Of course, to become a better copywriter I need to subscribe to a be-a-better-copywriter website which, how convenient, also happens to be owned by the author. The more I read the more I realized that this is one large advertisement for books, courses and counseling by Michael Masterson and his colleagues.

Much of the advice is useful though obvious while other advice interesting but “easier said than done.” For example in a chapter about becoming an expert the author lists how to become an expert:

1. Narrow down your field of expertise
2. Master your subject
3. Promote yourself

How you promote yourself is equally simple:
1. Develop your own newsletter
2. Get articles published in trade journals
3. Get invited to shows and seminars
4. Write books
5. Take advantage of Public Relations

There is nothing in this book I can argue with. All of the advice offered, the tips, tricks and techniques are all right on. The stories offered are insightful and inspirational and the fact that I’m a baby boomer without a retirement plan or income was not lost on this thick skull. What is missing, however, is the fact that for every 10 great ideas that should succeed, and would under the right circumstances nine will fail. If you have the tenacity to survive nine or more successive failures then there is hope and if you are one of them you don’t need this book.

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