A good idea + a good story does not = a good book

I’m speeding through the book Profit First by Mike Michalowicz after I had avoided coming anywhere near this book for the past three years. Despite the fact that no less than 12 small business owners recommended it to me over that time.

All kinds of blocks stopped me from taking their advice. “I’m just a freelancer,” I would tell myself. “That sounds like a thing you need if you have employees.”

Well finally, I started it. And as soon as I saw the title for chapter 1, I saw the answer to the question, “Why have a dozen entrepreneurs recommended this book to me in three years? Why is it so popular?

I’m talking about the real answer here. You might answer the book is clear or useful or that the method works, and that’s why it’s got such great word of mouth.

Those things—clear, useful, effective—are probably all true! But, many people have written clear, useful, effective books for organizing business finances (and personal finances). And I notice people don’t pass around those other books as much.

Clear, useful, and effective are NOT the reasons people recommend Profit First so often to each other. You’ve got to have more than a good idea, and more than a good story, even, to get that kind of word of mouth.

So what is the real answer? 

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The answer is SUSPENSE.

Michalowicz doesn’t start the book with Chapter 2, the chapter wherein he explains what the Profit First method is and how he discovered and developed it.

He starts with chapter 1: “Your Business is an Out-of-Control Cash-Eating Monster.” That is literally the title of chapter 1. You know why? Because that title (and the whole chapter) causes questions to well up in the reader. Such as:

IS IT? Oh shit!

Why didn’t I know that?

I actually feel like I’m doing OK financially. I check my bank balance every day and it seems… Wait. He’s saying constantly checking your bank balance every day is useless to determining your business’s overall financial health. Oh shit!

And finally: Well, if I shouldn’t be doing that stuff, then what do I do instead??

Bingo. Checkmate. YAHTZEE.

Now, he’s gotten you to care. You really care about finding out the answers to these questions. As you roll into chapter 2, you’re reading about this method not just to ***acquire information (zzzzzz)***, but to close an open loop in your brain. To relieve yourself of the suspense of not knowing the answers.

Yes, the answers themselves have to be clear, useful, and effective. But the way they’re revealed—that’s STRUCTURE.

You can have a great idea that people need, and you can even be a good storyteller, but if you don’t structure your book in a way that makes people turn page after page, they’re aren’t going to!

If you thought suspense was only for crime novels and Dan Brown? Start thinking again.

I’m going to finish reading Profit First. Then I’m going to write a teardown of the whole book. Not a critique but a teardown. (Look it up.) Look for that soon!

-Maggie

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