Mike McFall has a lot to say about being an entrepreneur.
Most of the advice and strategies are not what you’d expect to hear from the co-founder and co-chief executive of Michigan-based Biggby Coffee, a 25-year-old, $100 million franchise with more than 250 locations in the Midwest.
McFall shares his thoughts, ideas and much more in his recently released book “Grind: A No Bullshit Approach to Take Your Business from Concept to Cash Flow.” The anecdotes, information and calls to action do exactly what the book title infers, McFall says, by providing real-world experiences in building a start-up.
Here’s a sampling of outtakes about the book from a recent conversation with McFall:
- “People will talk about market research, price points, competition, the commodity, but you never hear anyone talk about the mentality and mindset that you have to have to do the work. Being an entrepreneur is not a get-rich-quick idea. If you’re not willing to invest 7 to 10 years of your life and be the most dependable part of the business, you’re going to fail.”
- “Are you comfortable being a salesperson because 83 percent of CEOs on the Inc. 500 list were the only or primary salesperson in their business. If you’re scared of sales, if it’s not your thing, you really have to think about if this is a good idea.”
- “Being an entrepreneur is no super power. The real key is you have to understand your strategic abilities and be clear about what you don’t know, can’t do or who you need to bring in to get the job done. You can’t have an ego that you know everything.”
- “Partnerships have all the complexities of a marriage without the benefit of the hanky panky. Just like committing your life to someone, you have to make sure you’re right for each other.”
The book project has been a decade in the making for McFall as he evaluated how Biggby’s growth mirrored – or more importantly didn’t reflect – what he had read in other books about entrepreneurship. The others, McFall said, were either written from the perspective of jet-setting, ultra-successful billionaires who were looking back through rose-colored glasses or written by academics who were presenting their theories and case-studies.
“I didn’t see any who were in the middle of it,” McFall said. “I wanted to bring the practical side of starting a business with the voice of somebody who lives it day in and day out. It’s not a textbook.”
Grind tracks different situations that McFall and his co-founder/co-CEO Bob Fish encountered while building their business from a single location in Lansing. He writes about a loyal customer’s willingness to buy them outdoor furniture so that others could sit and relax, and how that gesture left an impression that helped form the company culture.
The book also tracks successes and pitfalls from both the Biggby perspective and franchisees who achieved beyond initial projections, as well as those that weren’t able to make it and why they came up short.
McFall shares how he and Fish made Biggby work by defining clear expectations and roles, and the importance of holding each other accountable while also not meddling.
Throughout Grind, McFall shares the necessity of entrepreneurs to be themselves while being aware of others. Leaders need to be brave but balance it with humility and display a willingness to understand differing perspectives.
“In 25 years, we’ve not had one knockdown, drag out battle, and that’s because we approach each other with a high degree of respect,” McFall says when talking about being a leader and a partner. “We can call each other out and do it while listening to why we feel so strongly and so passionate about something.
“If you can’t do that, maybe you shouldn’t be in business together.”
Praise for the book has come from business leaders, educators and investors, including:
- Tasha Eurich, New York Times bestselling author (Bankable Leadership & Insight): “If you have ever wondered what it might be like to open your own business, read this book. Even if you have no interest in starting a business, the insights in this book are valuable for life in general.”
- Michael Williams, Director of Entrepreneurship Activity & Director of the Business and Entrepreneurship Clinic, University of Wisconsin, Madison: “This is a must read for every new start up. Every entrepreneur needs to learn how to sell and discern good advice from bad. Mike does a great job breaking all of this down through real life examples.”
- Michael Soenen, Partner, Valor Equity Partners: “If more entrepreneurs considered this message it would be great for my business, as I would have more late stage companies to invest in.”
McFall said readers have offered great feedback and engagement since Grind’s debut in August.
“It’s been fun to listen to what others took away from it or how they got through some of their start-up positions,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur is satisfying, but it takes commitment and desire. You can’t walk in talking about an exit strategy or accumulating wealth. It has to be about being the best at what you do and giving everything you have. If you don’t do that, it probably won’t work.”