Book Summary: How to Grow Your Small Business, a six-step plan to help your business take off by Donald Miller

Donald Miller, the author of Building a StoryBrand and Business Made Simple, has launched a new book  — How to Grow Your Small Business, a six-step plan to help your business take off.

Similar to Business Made Simple, Donald Miller's newest book is structured as DYI, step-by-step guide to grow your business using a six-step plan.

How to grow your small business

The aim of How to Grow Your Small Business (available on Amazon) is to help business owners overcome the big challenges in their business.

  • Your business is incredibly dependent upon the founder. 
  • Small teams of 2-5, everyone wears many hats. This is normal for a small business, but it can take its toll on everyone and cause burnout. 
  • Nobody on the team has clear job descriptions 
  • Unclear what your main product, service, or offer is
  • Unclear messaging, confusing your customers about the single problem you solve and why your customers should buy your products. 
  • You might have great products, but no one knows how to sell effectively or is excited about selling. 
  • An unclear vision, with no clear drive for the future, which hurts you as being super unified as a team.
  • Crucial, most small businesses don’t have an effective way of managing cash well. 

As you can see, these challenges plague all small businesses, some might not even be aware of these issues. Your business might be thriving and growing and your profit margins are healthy. But no business is without their share of challenges. 

Does your business share some of the above weaknesses? 

This is where Donald Miller's new book can help - if you’re facing any number of the common weaknesses that plague small businesses, then this book provides a plan that could prevent or overcome the many problems you might be facing. 


How to Grow your Small Business revolves around the author's experience in growing his small business and the valuable advice he received from a mentor, Bill. Like many growing founders, Donald Miller faced various challenges, such as heavy reliance on him, unclear job roles, lack of a focused strategy, confusion about StoryBrand's primary offer, aversion to selling, unclear vision, and poor cash management. Bill's advice was to "professionalize the operation," which meant creating a well-structured and strategic approach to the business.

Donald Miller shares, he eventually discovered that there are six critical parts to every small business: leadership, marketing, sales, products, overhead and operations, and cash flow. By mastering these six parts, Donald Miller managed to grow his business from $250,000 to nearly $20 million in annual revenue.

The book emphasizes that understanding and effectively managing these six components can save businesses from making costly mistakes and help them grow successfully.

How to Grow Your Small Business book is equipped with an extra — Your Flight Plan

Your Business Operates like an Airplane 

  1. The Small Business Flight Plan helps optimize your business for revenue and profit by guiding you through six sections that professionalize your operation.
  2. The six critical parts of a small business are leadership, marketing, sales, products, overhead and operations, and cash flow.
  3. Comparing a business to a well-functioning airplane provides a visual standard for making better decisions and optimizing the business.
  4. The six parts of the airplane/business metaphor include: a. Cockpit (leadership) - Aligning the team around economic objectives. b. Right engine (marketing) - Clearly communicating the value offered to customers. c. Left engine (sales) - Inviting customers into a story where they are the hero using the products to solve problems. d. Wings (products) - Optimizing products for revenue and profit. e. Body (overhead) - Managing and maintaining a productive team where each member contributes to the business's growth. f. Fuel tanks (cash flow) - Managing money in a simple, easy-to-understand way that ensures positive cash flow and growth.
  5. By understanding these six frameworks, you can make better business decisions and create a successful and profitable business.

Summary of Key Takeaways of How to Grow Your Small Business

Chapter 1: Leadership. The Cockpit.

The primary job of the leader and the leadership team is to clearly define a destination and then reverse engineer a plan to get there. The second job of a leader or leadership team is to keep reminding team members about the destination and constantly make corrections to ensure a successful arrival.

  1. Create a clear and inspiring mission statement using the formula "We will accomplish X by Y because of Z." This will help align your team around specific economic objectives and deadlines.
  2. Define key characteristics that all team members must possess in order to achieve the mission. These traits will ensure you have the right people on board to reach your objectives.
  3. Identify critical actions that all team members can take to help the business achieve its financial goals. These actions should be prioritized and regularly reviewed.
  4. Improve your marketing by defining the problem your business solves and communicating it clearly to customers. Use the StoryBrand messaging Framework to create a compelling story that engages customers and positions your product as a solution to their problem.
  5. Remember that customers buy from you to solve a problem, so the more clearly you define that problem and associate your products as a solution, the more likely they are to place orders.

Donald Miller encourages businesses to follow these principles, so you can create a winning team, align your business around specific objectives, and improve your marketing to generate more revenue and growth.

Chapter 2 Marketing. The Right Engine.

Your marketing effort will focus on one clear objective: to explain what our products have to offer in such clear, simple language that everybody understands why they should buy our products and is motivated to do so.

"Sadly, most small businesses think more about how their marketing will look rather than what their marketing will say. This will never work. Why? Because the reason customers place orders is not because a brand design is attractive, it’s because they read or hear words that make them want to place orders."

How to Grow Your Small Business — (page 78)

At Creativeo we obviously have great respect for Donald Miller but we can still respectfully disagree with him. As StoryBrand Guides, we agree your copy is essential but not at the cost of poor and ugly design. You need both - the written copy and the visual storytelling. As a business in a competitive space, you need the clarity of words that will engage your audience as well as the visual elements thoughtfully designed to guide them to action. 

For example clear words on an ugly website can turn off your customers just as quick. For inspiration, check out our StoryBrand examples (copy and websites).

No need to compromise. 

key points from chapter 2:

  1. Customers buy products to solve problems. Identify the problem your product solves and discuss it in your marketing messages to increase orders.
  2. Position yourself as the guide in the customer's story, offering a solution to their problem.
  3. Offer a three-step plan to help customers move from their problem to the desired solution.
  4. Include a clear call to action in your marketing materials, asking customers to buy your product.
  5. Paint a picture of a successful outcome, showing customers what their life will look like once their problems are solved.
  6. Describe potential negative consequences if customers don't buy your product, emphasizing the stakes.

Chapter 3 - Sales. The Left Engine.

The chapter focuses on the "Customer is the Hero" sales process, which includes five key steps to improve sales conversations and drive business growth:

  1. Give the customer a step-by-step plan: Offer a simple and easy-to-understand plan to build a bridge between the customer's problem and your solution, making them more likely to take action.
  2. Create a sense of urgency by painting the stakes: Clearly communicate the potential gains and losses for the customer if they decide to buy or not buy your product or service, increasing the urgency to make a decision.
  3. Invite customers to place an order: Overcome the discomfort of asking for a sale by memorizing a strong call-to-action and using it confidently during sales conversations.
  4. Use the "Customer is the Hero" sales framework for sales letters, emails, and other collateral: This approach helps create effective and engaging sales materials that resonate with customers and lead to more sales.
  5. Analyze and optimize your product offering for revenue and profit: Focus on understanding which products and services contribute most to your revenue and profit, and optimize your offerings accordingly to make it easier for your sales and marketing efforts to succeed.

By implementing these steps, businesses can create a more effective sales strategy that puts customers at the center of the narrative, leading to higher sales conversion rates and business growth.

Chapter 4 - Products “The Wings”

The chapter on products emphasizes the importance of analyzing and optimizing your product offering to improve your small business's profitability. The key points from this chapter:

  1. Many small businesses have a "garage sale mentality," selling any product or service that can make money without closely analyzing the cost of production and delivery.
  2. To grow your small business, prioritize high-profit items and understand where your profit is coming from.
  3. Perform a "Product Profitability Audit" by listing your products in order of profitability and focusing more marketing and sales effort on the most profitable items.
  4. Regularly review and update your product offering, considering factors such as demand, pricing, and potential for bundling or creating new products.
  5. Use a "Product Brief" to thoroughly evaluate the feasibility and potential profitability of new products before launching them.
  6. Avoid focusing solely on cutting overhead costs; instead, ensure that your products are in-demand, highly profitable, and well-represented in your marketing and sales efforts.
  7. Regularly revisit the Product Profitability Audit and Product Brief worksheets to keep your product offering optimized and aligned with your business's growth and profitability goals.

Chapter 5: Overhead and Operations

This chapter highlights the importance of streamlining management and productivity in small businesses to optimize labor and reduce overhead costs. Donald Miller introduces the "Management and Productivity Made Simple" playbook, which consists of five key meetings designed to improve team efficiency, focus, and overall performance. The five meetings are:

  1. All Staff Meeting: Review and reinforce the company's primary objectives, keeping morale high.
  2. Leadership Meeting: Discuss and resolve roadblocks to the primary objectives.
  3. Department Standups: Keep departments aligned and focused on the company's objectives through short daily meetings.
  4. Personal Priority Speed Check: Provide individual attention and coaching for each team member to boost productivity and job satisfaction.
  5. Quarterly Performance Reviews: Offer opportunities for feedback, coaching, and performance-based compensation adjustments.

By implementing these meetings and their corresponding templates, small businesses can significantly improve their management, productivity, and overall success.

Chapter 6: Cash Flow. The fuel.

This chapter focuses on managing your small business;’ cash flow using five checking accounts to help business owners better understand their finances and ensure their business remains financially healthy. The main takeaways from this chapter:

  1. Many small business owners are great at making money but struggle with managing it, leading to confusion about the business's financial health and potential financial issues.
  2. The small business cash flow made simple playbook suggests using five checking accounts: operating account, personal checking account, business profit account, tax account, and investment holding account.
  3. The operating account is for all revenue and expenses, while the personal checking account is for the owner's fixed salary. The business profit account serves as a safety net, the tax account ensures money is always available for taxes, and the investment holding account is for diversifying revenue through investments.
  4. Using these five accounts provides clarity and control over the business's finances, helping owners understand their financial standing, gamify the business process, ensure a safety net, prepare for taxes, and maintain a personal budget.
  5. Donald Miller recommends three ways to implement the small business flight plan: DIY, on-demand courses, or hiring a coach. This helps professionalize the business and optimize it for revenue and profit.

Worth the read?

How to grow your small busienss - by Donald Miller


There's no quick shortcut to success but with a proven framework, you can minimize the many mistakes businesses make on their path to growth. If you're serious about getting a grip on your business and leading it to profitability, the principles outlined in Donald Miller How to Grow Your Small Business can help. But be warned, you need to put in the work.

To your success!

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