Gary Vaynerchuk’s first business book, Crush It!, can be summed up simply: find something you are passionate about and work very hard at doing it superbly.
Like Gary himself, the book is always energetic, frequently personal, and occasionally bombastic. With a writing style that mirrors his style in online videos, the book proceeds at often breakneck pace. Unlike many business books today, it does not feel overly long and windy. Whereas many authors come up with a great idea for a feature magazine article and then need to come up with enough words to make it a written work that is “long enough” to be a book, Gary and his publisher were fine with putting out something that was thin and to the point.
The brevity leaves the reader wanting more. This is certainly better than wishing the book would just end, but at the same time some of the sections are almost impossibly thin. Gary has great passion and ideas, but Crush It! is long on motivation and short on practical guidance.
The Wine Library’s success was not the result of social media
Many who have heard the story of Gary Vaynerchuk assume that his video blog has driven the amazing growth of his retail store in New Jersey, The Wine Library. I have heard social media experts link the Wine Library TV web effort to this expansion.
However, Gary notes that he grew his family’s liquor business at a phenomenal rate before he got involved with his online TV show, going from four million dollars a year to fifty million dollars a year between 1998 and 2005. “Aside from a ton of hard work, it took millions of dollars in advertising with the New York Times, Wine Spectator, and other publications as well as radio stations and local TV,” he writes.
So as powerful as social media can be – and often cost-effective – substantial growth frequently comes at a not insignificant expense using a variety of media.
There are no shortcuts to success.
Web video is not the be-all, end-all
Gary emphasizes the need to choose the right medium for your message: “Adding video or audio elements just for the sake of adding them isn’t going to send your brand and business to the moon. The only way these tools work is if you’re using them for the right job.”
That’s an important takeaway for anyone reading Crush It! because many who look at Gary’s success assume they need to use video to match his accomplishments.
Trust Instinct Over Analytics?
With all the good advice he offers, Gary does provide one suggestion that I would strongly refute:
I use analytics very rarely and I urge you not to rely too much on them either, especially if you’ve got good business instincts. A lot of times the stats and percentages related to my business just don’t support what my instinct says is true, and I’ll trust my instincts over numbers every time.
I have several beefs with this notion:
1. Telling novice entrepreneurs to trust their gut over data is sort of like a master chef telling a first-time cook to ignore the recipe. Years of experience provide a reservoir of knowledge that one can use to feed instinct.
2. Ultimately the data should back up your instincts, no matter how good your gut feel may be. If the data doesn’t jive with your instinct, you are ether using the wrong metrics or your instinct is wrong. When the two don’t match, it should make a smart entrepreneur question why and then work to figure it out so the right data or instinct can be applied in the future.
The example that Gary uses to back up his assertion on instinct vs. analytics helps prove my points. He suggests that even if your web stats show that only 7 people visited your blog in the past two months, you should keep at it because a producer for NBC’s Today Show might be one of those readers. “There’s no reason to think that can’t happen,” Gary says.
Well, sure, that’s possible. And many people do give up their online media efforts too quickly – it does take time to build up a meaningful audience. And I preach all the time about the quality of audience vs. the number of raw eyeballs. But if two years pass and you still only have 7 readers in 2 months, it may be time to give up – no matter what your instinct tells you.
If you’re going to bank on the quality of your audience you need to use some sort of metric to assess that. Are you getting intelligent comments from people you are trying to reach? Have you heard through word of mouth or otherwise that an NBC producer really is reading? I can sit here and tell you that my gut tells me that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates read my blog and love it, but that’s a far cry from having even the thinnest bit of evidence to suggest it is true.
The Bottom Line on Crush It!
At a street price of $11-$13, I’d rate Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It! a buy. It’s certainly rough around the edges and it does fall short in some areas, but if you take it for what it is as a motivational business book with a handful of ideas that might help trigger your own thoughts, it’s worth the time and money to invest in reading. Like many inexpensive wines, it’s enjoyable going down even if it doesn’t have a long, complex finish.