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There is certainly no shortage of books teaching how to set and achieve goals. In The ZigZag Principle, Rich Christiansen, the author brings a unique perspective to the process. Most books on the subject teach the direct approach. Figure out where you want to go and charge full steam ahead toward your goal.

If you have been in the business world even for a short time period, you have probably met someone who was hard charging, running over anyone and anything that got in their way. While this approach produces short terms results, the long term effects are crash and burn. As Mr. Christiansen points out, that approach is not sustainable. In fact it is normally quite destructive. There is a better way - The Zigzag Principles.

The book starts with a little story about the author and his son on a skiing trip. This was his son's third trip and he was still in the beginner's stage. Somehow they made a wrong turn and ended up on a very steep, black diamond run. Instead of heading straight down hill to a certain wipe out, Rich told his son to zigzag safely down the hill.

The same principles apply in business and life. Instead of trying to go head on at or through all obstacles, learn to zigzag around them.

While the principles of the book work in both business and life, the book is written primarily for the entrepreneur. The first section of the book deals with foundational issues. You must know your values and where you want to go. Once the foundational issues are solid, it is time to move to the three zigzag principles.

The first principle is to get to cash first. Far too many businesses fail because they do not understand and follow this principle. Focus on making the business profitable.

The second "zag" principle is once you are profitable, then and only then add the additional resources you will need - this is people, equipment and capital. The third "zig" is to scale the business. Many businesses become stuck in the profitable mode and fail to scale because the owner refuses to let go and empower others in the business.

After the three zigzag principles, Rich gives some great advice on boundaries and guardrails - safety measures to make sure you are staying on course. Next he talks about the proper use of rewards. The final chapter deals with the "all or nothing" mindset that trips up so many business owners.

This book gives a refreshing approach to achieving your goals in business and life. It is very conversational and therefore easy to read. Rich uses lots of examples from his own journey as a charge ahead, win at all cost young manager to a more responsible and much more successful entrepreneur.

You will certainly learn and profit from this book. A very easy but profitable read.
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The Zig Zag Principle is an easy to read book that offers some great ideas on setting goals and starting businesses. It is a practical guide that boils down the basics of business in digestible bites and makes the process simple to implement. It is refreshing to see an entrepreneurship book that focuses on the right things . . . resources, cash, and scaling. It is easy to get caught up in overcomplicated business plans and life plans that are not achievable. This book will show you how to quickly get where you want to go without overextending yourself.

What I Liked:

* The value equation: what mental capital and relationship capital mean for a new business
* "Entrepreneurship is having the courage to wonder in the fog."
* How to set achievable goals that overlap areas of influence and concern
* Building a foundation of values and how to set and mind the guardrails
* The first thing your business should do: Be profitable! This is often lost in business literature and is a point that bears repeating again and again. Rich Christiansen does an excellent job of emphasizing the importance of cash first. Don't focus on your website, SEO, contacts, network, newsletter, business plan, systems plan, or anything else until you are profitable. Focus on the 20% that will get you there.
* Great worksheets throughout the book to encourage the right kind of goal setting

What I Did Not Like:

* The last Zig is the weakest in explanation. Could have used more support on The Four Rules of Scale. However, the decision matrix outlined in this section is a very helpful decision making tool and the principle of scaling is just as important as the first two.

All in all, its a great book on entrepreneurship that is an easy read. I will recommend this in the future, especially to first time entrepreneurs who ask what to focus on. The suggestions are practical, concrete, and achievable. It is not a magic formula for starting a business, but it is a guide that will keep you moving the right direction while minimizing your risk. Recommended.
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on October 5, 2011
My name is Kelsey and I graduated from college with a business degree, thinking I knew what it took to start a small business. Boy was I wrong. When I first got married my husband had a pretty good job, (enough to support our family) so I talked him into letting me start my own small business. I had read business books before, or at least what I could before they got so boring I wanted to throw them through the window.
I thought I had a good idea so off I went into the business world. Two short months later I was back. Broke, bruised and tired.
Enough about me. That was four years ago. I recently picked up a copy of The ZigZag Principle and it has totally changed my perspective on the way to start and handle your own business. There were so many great things I learned in this book but I only want to share two.

'-The first "Zig" (you will learn about zigs and zags) is a drive to profitability.
"This first zig requires sheer grit and determination... Whether you are starting out in life or starting a business-or are broke and stating over-your first zig always needs to take you toward profitability." I loved that. That is exactly how i failed in the first place. I didn't have enough money after the first month to keep up.
'-Failing efficiently.
"What I mean by failing efficiently is that if you can't get to profitability, you need to accept the fact that you have nowhere left to go."
This is great information. The book teaches you to get out before the devastating consequences.

I loved this book. I am planning to put each and everyone of these strategies into my next business.
A great and interesting read!
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on September 27, 2011
As a stay-at-home mother, I have spent the last 14 years dreaming up products and business ideas. Rich teaches that you do not have to wait until the "perfect scenario" comes along to start a business. After reading the book, I feel confident, that now is the right time. I do not need to wait for that large sum of cash, or when I have "more time" when the children are older. I can start with the little bit of cash and time I have now. He teaches that mental and relationship capital are valuable assets that many start-ups forget to calculate. I believe he hit a universal truth with "the road to success is never a straight line." I can apply these principles in my life as a mother, a volunteer and now a business owner.

I especially like the worksheets included that helped me ponder through my strengths and outline my goals and values. Thanks, Rich!
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on May 23, 2012
I read this book as part of the 12 Books online book group during the month of May 2012. I admit that when I first read the title I was a little confused. I love anything to do with entrepreneurship despite my rather poor track record thus far. The reason I was so excited to read this book is because the author has just an established track record in starting successful companies. Rich has launched over 30 companies with less than $10K in capital and among those over 10 went on to be BIG successes.

The book is really about helping entrepreneurs understand that the best way to get somewhere isn't always a straight line. In my reading, this major concept took a little while to sink in but as I moved from chapter to chapter I really discovered that the material is designed to give an entrepreneur a new type of road map that allows one to chart a course that is most likely going to lead to success.

The three main zigs and zags were critical components that talk about things that most of us understand are critical to success. Getting to profitability quickly, failing efficiently, adding resources, scaling the business, setting goals, and motivating a team. Most students of business are already familiar with these necessities but having them as part of an effective road map is the key to getting off the ground.

As I reflect on my reading of the book I feel like there were a few golden nuggets that will really stick out to me as I move forward in my career.

First, as elementary as it sounds, I think a key insight for me was the need to get to profitability before scaling the business. All too often I think people (myself included) are too eager to make the business big before we discover the key system that generates profits on a consistent basis. The Zigzag Principle taught me that you always focus first on a profitable and dependable model before you invest in scaling the business.

Second, Rich's insights about living a life of balance were really compelling. I have fallen victim one too many times to the attitude of "just this one big project" and I'll be able to spend more time with the family (or insert other life goal). There will always be one more project, trial, or other issue. As individuals we have to determine what our real goals are and create "guardrails" that keep us on our path and within our boundaries in business and every other aspect of life.
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on April 18, 2012
You might think that the best way to get to a destination is to set a goal and head toward it.

Yet Rich Christiansen in his excellent book, THE ZIG ZAG PRINCIPLE (McGraw-Hill), says that's not necessarily the case. A better approach is to follow interim, tactical steps--and thus utilize the technique known zigzaging.

The author presents countless examples, designed to help first-time entrepreneurs jump start new ventures and experienced entrepreneurs to take their businesses to a next level. He does so by presenting many examples, such as this one pointing out the need to develop a catalyzing statement:

* Another good example of the power found in a broad goal with a catalyzing statement involves Bill Gates. In the early days of Microsoft, he would boldly declare, "We're going to become the largest software company in the world!" That sounded great, but at that time nobody even knew what software was! Was Gates referring to a pair of snuggly, warm pajamas? No one could really wrap their heads around what he was saying. Then one day he made the statement, "I picture a world where there is a personal computer in every home and on every desktop." That was something people understood, and it became Microsoft's catalyzing statement.

In addition, I liked how he used his own life to drive home many of his points:

* Rick Sapio talks about what he calls "value-based decision making." He also refers to "The Doorman Principle," which is defined as the "the deliberate practice of designing a set of values and/or rules to dictate who, or what, is allowed to enter into your life or business." In our lives and in our businesses, we must have a "value gatekeeper.' In our home, my wife is the value gatekeeper. When she sees one of my sons being rude to his friends, she will call him on it because, "We teach respect for people, places, and things." She insists that our kids do their homework because, "We value education." She does not let riffraff into our home and encourages our children to have positive friendships.

And I especially liked these three questions he shared:

* Of course, it was the older executives who gave the real insight. It did not matter what type of business these men or women were involved with. In each case, they described a pattern of pursuing success that was guided by these three questions:
1. What was honorable?
2. Did it leave an impact?
3. Who loves me and who do I love?

Though THE ZIG ZAG PRINCIPLE is aimed at the business community, I believe it has enough relevance and good common sense that it would be valuable for those in the nonprofit sector to read as well.
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on September 27, 2011
I have had the absolute pleasure of reading The Zig Zag Principle even before it has came out to book shelves, for free, and so can you! One day I was searching for "stories about success" and I stumbled upon Rich Christiansen's website. I signed up for his blog and ever since have been getting excerpts from the book as well as other great posts. I have loved the advice so much that I already purchased my book and have it coming in October!

There's so much great advice that I've learned so far I don't know where to start....! I guess a few of my favorite things are learning that you need to: get your business profitable as soon as possible, if you're going to fail, how to fail efficiently and then move on. One of my favorite parts of The Zig Zag Principle is the part about rewards. How to motivate yourself and your team to be successful. Rich Christiansen has taught the benefits of goal setting and the best ways to go about achieving them to reach your end goal or "beacon in the fog". Once you get your business profitable, then you need to add some resources and then finally scale. Lastly, duplicate the process so your business can run even when you're not there!

So far, this book has been fun, motivational, informative, yet an easy read. Christiansen has loaded The Zig Zag Principle with colorful stories that help teach his principles well. This book is a must read for beginner entrepreneurs clear up to seasoned entrepreneurs. He teaches lessons that he's learned from starting over 33 businesses while having 11 turn into multi-million dollar success and 11 flopped to be "ugly failures". I think he knows what he's talking about!
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Rich Christiansen, the author of this wonderful book, is one of those people who would be a great dinner guest. He's down to earth, interesting, funny and passionate about his work and his life. It's so inspiring! Rich's personality comes through clearly in his writing and that's one of the many reasons this book is so inspiring.

What I loved about this book:

**The simplicity. Rich breaks success steps down into manageable pieces. He tells stories, citing both personal and other examples to illustrate his points. I especially enjoyed reading about his businesses started with his sons and how he motivated young people.

**No business jargon. Rich uses everyday language so that everyone can understand his points.

**Rich lives what he writes. He openly shares both his failures and his successes. I personally learn more from others' (and my own) mistakes. Rich is a very hard working and determined person and early in his career he took this to an extreme as he climbed the corporate ladder. He listened when a mentor pointed out that this path could destroy his family.

**The tactical advice. Sure, it's important to have a strategy, but it's equally important to focus on getting things done. Rich calls the overwhelming goal a "beacon" and stresses that while you should keep this in mind, be flexible and be open to alternative paths.

My only suggestion for improvement would be for Rich to mention that his website,, has additional tools and information about how to implement the Zig Zag Principle. He could easily add a sentence or two in his "About the Author" section, instead of just mentioning his website.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to be successful, whether in business or in your personal life.
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VINE VOICEon November 24, 2011
A Roadmap for Success in Business and in Life - a great book on Entrepreneurship
After reading the first few pages of the book I started to get concerned about the possibility this was another book about a single idea where the author works it to death. After all, the concept behind the title is fairly simple: the road to success is almost always not a direct path. Fortunately I was wrong.

This is not only a business book. The Zig Zag principle is a philosophy of adaptation, of finding intermediate goals and milestones, of making the best of each opportunity, of an opportunistic approach to exploit immediate advantages rather than plowing full-steam-ahead towards a long-term goal.

It is an easy read (I went through it on a 4 hour flight) and an enjoyable one, full of personal anecdotes from the author. Success is not luck. It is a journey that rewards those who take the right approach. I especially like the fact that the book captures what Rich learned though life, through practical experiences - not academic theory.

The author talks about a hierarchy of assets to make it through an endeavor. They start with intelligence, relationships and passion (determination and energy, a joy for learning). With them you can acquire knowledge, discipline and experience and use the combination to produce money. Surely you need a solid core set of values, which are the operating system for your life - and a vision that serves as a beacon in the daily fog.

At the end, I got more out of this book than I expected. It made me think about my long-term and lifelong goals. It made me write them down and take action. I hope you find it useful too.
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on October 13, 2011
Once we learn that life is NOT a straight line, more things fall into place, easier and more effectively. Little kids, know this, they zig and zag all the time. Somehow, in our journey to adulthood we forget and start plunging ahead without remembering how to conserve energy.
Rich Christiansen helps us remember to stop and get back on a more energy saving track. Think zig, think zag, just think it and somehow new ideas come to you that wont show up when you are head down plowing straight up the hill.
This is a great busines-life book. Many are the same priciples that we teach in our Total Leadership Connections program. Stop and think deeply about your values and why you are doing what you are doing before you start the trek.
I love Rich's analogy to finding the way down an unexpected black diamond run. There you are and you know you want to get back alive and unbroken. Think zig, think zag!
This book is fun to read, easy to understand with great business and life principles.
Sylvia Lafair author "Don't Bring It to Work"
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