Tim Ferriss' Top 5 Startup Lessons

Mike Jones

Tim Ferriss became a legend seemingly overnight. The bestselling author and writer of an immensely popular blog that attracts more than 1 million visitors each month, also enjoys success as a public speaker, entrepreneur, and angel investor.

His most popular book, The 4-Hour Workweek, has inspired many aspiring entrepreneurs to go out into the world and accomplish their dreams. His recently published Tools of Titans is also on the best-selling fast track.

So what lessons can we learn from Tim’s fantastic journey? Here are five.

1. You can be successful doing anything, as long as you’re the best at it

Tim references this concept throughout his blog. It is not just a good lesson to keep in mind when you’re building your startup; it can be the basis of an entire life philosophy—which, for Tim, is exactly what it is.

After earning a degree in East Asian Studies, Tim worked in the sales department of a data company. During his time there, he came up with the idea for BrainQuicken, an online store focusing on nutritional supplements. He later sold the company and wrote a bestseller about his experience.

Truly, it was a winding path to success.

If you have Internet access, the world can be your oyster. But you must be the best in your niche. Being a life coach or starting an online business is nothing new, but Tim managed to get the proper angle on both and established himself as an expert.

Your niche, even if it is as specific as “Internet service providers by province,” is that certain something that keeps you going. Tim calls it your “muse.”

2. Forget about what you’re selling, and focus on your audience

How did Tim Ferriss manage to become an expert in the first place?

When it comes to life coaching and public speaking, there’s some fierce competition. And if you go strictly by the numbers, many others’ startups were more successful than his—but that doesn’t make his experience any less valuable.

The trick was focusing on what truly matters: the customer—or more specifically, their needs and wants. The product came second. It’s an old marketing trick, and one that Tim has perfected: selling happiness.

While some might see this as just a sleazy advertising practice, Tim took it to heart. He zoomed in on his target audience to find out what they truly wanted and tried to deliver that as effectively as possible through the means he had.

That’s a great strategy for any startup.

3. Create a community

To reinforce his commitment to his audience, Tim created a community around his product. This is what makes his blog so popular. You can see this commitment even in the way he structures his posts: Each post is packed with useful, actionable advice that’s backed up by relevant references and figures. And every post ends with a question or trigger to encourage readers to reflect and comment on the information.

His blog also regularly features other entrepreneurs or small business owners who have used his methods. But rather than focusing on his book, these profiles focus on the unique stories of the interviewees and their journey towards success. Sure, Tim’s book is always in the background, but it’s not essential, and this makes his message even more powerful.

The main takeaway? Building a community is much more important than driving up sales. People need to see how your product can fit in with their lifestyle, and the community they belong to strongly influences their lifestyle. If you can create a place for your business within that community, sales will follow.

4. Be a person first, an entrepreneur second

How did Tim Ferriss become such a recognizable figure so quickly? There are plenty of successful entrepreneurs you’ve probably heard of but can’t quite place. The key to success in this respect becomes clear when you visit Tim Ferriss’ blog: Starting with the homepage, you are greeted by Tim Ferriss himself, and that creates an instant connection.

He strives to highlight the person behind the business at every opportunity. His presence is essential; it’s what makes his work unique. The human factor is a powerful asset for every startup, but few use it to its full potential.

Tim’s conversational tone and down-to-earth approach further reinforce a genuine concern for his customers’ satisfaction. This is another valuable lesson for startups.

Creating a genuine human connection is immensely powerful and rewarding for both customers and entrepreneurs. And one of the perks of a startup is that it can more easily and credibly connect with customers on a deep and personal level than their larger, more established counterparts.

Startups have the benefit of reaching out and having one-on-one conversations with the people who matter most to the business—the ones who ultimately decide which direction it should go in.

Which brings us to the final, and perhaps most important, lesson we can learn from Tim Ferriss:

5. You are the real product

What these lessons boil down to is understanding the importance of the entrepreneur and the value of creating a strong connection with your audience. Tim Ferriss realized early on that his greatest asset was himself and his unique experiences.

He didn’t create a generic self-help book offering relatively useless common-sense tips. He put himself out there. His unique brand is not a reflection of his personality; rather, the brand was created around his personality. This is a concept he advocates for anyone considering adopting his lifestyle advice.

As an entrepreneur, if you are truly passionate about your startup and your field, let others see that. Better still, make it one of the main selling points: Show your customers what you and your startup specifically have to offer that nobody else can. And make it human and relatable.

For example, if your product is spinning bikes, create helpful content and actionable advice. Help your customers enrich their lives without your product, and let them turn to you because you make them feel good about themselves. Is weight loss their need? Show them the benefits of your spin and diet plan. Your know-how is more valuable than any other sales pitch.

Many of the startup lessons we can learn from Tim Ferriss have been around for quite some time, but few businesses really take them to heart and find creative ways to use them. Ultimately, there are no magic tricks to achieve instant success. Hard work, passion, and a genuine commitment to a higher cause will always remain the key ingredients.

For more insight on leadership in the age of digital transformation, see Separating The Digital Revolutionaries From The Reactionaries.

Image credit: Flickr


About Mike Jones

Mike Jones is an expert writer dedicated to learn as much as he can about the business world while keeping focus on his main interest: natural healthcare remedies. He shares his conclusions and work here as often as he can.