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Exactly 12 minutes before I was due to give my standard ‘business success' presentation to 200 business owners a couple of years ago, the convenor of the conference was rushing around yipping and yahooing to the speakers as we gathered for the pre-event briefing. As he raced past me he asked me what I was going to talk about, and then said to me ‘Great, great Mike, fabulous. Go out there and tell them the four things they've got to do to grow the business'.

That wasn't what I was going to talk about, but I preferred his idea to mine. I went into the seminar room, grabbed a piece of paper and a pen, and while people were drifting into the room I scribbled down the four things that business owners have to do.

I like to wing it because I find the pressure makes me more creative. Figure A (overleaf) shows the framework I sketched out for myself that day, and which I am using (with some modifications) as the structure for this book.

Figure A: the Business Breakpoints

There are thousands of books about how to grow small businesses. I've got a couple of hundred on my shelves or in the cloud. I have read no more than five of them from cover to cover. The odds are that I wouldn't finish reading this book either.

So my objective here is simple: I want to beat the odds and have 80 per cent of the people who buy this book read at least 80 per cent of it. ...

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