will if fly book summary

Actionable Book Summary: Will it Fly? by Pat Flynn

The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

Planning to start an online business? To open a hot dog stand? Don’t do it yet! You are going to spend a lot of time and effort on whatever it is you choose to do, so it’s wise to invest a little bit of time upfront to put your idea through a series of litmus tests. That’s exactly what Will it Fly? by Pat Flynn will prompt you to do. The book is going to help you carefully plan and later validate your idea through a series of tests. To see if that idea of yours is worth fighting for.

The Core Idea:

NASA has never launched a mission just because it “sounded like a good idea,” and neither should you. Don’t waste your time and money building something that might not work. Don’t rely on assumptions. If you’re planning to lunch a project or start a business you should test your idea before committing full time. Stop for a moment and take some time to check if your idea will “fly” in the market you’re trying to serve.

7 Key Lessons from Will it Fly?

Lesson #1: Understand What Are Your Goals in All Areas of Your Life if You Truly Want To Be Happy

Since entrepreneurship is a hit, you’ll see people starting businesses and leaving their current jobs hoping, they’ll live a better life. But these people rarely stop to think about what that better life might actually look like. Also, how this future business can support them?

Yes, everyone talks about serving your audience and focusing on their needs but if you don’t figure this out (the financial part) from the start, it won’t take you long to abandon ship.

Before renting a space, even before purchasing a domain for your website, think about your future life and how your idea will support or invalidates the idea you want to make a reality. After all, building a successful business doesn’t mean that your life will be successful also. The two actually quite often collide – making you choose one or the other.

You need to figure out – right from the start – if your business idea matches your desired future lifestyle. After all, if you start a business selling hot dogs on the street but if you hate hot dogs and if you don’t imagine yourself doing this for years, well, then you might better start doing something else.

Lesson #2: Define How Life Will Look 5 Years From Now

The author refers to this section in the book as the Airport test. It goes something like this:

Imagine you teleport yourself five years into the future and you meet a friend at the airport. You stop to chat and he asks you, “How’s life treating you, friend?” Your response, immediate and enthusiastic is the following: “AMAZING! Life couldn’t get any better.”

Wow, that’s a surprise, right?

Now, the important thing here is this: What happened in your life five years from now that makes you respond like this?

Put your future glasses if you will and really think about what you can do to make your life truly amazing in five years.

In addition to the above, there is a little exercise:

  1. Grab a sheet of paper and fold it in half in both directions. The idea here is to have four quadrants.
  2. Define the four most important categories of your life – one category per square on your sheet. For example: family, business, health, traveling.
  3. What will happen five years from now in the categories you just wrote that will make your life awesome? Write as many examples as possible per category.
  4. Examine everything you wrote and think about a possible business venture that will reinforce your future lifestyle.

Lesson #3: Put Your Ideas On Paper

Getting excited about an idea and rushing into it isn’t a behavior common for successful business owners. You need one good idea backed by strong facts before you start hustling.

To help us, Pat Flynn suggests creating a mind map. To record all of our thoughts so we can later reflect on them and filter the good ideas from the crappy ones. Or in other words, to mind map our thoughts. To visualize them on paper so we can group them and to finally put some order in our heads, i.e. find a valuable business idea.

There are two methods for mind mapping:

  1. Post-it notes: Use a single post-it note to represent a single thought. You can easily move them around, group them or remove them.
  2. Software: If you’re a true minimalist and if you don’t want to clutter your home with a bunch of notes, simply use the available online tools. Like this one: MindMeister.com

Once you decide how you want to mind map, get in the creative mood.

  1. Brain dump: Prepare a countdown timer and find a place where you will be uninterrupted for around 20 minutes. Once you start your timer begin to write thoughts and ideas. Don’t edit or remove. The idea here is to record everything.
  2. Clean up phase: Stage two is about organizing everything you’ve written. Group similar ideas and such that align with one another. You can even use different colors to visually organize things better. The goal here is to structure your ideas and create something like a tree.
  3. Pruning your tree: Remove the low hanging fruits. The notes and the ideas that obviously won’t work. After the purge, you should have left with enough to move forward.

Lesson #4: You Don’t Have To Go Big in The World to Experience Success. You Just Have to Be Big in Somebody’s World

You probably heard it before. That starting a business shouldn’t be about money, that it should be about helping individuals succeed.

It’s not about the money, it’s about helping individual people. Like you said, it’s great to think worldly and big and create the next “spreadsheet,” but what I think you can do is niche down and change a smaller group of people’s world. Right? Taking a specific market and changing their world.” Pat Flynn

Or like the popular expression, “If you want to make a million dollars, change a million lives.”

If you position yourself as someone who’s helpful and honest, business opportunities will quickly follow. By continuously sharing information about a specific niche you’ll soon have people asking for more. And more in the online world means that they’re willing to pay you for giving them more content.

But how many fans do I need to make a living?

That’s a great question. Some people think they need millions of subscribers while others know that you only need 1,000 true fans.

At this point in the book, Pat shares his insights from the popular article written by Kevin Kelly – 1000 true fans. It’s one of the most popular articles online about starting a business.


Because it brakes the myth that you need thousands of subscribers to make a buck. In reality, you only need 1000. Here’s why:

Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day’s wages per year in support of what you do. That ‘one-day-wage’ is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let’s peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.” Kevin Kelly

Lesson #5: Make a market research

To stand out from the crowd you first need to know from what crowd you’re standing out. You need to understand what’s already available on the market. What others are doing and how you can make things better.

To guide us, Pat Flynn shares a 3-step process for creating a market map (research) – a way to understand your future clients. You can use an online spreadsheet or simply a notebook to write down your findings. Firstly, you need to think about the Places:

  1. Places: Find out where your target audience hangs out. Check sites. Forums. Communities. You’ll not only find places for potential investment options (advertising on sites), but this research will also help you learn more about your clients and competitors. You’ll read the comments and see what people look for.
  2. People: Once you find where your target audience resides, you can get insights about how your target audience behaves, what they respond to, and what they ignore. Subscribe to as many newsletters as you can. This way you’ll notice some interesting patterns from the current influencers.
  3. Products: Look what your audience is buying to determine what kinds of offerings already exist + what might be missing. Keep in mind that an offer on a website doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone is buying it. Check ranks and reviews to see what users are saying.

Lesson #6: Create a Customer P.L.A.N.

After the detailed research you’ve prepared in the previous lesson it’s time to dig even deeper into understanding your target audience. The previous was about metrics and understanding the overall market, the following is about understanding how your future clients think – to get into the mind and emotions of your end-user.

In Will it Fly?, Pat Flynn calls this a Customer P.L.A.N. The abbreviation stands for the following: Problems. Language. Anecdotes. Needs.

Let’s go through these things one by one:

  1. Problems: In essence, a business idea is just a potential solution to a target customer’s pain or problem. To gain more customers, you need to find their real pain. How? By talking to them. Have one-on-one conversations with people or conduct surveys.
  2. Language: To connect with your target audience, you need to understand the language your future customers use. What words do they use to share their pains and struggles? How do they describe their aspirations and goals? What questions they are asking? How? Check forums. People go to forums to ask questions and share what’s bothering them. Also, check complaints (negative reviews). That’s real gold.
  3. Anecdotes: Not that common, but Pat says it’s working. So, find short and interesting stories about your target audience. These will help you when you are creating content on your site and also get to feel what they feel. You basically want to hear the stories of real people in your target audience. How? Same methods are previously mentioned: one-on-one conversations and forums.
  4. Needs: Taking into account what you conducted in the previous steps, you now need to create a list of needs that your target customers have. A need is basically what your customer believes is required to solve a problem. The business product is the mechanism to fulfill that requirement. Use all of your notes to spot the pattern.

Lesson #7: Test Your Business Idea Before Launching and Going Full-Scale

Even though there is no 100% certainty that your idea will become successful there are few things you can do to validate your concept.

Here are the steps:

  1. Get in front of others: You need an audience to properly validate your future product. If you have an online following that’s great. If not, you can advertise heavily on social media, or, create a campaign on KickStarter, for example. It won’t cost you much but the feedback (or the lack of any) will guide you forward.
  2. Hyper-target: Once you have an audience, you need to know exactly how many people are interested in what you’re saying. You need some sort of metric to measure the interest. For instance, people subscribing to your newsletter or leaving a comment.
  3. Interact with these people: Get in touch with the ones who showed interest in your idea. Send them an email or call them – if possible. Be honest with what you’re up to and later give them the pitch about your product and how it will satisfy their needs.
  4. Ask for the sale: Finally, we’re going to ask for the dollar bills. It might feel uncomfortable to ask people to give you money but what’s the worst that can happen? They can refuse your offer, so what?

There are two available outcomes after the final step (step 4): 1) Few or no sales – we don’t move forward with this idea. 2) We have a good amount of sales considering the traffic – we ask clients for feedback so we can further refine the concept and make it even more appealing.

Love taking notes? Download the worksheet:

Actionable Notes:

  • What makes you so special? Even if you come up with a great idea there will always be someone with more resources who can outsource what you’re doing and probably crush your small business venture. So, to remain competitive you should bring something to the table that no one else can. What’s your unfair advantage? Think about you as a person. What makes you different and unique than all the others? Why people should choose you instead of the competition?
  • Your idea in one sentence: It’s common to see unnecessary long about pages on sites or a really detailed mission statements. However, people don’t want to read more if they can read less. That’s why Twitter is so popular (and also book summary sites like mine). Squish your idea in one sentence. One sentence that says it all. To do this, use the following technique: 1) Write a one-page summary of your target idea; 2) Take what you wrote in your single page and compress it into a single paragraph; 3) Take the paragraph and distill that into one single sentence. The last step is the hardest. Don’t stop till it sounds right.
  • Talk to people about your idea: Once you figure out what your business is going to be about, pitch your idea to random people to get some feedback and improve your concept. Beware though, don’t try to convince them that your idea is perfect. Listen, let the other person speak, take notes and dig deeper by asking follow-up questions starting with Why?
  • The Riches are in the Niches: During your market research, sub-categories within the one you are targeting will unfold before your eyes. These are gold mines. Don’t start a business around a general idea. Narrow down your target audience. This way you’ll have the opportunity to shine among others and to serve your future clients better.
  • What’s your elixir: Products and services that solve a specific problem are like elixirs – a magic potion that can cure a certain disease. In our case, it’s not magic, it’s a business. Your task if you want to run a successful business is to come up with the right “elixirs” that can solve a specific problem. Or in other words, create something people really need.

Commentary And My Personal Takeaway

If you have a business idea and you are wondering if it will work or not then this is the book is definitely for you. Pat Flynn gives us a decent framework for establishing a new product idea. He starts with the planning stage and takes us all the way to the launch of our product.

However, the book is highly repetitive and it contains a little more than the necessary personal stories – childhood stories that are not so relevant and etc. Besides that, the book is full of (affiliate) links that are prompting you to go to other sites, only distracting you from the main goal – reading and trying to implement the things the author is saying.

Still, Will it Fly? does come with a lot of applicable actionable steps. When you remove the extra fluff you’re left with some really good advice for starting an online business – most of them are above, in my summary.

My main takeaway is this: Don’t start anything before making a proper research. Nowadays you don’t need much to make a good analysis, you just need to go online and start searching.

Notable Quotes:

Your earnings are a byproduct of how well you serve your audience, and you can only best serve your audience when you know exactly who they are, what they’re going through, and what will get them to take action.” Pat Flynn

The world needs you. It needs your energy and what you have to offer, so let’s work together to make sure you dedicate that time and energy to something that matters—both to the world, and to you.” Pat Flynn

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” Shannon Hale

The more you practice accepting feedback, both positive and negative, the better an entrepreneur you will become.” Pat Flynn

Share with others: