Business Brilliant by Lewis Schiff

High-Level Thoughts

Business Brilliant is definitely not rocket science, but a great reminder on what it takes to be successful and generate money. Provides a A-Z framework and concrete exercises to think through your skills and how to monetize these. Also a great reminder to get an equity share in something in order to get rich.

Rating: 8/10

Get this book on Amazon
Find it on Goodreads

Summary notes for Business Brilliant

“This book seeks to identify what makes certain people brilliant in the business field, what it takes to be “Business Brilliant.””

“Russ Prince himself is not so sure. As a coach to some of the world’s wealthiest families, he knows that having a knack for Business Brilliance is essential. But he also knows from his own coaching that many of the skills for Business Brilliance can be learned, or at least enhanced, through study and practice.”

“My research tells me that there are four broad areas of daily activity that successful self-made entrepreneurs undertake more effectively and consistently than most people. I call the four Learning, Earning, Assistance, and Persistence. Together these four words spell out LEAP.”

“Learning what you do best.
Earning some dollars at it.
Getting Assistance with what you don’t do best.
Using Persistence to overcome self-doubt.

Learning. Earning. Assistance. Persistence. LEAP. The sooner you put them into action, the sooner you’ll be doing more than just following the money, you’ll be LEAPing into it.” Then, you’ll become Business Brilliant


“Becoming Business Brilliant first requires learning – learning about yourself, your goals, and the best ways of reaching them.”


“Having a long-term goal, expressed in monetary terms, gives you a point of focus for all your efforts toward Business Brilliance. Dollar goals are valuable because they are easy to measure, and what can be measured can be managed.”

“All your daily priorities should be informed by the amount of wealth you’d like to achieve 10 years from now.“

THE TECHNIQUE: Take 20 minutes. Choose a goal for your net worth and write it down as Year 10 on the right – hand side of a sheet of paper. Then, moving from right to left, write down your average monthly income goals for Year 5, 4, 3, and 2. Finally, write down your monthly income goals for each month of the coming year, starting with next month. Post the sheet in a place where you can see it every day from your desk. Repeat this process every time you complete a deal or have a windfall”


“This idea goes by a lot of names—identifying your strengths, discovering your core competencies, or distinguishing your special abilities. I like to call it “finding your Center” or just plain “Centering” because it’s a visual term that’s easy to remember.”

“One of the best things about it is that it lends value and meaning to even your worst setbacks and disappointments.”

“Most self-made millionaires say they count on setbacks to help them redefine what they do exceptionally well. They use trial and error to get more Centered. That way, even when their best efforts go unrewarded, they are still refining their expertise.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Take 10 minutes. Write down as many examples as you can of tasks you believe you do exceptionally well. Try to choose skills and capabilities you think you could convincingly explain to a stranger who has some knowledge of your field of expertise. Repeat the process for 10 minutes the next day. Then start editing the list until you only have three items. Next to each of these three items , write down three clear statements that provide evidence these items are true”


“All of these people are positioned in “the Line of Money.” Whenever they help create value and money changes hands, they are in line to collect a share of the rewards. Business Brilliance only happens to people who put themselves in the Line of Money first.”

“The wealthiest doctors are those who first chose the specialty that best suits their skills very well and then took an ownership stake in a practice that specializes in that type of medicine. They are Centered and in the Line of Money.”

“…our surveys tell us that only 1 in 10 self-made millionaires became wealthy by working for someone else. Most of them worked at salaried jobs where they honed their skills and found their Centers, and then transitioned into self-employment or a partnership.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Take 20 minutes. Go over your list of three things you do extremely well from the Centering exercise and write down the occupations that, to your knowledge, most often use those skills to make the most money. This might seem a pedestrian exercise, but it’s not. With a little bit of thought, you should have two or three things you’ve never considered before.”


Each rung on the Line of Money Ladder is defined by the type of price you put on your participation. Each step up yields higher rewards, with equity at the very top.

PREMIUM PRICING: E.g. self-employed consultants and other independent contractors who price their efforts at hourly rates.

PROJECT PRICING: Paid on a project basis, where you’re rewarded for achieving a result, regardless of your time commitment. Charge as much as you can, and then hand off portions of the work to other professionals to get the job done more quickly.

PERCENTAGE PRICING: Means you’re getting a discrete cut of the rewards for success. This is commonly the lucrative add-on in an agreement to project pricing. Many deals closed with project pricing have a component of percentage pricing worked in, offering additional shared rewards for delivering on a winning effort.

“PROPRIETOR PRICING/equity participation. It’s the top rung in the Line of Money Ladder. When you’re in the proprietor role of a business, you’re not just playing in the game—you also own the team.”

“Most of the personal wealth in the world has been gained through equity. … it should be the ultimate objective in your negotiations. You want an ownership stake, even if it’s just a small share, of anything that might be destined to be sold later at many multiples of its current value.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Take 30 minutes. Draw a four-rung ladder on a sheet of paper, with “Proprietor” at the top, then “Percentage,” ”Project,” and “Premium” on the next three rungs . Leave about five lines of empty space under each heading. When you’re done, you’ll have ideas for 12 projects, arrayed from lowest value to highest value, each one building on those below it. You’ve mapped your path for Business Brilliance. Redo it every time you land a new project demonstrated their own brand of Business Brilliance by cultivating such high demand for their time that they bid up their hourly rates.”


Once you’re ready to take on a specific project, your focus needs to shift from learning to earning. Earning is how ideas turn into opportunities.


  1. What will it cost to play? Minimum spending required to get started
  2. What will it cost to stay? Operating cost once the projects is running
  3. How high is the ceiling? Estimate the potential income with everything running on all cylinders
  4. How hard is the floor? Draw up the worst case scenario
  5. How big is the Cherry on Top? What are the “side benefits,” e.g. learning, network, public profile/status. Can be quantified by asking yourself what is the lowest dollar amount you would accept to walk away of If someone were willing to buy out your share of the project before it even starts? That, minus any cash you put into the project, is the exact value of the Cherry on Top.

“Play. Stay. Ceiling. Floor. Cherry on Top. Whether you plan on flipping burgers or flipping real estate, these five numbers will help you determine the look and shape of what you want to do, and whether it’s worth trying.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Take 30 minutes to draw up a pro forma. Leave lots of room for what you don’t know and what you still need to find out. The numbers you use will always be gross approximations, but the exercise will force you to come to grips with what it will take to succeed”


People who appear most comfortable putting their personal interests first are actually just executing on a predetermined plan

THE TECHNIQUE: Take 20 minutes. Consider your short – term goals and how much money you need from this deal to contribute to those goals. Compromising your goals just to get a deal done is the fastest way out of Business Brilliance. Putting too much at stake in the deal can keep you outside of the line of money for years to come. Don’t ever take on so much risk that if a project fails, you will lack the resources to try again (Essential 15).”


“You also need a strong sense of what the other side’s bottom line looks like, too. Before you sit down to make any agreement, you should know what motives, beyond money, might be driving the other side’s participation.”

They will squeeze you and try to give you as little as possible in terms of project pricing, percentage pricing, and equity. What ability do you have to squeeze them back? This is largely determined by what you know about them.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Take 20 minutes. Before you negotiate on price or equity, redo the deal’s pro forma from your partner’s point of view. If you’re a landlord do it from the tenant’s point of view. When you’re done, circle all the areas where you have serious questions. What are the soft benefits for them? How have they limited their own downside risk? If you can’t get them to answer these questions in casual conversation, ask around. Every clue you have about their motivations will help you press your advantage.”


“Just like a prenuptial agreement between mature adults, every good partnership should have the divorce terms built in from the wedding day. A deal that goes bad can be like an anchor around your leg. You should always have a way to cut the cord.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Before any negotiation, use your pro forma to anticipate what might go wrong, and under what conditions you will want the divorce clause to either let you out with a minimum of loss or give you leverage to negotiate for more money. If you want the divorce clause to work best for you, then it’s up to you to propose it and provide a draft of the terms.”



“If you want to become Business Brilliant, your network is your most valuable asset. Not even the skills and capabilities at your Center are as important as the network you rely on for new business opportunities. Without opportunities, your skills and capabilities will go to waste.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Take 10 minutes. Make a list of the top dozen people you would go to tomorrow for advice on finding a new project in the work you do best. Rank the top six you are closest to or who are best positioned to help you. That’s the beginning of your Nodal Network. If you work in a salaried job, make up similar lists of people you would go to regarding either a promotion or changing jobs. What could be more important?”


“If you accept the premise that your Nodal Network is your most valuable asset, then it makes sense to manage it just as you would any asset portfolio. You want to be on the lookout for new promising network members while withdrawing your connections with underperformers.”

“You’re marketing your services in the hope of finding a good alliance, some shared values about the business that makes it advantageous for you to be in each other’s networks.”

“And if you ever show up at an industry networking event, go there with an agenda in mind. […] Few people enjoy sales pitches, but almost everyone enjoys dispensing advice. This way you have a direction for each conversation you have at the event. And you can excuse yourself from spending more than a minute or so with anyone who can’t help you. You just apologize politely and explain you’ve got to find someone who can help you. It’s a networking strategy Prince calls “NEXT”—Never Extend eXtra Time.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Put together seven file folders—paper folders or computer folders. Mark one folder with the name of each of the top six people you came up with in Essential 9. This is the Nodal Network your livelihood depends upon. Is there anything you shouldn’t know about these six people? Fill each folder with items from their company websites, facts about the companies, their corporate board memberships, charity involvements, and the names of their spouses and names and ages of their children. Ultimately, you’ll want to know as much as you can about their business aspirations. How much money do they earn? How much do they want to earn? What’s their ultimate financial and professional goal? And so on. The seventh folder should be marked “Bench.” This is where you toss information about all your potential network members. Check it once a week to reevaluate the status of your network.”


“Falling into money requires you to spend as much of your time and focus as possible on your exceptional skills and talents. For everything else, you need a team.”

“Once you’ve committed to what you do very well, you’ll see that people with complementary skills are all around you. The ones you don’t know are likely just one degree removed from you—through your Nodal Network.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Take 30 minutes. Do a quick pro forma on the one time-consuming task you either don’t do well or know you shouldn’t be doing yourself. Use the pro forma to calculate the minimum value you could create if someone else were taking the time to do that task. That number is your budget. Go through your Nodal Network, call around, and find someone who can do the task for that much and not one penny more. Even if the number is very low, get creative. It works.”


“You need someone who will keep you accountable to your own goals and avoid procrastinating on your projects. With the right kind of coach, you will have one person among all the people in your business life and your personal life who you can rely on to help you put your own objectives first. No matter how proficient and goal oriented you are, an effective coach can make you better.”

THE TECHNIQUE: As with finding any personal-services professional, you should interview a few coaches before settling on one. If you’re using this book as your guide for developing your Business Brilliance, you want to identify a coach willing to work with you on the 17 Essentials. There are countless online resources for finding coaches, but you shouldn’t pass up this opportunity to source your Nodal Network for referrals first.”


“How do self-made millionaires manage to succeed when, on average, they fail more often than everyone else? It’s simple. They fail more often because they try more often”


“It’s never fun when a project falls short. The only thing worse than failing, though, is failing to learn from failing. To develop your Business Brilliance, you need to embrace the setbacks that come your way. You need to examine each one carefully and use that analysis to make adjustments in a second effort. Why? Because anything worth trying is worth trying again.”

The vast majority of self-made millionaires […] go right back at whatever failed because they know that it often takes more than one attempt to gain the insights and knowledge necessary for succeeding at anything.”

“Each time they miss the mark, they bring themselves that much closer to making it on the next try. They end up becoming Business Brilliant because it is this rare quality of persistence that ultimately sets them apart.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Take 30 minutes. Look at the pro forma (Essential 5) on the project that failed. Take down a few notes on each assumption within the pro forma that fell short of expectations. Even if you feel it’s obvious what went wrong, write it down for the same reason you commit your financial goals to paper—to make it real. A concrete set of failed expectations, clearly written out, gives you some firm points of reference and sets the stage for the second or third try.”


“Before you try a second time at something that didn’t work, you need to consider what’s worth trying to change and what’s not.”

“Self-made millionaires are almost unanimous on one point: When rebounding from failure, don’t try changing other people. […] About 7 in 10 said they were most likely to change their own behavior or approach, with the other 3 in 10 saying they would likely try to change circumstances on a second try.”

“Whatever happens, you should assume it’s 70 percent due to your own actions and 30 percent due to circumstances, because those are the only two factors you can control or change next time.”

The TECHNIQUE: Take 20 minutes. Go back over the notes you made in Essential 13. Rewrite each element of what went wrong in language that makes you accountable for making sure it goes right next time. Wherever it appears that one of your partners dropped the ball, scratch it out. You need to take the risk he’s learned from the mistake. There’s little or nothing you can do about it, short of getting a new partner.”


“Discovering your full Business Brilliance is an “iterative” process.”

“It can’t be done perfectly and exactly. There aren’t enough hours in a day or in your lifetime to find the precise method of getting it right on the first attempt. You’re better off starting out today with iterative expectations. You draw up your pro forma, you make your deal, and you move forward, knowing that there’s a lot you don’t know.”

“Remember that anything worth trying is worth trying again. And again. And again.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Take 30 minutes. Review your worksheets from Essentials 13 and 14. Then go back to Essential 5 and run the numbers all over again for a new pro forma.”


“Putting off making decisions and taking action are the two most certain ways to avoid bad decisions and poor results.”

“Business Brilliance requires that you take the opposite tack. You keep making decisions with imperfect information, because as long as you’re doing more right things than wrong things, even a bad decision is usually better than no decision at all. That’s the synergy effect of these 17 Essentials. When you set out with a strong set of goals and work at your Center, in the Line of Money, with a talented team and a strong network, the only real mistake you can make is the mistake of not trying.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Go down the list of 17 Essentials. If you’re procrastinating, find the one Essential that may have gotten you stuck. When in doubt, rely on your network. If you’re really stuck, you may need a new coach.”


“Self-made millionaires are lucky and they know it.”

“Lucky people nurture their goals and expect them to happen. They make the most of opportunities that come their way. They associate with other people who consider themselves lucky. [Business Brilliant people] turn their misfortune into good luck by persevering and seeing the good side of even the worst circumstances.”

“Business Brilliance and making your own luck are really the same thing. They both draw upon the ordinary, mundane practices laid out by LEAP: Learning, Earning, Assistance, and Persistence.”

“LEAP, at long last, is just another way to spell LUCK.”

THE TECHNIQUE: Double down on what you do best. Press your advantage whenever and wherever you have the advantage. Work your network. Try and try again. Above all: Ask. Ask for what you want. […] Ask until the word “No” loses its sting. When you can laugh at “No” and look at each setback as a source of instruction, then you’ll know you’ve become one of the lucky people destined to become Business Brilliant.”

Follow along for other book notes