The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau is one that I’ve been wanting to read for some time now, partly because one of my favorite bloggers of the business savvy variety, Tara Gentile gets a mention in it, and also because I like the idea that creating a business that you love running doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to a huge amount of capital to start. It’s the warm and fuzzy (without being weak or too dreamy) way of looking at business, and this book is almost a celebration of sorts, delivered to us via a collection of stories of accidental-preneurs and passionate small business owners. Guillebeau himself is someone who’s ‘made it’ with this business model – he’s stepped away from the usual corporate path and moved into a lifestyle of writing and travel whilst making an above average income from it. On the whole, I think it will resonate with many of you guys because I know that there’s a bunch of you out there that feel the word ‘business’ doesn’t quite do what you do justice and you’ll find lots of people in this book who feel the same way.
Let’s have a look at our top takeaways from The $100 Startup.
– Find the sweet spot. Convergence – that point where your skill or passion crosses over with what other people care about. This is where you’re going to be able to do enjoyable, meaningful work that provides value, and if you can do that, then you can charge for it. You may be very passionate about something, but that doesn’t mean that other people want it or that even you want to spend more than a few hours a week doing it. I very much enjoy singing in the car while driving, but would be hard pressed to create a business from it (sadly). Figure out what you love doing or can do well, figure out where that comes into what people want or need, and you may very well have the foundations for a new business.
– Freedom and Value. Chances are, what you ultimately want from your business is freedom. Guillebeau makes the point that in today’s world, freedom = time and often, money. It’s a balanced and fulfilling life that Guillebeau directs us to, so money allows you to loosen up your time for travel, downtime, hobbies and relationships if you can provide value that people want to pay for. He also talks about the fact that if you can create a product or service that in some way helps other people, then you’ll always have customers.
– Why over What. Something that’s gaining lots of momentum by many businesses big and small is how important it is to focus on what benefits you offer people rather than just your features. You can describe a chair by its height and materials, but you can draw someone in and make them fall in love by telling them about where the materials came from, what the significance and inspiration for the design is and how you’ll feel when you sit in it. Guillebeau brings this to the table nicely, and by example, which makes it easier for the reader to imagine how it might work for them. Figure out why you do what you do, and then you can put in place the actionable ‘whats’ that support it. For smaller, more agile businesses, it’s much easier for them to identify the emotional ‘why’ behind it all, which is something that I think our Selz users will appreciate.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. The $100 Startup gives a comfortably inspirational approach rather than a strong tactical one, and that’s actually quite refreshing because there is so much out there that addresses the latter. His use of example is excellent and covers a whole range of business types so there’s something for every kind of entrepreneur, whether you’re globetrotting, a mum, breaking free from the 9-5 or just want an income that complements your life. The size (of revenue, product range, or staff) of each of the businesses profiled is also well picked because they’re not so large that they feel unrelatable or have become so diluted that they’ve lost their human touch. The focus is more about building a lifestyle for yourself rather than a job for yourself, and in doing so it’s as though Guillebeau is almost giving us permission to ‘think small’ and not feel too bad about taking big financial risks that just aren’t realistic for most people.