First, I must preface that The $100 Startup is by no means a financial guide to starting businesses with one hundred dollars. It has an intriguing title that caught my attention and definitely was the primary reason I purchased it. It’s entirely rooted on the motivational aspect of aiding entrepreneurs in their journey. If looked at in this way, the book is not disappointing. However, I was initially wishing for a more detail-oriented approach than what I’d classify this as. While I do consider it an inspirational book, I can’t fault it for being strictly fluffy and unusable content. I found that it does contain some very practical advice for starting or growing a successful company. And still, I contest with myself for saying these things in fear that I paint it in a negative light. The reality is that many people have accomplished great things after learning someone else (who’s similar to themselves) has done it. That, I believe, is the essence of this good read, and I’m glad for it.
These are my personal top seven takeaways from the book:
- Don’t Let Your Income Define What You Do
We have a limited amount of time on this earth. So why waste it doing things you don’t like, merely for the pay-cheque it provides? The search for the right thing for you may not be easy. Chris Guillebeau presents several stories of people who went on from their boring jobs to do something out on their own while being paid by thankful customers. For obvious reasons, people don’t regret making the decision to engage in business they enjoy. Taking this step is worth it if you can provide real sustainable value to people.
- Discover How Business Works, and Expel Irrational Fantasy
As a young man, I can attest to the truth behind how easy it is to be swept up by the stupid fantasies that come with dreaming about a successful business. I get into trouble when I think solely on the benefits of running my own company. It’s easy to get the idea that everything is glamorous, that everyone will like you, that having employees is easy, and that meeting every financial obligation will be no issue. This book, albeit in a small way, did express the importance of remaining humble and grounded in reality. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows out there, the hard truths are not to be overlooked. So don’t be shy of areas such as accounting, sales, expenses, how you’ll market and acquire customers, etc. You don’t want to be the fool because you lacked the stomach to look at your income and balance sheets.
- Evaluate the Skills You May Have That You Haven’t Recognized
I love reading stories relevant to this point. It’s good to see when people recognize that their experience and skill are transferrable into other areas of life and business. One example was a waitress. She had come to realize her skill dealing with people in a personal way would be useful in public relations. There are many opportunities like this. Being creative and resourceful is at the heart of being an entrepreneur.
- Good Business Is About Providing Value
We may have plenty of ideas regarding business. But how many of them are others going to find useful and valuable enough to pay for? Reviewing our ideas or even doing some market research can help us determine whether there is interest for our ideas. We can save ourselves so much time with a little understanding of the market. I think it’s quite easy to get carried away with bad ideas. On the other hand though, it can be a struggle for some to generate good business ideas. One way this was addressed in the book, was to look around. Examine the things that you spend money on, examine the various experiences in stores, and in other businesses. Wherever there’s a product, there’s someone who’s made it, shipped it, and is now selling it. Understanding more of the how the economy functions and how the marketplace is setup can help a person imagine where they could fit in.
- Finding A Better Way to Evaluate Ideas
In general, it’s been my opinion that developing a business plan, or at least getting your ideas out in writing can be very helpful. Setting aside time to articulate the details of your idea can really make it come to life. This enables you to consider everything in a much more real and logical way. It puts an end to the ideas floating around in your head to no avail. What I learned in this book was a way to organize these ideas in a table format. The key was to evaluate each business idea based on estimations of difficultly to start, time it would take to develop, cost, etc. And then to rank your ideas based on your defined metrics. This can really help in a decision making process! I’m very thankful to have learned this way.
- Always Overdeliver
The market is filled with organizations carrying a bare minimum attitude. Products barely meet quality or longevity requirements, service-based companies get away with doing poor jobs, customer service departments don’t exist to help customers. It’s a sad world of poor performance. This book really left an impression on me that there’s got to be something that you consistently overdeliver on. Make your value proposition very clear. Be able to answer any objections quickly and easily. Doing these things will help your company to stand out from the rest.
- Consider Less Traditional Means of Advertising
Spending money is not the only way to get the word out about your product or service. This point was well covered and included some very interesting details, and examples of tests performed. The verdict is that paying for advertisement is not necessarily the best means to drive more business. There are multiple avenues worth consideration. Building an audience through a social media platform, a newsletter, or other means of communication is one way. Advertising something in a way that is mutually beneficial to another business could also be looked at. The world of marketing is literally limitless in terms of means you can use to drum up business. The key is to get creative and not be afraid to do things differently.
This book was inspired by a mix of more than a thousand stories/interviews from people all over the world. Take note, ask good questions and never stop learning!
Chris Guillebeau has authored seven books at the time of this writing. His website is worth checking out: www.chrisguillebeau.com
Final thoughts: I’ve had it said to me that many people have gone before me and been successful with less experience and/or less money. I believe this point to be worth serious consideration. There may be less excuses for starting your dream business than you currently realize. However, I do not think this notion should supply us a license for complacency, bad financial practices, and willful ignorance. Some people do get their “time in the sun,” with little to no effort and go on to live in a lazy, complacent fashion giving no credit to their Creator, God. We must do our due diligence, conduct relevant research, and prepare in the best ways that we can. We are all managers of some capacity.
So I pose three questions:
1. How will we steward what’s been generously given to us?
2. Will we glorify God through our life?
3. Will we forever sit stagnant on our dreams, or can we take that leap of faith and get started?