There are a bunch of reasons for that, but I just don’t do them. And I’m totally breaking that “rule” because I think each and every one of you reading this can get something out of Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The $100 Startup.
[Full disclosure: Chris sent me an early copy to read. He didn't ask for a review. He didn't send me a pony or even a cup of coffee. There was absolutely no quid pro quo, it was just here's my new book, hope you like it. I know Chris from the online world, but we've never spent time together in person and don't know each other personally all that well. So lest you think this is one of those "oh, he's just her buddy so she's pimping his stuff" things, it isn't. Now then.]
The premise of Chris’ book is simple: Anyone can start a business, and you don’t need a lot of money to do it. Then he gives you key things you need to know about doing that, from getting your message clear to making sure you have a few basic pieces of infrastructure in place. The rest is example after example after example of people who have done it.
In a way, reading this is preaching to the choir, because I owned a business once before, and I’m several months into the second one. So I know it can be done. But there isn’t a business owner – or aspiring business owner – that can’t afford to do it better.
There’s no tricks or gimmicks in here. No shortcuts, no clever under-the-table secrets. What I love about Chris is that he pretty much verifies what you already know: this is going to take work, and a lot of it, and you’re going to have to try stuff to see what works and doesn’t but that it’s absolutely and unequivocally possible. So if it’s that straightforward, why on earth am I so in love with this book?
The elegance is in the simplicity.
I’ve been in the business world for 15+ years, and now own a high-end consultancy that has a promising future. But I must have dog-eared twenty pages in this book, pages that helped reframe some basics and evaluate them more closely for the work we’re doing at SideraWorks. Things like:
- Is the value we’re defining in our messages crystal clear?
- Are we solving the problem our clients have, not just the one we see?
- Do we design our offerings clearly and understand well who the client is?
- Where are the small but important tweaks we can make to what we’re already doing?
- How can we plan simply but clearly to set up and follow through on key milestones in our business with the right clients?
The good news for us is that I think we’re doing a good job, but we can always do better. And several times, jaded business person that I am, I sat up and grabbed for my notebook to scribble down some thoughts about how we can be more interesting, more focused, and better deliver value through the eyes of our clients. That’s a high-value exercise, no matter how many road miles you’ve got under your business belt.
You’re not going to read anything in The $100 Startup that makes you say “I’ve never heard that before!!”. But what you will do is read it, and say “I never thought of this simple and familiar idea that way before”, and you’ll probably smack your head once or twice knowing you should be doing these things and realizing you’ve gotten lost in the weeds a bit. Chris makes you strip out all the decoration and look at the simple stuff that you just might be missing.
Last but important point: Chris is incredibly readable. He’s a wonderful, narrative writer, with a conversational tone and the ability to tell stories really well. (That’s part of why he’s awesomely successful, by the by). So many business books leave you overwhelmed with the feeling that you’re doing it all wrong, that you’ve missed so much, that getting on track to success is an impossible task reserved for only the most robust, well-funded and complex businesses. You’ll put this one down with the feeling that you can do this, and that the only magic is in the fact that there is no magic at all.
So go pick up The $100 Startup, and if you haven’t read Chris’ other book The Art Of Non-Conformity, get that one too while you’re at it. You can get them on Amazon together for about $25. Those aren’t affiliate links, they’re just Amazon links. I couldn’t care less about earning a buck or two, but I do care that you can read some things that energize and inspire you. These are worth the time.
And tell you what. If you buy them, read them, and don’t think you got anything out of them, send me an email and let me know, and I’ll personally buy you another book of your choice.
Thanks, Chris, for the shot in the arm for the girl who had all but given up on business books. Keep writing, and I’ll keep reading.