Monday, June 1, 2015

Read Like Crazy: The $100 Startup

One of these days I will share the story of how I came to start this blog, and how countless resources materialized before me once I was committed to the idea. For today, I will say only that The $100 Startup, which released in 2012, was not on my radar at all until I decided to start a blog about small business, and then it started popping up everywhere, even when I wasn’t looking for information on business in any way.

Chris Guillebeau, the author of The $100 Startup and other bestsellers, has been self-employed for as long as he’s been working, and apparently, it works for him—he has traveled the entire world well over (and continues to travel); he’s helped other entrepreneurs fulfill their own goals (such as Benny Lewis, “the Irish Polyglot,” who makes his living on his language program Fluent in 3 Months); and he believes so heartily that anyone can have the freedom he has (if that person truly wants it) that he’s willing to give an enormous amount of his own time to passing on the lessons he has learned as an entrepreneur.

I was a bit skeptical of this book at first, which is why I read it forty pages at a time in daily trips to the library rather than paying for it, but in the end, I am definitely going to buy a copy. I filled half a notebook with all the paragraphs I thought were useful either for my blog or my planned storefront. Since I finished the book I keep thinking back to passages I wish I could have in front of my face to re-read and earmark. And I know that as I go through the stages of developing my own businesses, I will discover that some of the principles I originally thought wouldn’t apply to me and on which I took no notes will become important, and it will be beneficial to have the practical knowledge Guillebeau offers right at my fingertips.

What I liked about it: The $100 Startup is straight-forward and thorough. Guillebeau is a fountain of energy. He’s prepared to admit that there are many ways to a common goal, and that there are many different ways to define success, and because of these realities, there is no one “right” answer for any given area of a business plan. Still, with his complete analyses of varying kinds of businesses (and business people), he saves his readers and fellow entrepreneurs the time and hassel of learning some lessons the hard way, because some paths are smarter risks than others.

What I didn’t like about it: Every once in a while, something in the book would come across as scammy. I’m a person who errs on the side of ethical uprightness, so when Guillebeau encourages his audience (presumably people who are in the midst of planning their own businesses) to tap into the emotional needs of their potential buyers, or offer the exact same product at different price points based on varying levels of service or warrantees provided and then justifies himself by saying “As long as you don’t imply that there are added features in the higher-price version, it’s not unethical,” it makes me a bit uneasy. That said, I’ve studied business and marketing long enough to know that these are common ploys, and many books would cover them.

Would I buy this book? Yes. It will be a great resource to keep handy.

Some quotes for the fridge:

“If you make your business about helping others, you’ll always have plenty of work.” —p. 38

“Ironically, people who pay for high-end products tend to be better customers all around. ‘Low-paying buyers are the worst,’ one business owner who sold a broad range of products at different prices told me. ‘We have far more complaints from people who pay $10 and expect the world than from those who pay $1000.’” —p.192

“If you’re not sure where to spend your business development time, spend 50% on creating and 50% on connecting. The most powerful channel for getting the word out usually starts with people you already know.” —p. 170

For more, visit or find Guillebeau’s complete work at your local library or bookstore.

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