The $100 Startup Informs And Inspires Lean Startups

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The $100 StartupStart up books can lead your business to success…if you pick the right one.  Selecting the right one is like getting a band to play together. Ask Steven Tyler & Joe Perry of Aerosmith or any member of Fleetwood Mac, for that matter, and you get the idea.  Great music is created when all the pieces come together, but it can be hell getting the pieces arranged.

In the business world, few books really tackle all the ins and outs of microbusiness and lean start up concepts. One that seems to get it is the new book The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make A Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau (@chrisguillebeau).

Chris is a well-travelled business evangelist who wrote a New York Times best seller The Art of Non Conformity.   I picked up a copy of his latest book. And after reading it, I felt it to be a good match for those starting a business. An entrepreneur will be hard pressed to find a better, more concise guide that offers solid tips in a concise manner.

What is $100 worth to an entrepreneur?

$100 Startup incorporates some of the bold image framework used in Rework but offers even deeper text through anecdotes and examples from accidental entrepreneurs successful at spending less than what many people spend on coffee (thus the title’s inspiration).

It’s this mix of depth but straightforward simplicity that sets the book in its own functional universe of business advice. The refreshing aspect for the reader is that the book offers suggestions that quickly get to the heart of why your business should exist, avoiding certain problems or poor choices as a result.

For example, many businesses have difficulty marketing their offerings because owners haven’t thought about what the benefits of their service is.  So Guillebeau offers an opening lesson for business building that spells out the needs for the reader’s passion to converge with what others care about – imagine two circles overlapping.

This may sound like a duh-big-deal moment regarding matching offerings to customer demand, but Guillebeau emphasizes the notion that not every idea needs to be super sexy to be profitable and attainable.   He also proposes the idea of skill transfer, refining the product or service so that it is specific offer:

“If you’re good at one thing you’re probably good at other things too. Many projects begin through a process of skills transformation in which you apply your knowledge to a related topic.”

One perspective that caught my attention was the segment The Rise of the Roaming Entrepreneur.  I still think we have instances where being in some locations make a difference, but Guillebeau makes a point about how infused many services and concepts are to the cloud and what it ultimately means to operate a business that fits one’s passion as well as a customer service.

How far can $100 go beyond passion?

There is an analytic aspect that belies the presented suggestions. I personally like anything that encourages reviewing your performance in your goals, and the suggestions here are no exception.  The suggestions also become healthy thought starters to make a business go further.  Check out the comment below:

“Regardless of your growth strategy, you’ll want to pay attention to the health of your business.  The best way to do this is with a two-pronged strategy:

Step 1: Select one or two metrics and be aware of them at any given time, focusing on sales, cash flow, or incoming leads

Step 2: Leave everything else for a biweekly or monthly review where you delve into the overall business more careful.”

Guillebeau then goes into mentioning a few of the standard metrics used in a business.  This serves a point behind the book – to get past the cliché of doing what you love into learning how to apply that love. I liked that $100 Start Up made the explanation simple but essential for the non-SQL/Google Analytics/accounting crowd, even if more is probably needed down the line.

The middle chapters get into launch mode, incorporating the latest ideas for crowdfunding and creating a killer offer. The chapter titles can sound a bit “Your-dream-awaits” in their approach, but this book is meant to bring hope that your analytic approach should yield worthwhile rewards.

If you just have an idea for a business, The $100 Startup makes for one useful here’s-what-to-do-next guide.  It avoids excessive used-car-salesman tactics and bad judgment behind concepts that unfortunately litter the Internet.  Guillebeau displays class in noting how a good mix of information and inspiration can bring the right elements for success in place.

Now if he could just do the same for rock bands….

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Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.