The $100 Startup chronicles with Chris Guillebeau

NOTE: If you’re interested in Chris’s new book The $100 Startup, you can get it right now as part of the Only72 sale. Short version: For $100 total, you get the book plus over $1000 worth of the best online education products from people you know… including me. Check it out here

A while ago, Chris Guillebeau and I did a back-and-forth email interview. It was pretty cool and fit both Chris’s schedule and my sense of laziness. I’d email him a question, he’d email back an answer, and it’d go on like that forever with very casual effort. It was awesome.

Now, with Chris’s new book The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future due to release on May 8th, we decided to do it again. Here we go:

JOHNNY: Why do you think the idea “I need money to start a business” is so persistent even in the internet age? Am I just such a salty old internet dog at this point that I think that everyone knows you can start one very inexpensively, even free?

CHRIS: You may be a salty internet dog, but I can think of two other reasons that also apply:

a) Lots of people genuinely don’t know what’s involved in starting a business, so there’s a perception that it simply must take money.

b) Believing that something is impossible due to lack of resources is a good excuse for not doing it. And we all like excuses.

JOHNNY: What do you tell people about failure? In my experience, people are going to fail a few times before they get it right, but that’s a hard lesson to really internalize. Most of the people I see fail and then quit… whereas if they’d tried and failed a second time, then tried a third, maybe they would have blown something out of the water.

CHRIS: I tell them that failure is overrated. Yeah, it’s true that most of us are going to fail at various things, and that’s fine and normal. As you say, the important thing is persistence. But instead of failing, isn’t it also possible that you could succeed right off the bat? Instead of accepting failure as a prerequisite to success, why not focus on success right from the beginning?

JOHNNY: Okay, so one of the things this book does is to remove a key excuse from people who claim they’d like to start a business. Once that excuse is gone, do most people have the skills they’ll actually need to start that business? Is that something that’s really part most people’s makeup, or is there a certain type of person who can do this?

CHRIS: A key principle of the $100 Startup model is that the skills you already have are all you need. Forget about going back to business school (keep the $60k in tuition and send Johnny B. Truant a pair of Vibram toe socks as a thank-you).

However, sometimes you need to undertake a process of skill transformation—learning to apply those skills in a different way. For example, Brandon Pearce was an engineer by day and a music teacher by night. He noticed that keeping up with student scheduling and billing was a pain in the ass. Most music teachers want to teach; not worry about administrative details. Using his engineering background, Brandon built Music Teacher’s Helper, an online system to take care of all the administrative aspects of the business. Almost as an afterthought, he offered it to other music teachers. The platform took off and quickly grew to a steady base of customers and more than $30,000 in monthly income.

JOHNNY: That’s pretty interesting and makes total sense. Do you think there’s anything a person can do to develop their “thinking outside the normal nine dots” muscle, so that those good ideas become visible? If you don’t open yourself to doing stuff that’s different, weird, or outside of what you’re used to, I can see a lot of great ideas like that hiding in plain sight.

CHRIS: Sure, you can do something that most of us could be better at anyway: listen more, and begin observing. Notice things wherever you go. Is there something you want to do or have that you can’t find anywhere? Maybe you’re not the only one who wants it. What’s missing at the restaurant? What’s one thing they could do better?

When you start paying attention, you’ll begin to spot more of those ideas that have been hiding in plain sight.

This is really just a teaser… just the first part of our exchange. Keep watching the blog, because our discussion continues…

Remember, if you want to get Chris’s book as part of the Only72 sale, be sure to do it before the sale ends early Thursday. (And yes, that’s an affiliate link. Duh.)