Book Review
Title: "The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future"
Author: Chris Guillebeau
Publisher: Crown Business, 2012; 304 pages; $23

Lots of things about our economic markets seem to be improving. Buyer traffic in the real estate markets and prices in some areas are on the upswing. Studies show more people are voluntary quitting their jobs than are being laid off. Fortune 500 human resources pros are constantly quoted in the press bemoaning their inability to find recruits.

But these sprouts of good fortune can obscure the reality that many homeowners are still upside down, struggling to cover their loan payments, and many Americans in general are still struggling to recover from the financial hits of the recession and the unsustainable financial decisions that led up to it. Many who were laid off are struggling to get jobs, because of the mismatch between their skills and the job openings employers need to fill.

Much of the advice that is given to those in financial recovery — especially in the real estate context — is about trying to beg, plead or haggle with the bank for a mortgage loan modification or a short sale, how to decide whether to declare bankruptcy, and how to dress, act and otherwise sell yourself at job interviews.

I’ve written before that I believe the financially beleaguered might do better to put themselves in the driving seat in their careers and their lives, and I’ve suggested that it’s not at all overkill to rent rooms out, get a second job or do whatever else it takes to aggressively move your monthly budget from the red to the black.

Now, giving inspiration and insight for citizens of every real estate persuasion — buyers, owners, sellers and renters — who want to seize control of their finances comes Chris Guillebeau, an uber-popular lifestyle design and entrepreneurship blogger, with his new book, "The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future."

"The $100 Startup" synthesizes the results of a multiyear study Guillebeau conducted with more than 1,500 owners of super-scrappy, thriving businesses into an action plan for those who have very little or no money, and zero special or professional skills, but have the moxie and motivation to build a business, on the side or otherwise. The largest amount any of his subjects spent to launch their businesses was $1,000, and more than one-third got started with $100 or less.

Contrast these meager costs Guillebeau’s subjects invested into what he calls their "microbusinesses" with the not-so-micro net incomes these business ventures produce: minimum: $50,000 annually — and many generate well into the six figures every year!

But this is not get-rich-quick stuff, nor is it magic. There are repeatable systems and do’s and don’ts for those who want to join the ranks of the microentrepreneurs features in "The $100 Startup," whether in response to being laid off (like some of those included in the book), or just in an effort to turn their passion into a business. Here are a few:

1. Reality-check yourself: Can your passion support a business? Guillebeau says that passion-driven businesses can be very lucrative, but that it behooves microentrepreneurs-to-be to vet their passion for profit potential upfront. Not only are some passions and hobbies unable to support a strong business model, he points out, but some people "may just not want to combine your hobby with your work." The book offers a "Reality Check Checklist" with questions for you to ask yourself and to research in the marketplace before taking the leap into microentrepreneurship, as well as numerous other tools for conducting strategic market research that’s cheap or free.

2. Carefully sort your ideas and prioritize your offerings before you roll them out. I know a lot of business owners, and many more what I call "Someday Entrepreneurs" — none of them lack for ideas. And, in fact, the overabundance of product and offering ideas can actually cause some people to spin, become paralyzed and get stuck. Guillebeau offers a simple, but effective, decision-making matrix for prioritizing products and other offerings in terms of which to develop and take to market first, considering the work it’ll take, how consistent it is with your vision for your business, and the likely return the product will create, holistically.

3. Make your first sale ASAP. Guillebeau points out that of all the threats to your microbusiness, inertia and fear are the most dangerous. The microentrepreneurs he interviewed frequently cited just getting their website up and making a single sale as a turning point that shifted their business-building speed from tentative and fearful to fast-forward.

Guillebeau even advises that some should consider beginning to market their products or offerings before they are actually completely manufactured; this empowers you to "make sure there is sufficient demand for your product or service before spending your whole life working on it," and gives you a head start on the momentum-building impact that comes with getting your first sale.

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