I’m read by Antonio Neves’ post Can School Make You a Better Entrepreneur? on Entrepreneur.com yesterday. Antonio does a good job giving a balanced view of that very interesting question, and he asks bonified smart person Chris Guillebeau too, which is always a good idea.
Chris gets the best quote in the piece:
‘You might as well learn as much as you can from as many sources as you can,’ says entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau, author of the New York Times best-seller The $100 Startup. ‘Experience may indeed be the best teacher, but you can certainly supplement that education with more traditional or nontraditional kinds.’
That’s smart. There are some dumb quotes in that piece, but Chris is right on. Absolutes don’t make sense. The right answer is not yes, or no, but rather, “it depends.”
I’m just one data point, but in my case I’m 100% certain that I could not have managed my successes in entrepreneurship without the MBA degree that turned me, at age 33, from business writer to business doer. But I’m also certain that lots of successful people did it without the luxury of education.
My opinion: if you don’t have the time, or the money, you can do without business education. If you get caught up in success so quickly that you don’t have time for business education, then don’t worry, you’re already getting it where you are. And if you have the luxury to have a choice, get a real education — math science, liberal arts — first, and then add business training later.
There was a comment posted on this blog last week. It’s well-written and touches the heart. It also plays some chords I get to often, worth calling out in a blog post. It starts…
I’m a 40-something woman and I want to start my own business. I have a visionary mind and I’m very analytical (almost to a fault…). I have been working in [mid-level clerical jobs] for over 7 years now and I’m hitting a dead-end in the industry. Not to mention, I’m tired of the cube life. I have worked even booths at home-shows and fairs for virtually nothing and less. I have half a clue as to how to operate, but I have no idea how to get started.
… so of course I’d like to help. And then she adds…
Because of the down-turn in the economy and the job market, I have been working as a temp for the last 2 years and our home is way under water. As a result, I have no money – we live literally from week to week.
… which makes want even more to help. But then I get to this:
… the research I’ve done so far has revealed that I know nothing. I just discovered that if I get a food cart, it has to go through an approval application review at $130 hr w/ a minimum of 2 hours. None of the books I’ve read have mentioned this expenditure.
She goes on:
If it sounds like I’m asking for some hand-holding, well, yes I am. I want to do this so badly, but fear has always been my own self-defeating nemesis. All of that to ask you: Do you have a map? Any direction you can provide would be GREATLY appreciated! I don’t want to think I’ve covered the bases only to find out – oh, sorry, you screwed up. You now owe us big money. I can’t afford that. Anyway, I’m hoping you can offer something…
Do I have a map? Well, yes, sort of. Although, to be be honest, when she doesn’t have $260 for an approval, it’s hard to imagine any way she can actually build a real working business. That level of spending for approvals and licenses and such is really hard to avoid. Isn’t the food cart itself going to take spending? And complaining about those books that didn’t mention it makes me nervous about giving advice. I’m thinking they probably waved a hand or two at licenses and approvals, because most people assume there will be some fees along the way. My own book 3 Weeks to Startup makes only general references to this kind of detail. It’s hard (probably impossible) to generalize with a book, to make it useful, and also include specifics to the level of detail of approvals required for a food cart in some specific location.
Still, I do have suggestions:
Chris Guillebeau’s book The $100 Startup. It’s brilliant. And so well-written, in such delightful detail, that it actually makes the $100 number seem believable, although I still take it as more symbolic than specific. Chris is a gifted writer and he’s actually done what he’s recommending. And besides, a book with a chapter titled “Hustling: The Gentle Art of Self Promotion” that’s subtitled ‘Advertising is like sex: only losers pay for it’ deserves to succeed. Warning: it will cost you $15 or so.
I’m disappointed getting a request for a map as a comment on a website that tries, and oh so hard, to be a map. You’re reading this at www.bplans.com. Her comment was on this blog, on www.bplans.com. I’m obviously biased but I still think this is the best place in the world for free start-you-business information. And I’d like to think that map is right here.
Sabrina Parsons (@mommyceo) and I wrote the book 3 Weeks to Startup, published by Entrepreneur Press, in 2008. I like it a lot. It’s not nearly as much fun as Chris’ book, but it has a lot of good information. Unfortunately, it does, like the books you complain about, talk about licenses and permits without giving specific numbers. Warning: it will cost your $15 or so.
Find your local SCORE chapter with the search at SCORE.org. Make an appointment and talk to one of the SCORE counselors.
Do some Google searches for obvious search teams like “cheap startup” or “startup no money” and see what you get, but go very carefully with this one, because those waters are seething with sharks looking to take your money.
And a final thought: lots of people want the personalized step-by-step map, but building a business isn’t like that. Nobody but you can wade through the thousands of pages and flood of information available, sift and sort what works for you, and recreate a specific personalized guide. Everybody’s map is different. Thousands, maybe millions, of us have tried, in books and websites. But what you need is sorting and sifting and digesting it all, and then recreating a special customized personalized message for you, and that would take days, maybe weeks, of somebody else’s time. You have to do it yourself.