April 2, 2009

Unconventional Business Ideas

lemonade-stand-unconventional-business-ideas

The AONC readership has expanded quite a bit recently, and I know that not everyone here cares about business. Even though I’ve made my living as an entrepreneur for more than 10 years, I’d like to let you in on a secret:

I don’t much care for business either… at least, not in the traditional sense.

What I care about instead is business that a) doesn’t feel like work and b) is centered around building real relationships.

Here are a few unconventional business ideas that reflect this philosophy. None of these ideas are truly original (most ideas aren’t), but I’ve tried to gather them together here before writing about them in more detail for future articles.

  • IDEA: Give Everything Away

From time to time I meet with business people who ask the behind-the-scenes questions about how things work over here. They enjoy using their corporate credit card to buy coffee for us, and I enjoy drinking coffee. Most of them don’t understand how I can write for free and still manage to pay the bills.

The traditional business model of sharing information is to give away 10% as a “teaser” and sell people on the 90% behind the curtain. I do the opposite – 90% (or more) is free. The 10% is for the fans and those who need specific help best suited to a more in-depth format. Products are available, in other words — but all of the regular writing is free. Oh, and no ads either.

Another good example of giving everything away is Leo Babauta’s decision to “uncopyright” his work – everything on ZenHabits is in the public domain. This was a master stroke in building his network and establishing broad authority, even after he had become quite successful. I don’t know the private details of Leo’s finances, but when I look at his subscriber base, my estimate is that he’s living pretty damn well by encouraging people to steal his content.

  • IDEA: Don’t use people, help them.

I didn’t have business cards for the first decade of my self-employment. Since I meet a lot of people these days, I finally gave in and ordered some recently – but it took 10 years. I don’t go to Toastmasters, Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, or any other networking events.

The problem I have with traditional networking is that it frequently involves scoping people out to see what they can do for you. I hate this. I know it isn’t all about that – but some of it is, and I just don’t like the pretentiousness.

HOWEVER…

The kind of networking I do now is extremely important. I spend about two hours a day connecting with people. I do this primarily through Twitter and 75-100 emails a day. Everyone who writes gets a real response (sometimes it takes a while, but I take it seriously).

By the way, if you feel like you don’t have time for Twitter, read this great post by Havi Brooks about why you should have time. I usually agree with most of what Havi says, and this article is no exception.

Instead of asking “What can you do for me?” this kind of networking is externally focused. It asks the questions, “How can I help you? What can I do to tell other people about you? What are your goals?” I love it.

  • IDEA: There is No Competition.

Someone asked me in a radio interview recently if Tim Ferriss was my competitor. Um, no. As I see it, there is no competition in this business. Tim has helped a large number of people think differently about life and work, and that’s pretty much my goal too, albeit in a different way.

If you’re in a business where you compete with the store down the street and one of you has to lower prices to bring in customers, good luck. Instead of external competition, the competition you face every day is INERTIA. The competition comes from within to get up every day and help people change the world.

  • IDEA: Avoid (Almost) All Meetings

Seth Godin is often asked how he has time to do everything, especially write back to everyone who emails him. His answer is that he doesn’t watch TV and doesn’t go to meetings, so that gives him 4-5 more hours a day than most people have.

I completely agree. I also don’t watch TV and don’t go to meetings. Instead I go around the world – that does take some time – and I like to go to coffee shops almost every afternoon. I also don’t take many phone calls, but we’ll come to that later.

  • IDEA: Lose the hard sell, or any sell at all.

The thought of hard-selling is a complete turn-off to me. I regularly walk out of stores that use guilt or scarcity tactics to sell me. (“Are you sure you don’t want the extended warranty? Because, just between us, these products tend to break down a lot.”)

Selling that plays on fear, guilt, or greed establishes negative relationships. I’d rather build my business, and my relationships in general, on positive connections. If someone writes in and says I’m thinking of buying this, can you sell me on it? My answer is no, sorry. I can tell you about it, I can answer questions, but I can not sell you.

Also, if someone ever complains about something I sell (it’s extremely rare, but some people do go around the internet downloading things and asking for refunds the same day), I give their money back IMMEDIATELY. Life is too short to worry about those people. This brings us to the next point:

  • IDEA: Give people what they want.

If you don’t think this is an unconventional business idea, good for you– that means you’re somewhat isolated from internet marketing, or stores that try to sell you things you don’t want.

My view is that if you have to persuade, you’re in the wrong business. Meet people’s needs instead. Sell what people buy. If your project meets needs and expands the pie (we’re coming to that), you’re on to something.

Is your product a good idea? Here’s a test. Check this list:

1) Desperate Need – People NEED (or think they need) your product or service.

2) High Value – You deliver high value. You’re proud of what you sell.

3) High Margins – You make real money from it.

If you have all three, you’re probably on to something.

  • IDEA: Don’t outsource, just stop doing stuff.

If you feel overwhelmed and are thinking about outsourcing, you can also just stop doing stuff. It works surprisingly well.

A good question to ask yourself is, “If I stop doing x, will the world come to an end?” If yes, you should probably find a way to do it. If not, it will probably be OK. True, you may not be able to build a seven-figure business this way, but is that your goal? Again, if that’s what you want, then you might need to outsource. If not, you can probably just let some things go.

  • IDEA: Regularly turn down money.

The first part is easy – turn down money from difficult people. Don’t hard-sell; invite customers to participate with you. Give money back and walk away from anyone who becomes difficult.

The second part, however, is more difficult to come to terms with. The second part involves turning down money not because of rude people but just because something isn’t right for you. Years ago, for example, I used to feel guilty for giving up thousands of dollars in lost sales because I didn’t want to call people on the phone. I’ve matured over the years – now I don’t feel guilty about it.

  • IDEA: Don’t listen to anyone (listen to everyone).

I try to follow this rule not only in business but in life in general. If one person doesn’t like your work, don’t worry. Instead, listen to what everyone says. Get feedback from the entire world. Use Google Alerts for your name, search for what people are saying, (I’m @chrisguillebeau – have we connected yet?), and generally pay attention to what’s going on.

And the MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL

  • IDEA: Always Expand the Pie.

In my business, I don’t lose if someone else gains. When I gain, no one else loses. This is a result of some of the ideas I explained above – the fact that there is no competition, I try to give people what they want, I don’t play sales games, etc.

If your business (or your job, or whatever it is you do every day) is built on taking something from somebody else, I don’t envy you. If you asked me, I’d say you’re in the wrong business. You might as well go out and repossess cars or work for a collection agency.

Thankfully, businesses that “get it” are becoming more common. I’m far from alone in this. In fact, I really think that a huge subset of entrepreneurs who adopt this mindset will become more and more successful while traditional business models continue to struggle.

Speaking of social networking, the other day I saw that someone is selling an $800 guide to Twitter. I thought that was pretty funny. From a marketing standpoint I understand how it works – some clueless executives from big companies will buy it and feel like they are getting a deal. Perceived value is everything, so perhaps it’s worth it to some people.

But assuming you don’t have $800 to spend, you can learn how unconventional business works for free. The hard part will be saying goodbye to some old assumptions, and no $800 guide can help you do that.

Wrap-Up

By the way, the same people who say “Welcome to the Real World” will say the same thing about some of these ideas in the business world. “That’s not how it works… that’s unrealistic…” etc.

If you’re in business, you can safely ignore this feedback. The better question to ask is, who is the judge of your success? What does success look like for you?

I’m well aware that my business is unsuccessful by some standards. I’ve foregone expansion, turned away money, and done almost everything myself. In the hands of a more skilled businessperson, I don’t doubt that they could achieve higher returns – perhaps even with less work. It’s just not who I am.

Feel free to share your own unconventional business ideas in the comments section. I don’t expect everyone to agree with all of my ideas, and I’ll be happy to post yours so that everyone else can learn from them too.

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47 Responses to “Unconventional Business Ideas”

  1. I was recently at a sort of networking event and did the business card exchange thing. This one rather schmoozy fellow emailed me and called me a few times to let me know he was having a little meeting thing at his office about this great opportunity and I kept staving him off because the vibe I was getting made me really uncomfortable and when he finally let slip the name of the company I hit Google and found out it was an MLM business.

    And while there were, in fact, few complaints about the business itself, I still had no interest precisely because I didn’t want to become That Guy. I didn’t want to be reduced to bugging everybody in sight about signing up, about selling, about building a ‘downline’ and about phoning up and emailing people until they’re sick of seeing your name come up on their phone or in their inbox. I’m not wired for that, I’m not built for that and I don’t care how much money it could make me if it leaves me in a state of perpetual anxiety.

    Thank you for reminding me that I’m not losing out on anything by choosing not to go down that path. (I have purchased your Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself, by the way, and I’m still going through it, but finding it quite useful so far.)

  2. Hi Chris,

    I’m a new big fan of your blog, and I loved this article. Your philosophy on business really resonates with me and I hope it catches on in a big way. I can’t imagine how wonderful it would be if a giving-focused model was the norm in business.

    Great stuff and I’m excited to cruise your archives.

  3. Chris,

    This is an excellent summary of some brilliant and important ideas. Unsurprisingly, we agree on just about everything. (:

    Re “Give everything away”: I remember that lots of our entrepreneur and business friends were shocked when we announced that we were giving away our e-book for free. We spent what, six months working on the book, and we’re just giving it away? “Sounds like bad business,” they said. But sales of the tree-book have been great, and people are even BUYING THE E-BOOK even though we’re posting it on the blog for the whole world.

    It’s one of those fake tradeoffs. Where you think you’re making a tradeoff like “trade money for goodwill/awesomeness/fans/karma/whatever”, you actually get MORE OF BOTH.

    It’s pretty cool. (:

  4. Thanks for the great post. I always had an inkling (hope?) that business didn’t have to be done the way people say it should be done. Your absolutely reinforced that idea with me. You have a habit of expressing thoughts and ideas that just click with me and I love your site for that. It’s nice to see a working example in what you do as well. Many thanks, and keep up the great work!

  5. Gutsy move on Leo Babauta’s part. Though with over 100,000 subscribers, he is already the authority on the web for his content. I doubt there is much danger in that changing based on the free content. I do wonder if there are site that are exact duplcates in other language.

    I appreciate that your focus is against using people as a commodity to get something. That’s an important step that would benefit society and the individual.

  6. @Gennaro: Leo uncopyrighted his blog over a year ago, when he was big but not The Authority. I think being generous to your readers is a good way to build authority, respect, and trust.

  7. I so agree with your ideas – especially the “sales” part. I have found the more everyone wins, the more repeat business and people who trust you. I cringe every time I meet the “traditional salesperson.” They tend to give all of us a bad name…

  8. Hey Chris,
    I enjoyed this post so much, I printed it! Now, it’s on our fridge (our kitchen is our de facto conference room). Has it been sufficiently tweeted?

  9. Hey thanks, guys – I’m glad you like it.

    @Sheila,

    I appreciate the free advertising. :)

    @Peter,

    Feel free to share with your circle – I appreciate that too.

  10. Thanks so much for the post Chris. I really keyed in on the following point:

    “Instead of asking “What can you do for me?” this kind of networking is externally focused. It asks the questions, “How can I help you? What can I do to tell other people about you? What are your goals?””

    This reminded me of a passage a recently re-read in my favorite series of books – it nearly brought me to tears. I’m paraphrasing here:

    “Make your life a gift. Remember always, you are the gift!
    Be a gift to everyone who enters your life, and to everyone whose life you enter.

    When someone enters your life unexpectedly, look for the gift that person has come to receive from you.

    Every person who has ever come to you has come to you to receive a gift from you. In so doing, he gives a gift to you – the gift of your experiencing and fulfilling Who You Are.”

    I’m a firm believer that God/Your Higher Power/The Universe truly does send you nothing but “angels”. What I failed to realize that I, in being sent to all those of whom I interact, am also such an “angel”.

  11. Another great post, Chris!

    You hint at it with your “don’t take money” item, but for precision’s sake, I’d add that Doing What You Love is critical to business success. You can love different things about a business—it doesn’t have to be your One and True Dream to start—but I think that to work at something you have no passion for these days is a recipe for disaster.

    And for the record, I’ve been giving away all my content under a Creative Commons license for years. My only stipulations are that people don’t use my work to make money and that they don’t alter it. Yeah, I’m a drop in the internet bucket, but I just discovered that Merlin Mann also licenses his content at 43Folders under the same CC license, so Leo has some company in the wide-readership dept. :-)

  12. @Pace

    You make a great point. I’m a regular reader of ZenHabits. No doubt Leo’s generous to his readers and also to other bloggers. I viewed him as an authority early on since he was one of the first bloggers to effectively use the zen approach. Not meant as a slight. Meant as a compliment.

    If you are first to a concept (i.e. art of nonconformity, lifestyle design, digital nomad) that affords you a certain level of authority. Other taking content can’t change that.

  13. Chris,

    You radical! Imagine putting the needs of your “customers” first! Yours is a philosophy I have applied in my traditional business life for years. As Zig Ziglar has said “You can have everything in life you want if you help enough people get what they want.” The web has shifted the power back to the consumer given all the choices he/she has today. It is all about giving. Thanks for sharing yourself!!

  14. I always love reading your stuff and this post was no exception! I was actually starting to get into a rut today and decided to check my email one last time, (I know not a good habit to get in to haha) when I saw this. Sometimes I just feel like being the nice guy and doing things the right way can get people walking all over you! This post reassured me that I am doing what needs to be done for my company to move forward. I’ve only had it going now for a little over a month, but sometimes it can get a little disheartening to see my numbers swaggering all around. Just gotta keep on going!!

    Thanks so much for the inspiration! It really means a lot : )

  15. Chris, I hope you’ll be pleased to know that I began work last night on creating my own, first small business. Between reading your blog, and seeing a friend start his own small business recently, I finally have the courage to run with it.

    Thank you!

  16. I think the idea of free content is finally getting understood by people. I can’t wait for Chris Anderson’s book ‘FREE”. If you take a person on the street and ask them if it’s possible to get billions of dollars in revenue with a free service, they’ll tell you you’re nuts.

    But isn’t Google the case? Check the exact numbers in Fortune’s latest issue.

    And free content is what’s building the relationship here, at least in my opinion. Let’s say Chris puts out a landing page for the Ninja product, suppose that I am looking for advanced travel planing (forget about the whole site, just a simple landing page). Of course, with good SEO for example, people will click over. But how many would be convinced that he’s a guy who will refund you? How are you convinced that the material is top notch?

    Last summer I trained with a personal trainer, solely because he had a website with tons and tons of advice, constantly replying to people’s questions. It was the reason I hired him.

    Things are completely different now. The movie and music businesses are still suffering so much from it, they want the old model to work. Sorry guys, welcome to the 21st century.

    And Leo is doing a good job, he wants his content to spread (I think he mentions that he just want his page linked, if I am correct).

    (And some of those ideas are developed by Seth Godin, but I doubt any of this site’s readers aren’t subscribed to his blog.)

  17. Yes! Awesome thoughts. I’m a big believer in giving away 90% and receiving money for the other 10%. I’ve actually been giving away 100% of my information from my blog and I haven’t made a dime yet. I’m just trying to build relationships. It’s so much more fun working with friends then business associates.

    I like the idea of listening to everyone. I do get a few occasional bad responses on my blog, but they are so few and far in between. I can’t believe they used to bring me down. Now I just notice that their negativity is just a drop in the ocean of good stuff.

    This is a great post and I’ll be reading this again after I’m done this comment.

  18. April 2, 2009

    Carl Baumann

    Good article, I’m enjoying reading a like-minded persons thoughts. Here’s one strategy I employ a lot recently. Douglas Adams wrote of a “shielding” technology called the “SEP drive” in his Hitchhikers Guide series. SEP being “Somebody Elses Problem” I.E. something becoming invisible because it’s too much trouble to acknowledge/deal with.

    I discovered that many of my friends and associates were/are throwing away valuable items because it was simply easier/quicker for them to do so rather than try to re-sell/dispose of ethically. I simply ask them to give me the items (making it my problem not theirs), then use my network to dispose of them and take a percentage. Returning most of the profit. Which pleases and surprises them since they were chucking it anyway. Everyone wins. My associates get “money for nothing”, customers get good prices because anything above zero counts for me, my reputation as the “Man Who Can” increases because of the constant flow of goods and I make cash with no expenditure on “Stock”.

    Looking forward to sharing thoughts with you in the future.

    Carl.

  19. Wow, looks like I might be the only dissident here, but it is a role that someone has to play from time to time.

    The first comment I’d like to make is that treating the customer like a friend is one of my most important philosophies. However, I don’t believe that selling to them necessarily means you aren’t doing this. Some people want to be sold…I don’t think that is a bad thing.

    I’d also like to ask – When you display a list of benefits, isn’t that essentially selling? I agree that the typical long IM sales letter with fake hype and all that nonsense is not only ridiculous, but also misleading. The fact that you have to convince someone they want something proves that maybe your product wasn’t that necessary in the first place. However, if you deliver a lot of value, or save people time by putting great information into one place (I think you know what I am referring to), then I don’t think there is a problem explaining benefits to people.

    It is definitely difficult trying to stay away from the mainstream when it comes to marketing online, but lucky for me I get to hang with guys like you that are on the opposite end of the spectrum. The problem is that learning how to sell in this business becomes a giant process of wading through crap to find the gems.

    I really like your model and I don’t know much about your finances, but I assume that it works. My only question is – what is the ROI for your time? Is it sustainable? I just wrote a freebook last night that I was inspired to create for my readers, but at some point you have to pay the bills. If weare going to dedicate ourselves to this pursuit, then we have to have some way to make enough money to survive. If not, our readers lose out when we have to “hang it up.”

    I’m not much of a Zen Habits guy, but I know that Leo is very popular. I’m assuming that he sells books and banners on his site. I guess I just don’t see how that is any different from the newsletter content/giveaway followed up with a product recommendation from time to time.

    Don’t get me wrong Chris, I’m a huge fan of your and this post, but I just wanted to add a little devil’s advocate to the mix :)

    Expanding the pie is perhaps my favorite philosophy of yours…it is spot on. I guess that the driving factors for my business are 1) making sure I keep my brand in mind, 2) never sacrificing quality for a quick buck, and 3) doing what fuels me and staying inspired at all times. I find that inspiration always leads to a quality product/post/etc that I can be proud of.

    Thanks for the insight Chris, and keep kicking ass.

    nathan

  20. This article came right at the right moment for me – and restored my faith in what I’m doing. I’ve been giving away my ideas and am happy to do that – I enjoy knowing that other people can pick up and run with material that I don’t have the time and resources to follow up myself – and if it makes them successful/rich then all the better.

    But I’ve also been exploring setting up another online business with which to make some money (just enough to pay the bills and allow me to travel to interesting places and have great experiences).

    I’ve been getting bombarded with internet marketing products and feeling really uncomfortable (and increasingly irritated). Last night I spent tossing and feeling bad about myself for even reading that stuff and knowing that wasn’t a route I wanted to go down….but what else is there?

    Thankfully this article has pulled me back and given me back the perspective I had started out with and reinforced that I can do things in a relationship-centred, non-aggresssive salesman way, as I’d always intended.

    Now I just need to work out the details and keep the faith!

    Thanks for the pep.

  21. Hi Chris,

    A very good post, I am glad you posted about turning people away and giving them refunds, this is something I am increasingly doing.

    I get a feel about a person during our initial contacts and think, this is going to be a pain in the arse and I don’t want to do business with you.

    Why invite people you don’t like into your life if you don’t have to just for a couple of quid??

  22. Hi Chris! (and all the readers :D)

    I love your blog, and as I found out yesterday, so does my father. We are both entrepreneurs spreading a new way of doing business.

    Along with all the wonderful ideas you shared, I’d like to add:

    Complete and total trust + transparency.

    This could be an article in and of itself (which I’ve no doubt you, I, or someone else will write shortly… )

    It basically means I don’t have any ‘job descriptions’, contracts, responsibilities lists, obligations, established hourly wage or salary for my staff.

    It also means complete transparency of costs and profit, with nothing to hide. One’s staff and clients are made privy to the costs + profit of the company, so everyone agrees it is mutually beneficial and fair.

    Possibly one of the most ballsy and gutsy business ideas I’ve encountered. I actually live the first half of it.

    My employees are completely fulfilled and trusted and blissful in what they do, they are insanely more productive following their heart and their vision as it coincides with my own, and should that ever change we will go our own ways, no problems.

    I intend to implement the second half of the idea (transparency of costs) as well. :)

    Again, love the blog, I’d love to know how you feel/what you think about this idea, and I’m confident it has helped at least one reader already!

  23. @Gennaro: Cool, thanks for clarifying. I getcha. :)

  24. Very informative post… I really like the idea of helping people and listening to everyone. You never know what will happen if you do these things. If you give out positive vibes and do what you would want done to you, you would be surprised by the results — in business and in life.

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  26. April 5, 2009

    notapikc

    There was a movie many years ago, “Miracle on 34th Street”. A crazy department store Santa from Macy’s was telling parents to go Gimbel’s to buy toys that Macy’s didn’t sell. The Macy’s people got really pissed off but then Macy’s sales spiked because the parents were so happy that Macy’s cared more about the children getting what they wanted for Christmas than in selling toys that the parents bought everything else at Macy’s. As I recall, that department store Santa’s name was Chris. Hmmm…

  27. A writer friend of mine once sent me an e-mail with the subject line reading, “I just turned down $10,000…” which continued in the body…”and it feels great.” He went on to explain that the project was feeling wrong to him and how he came to the decision. At the end he wrote, “I had to write to you because I had to tell someone i knew would understand.” Obviously, Chris, you’d understand, too.

  28. April 6, 2009

    beniaminus

    You’ve taken some great ideas and condensed them all into a brilliant article Chris.

    One correction: things might be different in your part of the world, but Toastmasters is meant to be an educational rather than networking organisation. As a computer programmer, I’ve gained much from learning to speak fluently in public (to humans), and now find, as you recommend, I’m actually giving away my skills at each Toastmasters meeting!

  29. Thank you for this. I am on the verge of ending my relationship with a company with whom I do not and have never felt comfortable. As a novice in this field, I just assumed that they knew the right way to do business. I never could mold myself to fit with their system and it really dragged on me. I am in the process of starting my own business and I am going in more confidently because I now know that there are others out there who are doing things differently–and succeeding! It just goes to show you that sticking with your gut (and keeping eyes and ears open for inspiration!) can be more beneficial than following the herd.

  30. Hi Chris,

    Love everything you’re saying. Networking events could be amazing places if people stopped networking in the conventional sense. If I go I try NOT to speak about work. It should be about meeting new people and expanding your community, whatever comes out of it will do so when and if it’s ready. Carl like the SEP idea!

    Thanks!

    Giulietta
    Rebel at large

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  32. May 3, 2009

    tina Lai

    Hi, Chris
    It’s funny coincidence that I also don’t watch tv and therefore do a lot more that the average person such as reading, travelling, writing.
    I think when people talk about hearing voices in their head, of doubt and fear, they are actually speaking about the sublimal messages that come from the telly!

  33. I think a lot of folks are searching for the magic bullet that allows them to make all the money they want with very little effort. What else could explain the plethora of “the secret to making money online” programs?

    Advice abounds, but no one is 100% right. They may be right for them, but attempting to exactly replicate someone else’s success seems stupid to me. No thought is involved. I think bits and pieces of advice that I believe is sound and a little bit of my own creativity is the best approach. We’ll see how this turns out.

    I’ve just added you to my very small circle of influencers. You should feel proud ;)

  34. @Gennaro actually there is a part of Zenhabits translated into French with even the name litteraly translated : http://www.habitudes-zen.fr/ and I think it’s really very good. However and even if French is my mother language, I prefer much more to read the original site, at least for the so simple and really zen design…

  35. Fantastic guidelines. The social change you strive for will come slowly. Just a few of us at a time will recognize the value in long term business strategies. Finding deals that fit you, and your goals feeds into building a life work that is fueled by passion. How can anyone compete with that?

    At best we can all join in.

    I’ve encountered some roadblocks though. Usually from good friends and associates that have fairly significant costs of living and family responsibilities. I’m putting together a solution for folks in that group that are willing but can’t find the means. The idea is a community of venture like investors, but instead of backing startups they back individual life goals. The payoffs are much smaller financially, but far greater socially. I’ll see if I can make it more appealing with some great ideas from readers (the blog post is coming, just gotta transcribe and edit the audio recording).

  36. I love the “centered around building relationships.” I realize that to some people/businesses they act as though this doesn’t matter, but I can’t NOT give my heart to a project — and it’s pretty tough to give my heart unless I feel that I’m in a “relationship” (business relationship, but still a valid and respectful reciprocal thing). There have been times in life when work has been, sigh, work (and a couple of projects have had some meanies attached), but when we start being authentic with ourselves I truly believe we’ll make our way to a better situation for ourselves. It certainly may not be automatic … and you’re so right that the results may not be stamped with typical *success* that fits the cookie-cutter mold. But a crazy-looking, good-tasting blob of a cookie that you baked from scratch and eat warm from the oven isn’t such a bad thing, right? :-)

  37. Hi Chris,

    I like your blog. I subscribe to alot of online sites but these days they all go to the junk, except yours cause its not a sales gimmick like to other ones. I would like to add on my ideas to your list.

    Idea: Simple

    Change the way people do things through a simple idea:
    For example Google, McDonalds, CNN, Seinfeild, AONC

    Make it easier for people to adopt what you have done, for example Google – very easy to learn to use Google

    Idea: Community Freindly Product – or service or in AONC case, a one man mission that a community will form around. Other examples include facebook, adobe photoshop.

    Idea: Legacy; Something that leaves a legacy after you are no longer around.

  38. I really needed a turn-around philosophy about business since my employees started their own door business while utilizing mycompany resources for two months including contacting my clients! This article really helps me to move on.

  39. If more people understood the philosophy of the “giver’s gain” this world would be a much better place!

    Great article – I again resonate with your approach to business and life in general.

    Good stuff Chris!

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  41. Love this “alternative” way to look at business. I think this is by far the best way to do business because it leads to success, stronger relationships, and the ability to actually make a difference! Thanks, Chris.

  42. Case in point – the fact that I can actually click on the title of the article of yours that I want to read and have access to the entirety makes me actually want to visit your store, sign up to receive more, etc…something I rarely do (the content helps!). I recently had a meeting with a very exciting NGO in Africa which developed curriculum to help locals develop good business strategies. I am in similar work and asked if I could use their curriculum to help train future entrepreneurs in the nations I work. Sure, for $12,000 a set. Might as well be a million for small farming communities in Uganda and India…I believe we have all been freely given gifts that are not meant to be kept to ourselves. To whom much has been given much is required. The world changes when we freely offer to others the gifts we ourselves have been blessed with. Reciprocally, we also are to be receivers of the gifts others have to offer us…

  43. The thing I like best about this is that it’s a business model that fits regular human interaction so much better. It’s very exciting for me because I hate B.S.

    Also I love that line by Seth. I dropped TV about 6 months ago and have been better off ever since!

  44. June 15, 2013

    Ashok Shukla

    Most of your ideas are good. But not to expand is some thing I disagree.
    If I am making or servicing some thing which gives a value enhancement to the buyer, and if I am running short of capacity, why it is not a good idea to expand so that more people may benefit from it.

    One ting I do – I serve a customer buying 600 pcs of my 3 cent product with same zeal as that with another one who buys a million pieces a year. I not only charge same price, but I also maintain the same service standard.

    I know, most of the businesses are not doing that in India, but I do. Many a time I run into losses because cost of service and logistics is more than the entire revenue of that client.

    We must expand if we have to, because that way we are giving more employment to people, more families a justified earning to live on. India needs that, even Europe and US needs that, Africa needs that !

    Perhaps the best social service which can be done, on a permanant basis, is to generate businesses which add value to every stake holder – customers, suppliers, employees, share holders, the nation (or the world) and also the environment.

    So, expand if you need to. That will help every one !

  45. Giving away free stuff to people makes me feel resentful quickly; the level of information & service I provide people means they should be paying me $100+ per hour and many do.

    So why would I waste my time on all the ones who “just can’t afford it.” (And there are a LOT of them. I’ve had several people tell me that, except to also say in the next sentence that they spent thousands of dollars on folks who scammed them or on shopping sprees.)

    The people who “connect” with you on facebook are usually the ones who don’t have enough commitment to buy something, but will talk your ear off for MONTHS. It’s like, are you kidding me?

    I’m all for collaboration and openness, but only with people on your own level.

  46. Hi Chris,

    I not only agree with most of your way of “doing business”, but that’s really just how I think, work and live, too. I don’t believe there’s any other way that is sustainable, to my physical and mental health, my inner growth, as well as making a living.

    Only one thing I can’t agree with you 100% is giving away 90% of my stuff and getting paid for only 10%. Maybe I can achieve that, and I certainly want to make it my goal, but at this stage of my life, it is not feasible.

    I’m a visual artist and I paint oil portraits, I’m not going to give away my originals and prints. However, I have started a blog two months ago, the original idea was to communicate to my collectors and potential buyers about my art, in words, and hopefully expand my visibility.

    From the short span of over two months, I started to learn from blogging, on ways to live a creative life, on cherishing our small moments in daily life etc. These I start to share and I love it.

    As I develop as an artist, and as a human, I do hope to offer more value to the world, and giving that away in meaningful ways.

    Nice to meet you!

    Best,
    Lucy

  47. January 29, 2014

    Dan Driedger

    I received your book $100 Startup for Christmas (there are already three copies in our extended family) and just finished reading it today. Keep writing – you write an interesting book. It is particularly appreciated by people who don’t fit a mold. I am a retired church pastor who has bought a farm for a retirement project – not the typical route either. Thanks for the read!!
    Kemptville,(Ottawa) Ontario
    Dan

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