The Tiny Mba: A Book Review

The Tiny Mba by Alex Hillman is just the kick in the butt I needed to stop making excuses and actually start seriously thinking about what business would be viable for me to start today. It’s not a 200 page book that I could put off reading because I didn’t have time or because I found it too intimidating. In fact it can be read in just 30 minutes and each page is basically just a sentence or two. Basically it is a series of short snippets of advice from someone experienced with business. 

I might not have been the exact audience the book was looking for, because I don’t have an existing business. Side projects yes, and some that generated a bit of revenue, but nothing consistent. So I can only speak about The Tiny Mba with regard to what it gave me, which is a different perspective on what it means to start a business. 

Since this quarantine has started, like lots of other people I have been experiencing far less enthusiasm and motivation to work on anything let alone starting a business. I guess if I had to be honest, I was pretty discouraged after my Foot in the Door book launch didn’t live up to my expectations. It was kind of a bummer and I felt like maybe I shouldn’t be trying to start a business at all if I couldn’t even sell a book. 

The Tiny Mba gave me a different perspective. It made me realize that I was farther along than I had been giving myself credit for. At one point, Hillman advises never to go into business with someone who hasn’t at least had their own solo venture at some point. This helped me to stop seeing my book as a failed experiment, and rather see it as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. 

It was also encouraging to read that Hillman’s first business was freelance web development, because I am a web developer myself in my day job. Another piece of advice Hillman has is to start the business you can start today if your dream business is not within your reach right now. Like many bits of advice, it is incredibly practical and also deceptively simple. It made me realize that starting a business isn’t nearly as far out of my reach as I thought it was. I could start a solo tech consultancy today, it just wasn’t my dream business and so it didn’t seem as appealing. 

Another business I could start today involves monetizing a web version of an ancient viking board game I coded some years ago. With the advice from this book I realized that because that online game has significant traffic already, and because I have back end development skills now, I could monetize a multiplayer version of the game relatively quickly. 

These two ideas I listed weren’t as sexy as what I always had in mind. That’s why it was simultaneously discouraging to admit that my dream business was farther away than I wanted it to be, and encouraging to think that starting a profitable business was actually a lot closer than I thought. Another point that really stuck with me, and one that came with a book recommendation I am going to pursue, was about passion. I think a ton of wannabe entrepreneurs get stuck with passion. 

Lots of people want to start a business they really care deeply about, but then fail to come up with anything that could generate revenue. I think I fit pretty clearly in that boat myself. My side projects so far have really been passion projects. Games, for example, are notoriously difficult to sell. Many of the games I created in the past, with the exception of the one I mentioned earlier, did not get many downloads or plays. 

Over and over again, I kept falling in the same trap. If I’m not immediately passionate about it, it’s not for me. The Tiny Mba talks about a different approach… that you can cultivate passion rather than needing it to be immediately present. This resonates with me because I have seen the same philosophy applied to motivation. Sometimes I get stuck in a cycle where I wait for motivation to strike to start on a project, but nine times out of ten I am not that motivated when I get started. Rather than motivation coming before action, I have found that action comes before motivation when it comes to my side projects. So it follows naturally that the same thing could happen with passion. 

I fear I might have gotten off topic talking too much about what the book did for me personally. The thing is I believe The Tiny Mba can do the same for you. It’s an extremely fast read, but it leaves you with stuff to think about for days and even weeks to follow. It strips away any excuses or delusions you have about business, but without condescension. In fact it is one of the more encouraging books I have read on the subject of starting a business. It gives you a reality check and a push in the right direction, which is exactly what I needed.