[quote style=”boxed”]Stay foolish. This means to innovate often, to remain agile and do what energizes you. Life is entirely too short, and wasting opportunities is the worst sin.[/quote]
Kristopher (Kris) Lange exhibits the unique combined qualities of a business professional and visionary entrepreneur. He is results-driven and paradigm-changing. His official title at BookFool.com is “Chief Fool,” which proclaims his business leadership philosophy of persistent passion, purpose, humor and grit.
Lange founded BookFool in 2003 while a junior at the University of Mississippi pursuing his eventual Masters of Accountancy and Certified Public Accountant license. A born entrepreneur, he found his opportunity when he was fed up with the poor pricing being paid for used textbooks by the campus bookstore. Kris created a book-buying technology and business model that allowed him to consistently trump the sell-back prices of the campus bookstore while turning a nice profit by selling those books to students online.
Fast forward to today and, under Lange’s leadership, BookFool now helps local bookstores and college bookstores buy more used books and textbooks at higher prices, profitably. This enables BookFool’s local partner stores to increase profit while also providing increased value to students and customers. In a time when internet competitors are out for blood, BookFool’s simple and easy to use book buying platform is fast becoming a standard operational tool for the used book industry.
BookFool’s success can be attributed to Lange’s innovations, leadership and passion for local stores and students. When he’s not founding companies, demolishing paradigms, hiking or riding his bicycle, he can be found making ridiculous faces to entertain his literary-named children.
What are you working on right now?
Developing our API for our book buying platform and working with the first clients to link that API to their system.
Where did the idea for BookFool come from?
My love of books and entrepreneurship and my hatred for the campus bookstore’s buy-back prices.
With our business metamorphosis, our passion now lies with helping local bookstores and college stores maximize their profitability and relevancy in the internet economy.
What does your typical day look like?
Coffee and reading (printed) newspaper with kids. (No breakfast.) Then it’s off to the home office or local coffeehouse for lots of typing and clicking on the computer. Haphazard meetings, calls and Skypes throughout the day. Iced coffee around noon. (No lunch.) Home for dinner at 5:30 p.m. (famished).
How do you bring ideas to life?
I record every single idea I have; I file them everywhere. My notebooks are full, my computer is full, my inbox is full, my voice notes are full, my Evernote is full, my imagination is full. Ideas are alive within my mind. Through talking with my wife or cohorts, if I can plant an idea seed in their minds and see it grow, I will then consider embarking on the endeavor for the idea.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Convergent commerce—bringing the power of the internet to local stores by enabling their businesses to tap into the tools their fiercest competitors employ. Each local bookstore should be more powerful than Amazon in their marketing, customer interaction and product sales. A local store’s sales via social, ecommerce, mobile and physical means should all promote the entire brand ecosystem.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
Financial auditor for a Big Four accounting firm. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad except that I was too much of an entrepreneur to have someone dictate my career.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would start by thinking about our technology and how to scale and bring more value to the most people. I was much too greedy and thought I could do everything myself. It wasn’t until I allowed others to make money by using our book-buying technology that we really blossomed.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Stay foolish. This means to innovate often, to remain agile and do what energizes you. Life is entirely too short, and wasting opportunities is the worst sin.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I am inclined to feel comfortable without clear direction, and this translates into being a poor manager of people when they need clear direction for their work. I overcome this by hiring great people and being honest and humble about my own missteps.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
“Moon Milk” that would be white chocolate milk instead of dark chocolate. Why doesn’t anybody make that?
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Television, being at the top of the media food pyramid, is the time consumption equivalent of processed foods and hydrogenated oils. Its mind-numbing uselessness is hidden by pure habitual behavior. Social interactions, reading, activities and hobbies should form the basis of our quality time.
I would go about this change with reverse psychology. I would force people to watch television by either legal statute or Orwellian tactics.
Tell us a secret.
I have a library book from the University of Mississippi library that I purposely never returned. That would equate to theft. It was a book on how to start a used bookstore.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources, and what do you love about them?
Evernote, Skype and WolframAlpha.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Bible. Eternity is more important than business.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
1. Umair Haque – He talks about the future with insight and wit. He sees how the future will be and that the past is something we should not try to sustain.
2. Simon Sinek – Business wisdom to live by.
3. Joshua Allen – Pure unadulterated fictional stories in 150 characters or less.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Today. My son turned two today and is full of personality beyond the norm. He fills the day with humor unbeknownst to him.
Who is your hero?
Mahatma Gandhi. A pure example of the “Fool” (a.k.a. Court Jester) who spoke truth to authority (a.k.a. The King). Humbly and without selfish ambition, Mahatma Gandhi still fought with wit, zeal and peaceful aggression. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr. out of context, Mahatma Gandhi sought “…to secure a moral end through moral means.”
Why did you become a CPA/Accountant even though you always knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I would say there is no better degree and background for someone who wants to start their own business. Being both ambitiously enterprising and a numbers guys allows me to charge forward with both feet. I didn’t see any lesser degree as benefiting to my professional development while in college and knew the higher-level finance and accounting knowledge would benefit me for the long term. It has and will.
After a year in the professional world at Ernst & Young, how did you decide to come back to the recently dormant company you started during college?
My wife and I knew it was time to either have kids or pursue an entrepreneurial ambition. My wife, Brigitte, chose for us when she nudged me at church with the revelation that it was time for me to go back to BookFool. Children came very soon thereafter, anyhow.
Kris Lange on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/krislange
Kris Lange on Twitter: @ChiefFool
Kris Lange’s Email: [email protected]
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.