If you ask most small business development experts what they think is the best way to start a new business nine out of ten of them will tell you to resist spending money. Which is great advice.
But, for nearly all new small businesses, they just don’t have any money to spend in the first place and thus are forced to resist spending any way. So, great advice but not really all that helpful.
If you truly want the real scoop on starting and running a new start up business it comes down to this:
“You just simply have to find a way to make it happen.”
If you don’t have money to throw at tasks or issues, then you have to find another way to get those tasks done or issues taken care of – plain and simple.
In truth, that is what entrepreneurship is all about.
Taking whatever limited resources you may have and getting the most out of them and if you don’t have money to spend to grow your new small business then you just have to find other ways.
Know that almost all big businesses out there started out as a small business – mostly as an idea and dream and those people that grew those firms to the successes they are today did so by getting out there and hustling that idea.
And, most did it with very limited resources.
The following are 6 simple ways that you can use to make your small business happen – with little or no money:
1) Choose a Brandable Business Name
57% of the entrepreneurs regret choosing a wrong name for your business. You may start with certain business idea and eventually pivot into something else. So make sure you get your name right. A perfect name should be versatile and very easy to remember.
Start by ideating 20 business names ideas. Next, check if the business is available or not. These checks have to be done at the state level. So if you’re to register your business in New York, then you need to check name availability in New York department of state website. Similarly for Georgia, you would need to check the state Secretary of state website.
Refer to this guide to find out the state specific business name search instructions – Link.
2) Keep Your Overhead Costs Down
When starting a new business, overhead costs are essentially expenses that do very little to grow your company.
Overhead costs are all those expenses that come after your business has provided its goods and services to your customers.
Overhead costs are essentially items like rent, utilities, marketing, salaries, supplies not related to servicing customers and any and all indirect costs – usually called General, Selling and Administration expenses. These costs don’t necessarily bring in revenue to the company – they merely take money out.
Now, this is not to say that your new business does not need to market its products or services or that it doesn’t need commercial space from which to operate out of. What it does mean is that you should be able to keep these expenses down to a bare minimum by finding other ways (ways that don’t take money out of your start up) to make them happen.
Example: Personally, you already have to have a place to live. This is a cost that you (personally) already bare and is outside the needs of your business. But, that does not mean that you cannot use that same space to start and grow your company.
So, if you can, run your business out of your house or apartment or wherever it is you live. Bottom line, doing so will add no additional cost to running your small business.
Now, if that is impossible then look for shared space that you might be able to utilize. For example, another business in your area that has additional space that that business is not using and that you can use on the cheap. Or take your business online – getting rid of the need for any physical building or space at all.
3) Use Free Marketing
There is a trade off between time and money and marketing is the best example to show this. Sure, your new business could spends thousands to hundred of thousands of dollars each month in marketing your new company – e.g. running TV ads, newspaper ads, printing and distributing flyers and mail items as well as hiring SEO firms to drive traffic to your store or website. This is great if you have the money, but, if you don’t, then it all falls back on you – on your time.
Here, you first have to understand where your potential customers are and then get the right marketing message in front of them. You can use free resources like Facebook, Twitteror the many other free online resources designed just for small businesses like yours to let potential customers know who you are, what you offer and where to find you.
If your business is locally focused, you can also develop a story idea that your local newspaper or TV stations will run for free. These organizations are always looking for great local content. Thus, you have to develop a story idea or press release that appeals to these media outlets and is something that they want run – it can’t be a self-promotion but something that would appeal to these organization readers or viewers and that also brings your business into the picture.
Simply start by reading and watching what these media players put out there now and start developing a story along those lines. Then give them a call to see if they are interested or if they have better ideas.
Bottom line is this. If you don’t have the money to hire or employ someone else to do this for you, then you have to do it yourself and the only cost to you will be your time.
4) Work Your Business Part-Time
If you work your business part-time that means that you can also keep your day job or any day job. Your full-time job will provide money for you personally, so that you don’t have to or feel over-stressed in taking money out of your business, as well as provide some needed outside cash flow to help start and grow your company.
Plus, by having a solid stream of income, you (personally) might be able to leverage that income into some form of business loan or credit card that can help in your new business’s growth.
Know that this situation will not be forever. Work your day job until your business can handle itself as well as provide for you then transition to your small business full-time.
If money is the obstacle, then find other ways (like a day job) to get that money until that issue is no longer a problem for your company.
5) Focus On Your Core Only
In the beginning, running a small business is not about taking money and resources out of the business. Far too many new entrepreneurs think that they should use their business to fund their lifestyle from the very start or they go out and purchase unnecessary items for the business that don’t bring in any revenue – like way to much space, marketing campaigns that don’t bring in more revenue then they cost or even on top of the line equipment – equipment that is just not necessary.
If you don’t have a lot of money to start and run your business, then you need to conserve every penny you have and use those monies on items that will actually bring in revenue to your company – that is the end goal after all – to bring in revenue and not to buy unnecessary items that make you look like the big kid on the block.
I use to run a business incubator and had one client that could not help himself in buying everything under the sun. Example; the first thing he bought for his business was a top of the line phone system that allowed him to do more tasks then I could explain in 12 articles of this size. Know that his business was tied to the use of a phone – but, did he need that particular system or could he have gotten away with something less fancy and much less expensive? Yes.
Then, the next thing this business owner did was purchased a top of the line cell phone for his business with the best plan that his carrier had as well as a Bluetooth ear piece apparatus. When asked why. He stated that he liked to walk around the office when talking on the phone. Well, didn’t the expensive phone system he already bought already allow for that via its speaker phone function?
The bottom line was that this business owner (who is no longer in business) just had to buy things that were not core to his business. That phone system, his new cell phone and plan – did nothing to bring revenue into his company – it only took money out, money that he could not replace fast enough and thus was forced to shut down his business.
Your core business is the part of your business that actually bring revenue or sales in – gets customers to part with their money for the products and services you offer. If you buy something that does not directly help you bring in revenue – then it is not core to your business and should not be purchased.
To further this point, there is new vigor in the Lean Startup Movement.
“Lean Startup” is an approach for launching businesses and products, that relies on validated learning, scientific experimentation, and iterative product releases to shorten product development cycles, measure progress, and gain valuable customer feedback. In this way, companies, especially startups, can design their products or services to meet the demands of their customer base without requiring large amounts of initial funding or expensive product launches.
Which is to say; “spend your limited money on those things that actually grow your business and not just on your ego.”
6) Learn All That You Can
Want to learn the best way to grow a new start up? Then talk to those who have walked the path before you. Find mentors in your area – most successful business people like to give back to their communities – to actually give back and in part to build their own self-worth. But, in any case, almost all successful business owners are willing to talk about their businesses, the struggles they went through as well as provide helpful insight to new entrepreneurs like yourself. So, take advantage and it’s free.
You can also think about educating yourself to be more business minded. There are a variety of courses you can take in a number of mba online programs that can help prepare you for this exciting new responsibility you are about to take on.
Further, there are other free resources that can help you – help you develop your business idea as well as help you in building your operations. These resources are staffed by people who have been there and done that and are essentially volunteering their time to help people just like you.
A simple list:
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)
- SCORE – both online and off
- SBA Offices
- Local Chamber of Commerce
- City and state resources designed to help small businesses grow in their areas
Lastly, not only can mentors or counselors help you better manage your business and keep you on track but they can help you save money from avoiding the costly mistakes they have made when building their companies.
Know that a good entrepreneur is one that can learn from his own mistakes. But, a great entrepreneur is one that can also learn from other’s mistakes.
The idea is to get your business to a point that it can sustain itself. It normally takes 18 plus months for a new small business to reach its break-even point – the point that it is generating enough in reoccurring revenue to cover ALL its expenses from earning that revenue.
Then as it moves beyond that break-even, it begins to cash-flow profit – profits that can be plowed back into the business and begin to finance those overhead items.
To get to that profitability stage, if you want your business to be a long-term success but you just don’t have a lot of money to do it, then you just simply have to find another way. This is what entrepreneurship and small business success is all about.