As a small business owner, there will be moments you feel as though you are sitting alone wondering how in the hell you are going to manage everything that comes along in business to be efficient, effective, and successful. I am confident I am not the first to admit the difficulties that come along with balancing the foundational, technical, and administrative duties of a business, and I am certain I will not be the last. Building a solid foundation of a business is first admitting you cannot “do” business alone and achieve success. I know, there are lots of tutorials, blogs, and articles that can educate you on how to cut cost by doing things yourself or ways to circumvent certain practices to avoid personal liability. Neither are good habits or methods to employ when conceptualizing and then creating your business. Let’s face it, the bigger the vision of your business, the more it will cost. There are ways you can minimize cost and create the business of your dreams. Here are five tips I highly recommend as you build the proper foundation of your business:
1. Network, Network, Network. Are you aware of how much information you can gain from networking? A LOT!! Are you aware of how many favors that can come from networking? A FEW. And a few is enough to help reduce or eliminate some very expensive costs, especially if you are new to business. No one knows everything, so in the beginning invest in putting yourself in the right places. These places can be summits, seminars, happy hours, conferences, entertainment events where there are vendors, and more. You can also ask friends to connect you with people they know who specialize in certain areas or have business ventures that are similar to the vision or idea you have for yourself. Trust me; people who have made it are very open to share how they made it. Spend some time writing a few questions you may have that you can casually introduce while engaging in conversation with others. Don’t be afraid to share your vision with people. As a matter of fact, be open about it. This, honestly speaking, is where a lot of people go wrong. They feel they do not want people to steal their idea or deter them from pursing their dreams. Let me be honest, unless your vision would require patents or specific copyrights no one cares to steal it. It is not as though you are showing prototypes, logos, etc. And only YOU can deter yourself from pursing your own dreams. Networking is purely for attaining information you can learn from and be a guide for success. And if the outcome of networking is people offering their services for free or at a reduced rate OR some form of sponsorship or investment capital, guess what? YOU WIN!
2. Take your time. I know being self-employed is appealing, but a lot goes into building a business. Proper planning can take weeks, months, or even years. You need to know and understand that this is okay. Time gives you an opportunity to:
– Financially plan immediate and future business costs
– Define your exit strategy from current employment (considering medical, dental, and other important benefits you may have with your current employer)
– Family plan (if you have a family, consider any losses your family may sustain – i.e. vacations, extracurricular activities, camps, daycare, etc)
– Weigh your pros and cons
– If possible, do the work you are considering part-time while you work your full-time. For example, if you vision a successful t-shirt or consulting business, do it on the side to “test the market” for your brand. This also creates a client base for you once you fully grow your business. You can also use the money to pay for future business costs.
3. Save YOUR money. Without an immediate loan, grant, or some form of capital investment, it is important to set aside money to pay for, at a minimum, the basic start-up costs (i.e. business license, logos, trademarks, websites (optional), insurance, legal fees, etc.). Depending on the business, you can start small and pay for things over time instead of all at once. Or you can create a savings account and put money in it each month that would solely be dedicated to business costs. It is not easy to get people to buy into your dream of being a business owner; however, when people can see your personal investment into your dream, it makes them more inclined to want to help. This is also applicable to loans and grants as well; which is why a business plan includes a break-even analysis and data showing cash flow and profit & loss. Last, the most important reason to save your money is because when all else fails, you have yourself. And there is nothing greater than knowing you have invested in the success of your own dream.
4. Hire experts. If you want something done right the first time, hire an expert. Yes, there are a lot of things you can do yourself; however, it is taxing trying to “do all and be all”. It also takes longer for you to learn how to do something and you can save time (and sometimes money) by allowing specialists to complete requirements that are more complex. For example, many of my clients attempt to do their own business plans and after many attempts, the end result is hiring me. When I return their business plans, I am often told, “I would have never have produced this”. Other experts may include website developers, logo creators, content writers, business/financial consultant, business plan writer, grant writer, and/or a business attorney. Personally, I have found it important to have an experience administrative assistant. Administrative support can go far beyond just answering phones and managing schedules. An experienced assistant can establish necessary processes for business efficiency (digital file management, transcription, customer support, etc.), perform online research, and execute basic bookkeeping.
5. Purchase Business or Product Liability Insurance. This is optional, but definitely necessary depending on the type of business you have. I highly recommend this for people who provide products and services for hair, skin, food, and drinks. While “natural” is the all the rave, what is not natural are law suits because a customer has an allergy or there is negligence due to improper labeling of the item. This is also why it is important to seek legal assistance from an experienced business attorney. As a small business owner, not knowing can be costly. Ensuring you are covering the bases to protect yourself, your brand, and your business should be your first order of business.
As you build your business, you will become more aware that there is no “cookie cutter” model you can follow. Your vision. Your dream. Your reality. You will also find yourself overwhelmed doing it alone. I am sure you have heard the saying “to make money, you have to spend money”. There is so much truth in that at every level in business. It requires constant investment and reinvestment in time, money, and resources. So, while you may feel alone is the best way to save money, it is not the best way to make money either.