“I need a new computer system (or a new building, or more employees) to get started.”
This is the hurdle many business owners “can’t” get over before getting started. And it’s the same excuse entrepreneurs use to justify obscenely large loans just to open their doors.
Let’s go ahead and get one thing straight: Usually, you don’t need whatever you think you need. Often we focus on having the perfect setup before we even make a sale. But this approach can sink a wobbly start-up before it has a real chance in the marketplace.
Instead of making a list of equipment, technology and supplies that you “need” to get started, here’s a more practical list of what it takes to get your business going:
1. Getting Creative
Creativity allows you to bypass many start-up costs. Who do you know that can help? Which connections may be able to assist you? Who in town has something you could rent or sublease?
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Nick Pelligrino, a successful restaurateur in Franklin, Tennessee, is a great example of this. He saw a creative opportunity for his restaurant space in a meat-and-three lunch eatery that was only open until 2 p.m. He approached the manager about subleasing the restaurant on weekend nights when the location was closed anyway. His idea turned into the incredibly successful Italian restaurant Mangia, which has managed to have reservations booked up for months in advance through creative word-of-mouth marketing.
My friend Jake, of Jake’s Bakes, also started his cookie delivery company by subleasing a catering space that already had all the equipment he needs. He bakes at night and doesn’t interrupt their regular daytime business. And he never had to pay for the equipment to get started!
The connections you already have can help you get around your biggest expenses—like a workspace. With a little creativity, you always have more options than you think.
2. Using What You Have
When you just look at your resources with new eyes, you’ll be amazed at how much you have that can be put to use. What do you have right now that you can use for your business?
When I moved to a 40-acre farm when I was 25, I knew I needed to bring in more income to afford the rent. I thought about what I had that I could use—an 11-stall barn. I started a horse boarding business that brought in additional income to pay my rent the entire time that I lived there, enjoying my own animals and farm life in the process.
Use your home office instead of renting space. Use your clunky, embarrassing computer instead of buying a new one. Do everything yourself in the beginning instead of hiring team members.
If you already know what you need for your business, challenge yourself to be as resourceful as possible with what you currently have. It can help you save a tremendous amount of costs.
3. Bartering for Everything Else
For the activities that you can’t and shouldn’t do yourself, barter. You have something to offer that people need, and people have something to offer that you need. What can you trade to get services or supplies while you’re getting started?
A couple of years ago when I was starting a side coaching business, I tried to build my website myself and soon wanted to pull my hair out. I needed professional programming help but didn’t have the money to pay for it. I got a referral from friends for a programmer who was also interested in life and business coaching. We decided to trade services, and I coached him for every hour that he worked on my website.
This saved me a ton of money and we both got value out of the agreed-upon barter. Be sure to give yourself credit for the valuable talents you have, and don’t be afraid to offer them in exchange for the talents of others.
At the end of the day, it’s not what you buy or how much you spend that will help you win in the marketplace. It’s your determination and fierce persistence that will make your business sink or swim. When you get creative, work with what you’ve got, and barter for the rest, you’ll have exactly what you need to get your business going.