You’ve no doubt read the post-mortems on many a failed startup. Bootstrapping a company in this economy can be brutal, and staying in business is just as challenging: even startups with billions on hand can fail.
How can you keep from becoming a statistic? Luck and economic circumstances will always play a part in the fortune of any business — but there are steps you can take to make the most of what you have.
1. Money: Handle With Care
If you’re like many startups, you’re in for a struggle to find funding, much less keep that funding once you have it. Once you’ve sold your collectibles or otherwise leveraged your assets to get every bit of cash you can, it pays (literally) to hold onto it. Invest in some accounting software and put someone on your team in charge of tracking expenses, before it becomes a problem.
2. Automate Where You Can
Time and manpower are critical resources when you’re just starting out. Automating your business helps keep costs and workload down. Whether you’re using an app to schedule social media campaigns, employing software to automate your sales, or streamlining your website — every process you can automate means more time for you.
3. Don’t Outsource Everything….
Many startups quickly turn to outsourcing to meet needs they feel they can’t fill themselves. But before you hire a freelancer, ask yourself whether it’s absolutely necessary. Hiring a contractor means finding just the right person (or, much worse, dealing with a poor fit) and makes for one more moving part in an already work-intensive process. Not to mention the complications of managing IP.
Ask yourself: do you absolutely need to outsource? Or can one of your core staff level up their own skills and save time and money moving forward?
4. …But Subcontract Wisely
It pays to be choosy about outsourcing. But don’t altogether dismiss the value of hiring freelancers! If you hire just the right contractor to handle your content marketing, administrative tasks, or other business need, that can be much more lucrative than hiring full-time employees to do the same job. Subcontractors tend to be more engaged with the work, are often self-starters, and don’t require health benefits, payroll taxes, or worker’s compensation. Why deal with the overhead of a full-time employee when you can stay liquid and subcontract?
5. Embrace the Remote Revolution
The idea of the 9 to 5 office job is slowly rapidly winding down. A changing marketplace and mobile technology has made many a vast, stuffy office vestigial. There’s nothing wrong with having a dedicated workspace, but don’t be afraid to let your team work remotely. Staying chained to a desk all the time is yesterday’s way of doing business. With tools such as FieldAware for managing your remote workforce, you never have to worry about being out of the loop.
6. Put Personal Expenses on a Leash
Personal expenses, even those that move your business forward, can add up fast. Cut or trim back on personal expenses whenever the opportunity arises. For example, it’s common for starting businesses to trade for goods or services instead of purchasing them outright. Use public meeting spaces instead of renting out space for a meeting. Use free or open source software when you can, and go to the library for your business-related reading instead of buying from Amazon. Reevaluate living expenses and see where you can cut costs. Shop around for car insurance and other policies to find the lowest rate, clip coupons and buy only what’s needed at the grocery story, conserve electricity by turning off the lights and turn down the heat when you’re not home. You don’t have to cut corners where quality is key, but trimming personal expenses can save your business a bundle in the long run.
7. Money-Saving as a Mission Statement
If you really want to get serious about your startup money, build it into your ethos from the very beginning. Make frugality and good money management a core value of your business. Being thrifty has been a watchword of many a successful billionaire, from Waren Buffett to Charlie Ergen.
8. Customer Service is King
It goes without saying that a business is nothing without its customers. Keeping your customer base surprised, delighted and coming back for more is at the heart of every business. To make sure your clients get top-flight attention and care, make this another core value. This is another area where automation can come in handy, with apps like ZenDesk or SmarterTrack. Just make sure you don’t lose that personal touch.
9. Go Green
Studies have shown that a “green” workplace improves morale, raises employee satisfaction, and keeps employees around longer. Green workplaces also tend to show better employee health. That, and it’s great for Planet Earth. It can also be great for your bottom line — reducing energy and paper consumption, recycling, and using eco-friendly materials in your office environment saves money as well as the planet.
10. Tackle Your Taxes
You might be surprised at how many business owners don’t know they’re supposed to file their taxes quarterly instead of yearly. Don’t let your tax bill come as a shock. Prepare your taxes quarterly, track your expenses with care (that’s where the accounting software comes in handy), and consult with an accountant to get every deduction you can. And don’t forget to send out those 1099s!
As with any other business, getting (and keeping) your startup running is full of risks and rewards. Luck goes a long way in business — but savvy and forethought goes even further.