No Angel Funding? 7 Ways to Flex Your Bootstrapping Muscles

I was sitting a bar enjoying a pint of my favorite and bullshitting, er strategizing, with some others who had started their own operations without any funding.  While we d0 very different things, we all were frugal, can-do people. The entrepreneurial skills that made us successful were all things we had “learned in kindergarten.” So if  you think you have the next killer app, here some skills to consider. Do you have what it takes?

Pack your lunch.  Do you know how much that nosh every day adds up to?  When you are really starting up a start-up, you need every penny.  Consider the math: $8.50 for a cheap sandwich and soda for 5 days a week adds up to more than 2 grand of post-tax dollars in one year.  Starbucks is another dollar vampire. Get some quality beans and make your own.  The lesson here is to manage how you are spending the pocket change. The upside is that you will be healthier without all the crap you’re shelling out for every day.  Muscle group: focus, frugality and planning. Caveat:  make a treat to yourself when you attain a goal.

Kill Your Television. More than a colossal time waste, the boob-tube has much darker side.  This soma for the masses is just that — a mind-control device. You want to be in business to make widgets better, faster, cheaper, cooler than any one else.  You need every bit of creativity and innovation you can muster.  Television dulls your right-left brain interaction into believing (among many things) that drinking a two-liter jug of sugar water will make you cool, sexy and powerful.  The upside is that you can cancel that hideously expensive cable plan and save even more.  Muscle group: time management & creativity. Caveat: set aside finite programs to escape and relax (e.g. Netflix rentals, PBS, or anything without commercials)

Keep a Household budget.  Where are you spending money?  Can you quantify what it takes to run your house and lifestyle?  Well, you’re gonna need to in your start-up.  Moreover, you need to know what your business earns after expenses, but before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.  Lenders\buyers want to know that, but more importantly you want to know if your business fundamentally works. Moreover, you want to setup, run and balance your own books – including payroll.  It’s not that hard. You can do it. Accountants are very expensive and you want to rely on them for the heavy lifting — year-end taxes. The lesson here is discipline on tracking what you are spending so you can make informed decisions.  The upside is that you will discover how ridiculous expensive that daily double soy mochachino is. Muscle group: organization and financial planning. Caveat: don’t go too nuts counting every paper clip. Get the broad picture.

Go for a Walk.   Take care of yourself (i.e. take a break.) You’re brain is incredibly sophisticated (despite all the voluntary chemical imbalances) and gets bored really quickly.  Keep sharp, loosen up and jiggle the neurons by taking walks throughout the day, even if it’s down the hall to the water cooler.  You might just make a connection or meet someone with an idea.  The upside is that you will get a some activity and keep your ass from getting flat. Muscle group: physical shape, creativity & focus. Caveat: there is none.

Setup a home network. It’s time to geek out.  If you’re afraid to change anything in your computer, stop reading and go home.  Technology will allow you take on work like the big boys.  There is no way you will be able to afford all the IT propeller heads needed to set everything up and keep it humming. Moreover, you want to be able to tweak and adjust technology to fit your operation. You may even find a value proposition that you can offer to your clients.  You must have your own domain, e-mail, web-page, networked printers, servers and a kick-ass workstation. These will be the core of  your business even if you’re making coffee or walking dogs.  Try reinstalling the OS on your workstation.  Make sure it’s a spare computer and you have a propeller head on-call.  The upside is that you will save heaps on IT support and look like a professional operation. Muscle group: Technology, marketing & frugality. Caveat: Most things are fixable, but not all. Think before you install the software from Nigeria trying to claim lost money.

Unclog the Bathroom Drain.  Who plunges the toilet in your house, carries out the garbage or squishes the roaches?  When you are bootstrapping, you have to be the grownup.   In your start-up that means sometimes doing the right thing but an otherwise unpleasant thing (e.g. laying off employees, ‘firing’ a client, ending a friendship). It won’t be easy and you can’t farm it out. You have to reach down into that drain and pull the nasty  from the proverbial drain. It’s your start-up. The upside is that you will learn more about yourself and build confidence that you can do it.  Muscle group:  Grownup-ness & professionalism. Caveat: You’re not an island. Reach out to friends beforehand and talk a tough one through.

Read the Newspaper.  Contrary to  common reports, the news business is alive and well. It’s the delivery model that’s in trouble. You need to read voraciously to understand what is going on. You have to know your business and how the day’s events and trends will impact you. You also need to know the impact to your clients (and you’re suppliers).   Keep a wide reading pool via Twitter and/or news aggregator.  A good handle on the events will help you strategize and keep an eye out for whammies.  The upside is that you will be informed and have genuine understanding of your client’s concerns.  Muscle group: Strategy, risk analysis, marketing. Caveat: The Nat’l Inquirer doesn’t count.

The beauty of bootstrapping is that you build your business in your way in your time. Or you have no other choice.  It takes discipline. When you watch the small unnecessary spending, manage your time and money, take care of yourself, harness technology, take responsibility and keep up on the world, your business starts to pull itself together.  These are all skills you learned growing up.  Maybe you need to burnish them a bit, but if you can handle these, you will be a successful bootstrapper.

What non-traditional skills have given you  boost in business?  Comment below


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