Building your business on a shoestring

I recently listened to an interview with Scott Sonenshein, a professor at Rice University, who wrote the book "Stretch”, which is about resourcefulness and how appreciating and utilizing the resources we already have, instead of looking for more, leads to professional and personal success.  This interview resonated with me because I have already followed his recommendations and I have clients who have been successful because they as well apply these strategies to their businesses.  And this leads to the topic I want to share with my readers:  

How can I build a successful business with existing resources?


Provide value and a superior product to customers.  The best marketing is a happy customer so focus on providing the best service or product to your customers.  Those happy customers will then likely recommend you to friends, family members, and colleagues. 

Take advantage of free or inexpensive resources.  The Small Business Administration offers free mentoring to small business owners.  Use affordable (or free) resources such as cloud computing and other technology.  Utilize social media to market your business.  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. are free to join and they are simple and affordable ways to connect with your existing clients and also a way to create new ones.  Look for opportunities to speak, even if it is unpaid.  Speaking to audiences is a way to present yourself as an expert in your field and to build a brand.  If possible, start your business in a home office.  Once you grow, you can consider a different location.

Network.  We all have networks of professional colleagues and friends and it is important to maintain and grow these networks.  This is a perfect use for social media.  I use Facebook and LinkedIn to maintain these networks, which I often leverage to connect with potential clients.  I also recommend that my clients participate in conferences and other events related to their industry or product.  You will learn more about your industry and also build additional contacts that you can utilize for sharing advice and expertise.

Keep your staffing lean.  As much as possible, a small business owner should undertake as many of the tasks of their business that they can without hiring staff.    In the event that you do need staff, I recommend using a service provider instead of hiring employees.  This allows you to pay only for the expertise you need without taking on the cost of a full time employee.  Once you decide to hire staff, find multitaskers who can move from role to role and are self-motivated, resourceful, and dependable.  This is a time when it is critical to find staff ready and willing to roll up their sleeves.