Bootstrapping to Business Success
Besides running lean and getting sales, what's one tip you have for bootstrapping a startup?
To help you best bootstrap your startup to success, we asked successful startup founders and business owners this question for their best insights. From building strong and loyal customers to negotiating every agreement, there are several tips you may follow to harness and direct your resources effectively in bootstrapping your startup to success.
Here are 14 tips these leaders follow to bootstrap their startups to success:
- Build Strong and Loyal Relationships With Customers and Others
- Hold On to Your Equity
- Make Sure You Bring in a Great Co-Founder
- Be Well-Prepared
- Get Creative With Your Marketing
- Keep Your Overheads Low
- Find an Advisor
- Take time to Promote Your Business
- Avoid Unhelpful Metrics
- Get the Right People Onboard and Extend Help to Other Businesses
- Learn New Things You Require
- Leverage Free Resources and Learn How to Spend Prudently
- Use a Rewards Credit Card for Everything
- Negotiate Every Agreement
Build Strong and Loyal Relationships With Customers and Others
Focus on building strong and loyal relationships with your customers, referral partners, and even your competitors. In the early stages of a startup's life, it can be tough to make ends meet, so every relationship is key. One way I did this was by sending handwritten thank you notes to everyone who helped me out. It takes a little extra time, but it makes a huge impression and really shows that you appreciate their support.
Rick Elmore, Handwritten Thank You Notes
Hold on to Your Equity
One of the most important tips for founders is to hold onto their equity for as long as possible. This is important for founders to be able to control and direct their start-up growth as much as possible as they continue to build sales and guide the company in a good direction. The sooner you hand over equity the more people you will have to consult before you can make decisions.
Loren Howard, Prime Plus Mortgages
Make Sure You Bring in a Great Co-Founder
You can have all the right resources to help bootstrap your startup, but if you don’t have a co-founder to complement or bring the skills you lack, your efforts could fall flat. You can bring many talents and abilities to the table, but it is foolish to believe that you can bring all of them, and being able to admit that is the first step to identifying the right co-founder or advisors. Fully assessing your strengths and weaknesses, finding a trusted individual who can counter your shortcomings, and above all, identifying someone who shares your enthusiasm in your business’s success, can be the integral missing piece to your startup. By extensively searching for the right co-founder, you can ensure between the two of you, you have all of the right attributes to effectively bootstrap your business.
Greg Gillman, MuteSix
When starting a company, a business owner must go in with their eyes wide open, including creating a realistic budget for start-up costs. Many entrepreneurs underestimate how much it costs to get a company launched, including planning to have cash reserves to help cover overhead for the first year while building the business. Saving the cash needed or obtaining a loan or line of credit before starting the company will provide the foundation for greater success and allow the owner to focus on growth instead of worrying about cash flow.
Kimberly Bogues, Flourish Business Services, LLC
Get Creative With Your Marketing
If you want to bootstrap your way to success, run-of-the-mill marketing strategies won’t do — you’ll need something groundbreaking. Think outside the box and come up with campaigns that will capture the attention of your target market. Traditional advertising methods can be expensive, so it’s important to find other ways to get your name out there. Social media is a great way to connect with potential customers and build relationships. Content marketing is another cost-effective way to reach your target audience. By creating helpful and informative content, you can position yourself as an expert in your industry and attract the attention of potential customers and other industry players.
Danielle Bedford, Coople
Keep Your Overheads Low
One of the most important aspects of bootstrapping is to keep your overheads low. This means that you need to be very mindful of the costs associated with running your business. You may need to make some sacrifices in terms of office space and employee benefits, but it will be worth it in the long run. Technology can also be a great leveler when it comes to cutting costs. There are a number of tools and platforms that can help you to get your business off the ground without breaking the bank. From social media to cloud-based services, there are a number of ways to make use of technology to save time and money. Do some research and find out which tools would be most beneficial for your business. You may be surprised at how much you can achieve with a limited budget.
Todd Saunders, BIG Safety
Find an Advisor
On a tight budget, startups need to accept all the help they can get. For instance, an excellent option for startups to gain direction is to search for their first advisor. Their unique expertise, connections in the industry, and advice can help your team move closer toward the capital you need to keep growing.
Alexandra Fennell, Attn: Grace
Take Time to Promote Your Business
Creating awareness or 'hype' will be extremely important to bootstrapping a business. Spending time promoting a product that is coming can actually be really useful and help save money than only starting to market the product when it is officially ready.
Using social media to gain followers through posting sneak peeks, introductions, or even a countdown can be a great way to make sure that when the product is ready, you already have people waiting to purchase the product or use your service. Think of it like a Kickstarter campaign, where people help their products become popular before it is even ready. Essentially what you are doing is ensuring that when you are ready to go, an audience has their eyes on you and are also ready to move, which should help with initial sales, and make sure that your business has already done some leg work to create growth before needing to, saving some time and money later down the line.
Brett Downes, Haro Helpers
Avoid Unhelpful Metrics
The thing that really helped me when I was bootstrapping for our startup was to avoid the vanity metrics that distracted me and didn’t offer any actual valuable insight and information to the business. For example, it’s really tempting to want to track your followers on social media, however, that’s just vanity fluff - there is no useful information for your business in those metrics. Instead, track the leads and sales that come from your social media effort - those metrics are helpful and will tell you exactly what’s working and what’s not. So don’t get distracted by the vanity metrics - focus on the metrics that are specific and relevant to the success of your business, and you’ll stay on course.
Jimmy Minhas, GerdLi
Get the Right People Onboard and Extend Help to Other Businesses
The best and the most personal tip is that believing in our own product or service passionately can spread to others who you want to entice. Having help and partners is a must when bootstrapping so it is crucial to get people onboard with your vision and objectives early on.
Working to build shared connections with other businesses means that there will be help available now. Similar to skill sharing – you can help them with aspects of their business, while they do the same for you. This limits expenses while you build momentum, capital and a solid sales base. The bonus of helping other businesses is that you build genuine and solid connections. Having mentors and peers to lean on can help you get your MVP out there while not getting bogged down in superfluous tasks. Your peers can help massively when you hit a particular sticking point, you can bet that others have already been in that position and can offer valuable advice as to what they did right and also wrong in that situation.
Alex Mastin, Home Grounds
Learn New Things You Require
If you're weak in anything then learn it, because when you start your business, you have to do many business-related things by yourself. In the beginning, you don't have enough money to hire separate employees for each work. For example, you need a website for your business, but you don't know how to create it. You can create a website for your business by learning from free website building courses from various websites, which can save you a lot of money. If you are a new entrepreneur, don't wait for a certain time to learn new things. These skills will help you bootstrap your start-up.
Kyle Basett, Altitude Control
Leverage Free Resources and Learn How to Spend Prudently
When bootstrapping a startup, it is quite challenging to understand when, where, and how to spend your money. We all know that you need to spend money to make money, but there are so many actions that you can take for free in order to better understand where to spend your money.
- Build a modest website using a free website builder
- Reach out to your network (or second & third degree connections) for advice/feedback
- Learn how to improve your SEO ranking with free videos online
- Attend a webinar or local educational event to learn about an aspect of your business that you are not an expert in
My one tip is to strategically leverage free resources in order to learn more about your product, your customers, and how to spend your money moving forward.
Roman Villard, Full Send Finance
Use a Rewards Credit Card for Everything
Whether you are purchasing supplies, accommodations for travel, snacks for employees, or renewing your business license, make sure to run all of your expenses through a business credit card that has attractive rewards. Oftentimes, startups feel more comfortable making payments using cash, checks, or a debit card so they feel in control and avoid any credit card fees. However, as long as you're diligent about watching your credit card balance and making the minimum payments on-time, business credit cards can provide real monetary benefits for startups. You would be amazed by how quickly you can build points that you then can redeem for either cash or gift cards towards your favorite suppliers.
Alaina Ross, Sleep Family
Negotiate Every Agreement
I believe that the ability to negotiate is a skill that will always be valuable. It's essential to establish the practice of negotiating every agreement when bootstrapping your startup. Actually, anything is negotiable. Consider this. The worst that can occur is that they refuse. Best case? You cut costs. The risk is always worthwhile, and engaging in negotiations can be enjoyable. It allows you to express your creativity. Perhaps you might provide a good or service in exchange. Alternatively, you might combine a few purchases into one to receive a better deal. Long-term success will increase as you practice this skill more.
Hamza Usmani, BuyWeGovyOnline