Lacking time and money for your startup? 11 strategies to get you started with few resources

I have had a lot of feedback from people who felt that they didn’t have enough time or money to start or grow their startup successfully. In this article, I have organized all my notes on this subject to show that severe constraints shouldn’t stop you. They might slow you down, but moving slowly is much better than not moving at all.

The short version: “Focus. Start small before you grow big, fail fast and fail cheap. Implement some time management strategies. Move forward a little bit every day. Be persistent but flexible, and test a lot.”

#1. Small, aligned actions compound into something big in the long run

You can create significant momentum by simply taking many small steps that are aligned toward your goal. In order to do that, it helps to be very clear on what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve it. It’s normal that things move slowly at the beginning, but even with only one hour per day, you can go a long way.

#2. You can find more free time than you think

Sure, starting a company can take all of your time, but it doesn’t have to. How much time do you really need to achieve your goals? If you are lacking time and you never tried to implement any time management techniques then I am sure you can reclaim significant time in your day. Between watching less TV, cutting out web surfing, eliminating distractions and interruptions, and building the discipline of not looking at your email every five minutes, you can easily find one hour a day. Build a daily routine that reserves an uninterrupted block of time on your calendar for working on your startup.

The literature on the subject is vast, but you could read the famous book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen or by have a look at these two blog posts: Time Management by Steve Pavlina and 21 Ways to Add More Hours to the Day on LifeHack.

Just imagine what you could do with one more hour a day for the rest of your life.

#3. Learn bootstrapping techniques

The term “bootstrapping” means starting a company without external funding. Most companies are started that way. Spend time studying these techniques and see how other entrepreneurs did it. You shouldn’t believe that the only way to build a business is to have a ton of money from day one.

Some people say that bootstrapping is a smart business move; since you are trying an unproven idea, and many new ideas just don’t work, you want to check if it is worth something before investing a lot of time and money, whether it’s yours or somebody else’s. Bootstrapping will force you to do exactly that.

The Bootstrapper’s Bible is a free e-book by Seth Godin. Guy Kawasaki has a great post called “The art of bootstrapping” on his blog.

If you want to read some entrepreneurs’ interviews about bootstrapping, get Entrepreneur Journeys: Bootstrapping: Weapon Of Mass Reconstruction (Volume 2) by Sramana Mitra.

#4. Focus on validating your business model before growing

If you are at the first stage of your business, your focus is figuring out a profitable business model based on your idea. At this stage your needs are minimal.

You want to find and fix the problems in your business model quickly. You also want to “fail cheaply” while you are still small and haven’t invested much. It will allow you to “pivot” to the next business model and still have some resources left for the next round.

Remember also that fast grow, using external capital, is just an option. You can use your profit to fund your growth.

#5. Test at small scale as much as you can

Here is an important fact: most of what you will try in business will fail. It has nothing to do with you, it’s just how things work. It’s hard to find something valuable and there is no way to predict what will work without trying it. Because most of what you will try will fail, you must be prepared for that.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
— Henry Ford

Test many things and always make sure you can afford to lose those “small bets”. Don’t spend a month building the perfect product or website before you know that there is something to gain from it. You can learn more about it in the book Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims.

#6. Pick a battle you can win

Adapt your expectations as an entrepreneur. Choose a battle you can win with the constraints you have. It might force you to start with smaller, different or narrower goals or even to pursue a different idea for the time being. You should focus more on what you can achieve with what is available to you, rather than just looking at what you think you are missing in order to succeed.

#7. Your first focus should be on making sales

Until you have made that first sale, you don’t have a business. It means not just having a product, but also a working sales process and a reliable customer acquisition strategy in place.
If you haven’t a product yet, do everything you can to ship your minimal viable product (the simplest possible version of a product that you can still sell) and sell it as soon as possible. Your ability to focus on what is essential to your customers and your speed of implementation are both critical to generate income as soon as possible.

If Apple can launch a smartphone without Find or Cut-and-Paste, what can you cut out of your product requirements?
— Lance A. Glasser

#8. Connect to your customers early

This is important for two reasons. First, it will allow you to focus your time and effort on implementing only what is essential. You can’t do that if you don’t understand exactly what your customers want. Second, it will give you ideas on how to reach your customers cheaply. You won’t make any money if you only have a product but no path to your customers and no clear message to educate them about the benefits of your solution. Interacting with customers will help you build that early.

Feedback from customers is critical to any business success, so start building an audience around your problem domain: start a blog, comment on other blogs, connect to people from the industry, go to trade shows etc. Go into the minds of your customers: How is their business working? What are their biggest problems? What are their needs? What is their buying process? What are their aspirations and beliefs?

Don’t fall in love with your products,
fall in love with your customer!
— Jay Abraham

#9.  Manage your cash flow

As they say in business: cash is king. This is true whether you are small or big. If you have very small capital to start with, you want to put growth ahead of profits. All the profit you make must be re-invested in your venture. Schedule regular time to make, update and check your budget.

#10. Be resourceful

Being resourceful is the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome problems. Don’t waste huge amounts of time in a frantic search for resources. Use that energy to find creative ways to get what you need or figure out a workaround.

More often than not, if a business fails with limited resources, it would have simply been a bigger failure with more resources.
— Rich Schefren

#11. Minimize your costs

This is obvious, but be drastic in buying only what is essential for your business. If you are just starting, you probably don’t need designed business card, personalized logos, to rent an office or a shop, or have a designer create your website. This doesn’t mean that your website or the document you produce shouldn’t look professional, just that you should use free or cheap tools or templates whenever you can.  Be resourceful.

I liked a series of posts by Chandoo on keeping your expense low: “How I lower my Rental & Salary Expenses”, “How I lower my Marketing & Sales Expenses”, “How I lower my Website Expenses”.

Still confused on how to move forward? Drop me a line at sgignoux@gmail.com. I am working on a free e-Book to help all new startup entrepreneurs overcome their roadblocks and I need your feedback to make this book as useful as possible.

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