Bootstrapping your business growth in the early stages is one of the best things you can do, for several reasons. You eliminate the stress and anxiety piles of debt come with and you keep all of your company, as you don’t have to give up equity for an investment. While this avenue is appealing, it’s also very difficult. Many sacrifices have to be made when you opt to bootstrap.
For some entrepreneurs, the extra work required when bootstrapping is worth it, and they would rather roll up their sleeves and put in the work than have to listen to investors dictate the direction on their business. If you are considering bootstrapping your growth, take these must-dos into consideration, as they will help you tremendously.
Operate lean and always evaluate all expenses.
When you are bootstrapping, the goal is to roll over all of your revenue back into the business to help fuel growth. If you are not careful with your spending this can take much longer to accomplish. It’s the startups that are extremely lean in the early stages that often see the most success.
You should always have a system in place that double-validates expenses before they are approved. Whether that is reviewing them yourself or required all founders to sign off on expenses, just make sure you are doing everything possible to limit the unnecessary spending that often plaques startups in the early stage.
Little oversights, like subscribing to unnecessary SaaS products or overpaying for something because you didn’t price shop, can contribute to thousands of dollars in waste each month. Those funds would be much better spent scaling advertising and marketing efforts.
Work remotely using co-working spaces.
Having a big beautiful office space is irrelevant in the beginning. Look at how many startups launch with all kinds of buzz and operate out of an amazing space, only to be out of business 12 months down the line. The name of the game is longevity, and the fancy office can wait until your company is established and bringing in enough revenue to justify an office upgrade.
To start, consider a co-working space. These are much more affordable and give you the flexibility to increase or decrease space at any time. The last thing you want to do is get locked into a 5 or 10 year commercial lease and be held personally liable if the company goes under and isn’t able to pay.
You can even get common area memberships for your team in the beginning to really lower your overhead, and then move to a dedicated office when needed.
Learn how to do your own PR campaigns.
Startups need to generate PR, but many firms will quote anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of $20,000 a month for press campaigns. This is out of the budget for most, and something that can be handled in-house in the early stages.
You can use a free service like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and look daily for opportunities, or you can find journalists and editors that have covered topics related to your business in the past and reach out to establish relationships and then eventually make pitches.
The key is to be creative and stand out from everyone else. Remember, there are hundreds and thousands of startups just like you, all going after the same platforms and attention. Find ways and unique selling points that will make you and your company unforgettable.
Say “NO” to credit card debt.
A lot of business owners will pull out the credit card when times are difficult, but this simply puts them in a worse situation and brings on more stress, which can eventually crumble a company.
Bootstrapping requires that you get creative and make sacrifices, putting the company first. Credit card debt can quickly snowball and then the next thing you know you are buried in debt, forcing you to funnel all of the revenue towards paying it down, rather than on the growth of the business.
If it means slowing down the growth over putting expenses on credit cards, go that route, as it will ensure your company is never drowning in debt. Focus on generating revenue, not taking on debt.