Whether you’re an event industry professional or working with investor funding, it is critical that you know how to grow your business on a budget. It should go without saying that if you’re too loose with your spending, sooner or later the money is going to run out.
You can’t focus exclusively on bringing in revenue without paying close attention to profitability, and you’re not making a profit if you’re spending more than you’re making. Of course that seems obvious, but many business owners struggle with figuring out the best ways to conserve spending.
The good news is, now more than ever, you have access to resources that allow you to grow your business on budget. With accessible technology and a business atmosphere welcoming of entrepreneurship, now is prime time. Frugality will take you a long way, my friend.
Here are 6 ways to grow your business on a budget:
1. Skip the rent until you’re ready
Not long ago, any budding entrepreneur who wanted to start a business had to go out and find office space or a storefront. Signing high-dollar multi-year leases prices some people out of the market and puts a damper on cash flow. Still, I meet business owners all the time who want to run right out and get an office – maybe to feel legitimate, maybe because it’s something you’ve always dreamed of, or maybe because you don’t have space in your home.
Before you sign your name on the dotted line, make sure it’s truly time to start paying rent. Until you’re ready, designate some space at home, join the coffee shop scene, and rent conference rooms for important meetings. Next, consider a temporary office suite, shared office space, or co-working. A few years back, there might have been some stigma associated with not having your own space. Not true anymore. People are running multi-million-dollar empires from their laundry rooms. It is possible.
2. Use low-cost technology
Business technology used to be as cost-prohibitive as rent. Office equipment, such as fax machines, printers, copiers, phones, and computers cost a small fortune not long ago. These days, a quality printer/scanner/fax/hairdryer is just a few hundred bucks, and larger print jobs can be sent to a local printer with the click of a button.
The real tech cost-saver is today’s business software. Look into open source and cloud computing options instead of software that requires expensive licensing. Software for bookkeeping, billing, design, project management, collaboration, and even word processing can be had for a minimal investment. Ask around for the best referrals. And you can save oodles on your phone bill with Skype and VOIP.
3. Only pay for the help you need
Gone are the days when you have to bring on full-time employees with a salary and full benefits to get the help you need. Some of the simplest tasks can be outsourced for little cost by companies that specialize in getting those tasks done. Also, in the new economy, more and more smart, skilled, talented, and reliable people are choosing to work for themselves. While you might pay a premium hourly rate, you’ll get the quality you need without the expense and hassle of hiring employees.
When the time is right, good employees are a godsend. But until you’re ready, only pay specifically for the help you need. And as you’re growing your team, hire selectively. Allow your rock star employees to help you identify the gaps and inefficiencies, and build from there.
4. Leverage the power of the online marketing
One of the biggest advantages you have over entrepreneurs in the past is easy access to marketing channels that are free or practically free. Unless you’ve been in business for years, you have no idea how huge this is! You can create highly targeted, heavy hitting marketing campaigns and hardly spend a dime.
When it comes to marketing, the internet levels the playing field. Your website, email marketing, blogs and other social media, can have a greater return on investment than even the best direct mail campaigns in the past.
5. Step out from behind your computer
Even with all of the fantastic low-cost business-building power the internet provides, stepping out from behind your computer and out into your community can be essential to growing your business on a budget.
Joining quality, targeted networking groups is generally an affordable investment worth making. Attending free networking events can be great, too, as long as you’re selective about where you spend your time. Conferences and training events are often the best places to meet prospects and colleagues face-to-face, and make a genuine connection. If you’re really looking to build the visibility of your business and your credibility, nothing beats speaking at these events and meetings. Volunteering in your community is another great way to meet people, and it also helps build a positive brand image as you grow.
6. Get free publicity
Getting publicity for your business is easier than you might think. Hiring a well-connected publicist or PR firm can certainly be worth it, but it can be out of your reach if you’re on a tight budget. You can become savvy in generating your own publicity by investing the time in figuring out how to do it yourself. Determine what’s newsworthy about your business, learn how to write a solid press release, and determine the best ways to contact and approach reporters and producers.
Now that Oprah has moved on, I’m hoping more people will be willing to listen to me when I tell them to focus on local media first. Before pitching the national networks, become a local media darling. Radios, small local papers, and your local news are your best bet when you’re getting started. Make sure you’re ready with a media kit. Any ambitious entrepreneur could use a little bit of a media makeover and some camera training, so a small investment in yourself in this area will pay off.
Remember, a successful entrepreneur – no matter how fabulous – is always frugal when it matters most. You will have to spend some money to make money, but there are many ways to grow your business on a budget when you are smart and resourceful.
What are some ways you've grown your business on a budget?