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Category: Entrepreneurship
Bootstrapping Business Arsenal: Play the Friend Card

Sometimes, when business problems have you completely stumped, in the words of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, you need to use a lifeline and phone a friend. While we often think that the road to success is traveled alone, our friends can give us the strength we need to take the chances that will lead to larger goals.

If you work alone, you can only rely on the skills you possess. You have no one to buoy your spirits when you are discouraged or to share your successes. Our friends often know our abilities better than we do. Where we see ourselves through a lens of self-criticism and doubt, our friends see a strong, smart, able-bodied compatriot. Don’t keep your business life a secret when you are having trouble; talk out your troubles with a friend and brainstorm solutions. You never know when creativity will strike. Every situation has its power teams, and with some experimentation, you and your group will find your way to the top.

Bootstrapping Success Tip: Asking for Help and Strong Mentors

Being a solopreneur bootstapping your way along can suck. When shit hits the fan you are it; the judge, the jury and the executioner. So if you’ve sentenced yourself  to “hard time” then buckle up buddy it’s all on your shoulders.

We have all had those situations that seem hopeless, those AHHHH my ship is sinking days, hell I have been the poster child for it over the last couple weeks. I’ve messed up things with an important project, over promised something I thought would be a piece of cake for another. The result,  clients are getting angry (one being my brother-in-law, whom is very important and I respect a lot), and fulfilling my promises seems like an Everest size climb. The old Derek would have cracked.

We make mistakes all the time but the key to limiting their effects is asking for help. While it is difficult to admit that we are wrong, a larger problem is that we do not know who to turn to.

Before you encounter problems, try to find a mentor. Whether it’s a past supervisor, a friend in a relevant industry, or a professional career coach, a mentor can come from virtually anywhere. By networking with your business partners and friends, you can determine who has the most to teach you.

The next step is to work up the courage to speak with your mentor-to-be, but make sure you have a clear idea of what you need from the partnership. Most likely, the person you ask will be honored by the idea and will agree to help you out. Once you have (re)established a relationship with a mentor, you will have someone to run to when you no longer know what to do.

So when a couple weeks like this come along “The New Derek” talks to coaches, consults his mentors and has a group of trusted professionals that I rely one to help me get to the top even if they are kicking me in the ass all the way up.

Be Daring: Try Something New

While we love our comfort zones, business development stagnates with routine. Once we settle in to a position and know exactly what we can do, that’s all we do. While this strategy keeps us from failing, we don’t really succeed either.

Risking failure forces us to stretch our skills. For example, a friend of mine was a successful college student in her last year at school. She could have coasted through her classes, graduated, and headed to law school at the end of the year. At the prompting of one of her professors, she applied for a prestigious scholarship, something she had dreamed of but didn’t think she could get on her own. She put all of her effort into the application process and learned much about herself.

Ultimately, she failed and did not win the scholarship, but the process opened many doors for her; she won the school’s highest honors and accepted a job directing economic development in a small community. Her life would have been smoother had she not taken the risk, however she is grateful for the diversity it brought to her life.

Pick one of your business daydreams. What can you do to make that dream a reality? If you go for it, you never know what opportunities await you.

Be Your Own Boss: Leaving the cubicle in 5 simple steps

Setting your own rules, self employment, sleeping as late as you want, lack of inhibitions; all reasons to leave the cubicle lifestyle and become your own boss. But what happens from your initial thoughts about self employment to the point of actually getting there can be tricky if you’re not well prepared. That’s where this article comes in. Being your own boss can be done in as easy as five steps and I want to show you how. I’ve done it on a slightly different path then what I’m going to explain to you, but if I were starting over again, this would be my definite list of 5 steps to leaving the cubicle.

Analyzing your passions

If you’re leaving the cubicle lifestyle because you hate it, jumping into your own business should be fun and exciting. It should be something you’ve got a deep passion about. If not, then why leave your cubicle, right? The first thing you need to do when you’re deciding to leave the cubicle and be your own boss is sitting down and really thinking about what it is you love to do. Maybe you’re an adventure junkie who loves skydiving and mountain climbing, or maybe you love a much calmer lifestyle and spend your spare time helping out at the elderly center. What is your passion? When you can answer this question, you’re well on your way to becoming your own boss.

When you have a definitive list of your passions, no matter how many there are, you are ready to start analyzing them. What I suggest doing is putting in big letters at the top of a piece of paper each passion (one piece of paper per passion). Under the title, list as many positive emotions you can associate with that particular passion. Anything from “I love the rush” to “It is a great way to spend time with my family”; no answers are wrong here.

Plan your path to profits

Without a road, or a solid ground to walk on, you can never take those first critical steps to making it to the finish line. Can we walk on air? Water? Highly unlikely. The same holds true in business. Without some form of plan, you’re aimlessly running with no goal in sight. I don’t want this misinterpreted as a statement telling you that you need a 200 page business plan with 10 year projected profits and tons of other useless information. That is not what I mean at all. Your plan to profits will come from the following; taking your passion list and brainstorming ideas on how each of these passions could be profitable.

For instance, if you’re love is cars, you could have the following list as a plan to profit.

  • Mechanic
  • Car photography
  • Nascar racer
  • Monster truck driver
  • Drivers school instructor
  • Car painter/customizer

The ideas here are limitless and should not be held back by negative thinking. The goal here is to come up with every possible way imaginable that you could make money with your passion. Again, no answers here are wrong (you’ll come to notice that this is a reoccurring theme – positive thinking).

Build a solid contact list

Networking is crucial to building start ups for all small business owners. Networking is also one of the best ways to get 10 steps ahead of your competition. Regardless of these two facts, building a contact list before starting your business is often overlooked. In any position you’re currently in, you can build a contact list. If you’re current job is in the IT field, you can make sure any contacts you have with your current employers sources is intact, or if you’re just starting fresh out of high school and you’re not sure about anything you’re doing, you’ve got friends and teachers that can be placed in your contact list.

Your contact list does not need to be for potential clients and customers only. Granted, you should set one of these up as well, but you need a list of people who can give it to you straight; the honest answers you’re looking for to make sure that by the time you’re launching your company, you’ve got all of the right pieces to the puzzle in place. Friends, colleagues, current company contacts; they all hold very valuable information to your business. Always remember that and you’ll be on a contact list building rampage.

*note, this is one step I never took when I first started my blog design company and I deeply regret it as it took me much longer to get into the green and a lot of changes were required along the way which would have been sidestepped totally if I just had a contact list.

Create a sure fire marketing strategy

Once you’ve got your building blocks in place, it’s time to put it all into effect. During this stage of planning, you’re going to want to focus hard on building something that will be effective and give you the greatest ROI. If you’re throwing a fishing line into a big river and hoping for a bite, you’ll be a lot worse off then if you went to a small pond that you knew was full of fish that liked your bait. Below are seven sentences you need to answer in order to create a solid foundation for your marketing strategy.

  1. The purpose of the marketing – The physical action you want your prospect to take.
  2. How you’ll achieve this purpose – your competitive advantage and benefits.
  3. Your target market – who are you aiming to benefit?
  4. The marketing weapon you’ll use – online, offline, magazine print, ect.
  5. The niche and your position and what you stand for.
  6. The identity of your business – Not who owns it, but what you stand for.
  7. Your budget – This should be expressed as a percentage of your projected revenue.

From here, you can build a more in depth plan of action, but without these seven sentences answered, your marketing plans will not fall into proper place. This is one area in your five step plan to leaving the cubicle that you should spend a bit of time on and make sure you’ve got everything down solid. To read more about the seven sentences listed above, you can check out Building an Effective Guerrilla Marketing Strategy.

Stop complaining and do it already

So now you have a great plan of action set together right? If not, re-read this article and then come back to this paragraph. I will keep this section short, because there’s not much left to say except to just do it; get out there and get yourself on your own road that doesn’t involve that damn cubicle. If you never try, you never fail. But on the same token, if you never try, you never win either.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make yourself proud of what you can do on your own. It’s not as scary as you might think!

If you’ve got questions for me or any of the other readers here, please feel free to leave a comment and lets get a discussion going about this subject. I’d love to hear your input.

Word of Mouth Marketing: Thank your referrers

Never bite the hand that feeds you. Thats what they say right? Well, they are right; especially in business. If you’re a small business owner and are looking for a quick way to kill any chance you have at growing, by all means, bite that hand. But I believe it’s safe to say that all of us here have a little more sense then that right?

Word of mouth advertising is the very best form of marketing your company can have. There’s nothing like a happy client who is ready to tell their friends and family about your services or products. If you’ve been hired for a job or you just shipped out $1,000 worth of product to a client and they’re so excited that they actually bring in business for you, how is that not a good thing? It costs you ZERO dollars, which is awesome for all of us who bootstrap on a daily basis, and it is achieved by doing the most simple task imaginable; PROVIDE TOP QUALITY SERVICE!

How to gain your word of mouth momentum

As stated above, top quality service is the best way to make sure your name is spoke in many conversations your current client or customer will have. This is the easiest thing to do, yet so many people overlook it. If you’ve got a client who you know has a lot of friends who are in a similar field and would make for great customers, why would it be so hard to answer emails quicker or make a couple extra phone calls giving progress reports on your project.

What about reminding him or her that you’re thankful for their business and hope that you’re living up to their expectations? This sentence has gained me many referrals due to the fact that people LOVE to be appreciated. And once again for all of us bootstrappers, it’s free! Never underestimate the power of going the extra mile for someone you know has connections or could possibly benefit you in the future. Some business relationships are meant to build upon farther then others, so make sure you can spot the positive ones and grow with it; your bank account will thank you :)

You’re getting referrals; now what?

So you’ve got some referrals coming in from past clients and you’re business is starting to do very well. What do you do now? Most people I’ve talked to seem to just sit back, enjoy the business and keep moving forward. I do NOT recommend doing this. You’re overlooking another GREAT avenue to keep the word of mouth going; thanking your referrers.

There’s many different options you can go with when you’re thanking your referrers; hand written thank you letters, percentage of the sale, gift basket, personal gifts, and so on. No matter what you do, your referrer will be happy and will end up telling everyone about the gift they’re getting as well. When this happens, the clients they’re referring might get excited and want to refer you more customers so they can also get the free perks. It’s a chain reaction at this point and from one referral could potentially spawn 100 referrals and a small army of energetic people who are passionate about your product and love the perks they receive when they’re referring you clients.

I want to thank my readers

I wanted to take the last bit of this article to thank all of you; not for referring me clients or anything like that, but just for reading this website and commenting on my articles. It lets me know that I’m doing something worth while and helping at least one person grow their business with just that much less stress. So, thank you :)