Starting a business with nothing

In line with the them of financing a business of your own making, it’s often useful to look at how to accomplish such a monumental task from absolutely nothing. Some things are obvious, like staying away from debt like it’s a toxic and virulent disease and building a business around what you know, but others may not be so obvious. Let’s start with the common sense ones as a list.

  • Build your business around what you know, and tell everyone you know what you’re doing.
  • Avoid debt like the plague, and cut costs where you can.
  • Be ready to hustle for clients, testimonials, and all the things that go with it.
  • Find an outlet for the stress of hustlin’ every day.
Cash flow is considered the life blood of any business -- even non-profits

Choose one: Your business’s life or death.

We know this stuff already. We know to avoid debt we have to keep costs as low as insanely possible. Note: this is lower than humanly possible to help build confidence in yourself, robustness in the company, and reserves in the bank account. There’s a lot of nuanced tricks, though. This bag of tricks is called cash flow.

Cash flow, as my bookkeeper Maria likes to note, is best when there is more money coming in than money going out. When this happens, there is a layer of padding that allows you to breathe a little better, make better decisions, and sleep at night. You might even accomplish some of that elusive work-life balance when you have your cash flow set up to be reliable even when things happen.

Better yet, understand the ROI of each expense, as Tx Zhuo of Karlin Ventures notes in Entrepreneur

Understand what each dollar spent is getting youFor example, you might spend thousands of dollars getting booths at trade shows or hosting industry events and assume a certain return, but this estimation is unscientific and often inaccurate. Use a tool such as BrightFunnel to clarify this kind of spending and make sense of other areas of your budget.

You want as smart of spending as you can when you do. This will help ensure that you are spending every single penny in the best possible way for growth.

Being strict with the numbers is one thing. There are other ways to help with this, and when you build them into the company from the beginning, you’ll find that it helps in the long run. First, think receivables. Jonathan Long, Founder and CEO, Market Domination Media, wrote in Business Insider

Make sure your receivables policy won’t sink you. If your business is a retail operation then this isn’t going to apply, but if you are providing services such as consulting or products to retailers you need to make sure that your payment policy is well thought out. Can you remain above water with net-15 or net-30 terms? Don’t base your receivables on what you think your customers will want. Base them on what is going to make your business operate successfully.

This is so true. In the thick of business there are lots of balls up in the air for you to juggle. You’ve got software, subcontractor payments, marketing, taxes, and more. If you say you expect the payment to paid in full within 15 days (net-15), it is your job to make sure that you can stay well above water for double that length of time.

There are some truths that will make it easier to accomplish all this. 

I like this article by Josh Marti, CEO & co-founder of Point Inside for its truisms. While the first few points focus on asking for money from a VC or other investor, not all companies are doing that. Despite of this little hitch, the truisms can apply to things related to the cash. The one that I learnt the hard way was:

Avoid the trap of hiring someone else to solve your problems. In the early days of your business, you’ll be inundated with contractors who would love to help with development, marketing, fundraising, recruiting, delivering coffee and everything you can possibly imagine. Don’t waste your time, and especially don’t waste time explaining your business. They will deplete your precious cash resources with all-too-often disappointing results.

My first company on my own? You’ll never hear about it because it never made it to its inception thanks to all the “help” I received from people desperate to help their own bank accounts. After that round, I learnt to do it all myself until I knew exactly what was needed so I could find the perfect partner to do a better job than myself. It’s a much better way to go about it.

Beyond facing the music of things not going the way you really want them to, you’ll also have to face the fact that you can’t be a total people pleaser — as awesome as it would be. Most of us, after all, are not superhuman. Because of this, we could take a lesson from the Altuchers’ who write from experience on saying “No.”

They recommend saying “no” to social pressure, negative chatter, jealousy, panic attacks, draining people, selfishness, and more. These are all pretty common things that everyone comes across, but as entrepreneurs you may be especially susceptible to these things which build upon insecurity. Stop the downward spiral of doubt by saying “no”, then delving deeper into the whys behind the thought or feeling. Those are fears that need to be accounted for if you are to succeed in building your dreams.