Dear Professor Bruce: I’ve been thinking about starting my own small business for a while, but my resources, including money, are very limited. What advice can you give me?
Whatever your resources, professional and financial, you can increase your chances of success by adopting an approach called the “lean start-up.” This strategy
focuses on streamlining the launch process and many aspiring entrepreneurs are
using it. In fact, the Harvard Business Review recently spotlighted it in an article called, “Why the Lean Start-up Changes Everything.” To help you get going, Karin Abarbanel, an expert on start-up strategies and author of How to Succeed on Your Own, outlines some basic principles here:
Lean launching is a mind-set, an attitude. It’s about stripping away everything that isn’t essential so you can get up and running as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. It’s about doing more with less by squeezing the most out of every resource you have, from your time and money to your suppliers and contact list.
So put your start-up on a diet: Figure out what’s absolutely essential and then focus on how to find what you really need most efficiently and cost-effectively. Can your get your equipment from an online discount site or buy it reconditioned? Can you barter for accounting support? Road-test your idea? Tap SCORE for marketing advice?
Build your business at your own pace and on your own terms: Lean launching uses
market testing instead of elaborate business plans and employs customer
feedback and low-cost experimentation to fine-tune offerings. This do-it-yourself approach allows you to work through your concept and build a business base with minimal investment.
Think big, but start small: Focus on one product or service. Keep your eye on delivering exceptional service and quality with that one offering, then build
on it. Bobbi Brown started her global cosmetics firm by creating a single product: a lipstick with a natural look — and used it as a launch platform. Liz Lange started her maternity wear empire by developing a simple dress that appealed to young xpectant mothers.
Come up with a bare-bones budget — and stick to it: Two nurses with no business
training launched their firm with a few hundred dollars. A hi-tech executive
started with a “loan” to herself of $1,000 to buy equipment. And makeup mogul Bobbi Brown began her global enterprise with a $5,000 nest egg. So, small budgets can lead to big businesses — if they’re managed to get the most bang for every buck.