Who doesn't want to save money when starting a business? While you don't want to scrimp on everything, here are a few areas where you should definitely shop around:
- Insuring your business: You'll have a variety of insurance needs to cover, from insuring your property to liability coverage. Talk to businesses that are similar to yours to see what coverage they carry, says Madelyn Flannagan, vice president of education and research with the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America in Alexandria, Virginia. A big way to save is by asking agents for extras they might throw in your coverage package. Visit Trustedchoice.com and Insure.com for more advice. Or check out Entrepreneur.com's own extensive Insurance Center.
- Finding affordable office space: Look into incubators, temporary or subleased office space. "Sometimes that's cheaper than finding a long-term lease when you don't know where your company's going to be," says Roger Staubach, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and co-founder, chairman and CEO of The Staubach Company, a real estate firm in Dallas. "Try to get the terms of your lease as short as possible, or at least [include] a buyout [option] so you're not stuck with liability if your business plan doesn't work." Also check with your city government to see if it subsidizes space leased in less developed areas. Visit www.bankrate.com/brm/news/biz/Cashflow_banking/20000818.asp for 12 tips on finding affordable space.
- Equipping your office: It's easy to spend too much. To cut costs, look for office surplus stores and be aware of local business closings. Another tip: Did you know that your state government sells surplus office equipment at bargain prices? You just have to know where to shop. To get started, check out the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property (NASASP) online at www.nasasp.org and check out the NASASP roster link for the office in your area. Another place to look is www.liquidation.com, which sells federal government surplus items, including office equipment and supplies.
- Shopping around for phone and ISP rates: Do you want to rely on a cell phone instead of a landline, or use both? When it comes to the Net, there's DSL, cable modems, dial-ups and T1s. Rates vary, so you'll have to shop around with providers' sites, such as Covad.com. The key is not to buy too much, too soon. "Don't sign a three-year contract. Only sign for a year at most," says Tom Heslin, president of Sunsar Communications, a telecommunications agency in Trumbull, Connecticut. Besides cruising the sites of your local Baby Bell and long-distance providers, try sites like GetConnected.com, where you can find links to a bill calculator, a long-distance glossary and tips for setting up a calling plan.
- Advertising: You don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get your name out there. To cut costs, look into co-promotions with local companies that complement your business, adopt guerrilla marketing tactics, and consider co-op advertising . Also, be sure to read www.adage.com and www.adweek.com to keep up with trends in advertising and marketing.
- Outsourcing: You need someone's expertise, but you don't have any employees yet. Looks like you'll have to outsource. How do you hire talent on a budget, and where do you find these people? Thanks to Web sites such as Guru.com and Monster.com, you don't have to shop locally anymore. When negotiating rates with free agents, don't be afraid to offer equity, future bonuses, advisory or board positions and other incentives in lieu of hard cash. Sell them on your vision, that you're in it for the long haul. "Think creatively and lay [your vision] out before you even start communications," Wilson says. And don't forget to check out Freeagent.com for a handy link for employers.
- Center for Entrepreneurial Growth
(865) 220-2020, www.tech2020.org
- Fox Rothschild O'Brien & Frankel LLP
(215) 299-2000, www.frof.com
- Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America
(800) 221-7917, www.independentagent.com
- Krupp Kommunications Inc.
(212) 767-0077, www.kruppkommunications.com
- Midwest Entrepreneur's Forum
(312) 857-0301, www.gss.net/mef
- Morrison & Foerster
(212) 468-8000, www.mofo.com
- Sunsar Communications
(203) 445-1555, www.sunsar.net
- The Staubach Company
(972) 361-5000, www.staubach.com
- Weisberg, Mol�, Krantz & Goldfarb LLP
(516) 933-3800, www.weisbergmole.com
Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.