One of the biggest psychological barriers to starting and maintaining your own business is money. Even with an initial nest egg, financing a startup over time can be grueling. I speak from personal experience. During my company's startup phase, there were many occasions when I was overdrawn at the bank, behind in vendor payments, and lying awake at night worrying about whether I'd make it through the month. There were even times I had less than a dollar in my bank account! Take solace in knowing that this is often the early experience of many successful businesses.
However, there's hope! By understanding your options and using a little creativity, you can avoid overextending yourself--and tap into additional resources when you need them. The following are some strategies for the burgeoning entrepreneur:
Stretch What You Have
It's a good idea to use what you have before borrowing what you don't. Here are some common-sense--yet often bypassed--strategies to make the most of what you've got:
- Cut corners in your everyday life. Most likely, profits won't be rolling in a month after you launch your business. So, think of what you can do without. It can be as small as giving up that daily $3 cup of joe (it adds up!) or as substantial as waiting to invest in a new car or a larger home.
- Keep working. Don't give up your day job too soon. Many successful inventors work on their project at night and on weekends, and take the process as far as possible before leaving their paying jobs. If you have a supportive spouse or partner, involve them in the planning. When you reach a point where your business becomes a full-time venture, perhaps you can negotiate with your partner so he or she agrees to support the family while you build your business.
- Spread it out over time. Avoid incurring large expenses all at once by spreading out your process over time. In other words, you don't have to accomplish everything from market research to prototyping to manufacturing overnight. Let your finances help set the pace.
- Work with your vendors. One of the best ways to finance your project is to find vendors who'll share your financial strain. While you can't ask them to work for free, you can ask them to give you their absolute bargain price now. Let them know that with success, their support will be rewarded by your loyalty. You may also request to pay via a scheduled payment plan. Time your payments for when you know you'll have available funds, such as on payday.
In addition, be sure to communicate! If you're going to be late with a payment, don't avoid your vendors--let them know upfront. This way you can work on a solution together, such as incremental payments, etc. The quickest way to sour a relationship is to ignore their inquiries.