Starting and Growing a Business with Zero Resources
I received a lot of feedback when I left my 9-5 job to start my own financial planning business in Dallas. Most of it was positive: "I can't believe you are really doing it"-type encouragement. I also heard from former coworkers and friends saying that they were jealous that I wasn't beholden to a boss any longer, but they couldn't imagine or weren't interested in taking the risk financially or otherwise. I believe part of that is lifestyle creep. If you continue to spend more money as your salary increases, saving seems more difficult. Starting a small business is a risk, no question, but it can be planned for and saved for.
My husband and I saved $50,000 together before I left my job (a lot of work and discipline went into that), and ended up needing about $7,000 of that for initial seed money to start my business in June of 2019. I funded most of the ongoing expenses with zero-interest credit cards, and will be debt-free in the next couple of months, just a little over a year in. It's important to note that financial planning can largely be done leveraging technology and is primarily a service business. I didn't need to buy inventory or rent a large space. Despite these nuances, the fundamental lessons below still apply, regardless of what exactly you decide to sell. The goal of this post is to show you that you can conceive of, start, and grow a business with very few resources. You can become an entrepreneur without a Kickstarter campaign.
Once you make the leap and start the journey toward entrepreneurship, I think you'll be surprised at the warm and welcoming community you'll find there. Being a business owner is hard and overwhelming and stressful, but it's also pretty great. We business owners like to talk to each other and help each other. Well, those of us who favor abundance over scarcity. Ready to explore your big idea? Remember, exploration is free, and doesn't hurt anybody. You can dream and visualize and write a million things down, then burn them if you want to, but I recommend you try the exercises written below.
The first thing I recommend is to dig into your "Why." If you haven't seen Simon Sinek's Ted Talk, go watch it here. What kind of life do you want, and Why? Here's a hint - your first Why probably isn't deep enough. Keep asking yourself "anything else?" or "why" again and again until you feel some emotion attached to your Why. From there (though I'm still working on my Why), I hired a coach, did every personality test I could get my hands on, and read Designing Your Life. It gives you multiple exercises that get you closer to what kind of business you want to create and/or life you want to live. It pairs well with the "Why" exercise in my opinion.
The book I've had my hands on most recently is A Beautiful Constraint. It was assigned to me through a marketing cohort I'm in, and frankly it took me a while to get through. It read a little like a textbook, but the lessons are profound. The premise is that we all have constraints, either self-imposed or imposed upon us, and we can either embody the victim mindset, or we can utilize our creativity and transform our product or business into something great. We can leave behind the "we've always done it this way," or "it can't be done," excuses and create a better way or product or service for our customers or clients.
So what are your constraints?
If you haven't started a business, what's holding you back? Limited income? Private school tuition? Lack of your own education? Don't know where to start? Fear?
If you have started, but aren't growing the way you want to, what's the constraint? Zero marketing budget? Hate sales? A constantly shifting regulatory landscape?
A very important part of getting inspired within this framework is to be specific about your constraints. If you decide you want to build a business with $1 million of annual revenue working 25 hours per week, then you need to be extremely efficient with those hours and leverage outsourcing and technology to maximum extent you can. Most of us would walk away from constraints like this - dismissing them as impossible, but have you read the 4-Hour Work Week? (I think everyone has at this point) A Beautiful Constraint suggests a "can-if" mentality. Eliminate "can't" from your vocabulary, and adopt a "can-if" mentality. The examples within the book include large companies like Nike overcoming constraints, but they also detail developing countries' innovation with farming and water resources. So the point here is that you may have hundreds of millions of dollars or zero dollars to put toward a goal - the most important resources are your creativity and your ambition.
After reading this book, I've created my 2020, 2021, and 2022 revenue goals, as well as the weekly time and annual budget under which I'd like to accomplish them. The goals are hefty, and the time and budget are tight. I'm also still working on my Why and tying it to my marketing story. This Why stuff is tough, but I believe it brings us closer to the adage of "do what you love and never work a day in your life."
What are your big goals? And what constraints will you overcome?