I was at my wit’s end with retail management in 2002. Did I have a hobby or product I was passionate about? Did I have the money to invest in another opportunity? Did I have a college degree? No is the answer to all these questions. I was an associate at a technology store, making minimum wage plus commission. My manager knew I had the potential and experience necessary to co-run the store with him and wanted to make me the new assistant manager for a mere 9.25 per hour. My co-workers were infuriated I was his first choice because I only worked there for 3 months. In their eyes I didn’t earn it and in my eyes I didn’t want it! I let them squabble while I secretly planned my escape. It has been my most successful and rewarding, confidence boosting and educational leap of faith I’ve ever taken. Here are some keys that made it possible to soar above my competition with little resources.
Brainstorm ideas prioritizing low overhead
Low overhead refers to the cost to start and run a business. Learning to cut the fat is a business concept that will be used throughout your entrepreneurial career no matter how successful you become financially. You always want cost to decrease and profits to increase over time. If you already have an idea, how can you start and maintain your business for the least amount of money? Maybe the question is not how, but can you? Consider writing a budget listing your start up and maintenance expenses just as you would personally. Include the place of business, legal expenses to start a business, supplies, transportation, etc. Brainstorm ideas that makes these costs lower.
If you don’t have a pre-existing business idea you may want to explore low overhead businesses. Many are independent contractors in the service industry. This is how I began in business ownership, as the owner of a housekeeping company. If you plan to sell products low overhead solutions are to have pop-up stores or kiosks to begin, sell door to door or online. Multi-level marketing companies are often low start up cost and little to maintain. Do your research.
Become a “leading expert in the industry”
Get to know the business better than anyone. Because of your lack of resources it may seem that you lack the same bells and whistles as your competitors, but being knowledgeable and having integrity is the value your customers will really care about. Really spend time educating yourself on your expertise. Learn what you don’t know and commit to continuing your education, if only for 15 minutes per day.
Again, because of your lack of resources you want to provide the best of what you do have. If that means partnering with someone who has the skills you don’t have, but need to run this business then consider partnering strategically. This could also mean looking for investors. In both cases you will want to create a business plan (a document) that clearly states both your roles and responsibilities.
Without a plan you plan to fail is such a true statement. I came up with a few business ideas before succeeding and the difference was planning. My housekeeping company I secretly planned while I worked for a technology store began on a poster board from a dollar store. This was before I knew what a business plan was, but it served the same purpose. I wrote down every task I needed to do before opening for business; researching the rates I should charge, maintenancing my van, obtaining a business license, creating a website, ordering business cards, etc. Next to each chronological task I put a realistic deadline. This poster board was the difference between success and failure. My goal was to open in 3 months and I opened in 1.
Never bite off more than you can chew
If you don’t over promise, you won’t under serve and if you don’t under serve you won’t have a customer who had a bad experience tell 100 friends. Every customer experience is an advertisement so treat each one with that in mind. Customers aren’t the only reason for keeping your work load manageable. With little resources you are probably your full time service worker, social media manager, salesperson, tax preparer, etc. You get it. For your own physical and mental health make balance a priority and really understand how your schedule should be planned.
Hurdles will arise. Are you going to run right into them because you planned on running straight? No. You’re going to decide to jump over or go around. This happens a lot in business, things not going as planned. You need to think on your toes! I have so many examples of times this happened to me in housekeeping. I had a meeting with a local media outlet that was going to distribute a package deal online (like Groupon) for me for free, but at a very largely discounted rate. The benefits were the exposure of my company to the public and that I would receive my percentage of the sales in a lump sum. I agreed to it, but was set to sign the contract another day. Something made me think to reach out to the last housekeeping company that provided them the same service and I’m glad I followed my gut instinct! He told me that they bit off more than they could chew as a new housekeeping company. The pay was so little and they were over booked (like 6 months out!), dreading each job they took. The plan was to do the deal, I already said I would, but I canceled my meeting to sign the contract and saved my self the suffering that could have cost me my passion or my business entirely.
Check yourself regularly
Always going full-speed ahead doesn’t insure success in business. Check yourself before you wreck yourself! This is part of working smarter, not harder. Plan to stop regularly to evaluate how things are going, what’s working and what’s not, find oversights, what needs immediate attention, make adjustments to your plan, make some time for yourself to do something you enjoy and restore your enthusiasm for the business.