Top Tips for Not Wasting Money As A Start Up

I read this article today and was inspired to think about what tips I would give others for not wasting money as a start up.  The article I read is here: Ten Ways to Waste Money On A Start Up

If you were to write your Top Ten list for ways to NOT Waste Money as a Start Up what would be on it?

Here’s my Top Ten ways to NOT Waste Money as a Start Up

1)  Do Your Homework

You can spend quite a lot of money by barking up the wrong tree. There are some blog posts on here already about market research and this has to be at the top of my list as so many people spend money on marketing, sales, operational costs without really understanding their target markets.

When I say really understand I mean things that are crucial to business success such as understanding what people want, who those people are, where and how to connect with them, how to get your message out in the most appropriate manner. Understanding pricing, decision making processes, costs to market and sell your products, competitors, unique perceived benefits etc.

There are some great short courses around and oodles of information on the web.  My top tip is not to rush in to launching your business without doing your homework on who, where, why, how and what people consider in terms of demand for your products or services.

2) Get Basic Systems In Place

I interpreted the advice in the article I linked to as a recommendation that people don’t rush out and buy expensive computerised systems for their start up unless they really understand them.

I would go one step further and say to really understand your processes and get a bit of experience if you can operationally before investing in the best technology out there. And when you do invest try to match in the best way possible to your business requirements rather than trying to squeeze your business processes to fit the technology.  I would definitely recommend having a basic system in place for tracking, forecasting and reporting though as this data is extremely valuable for taking decisions on the future direction of your business and if you don’t capture that data right from the start then opportunities could be lost or too much time can be spent later on trying to back-track for analysis purposes.

3) Avoid All Singing All Dancing Websites

This comes back to the point about understanding your business and market first and THEN going out to get the best website that is fit for that purpose. Don’t make the mistake of spending loads of dosh on an all singing all dancing website that might be irrelevant or not fit the business and market you are in.

It can be tempting to have a budget and just say “I’ll have one of them please” because you like the colours or the design, but it may miss the mark in terms of being targeted appropriately.

Get help from web designers who have an understanding of SEO so they can help you see how people are searching for your products and services and what things help to improve the number of hits to converted enquiries.  Yes colours and design are important but try to be objective rather than arty! And think to about how to test and improve on an ongoing basis.

4) Opportunity Costs

A money waster that can creep up on you is to just to look at the price tag of actual fees paid out for services and think “I can do that myself”.  The sneaky bit is that sometimes there is the lost opportunity cost where you could have been doing something more profit-earning with your time instead.

If you have spare time on your hands and are keen to learn by doing something yourself from the outset then that can be great for your own learning, development and understanding.  My advice here is to be aware of the tipping point where actually your time is better spent doing something else instead. This applies to how you use your time generally whether it is networking, social media, writing articles, accounting and bookkeeping, technology etc.

It’s more a case of making a conscious decision about use of time rather than a sub-conscious one.

5) Think “Fit For Purpose”

When you start looking at all the things your business needs at start up it is really easy to get carried away with things as there is so much choice and bargains on offer!  My advice is to split out your business requirements as precisely as possible in terms of ‘fit-for-purpose”.

The article I linked to has an example of business cards and letterheads as whilst I wouldn’t encourage anyone to have really naff cards or letterheads if they want to make a good impression, I would encourage people to think about “fit for purpose”.

6) Don’t hesitate to look for help

There really is a lot of info available for start up help and some of these places are:  Youtube, Blogs, Business Forums, Business Link Website, Accountants, Business Coach & Mentors, Networking groups, Books, Professional Associations, Social Media etc.  You do need to put time aside however to go looking for help.

7)  Be Open to New Ideas

You don’t have to always do things the way everyone else has always done it. Being receptive and open to ideas for better ways of working can give enormous benefits. Provided you know your business requirements and can safeguard against risks then it can be worth exploring new things such as technologies, processes, approaches.

8)  Balancing The Time You Work ON Your Business And Not Just IN It

Personally I think one of the biggest stealers here is learning and preferences for what is enjoyable versus the most productive use of time.  There’s a fab discussion going on at Ann Hawkin’s open TIG group on Linkedin with people talking about this subject so I’ll let you read peoples comments over there for yourself but I think finding that balance is really tough going.  The other side of course is that you can also spend too much time working ON your business rather than in it (too much strategising and not enough doing! lol)

9)  Listen To Your Customers And Use Them Well!

Your first few customers are like gold dust as they will tell you everything you want to know about how happy they are with your services or products and what they believe others will think, even to the point of referring and recommending you. But, you must remember to ask them!

Learning from your customers early on will save money later on down the line as you fine tune your marketing, finances, operational processes etc.  You may need to recover from a few mistakes here and there which is pretty normal so expect this and don’t let too much time and money go by before you recognise things.

Don’t be shy about asking your customers if they are happy but more importantly WHY they are happy.

10) Hire The Best People For The Important Bits

Money is usually tight for start ups but that doesn’t mean you should scrimp on the most important people you have in your business or supporting your business.

Cheap can sometimes be a false economy so split out what’s important and what’s not that important and then match with the best skills and talent you can afford. People who can be worth their weight in gold are employees, accountants, partners/affiliates etc.

Extra Tip Relevant to Telemarketing

I have written this in a general way but I’ll end with a Telemarketing tip for new businesses.

My main tip is to not commit to a long drawn out telemarketing campaign from the outset but instead conduct short trials that allow you to gain information in the early days. This is so that your telemarketing approaches can be fine-tuned accordingly to the new business you want to attract.  You shouldn’t have to commit to a large (or any) set up fee or set number of days from the start.  There are telemarketing tips provided in this blog but please get in contact if there are things you would like to discuss.

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