Published June 12, 2012
What are some habits that all successful bootstrappers have?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth. E-mail your questions about best practices for starting up and/or managing a small business to firstname.lastname@example.org.
No. 1: Keep Calm and Carry On
From Kent Healy of The Uncommon Life
By definition, bootstrappers have a lot of responsibility and a lot on their plate; there are many variables being juggled at once. The best-of-the-best keep an uncanny sense of calm amidst the surrounding chaos by keeping things in perspective. This way, they can execute on many important tasks without compromising their creativity, enthusiasm, and ability to inspire others.
No. 2: Never Stop Learning
From Nathalie Lussier of Nathalie Lussier Media
When you're bootstrapping a business, you need to wear many different hats, and that usually means learning some new skills. Because of this, bootstrappers are great at picking up new skill sets, teaching themselves how to do new things, and learning more about their line of business.
No. 3: Know Yourself Well
From Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend & Cumbre Capital
Do the homework to know yourself incredibly well: look back at past experiences, ask others close to you, take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. Have the confidence to know what you're naturally awesome at and the honesty to know what you're awful at. Then dedicate your time to the former and find amazing talent to take care of the latter.
No. 4: Make the Trade
From Tim Jahn of Entrepreneurs Unpluggd
Many successful bootstrappers trade services to get what they need to build their business. Whether it's designing websites in exchange for legal advice or an in-kind sponsorship in exchange for free accounting, bootstrappers know how to get creative when trading services for what they need.
No. 5: Negotiate Often
From Matt Mickiewicz of 99designs
Almost everything is negotiable. As a bootstrapped startup, you have to make a habit of always asking for a better deal, free bonuses, additional "extras" thrown in, longer payment terms and more. Read a couple of books on negotiation such as "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In"—they'll pay for themselves a hundred times over.
No. 6: Wake Up Early
From Logan Lenz of Endagon
As a budding entrepreneur that wears many hats, there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. Especially when you're bootstrapping and finances are tight, time is vitally important. Most successful entrepreneurs wake up early in the morning with excitement and dedication.
No. 7: Keep Your Day Job
From Eric Bahn of Beat The GMAT
In the early days of bootstrapping, you're going to be obsessed with cash flow. So rather than worry about paying for your bills, keep your day job and incubate your startup on the side. Once your startup is cash-flow positive with a killer growth plan, then you can confidently quit your job and go full-time on your venture.
No. 8: Eliminate Unnecessary Expenses
From Lindsey Donner of Well Versed Creative
Ever had a job? Then you're in a great position to bootstrap because you know how much even the smallest corporations can waste money on everything from phone systems to copy paper. Bootstrappers need to evaluate every investment (including time) with an eye toward improving the income/expense ratio.
No. 9: Commit Long Term
From Benjamin Leis of Sweat EquiTees
To keep costs low in the early and fragile startup phase, negotiate with vendors for longer contracts that have lower monthly payments. This will help maximize your profits during startup stage so that you can invest and grow your revenues. Once you get to a better financial position, you can renegotiate your contracts.
No. 10: Stash the Cash
From Jason Sadler of IWearYourShirt.com
When bootstrapping, it's important to hold on to your cash (and as much of it) for as long as you can. Just because you land a client/sponsor doesn't mean you necessarily should fly to Vegas and celebrate. Focus on building your business, being lean and continue to build up cash for as long as you can. Cash is, and always will be, king.