The average cost of starting a business is $30,000, according to a 2009 study by the Kauffman Foundation. But whether your cash comes from savings or financing, watching how you spend your money is critical to the success of your venture. This means establishing boundaries and habits that ensure you spend your money wisely and operate as a lean start-up.
Here are six ways to rein in spending as you start and grow your business:
Work from Home, Co-Working Spaces or Serviced Office Space
This one may sound obvious, but not all new businesses need to jump into a commercial office lease right away. Setting up a home office is a low-cost alternative (and can save you tax dollars). If you find you need a more social setting, consider a co-working space. These facilities are available in many cities and offer great opportunities for you to mingle with like-minded entrepreneurs. These workspaces are often also a lot cooler than any space a new start-up could ever afford. Talk to your local Small Business Development Center about co-working spaces in your area or hit up Google.
If you really do need your own office space, consider renting a serviced office or executive suite. Usually located in busy business districts, these premises are fully equipped and managed by a facility management firm. The rental agreements are often more flexible than commercial leases and give you the option of easily scaling up if you need to. Typically, a serviced office broker can help you locate the right space.
Buy Surplus and Barter
Save money by buying used equipment and office supplies. Check Craig’s List or eBay or buy government surplus equipment (a little-known but very cost-effective way to equip your business).
Bartering – exchanging goods and services directly with another party – is also an underutilized business practice among start-ups. Think about ways you could barter to reduce costs. For example, if you run a painting business and you need to purchase a business vehicle, could you barter a discounted price from the dealer in exchange for a new coat of paint in his showroom?
Don’t Hire Employees Until You Can Keep Them Busy
Offer interns work experience or hire independent contractors or even friends and family on an hourly or project basis to keep your costs low. If you need them to work alongside you in an office space, introduce a hot-desking policy so that your workers can share a space on a rotating basis without you needing to lease more space.
Be a Budget-Conscious Marketer
Invest in marketing and promotion thoughtfully and have a game plan. Think about low-cost tactics and don’t overdo it on the glossy marketing materials – are they really necessary? If you and your staff have a clear elevator pitch and can engage and follow up enthusiastically with targeted prospects, there’s a good chance you’ll get a similar return on investment as the big guys with their glossy slicks and advertising budgets.
To help you stay on track, create a plan for the year or quarter and calendar it out. This way you’re more likely to follow through, stay on-budget and be less burdened by the need to come up with last minute marketing tactics. Don’t forget to monitor ROI to help you make informed decisions about what works and what doesn’t. This can be as simple as asking and tracking how customers heard about you.
Safeguard Your Personal Assets
If you think you are likely to incur debt during your start-up phase, consider forming a limited liability company (LLC) to protect your personal assets – your finances, car and house. Forming an LLC will ensure you are not personally liable for debts or judgments brought against your business as a result of a lawsuit.
Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
Whether it’s a contract with a supplier or a new customer, you should master the art of negotiation. Many new business owners skip this important best practice in their early years, but practicing negotiation early will help you establish relationships that save you money now and over the long haul. Just be sure not to nickel-and-dime the fair offers that come your way, and work to build relationships with these vendors through repeat business and referrals.