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BOOTSTRAPPING

How to Stay Scrappy--But Sane

As a bootstrapper, it seems easiest--and cheapest--to do everything yourself. That's a good way to drive yourself nuts.
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As the CEO of Lexion Capital, an entirely self-funded enterprise, my bootstrapping mentality is second nature. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but to take an idea and turn it into a successful business you will need a scrappy get-stuff-done culture.

Often, the easiest, fastest way to get stuff done is to just do it yourself. Why outsource when you could do something in-house and ensure quality control, then reinvest the savings into the further growth of your business? I know first-hand that this is a great strategy, and it’s one I often recommend to others. In the early days, prior to the launch of my company, I would joke that my “CEO” hat hung on the wall next to the caps labeled “Sales,” “Research,” and “Janitor.”

However, there comes a point when wearing yet another hat is going to consume too much of your most valuable resource--your time--without adequate return. To balance the need to stay scrappy with the need to stay sane, you must come up with a game plan: what will you do yourself, and what will you delegate?

Evaluate your network

The first step is to take a look at your network. Whether you realize it or not, you are connected to a wealth of “consultants.” The people who encouraged me and validated my idea for my company were fellow entrepreneurs. Whether you’re thinking of starting a new venture or wondering how to ramp up your social media presence, it’s in your interest to seek business advice from contacts who can speak from experience. These are people who care about you and your well-being, so they will offer very helpful candor.

Barter

We’ve already established that you have a wealth of connections with like-minded entrepreneurs, with a wide array of diverse talents and interests in various fields. This is your gold mine. Instead of hiring specialists outright, strike a deal. These can turn into long-term, mutually beneficial--and mutually thrifty - partnerships.

For instance, I know a physician who owns his own Lasik practice. He has bartered Lasik for accounting services and reduced rent. This has significantly cut his overhead, and enabled him to pay off his med school loans faster. He also used the savings to grow his practice substantially.

Outsource, but stay scrappy

As I’ve written before, I’m a big advocate of DIY public relations. When it comes to marketing in the digital age, there is a lot you can and should do in-house, like writing a blog and building your social media platform. You’re likely to be better off starting with these free or low-cost tools yourself, rather than hiring a pricey PR firm right from the start.

There are exceptions. My artistic abilities are not exactly suitable for creating logos and graphics - in fact, I have no artistic abilities at all. Sites such as E-lance, which connects you with freelancers who work on a per-task basis, or Fiverr, where you can hire professionals to complete certain tasks for as little as five dollars, are great resources for busy, bootstrapping entrepreneurs.

Growing a company from scratch means that you are constantly looking for workarounds and opportunities to optimize, which is critical. It is also critical that you preserve your most precious resource - time - in the process. Reach out to your existing connections, create new ones, and find key freelancers online. Stay scrappy, effective, and sane.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2013

ELLE KAPLAN | Columnist | CEO, Lexion Capital Management

A finance expert and self-made entrepreneur, Elle Kaplan is the CEO and founding partner of Lexion Capital Management, the only 100 percent woman-owned asset management firm in the U.S.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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