For some entrepreneurs, bootstrapping isn't just the best way to start a business. Bootstrapping is almost like a badge of honor. You don't need to pitch VCs or angels. You don't need to find a banker to lend you money. You don't need to convince a crowdfunding audience that your idea (and you as an entrepreneur) are worthy of investment.
Even so, bootstrapping also means that money, resources, and time can be in short supply -- which means keeping an incredibly close eye on expenses and spending. That's why many startup founders also wear their frugality like a badge of honor. Desks are made from old doors and sawhorses. Plastic tables and chairs become a conference room. Open floor plans stay open, and some startup founders (like me) choose to not even have an office.
I've toured manufacturing facilities that used extensive automation. I've toured similar facilities that used no automation that were much more productive. The automated ones were usually set up better for growth than the manual ones.
The latter did what all good bootstrappers do: they spent money where it paid off and let skill, experience, and hard work take care of the rest.
That's because buying "new" just for the sake of "new" is never a good investment.
But buying technology that results in faster, cheaper, and better? That can be a great investment.
So even if you're a die-hard bootstrapper, take a step back and consider making one or two smart investments.
Time Is Money
While statistics vary, at least one study by Zug, Switzerland-based serviced office provider IWG shows that 70 percent of employees, globally, work remotely at least once a week, and over 50 percent work remotely for at least half a week.
All of which means Internet speed is critical.
Say your team works together using a collaboration tool like Slack. Slow Internet could delay message sends and receipts by several seconds or more. While that doesn't sound like much, do the math: if your employees send fifty to one hundred messages a day, they waste minutes of productive time each day.
Worse, they're much more likely to be tempted to multi-task in between which means they not only lose focus, they force others to wait until they return to the channel.
All because of sub-par Internet speeds.
And that's just one example. If, like many startups, your business uses cloud-based services, slower Internet means lost productivity and lost focus. Translation: Internet time is definitely money.
If your team works remotely -- and even if it doesn't -- spend a few more dollars on better Internet. The direct and indirect returns will more than pay off the small monthly investment required.
Investing in the Right Technology
The same is true where computers are concerned. The pace of hardware technology change has slowed, at least where the benefits of "new" are concerned for the average small business. Improved processor speed, for example, is rarely necessary.
It's therefore tempting to assume those ten-year-old Dell computers are good enough. It's tempting to assume your employee's complaints are based simply on wanting new rather than needing new.
But sometimes new is exactly what those employees need because new means better, faster, and cheaper.
I had one employee that worked with 1 million row Excel spreadsheets on a daily basis so it made sense that she have a faster computer. Also, large, 34-inch, ultra-wide monitors made sense for the people working with large data files. After all, the more they can see and the quicker they can see it, the more work that gets done. And the happier they are when doing their jobs.
Keep in mind your goal isn't to make your employee's jobs "easier," per se. Your goal is to make their jobs better by providing the right resources, the right training, and the right incentives so every employee can justifiably feel great about their achievements.
A great job isn't an easy job; a great job is a job your employees are proud to perform.
Take a hard look at your business. Determine whether a small investment will improve efficiency, reduce waste, or eliminate roadblocks. When that happens, the return is almost always worth the investment.
Even when -- and often especially when -- you're bootstrapping your way to startup success.