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9 Lean Budget Tips: Run A Business For Less Than You Spend On Coffee

9 Lean Budget Tips: Run A Business For Less Than You Spend On Coffee

Running an online business can be extremely rewarding—and massively expensive. But just because your friends and colleagues are using fancy tools and programs and have big budgets, doesn’t mean you have to, too. Some will even say you need the latest and greatest “Must Have” tools to be successful. I’d like to prove them wrong. Here’s how to run your business on a lean budget:

1. Day-to-day tools

Use tools you already have on your computer: whether pre-installed or purchased, just dust them off again. Most of us have purchased programs in the past (like Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, Quicken, and Photoshop) but don’t use them on a regular basis. Do a quick search of the programs already on your hard-drive (or on the computer you’ve got in storage) and then do an equally important YouTube search for training videos on that software. Put those tools to work in your business.

Also look for tools like Skype, Google Voice, Gmail, and FaxZero (for those occasional outgoing faxes) for daily communication. And also check out Box.com or Copy.com for large, free, online storage accounts. Some of the most reliable bridge lines are also free, such as Speek.com and FreeConferenceCallHD.com. Use them for consulting calls, tele-seminars or anything that would benefit from a “bridge line”.

2.  Industry-specific tools

Do a Google search for “[name of expensive program] alternative”. Or, jump into a co-op where people are purchasing a bulk license of your industry-specific software. If you’re not a graphic designer, but need a program like Photoshop, search for Gimp.org or Paint.NET with .psd.

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    If you create beautiful products that sell on Etsy, you’ll need stellar images of your products. Borrow a camera from a friend or rent one from a website like Loanables.com or SnapGoods.com. Similarly, if you need a studio to take product shots, consider asking around at local shops to borrow their light box for the afternoon.

    3. Streamline

    Go through your PayPal and credit card statements for the past 90–180 days and look for recurring expenses. Cut out anything that isn’t essential. Maybe even cut out what you think is essential and find another free alternative.

    Oftentimes, we pay $9.99 per month or $30 per month for memberships that we only use a few times per year. Ask yourself if it’s creating a return on investment for your business. Is that $9.99 each month really contributing $120 per year back into your business, preferably more? It should be.

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    If you are using your subscriptions, check to see if you can pay an annual fee and save money throughout the year. Or, buy it outright. Often companies will charge $30 per month but sell an annual subscription for less than $200 (saving $160 over the year).

    If you can purchase outright, even better. Upgrade every two to three years and save even more. Look at PayPal six-month payment terms if you need to spread out payments of the bigger purchases.

    4. Roll up your sleeves

    Most tasks that need to be done in your business can be done quickly if you have systems in place: it’s the procrastination and thinking about it that takes time. Create a clear action plan and set aside time every day to get closer to your big dream goal and closer to the income goals you set.

    5. Leverage PR opportunities

    Whenever possible, snap up opportunities to contribute to a news article, blog post, or book. Offer to write articles for local newspapers or magazines, and utilize resources like HARO and SourceBottle where journalists are regularly looking for content.

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    sourcebottle haro

      Set up a page on your website called “Media” (or similar), and include your bio and high-quality images, so you can point press to it easily when the opportunity arises. If you make it easy for yourself and budget in 45 minutes a week for this kind of activity, your business will thank you for it later.

      6. Training

      Every day an entrepreneur is building a new program or course. They often need beta testers to run through their program at a reduced rate, or for free. Make yourself available to them, help them make their program better and get the training your need to improve your business skills. Also, check out websites like Udemy or CreativeLive for upcoming classes that are offered completely free. Sometimes you must attend live to access the free version, but there are perks, like mingling with other attendees and making new business connections.

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      creative live

        7. Product development

        Think it’s tricky to figure out what your potential clients will spend money on? Try this on for size! Create a one-question survey at SurveyMonkey or Google Forms and ask people to answer the question. You’ll be surprised at the answers you receive, and how easy it will be to create your next product or program. Instead of waiting months to start generating revenue, consider launching and building the course or program as you go through each week.

        survey one question

          8. Online presence

          It used to cost a fortune and take months to create a website. It doesn’t anymore. A clean WordPress website with a sales funnel automated with autoresponders (like MailChimp or AWeber) and shopping cart plugins (like WooCommerce or easydigitaldownloads.com), and semi-automated social media (through HootSuite or SocialOomph) can cost less than $10 per month.  YouTube, Facebook Pages, Twitter and Pinterest can all aid in bumping up your online presence and creating a cohesive brand.

          9. Stay lean

          Just because you’re making more money now, doesn’t mean you need to go back to your old ways. The next time you need to scale up, or make a pivot change in your business you’ll be grateful for your low overhead expenses.

          What other methods do you use to keep costs low in your business?  Share in the comments below.

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          Published on March 20, 2019

          How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

          How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

          Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

          As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

          While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

          What is a Mission Statement?

          Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

          In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

          “Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

          In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

          Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

          While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

          First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

          While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

          While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

          “To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

          This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

          What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

          When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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          Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

          When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

          • What we do?
          • How we do it?
          • Whom do we do it for?
          • What value are we bringing?

          Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

          After all, that did check off all the boxes:

          What we do? Provide widgets.

          How we do it? Online.

          Who do we do it for? The consumer.

          What value we bring? The best widgets.

          The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

          Compare that mission statement to this one:

          “We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

          What’s the difference?

          Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

          Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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          You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

          A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

          Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

          1. Keep It Brief

          Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

          You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

          2. Have a Purpose

          A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

          Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

          3. Include a “How”

          Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

          How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

          4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

          This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

          Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

          5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

          It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

          Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

          6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

          Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

          7. Think Long Term

          A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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          8. Get Feedback

          This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

          Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

          9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

          You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

          First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

          And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

          For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

          The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

          It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

          First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

          If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

          Strategic Planning

          A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

          Measuring Performance

          By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

          Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

          Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

          Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

          As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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          Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

          To Hold Management Accountable

          By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

          So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

          If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

          To Serve as an Example

          This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

          After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

          Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

          Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

          Final Thoughts

          Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

          Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

          That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

          By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

          More Resources About Achieving Business Success

          Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
          [2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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