How to improve your business on a shoestring


How bootstrapping helps your small business to be lean, keen and sustainable

Quite a few people contacted me recently after PROWESS published my article about bootstrapping and how it can help a small business to be sustainable.

It seems to have struck a nerve with female readers, especially owners of recent start-ups,  who genuinely don’t have any spare funds to invest into their business. Women are often reluctant to borrow money or use personal savings for their business expenses, for fear of going into debt.

But luckily women are also ingenious. We try our best to achieve what we want, sometimes even against all the odds.

So the question is, what works when you want to (or need to) improve your business skills on a shoestring. And what you need to be mindful of when using the bootstrapping approach.

As I explain in my PROWESS article, when it comes to improving your skills – especially online – you need to be a little careful. Not all free ebooks, tele-seminars or webinars will deliver quality and the learning you need.

And even if they do, and they provide you with a few good ideas, there is always the risk that you end up accumulating notes and ideas you never action.

However I believe that the following ‘checklist’ is key if you want to get the most out of low-cost or no-cost learning:

Are you motivated enough?  

Achieving the best results is often only possible when you’re feeling highly motivated and determined.

Paying for a course or resource, often means that you’ve ‘bought into’ it which may help to keep you engaged. And you also know that if you’re not committed enough, you will have wasted that money.

Getting something for free, on the other hand, is a different story. Many people don’t value freebies enough and it is then much harder to stay motivated.

But what may help you here is to treat your free training as if you had actually paid for it. You may be spending some time on the course, so why not think of your time in terms of money?


Can you get some learning support?

Always aim to build on what you’ve learned and seek some support in the process. Without external feedback there is the risk that learning to be completely self-sufficient might, in reality, delay your business progress!

Whether you team up with some of the attendees on the course or other ‘boot-strappers’ you know, you want to buddy up with at least one other person so you can be accountable to someone. Then you can help and support each other too – it makes applying and consolidating learning so much easier!

Can you free enough time? 

You will need to try and clear enough time in your busy diary to learn, practise, apply and consolidate, without letting it impact your client work.

This is often the hardest thing to achieve. Time, or rather the lack of it, can often be a major obstacle.

So when you can’t make the time to action at least some of what you’ve learned, then you might just be wasting a lot of your valuable time.

Some free webinars are now up to 1.5 hrs long — just imagine how many personal emails you could write; in other words, how much relationship-building you could do in that time!

I guess what I’m really trying to say here is that making time for the application of learning could really pay off in your business.

But if for whatever reason you’re not able to do that and don’t want your business to stagnate, then your only remaining option is to bring in outside expertise. (Here’s how that could work using a bootstrapping approach.)

And finally, when you’ve grown your skills and your business and you are in a position to give something back, be sure to lend a helping hand to the next generation of bootstrappers.

Whether you provide some freebies, tools or resources via your website or you volunteer to share your knowledge at an event, be sure to be generous as you do so.

After all what goes round, comes around!




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