Even If All You Have Is a Shoestring, You Can Start a Business

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the pocket guideTed Devine recently wrote an article about conducting a midyear assessment of one’s business, that I highly recommend.  But simply getting through the quarter can be a challenge for some business owners.

At some point or other, just about every business owner faces a difficult time with a limited  budget. You know the feeling:  another month goes by, but the bills seem to come in faster than the sales.

If you’ve ever felt that way, give The Pocket Small Business Owner’s Guide to Starting Your Business On a Shoestring by Carol Tice (@TiceWrites) a try. It is terrific guide for budding business owners.  Tice has built a strong online reputation advising hundred of writers at her award-winning site Making A Living Writing as well as at The Freelance Writers Den.

I read an advance review copy of this book sent to the Small Business Trends team. The book will be available in July 2013 and I was really impressed with its potential to save small business owners headaches and costs.

In The End We’re All Freelancers

One of the reasons Tice succeeds with this guide is because of her experience as a freelancer and dealing with freelancers.  Be it a writer or a coder, freelancers have the most disciplined mindset, crucial for survival.  With her experience, Tice has written a basic, yet innovative, primer on small business tactics that need to be organized.

Tice is right in sharing stories of businesses that “overspent and ran out of money.”  Every business owner who succeeds understands that cash is king.

But Tice, through her experience with writers, shows how to set the crown.  Freelancers are exposed to cash ebb and flow. So the most battle-hardened freelancer will have the best hacks to get started.  Thus Tice excels in workable suggestions that can be implemented easily while leaving room for the small business owner to modify to their needs.

The chapter on a business plan is a fine example.  The chapter focuses on plan highlights.  Although some business plans require extensive details, Tice suggests a way to network while learning from a viable business plan example:

Make friends with business owners in your industry who operate in a different market and are not your competitors.  Then, ask if you could possibly see a plain vanilla copy of their business plans. That’s a copy with all the budget lines for income and costs in their profit and loss statements – with all the figures erased. Since this doesn’t reveal much about how their business is doing, many owners are willing to provide this blanket budget.

Note the efficiency this suggestion creates – building an effective network while asking for what you need.  Furthermore, the guide structures proper methods to networking – a topic raised in the book No You Can’t Pick My Brain, It Costs Too Much. A chapter on training suggests great ways to build skills, while another covers the nature of partnerships.

The Right Controls for An Efficient Business

The way that Tice examines details is an inspiration for doing things right. Doing things right may sound like faint praise for the book – of course you read a book like this to start a business the right way.  But don’t mistake my words for a lack of enthusiasm and respect. Tice nails the right tactics that lead to genuine progress in managing costs, an outcome often touted by other “experts” but usually delivered as weak short cuts.

Thus Tice’s suggestions break past the steps that incrementally eats up a planned budget.  Tice rightfully notes how digital methods like SEO and social media are part of a marketing plan.  She suggests how to garner input while ditching costly focus groups.    She tackles brick-and-mortar business needs as well.  Check out her facility suggestion for restaurant owners:

If you’re thinking about opening a retail store or restaurant, a lower-risk way to try out your concept is to put it on wheels.  A food or merchandise truck can easily test out different neighborhood locations to find the best one.

Another thought reminder questions shipping costs:

Pay for the speed you need …when your business is the one ordering supplies, keep the shipping rules in mind, too.  Strive to leave enough time to order goods on the “slow boat” to get the lowest rates. Avoid paying for pricey rush or overnight shipping.

Some segments of this book will have to be weighed against the small business being planned.  Some industries demand a more detailed business plan than what is explained, for example. Others will be perfectly suited with a simple plan.

I heartily recommend The Pocket Small Business Owner’s Guide to Starting Your Business On a Shoestring to figure out how to time expenses in a business.   Tice delivers a serviceable guide that can take potential business owners from non-revenue to meaningful operations, all with a minimal investment and without the get-rich-quick tactics from illogical talking heads.

When any business owner makes an assessment of the first year, he or she will see this book for what it is – a great gift for anyone looking for success with a shoestring business.

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Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.