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If your dream to own a business has moved to the back of your mind because money is tight, change your thinking. First know that starting and operating a small business requires far more time and energy than it does money. Second, there are plenty of businesses you can start cheap and grow to millions even. I started with $100 and grew a multimillion dollar company. Here are ten things that can make it happen for you.
1. Choose a business that fits. Start a home-based business using resources and talents available to you. You can go on the internet and learn about hundreds of businesses you can start from home, many of which have low startup costs that fit a home base. Starting a service business is usually cheaper than one where you need inventory. Whatever business you decide on, know that starting and running a small business needs far more time and energy than it does money.
2. Grow slowly and thoughtfully. If you do not have start-up money, you do not have much choice but to grow slowly and thoughtfully. You will be thoughtfully trying to figure out how you can do all that you want to do in the shortest time. Stay focused and purposeful and remember cash is king. Without it there is no business to grow. Good cash flow is a sign of a healthy business.
3. Create an Image. No matter if you are a one-person shop, professionalism, quality and customer service can make your company appear larger and more prominent. Here are some actions that will heighten your image at little or no cost:
• Get good business cards and letterhead. You can develop both on the internet free.
• If you use your home telephone as your business phone, answer it professionally during business hours.
• If your business is home-based, set meetings at your clients' place of business or do lunch meetings and dress for success.
• Go above and beyond servicing your customers. It will not matter to your customers how small your business is if they are more than just satisfied.
• Choose your name carefully. Your name helps you create a professional image.
• Computerize your invoices, proposals, and other business forms.
4. Network, Network, Network. Networking sets up mutually valuable relationships that offer an exchange of ideas, advice, contacts, leads and strategies that will increase your business revenues. It is an essential skill to develop, especially for entrepreneurs.
5. Build and Manage Relationships. Loyalty can mean the difference between landing a contract and losing it. One example - your suppliers can partner with you to secure contracts by offering longer payment terms or reduced pricing for the promise of future business. As well, your banker becomes most important when you are ready to borrow money.
6. Be Creative. Be open to new and effective ways of getting what you need for less money. This is a talent that can carry you far even after you are pulling down millions. For example - partnering with other small businesses to buy supplies in bulk or bartering for supplies and services can save money.
7. Attend Industry-related workshops, conferences and trade shows. Your attendance promotes a professional image and boosts your credibility to the hundreds of other participants, many of whom are your potential clients.
8. Be patient. Take the time to network and promote your company realizing it will take time for it to come back to you in contracts and clients. That client you keep meeting at events, visiting or calling regularly will either admire your perseverance or grow tired of you and give you a chance. If you quit, you will never know how close to success you were.
9. Embrace the Risk. If you have no money to start your business, you stand to make a profit the first day out. There is no risk. But there is everything to gain -- a better life, a better you, a dream come true. Starting and growing a successful business takes hard work, belief in you, the wish to learn, patience and perseverance, far more than it takes money.
10. Name Your Success. Decide what success means to you and perform as if it is right in front of you. Imagine yourself running your own business. Practice this vision several times a day. See yourself making much money in your business. Feel the fulfillment. It is essential to have a positive mind-set in business. But it is not something that comes naturally. You learn it.
Carrie H Johnson is founder of three businesses including a cleaning service she started with no money and grew to a multimillion dollar contract-cleaning company that supported 165 employees. During her 17 years as President of this company she received several business and community awards.
Ms. Johnson is a small business adviser specializing in business and program development, business planning, public relations and marketing. She also is a journalist and author. She has written for several newspapers and has a book scheduled for release in early 2009.
Ms. Johnson has served on several Board of Directors including for The Center for Women and Enterprise, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower women to be economically self-sufficient and prosperous through entrepreneurship. She also served on the board for the New England Minority Supplier Development Council, Wayside Youth and Family Network, and the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.
Ms. Johnson has a BA and MA in journalism from California State University, Los Angeles and Northeastern University in Boston, MA. Please visit http://www.carriehjohnson.com.
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