So often I hear that friends and colleagues have a great idea or design for a business, but don't know where to start. I usually recommend getting an attorney, accountant, and software to help manage the details that really can make or break a business. After the basics, we talk about what other aspects their business is dependent on. The biggest push-back I get is the realization of expense. And I understand—it's hard to wrap your head around upfront costs if you aren't making money yet.
Spending money to make money doesn't make me flinch. Why? I am the daughter of two entrepreneurs. Most of what I learned about starting and running a business comes from observing my parents and how they conducted their business. As I have grown older, I've also learned through many conversations with them around the table.
Recently, I asked my mom to share some thoughts on ways to spend money in order to make money. She has owned a Hallmark store, brokered printing services, started and sold a lucrative jewelry business, and operated a half-million dollar software sales contract. She offered wisdom, and now I'm sharing it with you:
1. Invest in a Plan
Plans can cost money, but most of all they cost time. Dear reader, time is money. Invest your time (and possibly, money) in creating a stellar plan.
Once it's established, follow the plan weekly, monthly, and quarterly. Keep track of your successes. And keep in mind that your focus shouldn't only be on the money. If you follow a good plan you will see the results you're striving for.
The biggest mistake companies make is not reviewing their plan on a regular basis. Every time you schedule a meeting for a proposal or a future client and close the sale, go back to your plan and look at your investment:
a) How many hours did you spend in preparation?
b) What did you charge per hour?
c) What were you tangible expenses?
It may cost money to get the meeting that introduces a concept or seals the deal. It could cost you a cup of coffee, a meal, gas, a hotel, or even a plane ticket. But when you've closed that sale, you will reap major cost benefits!
2. Invest in Your Image or Brand
What will it take to create the image/brand you want? Figure it into your plan. You may need to purchase a domain and a subscription to a good website builder. Pending on your skills, you may need to look at hiring a graphic designer or website builder. After you've established your look, make sure you reflect it properly on your promotional materials. You'll want future clients to take you seriously and they'll want to see professional-looking materials.
Image investment may mean wardrobe expenses as well. You know best if your image has something to do with your overall personal look as well. Take inventory of how you present yourself to the world and be sure to represent what you're trying to sell.
3. Recruit a Group of Trustworthy Advisors
My mother served on the "board" of a very good friend's entrepreneurial endeavors. She took failing companies and turned them into multi-million dollar ventures. She also took extreme risks and failed several times.
A group of advisors will help you walk through each idea you have or step you take toward incurring more risk on your investments.
If you have a network or peer group of knowledgeable friends, enlist them for aid. If you do not have anyone at your fingertips, there are plenty of advisors and coaches at your local Chamber of Commerce, SBA Office, or for hire. It may be worth the initial investment to make sure you have a strong plan that includes the right risks!
Overall, find the proper mindset.
You must accept that building a business means you will have to spend money in the right areas in order to make money. Evaluate your strengths, where you know you can succeed, and be ready to hire services that fill in the holes where you might be weak.
Amy Sivertsen is a second-generation businesswoman who consults start-ups and entrepreneurs as they establish their plan and reach for success. She is co-owner and managing director of The Creative Collective, the Quad Cities' first coworking space.