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Top 15 Tips For Bootstrappers

Posted on Friday, Aug 8th 2008

This past week I talked with Greg Gianforte, founder and CEO of RightNow and author of Bootstrapping Your Business. Today, to go along with my new Forbes column, I have more bootstrapping tips from serial entrepreneur and storyteller extraordinaire Cree Lawson. Cree says:

· Don’t hire through HR. There are too many other on- and offline options to find good people.

· On prospecting…instead of using recruiters, call your advertising clients and ask them who they enjoy working with. Doing more with less means leveraging what you’ve already got.

· Use frequent-flyer points/miles to pay for trips to conferences. Don’t miss these invaluable networking opportunities. There are many ways to earn miles – shop around.

· Pay relentless attention to the timing of expenses. Knowing when your money goes is just as important to budgeting as knowing where it goes.

· Work from home until you’re too big to be there. We had five people working in my bedroom at one point.

· Use public wi-fi for Internet access. We relied on this when we moved into our first office.

· Meet in hotel lobbies when clients come to town. Impress on someone else’s dime.

· Negotiate volume discounts at the restaurants you and your employees go to often. Build your business first; expense accounts can come later.

· Use refurbished computers. We never bought anything new. Just get what you need to get the job done.

· Find cheap office space. Security just wastes time in the day. Explore your options – we used rental subsidies from 911 (US emergency service) to get cheap office space.

· Bring in furniture from home. No need to get fancy – if you follow the meeting advice above, clients won’t see it.

· Get journalist passes to conferences. We also always asked for the last-minute deal at conferences.

· Never book back-to-back meetings, or meetings two days in a row. Because then they’ll know you only have one suit.

· Don’t use a payroll service. We did it ourselves for the longest time.

· Don’t pay for anything until you’ve collected it. We followed our own advice and saved a lot of money.

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My number one tip is to remember the relationship between time and money. Bootstrapping entrepreneurs will often spend time doing menial tasks or economize by not buying something that would improve productivity. The problem comes when these “savings” actually cost you incoming revenue by delaying the time it takes to deliver products and services. But how do you figure out when to be frugal and when frugality is expensive? Calculate how much faster you can get things done if you delegate or upgrade your process and compare it how much it costs to do those things.

Hiring a virtual assistant actually made me money as it gave me a chance to expand my client base and focus on my core competencies. You can find virtual assistants on sites like and The trick to finding someone good is to go through and read feedback left by others for the service provider.

Tip number two is to join recycling groups like to get additional furniture and equipment.

Last but not least, don’t forget marketing. It may sound self-interested coming from a marketing consultant, but too many good business fail because of bad marketing. If you can’t afford a full-time marketer, you can find affordable expertise on a part-time or project basis. Good marketing services provide solid ROI by helping you pin-point who is your target audience and how to reach them most effectively. It can help you save money by reducing advertising waste, improving pricing strategies, and sometimes even expanding your distribution options. If you have more time than money, you can educate yourself about marketing through sites like and

Alexa Ronngren Friday, August 8, 2008 at 3:27 PM PT

Nice to see your good blog.

Cahya Friday, August 8, 2008 at 5:39 PM PT

[…] By new Forbes Column Entrepreneurs Flock To Online Travel is out. Check it out, if you haven’t already. And of course, make sure you follow Cree Lawson’s bootstrapping advice. […]

MaximumCEO » Blog Archive » Forbes Column: Entrepreneurs Flock To Online Travel: business strategy, supply chain management, outsourcing Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 6:06 PM PT

Some good tips. I will try the last minute deals at conferences – it’s kind of the reverse of the early bird deal. I’ve used the hotel lobby for clients; also used the private back room of a great local restaurant during their slow time – muffins and coffee mid morning are low cost and the space looks expensive.

Kris Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 9:17 PM PT


izmir evden eve Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 7:28 AM PT

Another useful and fabulous piece – thank you, Sramana!

Shireen Pasha Monday, August 11, 2008 at 7:04 PM PT

Watch your money.
Focus on profits and survival. If you had enough time to prove yourself with your concept, strategy and methodologies coupled with your execution – you will probably sale through. But you have limited time and limited money. There is no golden rule that can be laid out to decide on actions that are needed to bootstrap a business from tiny scale to sustained survival, then profits and finally growth and sustainable competitive advantage blah blah..
If you can keep trying for 4 months with X amount of funds. Make all your plans according to that. Withing these 4 months alone you have to ensure your survival and growth. Make all plans and executions taking these considerations in mind. Do not think beyond this time. That, in most cases will prove fatal.
The plan of action we have on paper or a power point presentation often has a series of assumptions. One of them comes out to be untrue – you need to rethink and change your coarse of action.

Kamal Thakur Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 6:19 PM PT

Outsource! Instead of hiring a sales team, use brokers who are paid on commission. Instead of hiring a marketing team, hire professionals on a contract or project basis.

garyasanchez Friday, August 15, 2008 at 9:26 AM PT

Ask your friends to publicize your company (i.e., if they believe in what you are building). Word of mouth is very powerful.

Suresh Monday, August 18, 2008 at 10:55 AM PT

Watch your money.
Focus on profits and survival. If you had enough time to prove yourself with your concept, strategy and methodologies coupled with your execution – you will probably sale through. But you have limited time and limited money

bursa evden eve nakliyat Saturday, February 14, 2009 at 11:27 AM PT

yea i follow Greg Gianforte twitter. he knows what he will do

izmir evden eve Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 10:35 AM PT