[SM: On the heels of my Weapon Of Mass Reconstruction column, I’d like to welcome Greg Gianforte, CEO of RightNow, whose interview you have read recently, to share his perspective on bootstrapping.]
As an entrepreneur, you might have a great product or service that you have worked hard to develop. You might have hired a fantastic staff. You might have cash in the bank, a logo and letterhead, a beautiful office, computers on the desks, and all those things that come to mind when we picture a business. But that’s not what makes a business. Only sales can do that.
This is good news for bootstrappers. Bootstrappers can’t afford fancy offices or large staffs, and they might not even have a finished product yet. That’s fine, because bootstrappers don’t need those things to get started. As soon as you can start selling—that is, go out and find customers willing to buy your product or service—you have a business.
When you are bootstrapping a business, don’t worry about the non-essentials. Your first concern is sales. Everything else can come later, and sometimes that even includes the product or service you are selling. In fact, if you approach it the right way, sales is the best way to come up with a product that people will buy. Sales is the one and only way to tell whether or not you have something of value. The bootstrapper gains a far greater chance of survival in the vulnerable early months and years of starting a business by focusing all of his or her efforts on sales. Some of the advantages of this approach include:
Sales is the one job that has to be done well in building a business. There’s no task more important.
SM: Do you agree that sales is the most important aspect of bootstrapping a business? Please explain.