Thrifty Genius: Expanding Big on a Budget

Why do new businesses enter the market every day, despite the common belief that you can’t compete without a lot of money? It’s often not the financial hurdles but the beliefs of business owners that determine their fate more than anything else.

If having money was the sole determinant of a business’s success or failure, why then do millions of companies launch every day and thousands get acquired? If success depended only on the capital at hand, why bother starting at all?

If companies that had all the money always won, then why have so many companies lost their competitive advantage and even worse non-existent. Do you remember these companies: Blockbuster, Polaroid, or Toys “R” Us.

My mentor used to tell me, “when you believe something is true, you’ll find evidence for it and once you develop a belief, you’ll find what supports it. If the absence of money seems like a roadblock to success, it could be. But seeing it as a challenge to overcome, believing you can still thrive? That’s the right attitude.

When money or time is your constraint here are 5 ways to consistently create your own lane.

  • Building Core Competencies
  • Leveraging Technology
  • Building Strategic Partnerships
  • Iterate Product Development
  • Maximize social channels

Build Core Competencies

The first thing you need to identify is what are you or can you be really great at. First let me remind you that being good and being great are two different levels of focus. You can be good at many things and your business can provide a good solution to many things. However, focusing on being great is recognizing you want to do this ‘thing’ better than anyone else.

Being Small is Your Advantage

Before the beauty brand Glossier became a well known brand and a power house in the beauty space, there was just a founder with big dreams. Emily Weiss, the founder, could have given up and said, you know what I don’t have a lot of money like Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Unilever. Instead, she focused on her advantages of being small. Before Glossier, there was “Into the Gloss” which was a blog focused on beauty. What Emily used to her advantage was using her blogs to talk directly to customers to know what they would want. She focused on first building community, then she built a product, and then Glossier was born. When you can’t leverage money, leverage the power of being small. Money should never be the sole excuse as to why you can’t find another way to compete to bring your ideas to life.

Focus on ONE thing to Perfect at a time

When we think about growth, we think it’s made up of many things improving all at once. This could be true, however, when you’re already limited by time and resources then your approach needs to shift. When you have constraints, use that to your benefit. Having constraints forces you to focus. In order to focus on many things, it’s hard to split your time and resources when they’re already limited.

The best solve for constraints is to limit them by focusing and perfecting one thing. Here’s what you should do now, take the list that you’ve created on all the things you need to focus on and next to it, identify which is the most important of all those items. Remember, the more exposure you have the more your constraints will be evident, so limit your exposure.

Leveraging Technology

We often think we need to start by building the biggest thing ever. We fall into this trap that we can’t start with where we are and grow from there. So we come in thinking we need that mobile app which that billion dollar company spent millions on building over the course of years. Sometimes it’s not our idea that slows us down, it’s our inability to just take the first step or build the first prototype.

The First Versions are More Important

It’s not the end version that’s going to get you started, it’s the first version of the idea. The longer you wait to execute the first version of your ideas the further away you push the timeline of serving your customers and making the necessary mounts of money to improve on your ideas.

The first version of that app can be a website, the first version of that website can be a google form, the first version of that google form, can be your notes app on your phone. The first version of that course, can be a freebie to gauge your audiences interests. The first version of that offline event can be an online event. What I’m trying to say is that there is power in building first versions because it allows you to validate your idea and see if there’s a path to monetization.

Quick Story: When I launched my online marketing program, I generated the first $250,000 via google forms, gmail, and zoom (the free versions). I did it without a website and without any branding. Now, the business is more robust but we did not start that way.

Building Strategic Partnerships

There’s a saying that goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” If that’s common knowledge then why as entrepreneurs we ignore common wisdom. Instead of treating entrepreneurship as a collaborative sport we treat it as a one-on-many sport. The best entrepreneurs leverage partnerships to share resources, expand their reach, and access new markets.

Almost all paths requires you forming partnerships to help you get ahead. Collaborations can lead to cost-sharing for marketing efforts, joint product offerings, or co-hosted events, reducing expenses and splitting the time commitment while potentially doubling the audience and impact.

Partnerships are Sacred

As soon as you begin to only think about what you can take from a partnership, the quicker it will begin to dissolve. The best partnerships add value to one another. Partnership is not about you only getting what you want but it’s about aligning others interest to help them get theirs. Just because you want to partner does not mean others have to agree if they can’t see the value in it for them. It’s important you don’t treat partnerships as a transaction, rather you need to look at it as an opportunity for all parties to serve the customer at a higher level.

Iterate Product Development

Earlier in this post we talked about utilizing technology to help you get started. I want to take a different angle and expand on it by approaching it from the development of products. To expand on big ideas, focus your attention on iterating quickly. Use customer feedback to make iterative improvements. This approach not only saves money but also accelerates learning and reduces the time to market, ensuring you invest in products or services that meet actual customer needs.

The one advantage you have is that product development does not go through multiple departments and hundreds of people for approval. It should just go through you and your customer. This means you can build quickly and deploy quickly. During this stage of figuring things out, you get more empathy for trying to improve your business.

Just think, how often do these social media platforms go down, how often does the uber/doordash driver bring you the wrong food, or pick you up from the wrong locations. These big companies don’t get it right so take that pressure off yourself to always get everything right.

Maximize social channels

When you don’t have a big marketing budget, you always have the social media platforms which are completely free to use. Your marketing efforts should be centered around effort first. Social media platforms, content marketing (blogs, podcasts, etc.), and email marketing are powerful and cost-effective ways to reach and engage with your target audience. By creating valuable and relevant content, you can build a loyal community, enhance your brand, and drive sales without the need for a large marketing budget. Additionally, networking and word-of-mouth referrals are timeless strategies that require more effort and time but little to no financial investment.

Yes, the work is required!!

I know what you’re thinking, “this takes time.” I’m here to tell you that chasing your dreams or building something of importance is going to require something of you. Your time invested is not more important than the creations of your vision. If no one has told you yet, you get as far as you want based on your attitude and perspective.

These strategies highlight the importance of being resourceful, focusing on what truly adds value, and leveraging the tools and networks available to navigate financial and time constraints effectively.

If you want to grow an idea and your only focused on money then you’re missing a huge opportunity to lean into advantages you may already posses.

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