By Robert Pagliarini,
Tribune Media Services
Are you wondering how to start a business or take advantage of a great business idea when you have very little capital to get it off the ground? You may be struggling to decide which business to start because you don't have the resources. The experts will tell you that when you are starting a business, you should try to get money from the three F's -- friends, family and fools -- but there's a much smarter (and less insulting) strategy to get money for your venture.
The truth is you don't need money. You need what money can purchase. If you had your own small business fairy godmother, money would be unnecessary because everything you'd need to buy you could get for free. Turns out you don't need investors or a fairy godmother. You can start a business with no money and get people to work for you for free. Impossible? It's not. I've received "free" help from world-class graphic designers, web programmers, PR pros, marketing gurus, consultants and other service providers many times, and you can too.
Free is such a wonderful word. Unfortunately, nobody in their right mind is going to do anything for free. They'll want something in return. But that's where there is an opportunity for you. I've found that most people are looking for that something that will take their finances to the next level. They may not have the ideas, time or even the drive to start their own venture, but if they can get a piece of a promising company, with very little risk, many jump at the chance.
Sounds simple, but there are a lot of steps and hurdles you have to overcome in order to make a partnership like this a success. Follow these five tips to make sure you attract and retain the best service providers for your start-up:
1. Think partnership. You have to think in terms of a partnership. It can't be, "Let's see how much free stuff I can take from others." That will never work. You want your partners to feel like they are true partners in the venture. If you pay someone by the hour, you'll get an hour of their time. If you pay someone based on a venture's potential future success, you'll get their time, ideas, life, sweat, blood and tears. Go into it looking for a partner, instead of someone to give you free stuff.
2. Great idea. Nobody worth working with will partner on a half-baked idea. Don't even think about recruiting service partners unless you have a really good idea. How do you know it's a good idea? Talk to your friends, family and business associates. If most people think it's a winner, then you can feel good about finding partners.
3. Build buzz. Ever been skinny-dipping? The first person to jump in risks the chance that nobody will follow. But by the time four or five people jump in, all the risk is gone. Your mission? When talking to potential partners, sell them on the fact that you've got several other interested partners. Nobody wants to be first, and nobody wants to be last.
4. Establish credibility and trust. The biggest hurdle you must overcome is trust. You are asking someone who may have never met you to give away their service and their time. You must establish trust and credibility immediately. If you've had prior business success, talk about it. If you haven't yet, discuss your professional achievements, so they can see you as someone who's had other successes.
5. Make a compelling offer. Let's break this down. You are asking someone you may have just met over email to give you something with the hope that you've got the skills and connections to make it a success. Make them an offer they simply cannot refuse. When they read your offer, you want them to be as giddy as a schoolgirl. Remember, these are your partners. If you do well, you want them to do well too. Don't be stingy.
Whether you are starting a business or running an existing business, you don't need to get money from investors to make it a success. You can find potential partners everywhere. They're online, and they're down the street. The same person who would laugh you out of their office if you asked them for a $2,500 investment may gladly trade $2,500 of their services to be part of a promising new venture. Why? Like you, most people are looking for an opportunity to get ahead without risking too much. If someone can invest a little of their time with the hopes of making a huge return, they may jump at the chance. Plus, it's much less painful than trying to get money from Uncle Richard.
Robert Pagliarini is a CBS MoneyWatch columnist and the author of "The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose" and the national best-seller "The Six Day Financial Makeover." Visit YourOther8Hours.com.