Starting your own company typically requires two of three things: an idea, a business plan, and cash. In most cases, an idea and business plan is required to get cash. All would be helpful, but either way, your best bet into the market is to start or end up with startup cash. Or is it? All the success stories we hear start with an idea, then the stories go on to tell us how the idea led to investment, possibly from an angel, venture capitalist, or incubator and finally we hear how the person became a billionaire.
There are a few problems with this process, specifically the cash part. First, many people have very good ideas. You likely have one now. Second, finding trustworthy investors who are willing to commit to your plan and idea is about as long of a shot as winning the lottery –literally about the same odds. So, start with what you actually have – an idea and your own personal grit.
Many ideas are generally good enough to build a sustainable business, and all too often, it's the idea that people worry about. Well, here’s the good news: the idea means very little.
When the first attempt at building a business fails, where do most entrepreneurs turn to? Yes you guessed it; the idea. They re-jig it. Tweak it. Even completely overhaul it. In the worst cases, they even abandon it all together.
But it isn’t the idea that needs re-jigging, and it’s even not the business plan like many would probably argue. That’s another area entrepreneurs get bogged down in. It’s being a gritty sales person. There are plenty of ideas that can come to fruition in the presence of a killer sales person. Sales are what lead to growth. Not ideas.
Focusing on the bottom-line is the best way to grow a business, and that bottom line swells when you sell more than what you can deliver. In a world where we harp on ideas and very rare self-made tech billionaires, it’s refreshing to think that your idea has a good shot and all that’s in your way is how you’re going to sell it.
That’s not to say selling is easy. Typically it’s the hardest part, which is why most entrepreneurs tend to avoid it – perhaps subconsciously. So now that you can spend less time thinking out the perfect idea, and more time selling your product or service, stop thinking your idea needs changing and start making calls and visiting customers – yes, calls and visits.
Emails are for scheduling calls and follow-ups. Calls and visits are the difference between you and everyone else. Do what you need to do to turn a crazy startup idea into a success. Don’t have the cash? That’s not a problem. You just need a reasonable idea and sales rigour that’s unmatchable.
Watch Alec Baldwin’s famous scene from Glengarry Glen Ross or even Leonardo DiCaprio’s Wolf of Wall Street “sell me this pen” scene if you need inspiration. Frankly, do whatever it takes to get yourself to believe that you can sell anything to anyone anywhere at any time. Selling is more sport than art – practice and persistence makes all the difference. Don’t’ give up on the idea if you haven’t aggressively applied yourself in selling it.
So take a step back on thinking out the perfect idea that likely requires cash and instead take action on selling simple startups that don’t require cash, and just require you. Here are the top 10 startups you can “start” tomorrow without any cash, all success riding on ability and outright sales grit.
10 Marketing & Design Company
Have an eye for marketing and design? Forget that. All marketing companies are built on the pillars of creativity. Remember that, because that’s why most fail. This is about selling. If you have taken at least one marketing course and still have the textbook, dig through and take notes. Then start a one-page website (use Wordpress to build it) and add a sleek design with your telephone number. Then pick up the phone and make 100 calls in the first day.
Let people know you exist. Don't sell them your service, just let them know you're alive and can be of help. Then ask them smart questions that get them to think about how they market themselves. Get your customers thinking, when customers think, they are outside their routine, and that's good for you when you're not part of their routine. Break their routines, that's the only way they'll call you.
9 Baked Goods Network
Have a knack for baking? Nobody cares, because it’s not important. You can’t afford to spend time in the kitchen baking goods. Find three grandparents, two stay-at-home parents, and a small bakery in the area. Then call up every restaurant and party planner you know. After that, pick up the phone and call every person in your contact list and let them know you sell the freshest home-baked goods.
The hardest part about running a bakery isn't the food, it's the customers. Just like any business, find your customers. They are out there, but you'll need some persistence, not to convince them, but to convince yourself every time someone turns you away. If you believe your cookies are worth it, which you should as long as they are not horrible, then so should your customers.
8 Contract Sales
Sales professionals are becoming more difficult to find – effective ones that is. Recruiting the best ones in today’s economy will be difficult, but round up at least three and offer contract sales teams to small businesses. They’ll need it. Keep expenses low for you and your small business customers - it’ll be important.
Small and even medium sized businesses don't want to take on the risk of bringing someone in who will drive up their expenses. Build an orientation plan and a strategy. Meet with each prospective business, ask the right questions, learn about their challenges, then draft a sales plan to help them win more sales. Keep one sales professional on the phones in the office and send the others on the road. Then make sure to report back all activity to the customer. There's value in the information the team will collect. If the prospective business doesn't feel it's worth it, at least them know they learned something about selling their product.
7 Accounts Receivable
In troubled economies, sunk-cost roles like accountants and bookkeepers are the first to get noticed. But Accounts Receivables representatives are critical, so most organizations shouldn’t go too long before reaching out to their customers for payment. Offer small businesses your new AR service at a discounted rate and light commission.
Cash is always king, and before large companies acquire other businesses or make large investments, they focus on driving cash. The quickest way for them to do is through collection. Understand and communicate the implications of having cash sooner, this way you can position the real the value in your service to your prospective clients.
6 Social Media Service
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are where the world’s youth is today – selfies, selfies, and more selfies. But outside the youth of today is a large group of older entrepreneurs who would like to learn how to leverage social media to build their business. The only obstacle between them and social media is someone who understands both.
Spend three full days reading “making money on social media” type posts online, take notes, and then build a pitch and plan. Then look for entrepreneurs and sales people between the ages of 45 and 65. Again, don't sell them your service, they won't buy it. You just met. Just be honest and let them know you're around if they need you. Follow-up diligently.
5 Celebrity Parcel Delivery
Delivering parcels to homes is a business reserved for FedEx and UPS. But delivering parcels to and from celebrities is a completely different service for completely different customers.
Live in LA or New York? Then take advantage of the high profile market that surrounds you. Sell your car and get a black one, then think of a cool uniform. Maybe a tuxedo or something better. Finally, sell yourself as a private and confidential parcel service for only high profile customers. Privacy and confidentiality is so important - don't blow it by tweeting. Stress exclusivity and don’t advertise just anywhere – think it through and build a referral system to reach your customers.
4 Luxury Car Detailing
Luxury car detailing isn’t about the cars, it’s about the customers. Anyone who has spent time with someone who drives a luxury car knows that it means a lot to them. So it should. Why not learn a thing or two about washing, waxing, and polishing – then get out there and build relationships with people who have nicer cars than you.
You don't need a garage if you live in warmer climates, but it certainly would be nice if you had one. More importantly, show your prospective customers that you love cars, and let them know that their car is gorgeous. No need to lie - chances are if it's a luxury or exotic car, then it's likely a stunner.
Insist on not taking tips. Convey the message that you are professional and that this work means a lot to you. Don't undercharge. Give them the value they are willing to pay. You might be surprised at what they would pay to polish their ride.
3 Interior Design
Have you ever asked an Interior Designer where they went to school? Neither have I. That’s because if they are good, then they are good – it doesn’t really matter. But it’s not the quality of the Interior Designer as so much it is the Interior Designer’s pitch. Effective Interior Designers find a way to upsell everything, and their strategy is to build personal relationships. They become friends with their customers. They learn about their personal life, preferences, arguments with their loved ones, and so forth.
Interior Designers get the inside track on the information they can leverage including a person's mood or feelings. This is what they can use to propose the need for change and the justification for spending a little more than you expected.
2 Infidelity Service
Bringing singles together is fine and all, and probably very rewarding. But the truth is that there is a whole world out there of cheaters, liars, and unfaithful partners. There are enough dating sites that are trying to marry people. It's time for more services that support a niche and secretive market - one that brings cheaters together to satisfy their flings.
Keep it private and offline. No need for a website, but you will need to advertise a phone number. Your initial clientele might not be exactly what you hoped for, but it will take time to move up the social ranks. Build a specialty for yourself so that you can add more credibility to your brand. Focus on building a local network by using the bars, clubs, and cafes in your area.
1 Breakup Service
e-Harmony, Match.com, and about another four dozen other sites want to bring people together. Not many are breaking people up. Breaking up is one of the hardest things to do, and most men and women would probably consider paying a small fee to be consulted on the message or even have the message delivered.
People like to rationalize their decision-making, so why not be the voice of reason for them instead of their friend who doesn't care. Be the person who cares because you're a professional and you can actually help. Don't let people break-up on their own, support them both before, during , and after their break-ups. You might even have to do "break-up" yourself - remember "customers first."
Build a one-page website with your phone number (yes again, you’ll need to know some Wordpress), then reach out to a news site and mention your service – see if they bite on the story.