Five Rules the Bootstrapper Lives By

Rule No. 1: Sales is the top-priority job. In every company, sales is the only job that must be done well. A lot of companies think sales is a necessary evil, but it’s actually their lifeblood. It’s much better to have great sales and a good product than a great product and good sales.

Rule No. 2: Don’t spend beyond your means. Stay obsessive about costs and expenses. Saving cash is not a matter of miserliness - it’s purely a necessity of survival. Show how serious you are about thrift by generously rewarding anyone on your staff who identifies and brings about a significant cost savings.

Rule No. 3: Don’t be cheap. When you find a tactic that works, apply all the resources to it that you can. You should also be willing to spend enough to hire the best people you can find. Being gun-shy about spending can tank your business just as fast as spending too much can.

Rule No. 4: Don’t spend beyond your means. On the other hand, you must turn a profit. Prioritize your opportunities, and spend what you can on the most important ones. Only do the truly urgent things, and forget about the merely important ones.

Rule No. 5: “There is always another way.” When starting a business from scratch, don’t listen to the “experts.” Conventional wisdom doesn’t apply. Your problems are unique, and it might take a unique set of solutions to overcome them. The stories of finding innovative ways of avoiding costs and getting over hurdles are legendary among true bootstrappers.

Greg Gianforte Founder and CEO RightNow Technologies Co-author, Bootstrapping: Start and Grow a Successful Company with Almost No Money Bozeman, Mont.

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