Bootstrapping is about balancing scarce resources
Founder Friday is a weekly guest post written by a founder who is based in or hails from the Silicon Prairie. Each month, a topic relevant to startups is presented and founders share lessons learned or best practices utilized on that topic. July's topic is bootstrapping.
About the author: Pat Lazure is the founder of Deal Garden.
Simply put, bootstrapping is about balancing scarce resources. A neophyte entrepreneur may believe that he understands what bootstrapping is all about. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I understood it myself. The common perception is that bootstrapping is all about juggling financial expenses – but really, there’s a whole garden variety of emotional expenses that comes with it too, and if not managed properly, an entrepreneur can suddenly find himself not just short on cash, but also short on life – devoid of the people, relationships, and things that inspire his or her entrepreneurial ambition.
Before jumping in
So you want to start a company? Cool. You should. Ambition is expensive, but so is the cost of doing nothing, so are you prepared? Any relevant experience will certainly help. Of course, a stash of sweet moola and a good credit score can’t hurt either, but you already know you’re going to need that stuff, right? But don’t forget to prepare yourself for some of the softer sides of startup life too. Bootstrapping a startup requires you to balance both the financial expenses and the emotional expenses.
Juggling the money
I don’t want to go too deep here because the parochial rendition of financial bootstrapping has already been written. I think everybody gets it. Watch your pennies. Before moving on though, I will say this… There’s a difference between being cheap and being frugal. The symptoms and unintended consequences of being cheap can cost you a fortune.
Juggling the soft stuff
If you think you have the moxie to start a company, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself. It all starts with you. What is your relationship with yourself? Most of your friends and family won’t really understand what you’re doing – especially here in the Midwest. At times you will be lonely and misunderstood. Have you banked enough emotional fortitude to make it through the long haul?
Beyond that, what condition are the relationships you have with the ones you love? Just like money, your bootstrapped time, as well as the support you receive from others are also scarce, limited resources. As you consider launching your startup, have you banked enough emotional capital to protect these relationships? Bootstrapped startups are taxing on relationships and the tolls they take will always be more difficult to measure and therefore much more difficult to balance. While bootstrapping, you will of course regularly check the balance of your financial accounts, but you must not forget to just as regularly check the balance of emotional capital that bonds the relationships that matter to you most.
Bootstrapping a startup has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career, yet the most rewarding. The process is imperfect and there’s no one-size-fits-all roadmap. As you proceed, don’t forget to check your credit score with the ones you love. Unlike an ATM machine, the people who are important to you are going to need more than a pin number if you expect them to continue to share with you their admiration and support. If you fail to juggle the soft stuff, then your bootstrapped startup is sure to incur cost overruns you may have never imagined. So if you’re going to make a run at this, take a step back and at least give yourself to opportunity to properly bootstrap both the financial and emotional expenses that you will most certainly incur. After all, the measuring stick for startup success is not measured in dollars, but instead happiness.
Credits: Photos courtesy of Pat Lazure
About the author: Pat Lazure is a serial entrepreneur, Omaha family man, accomplished racquetball player, and amateur juggler.
Find Lazure on Twiter, @plazure.
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Thanks to our Founder Friday series sponsor, Heartland Technology Alliance, a nonprofit working as an advocate for innovation and competition in technology and communications across much of the Silicon Prairie and throughout the Upper Midwest.