In the simplest terms, a business is an organization or an enterprise engaging in commercial activities like the exchange of goods and services for money with the intention to make profits. Most often than not, and irrespective of the type of business, a good amount of investment is essential.
Investment is most often a financial asset acquired to generate regular income and profits to create wealth. However, there are a good number of business options that can be setup without, well, almost without any investment.
This can seem impossible initially but, certainly is not the case. You can start in a small way and build a solid plan to work towards. Traditionally, to start any business, capital is required. However, you need to make a shift in your mind set to start a business with limited or no capital.
Obstacles will always be there in between you and launching your business. However, take a different approach and see what you can do without investment. See what is really essential for your business right now. If needed, you can get a custom-designed website for your business or create a Facebook page for promotion. Decide whether you need to design marketing materials for your business.
You can start with your skills and knowledge and make the best use of the tangible resources you currently have. Make the maximum use of whatever you have at your disposal.
Test Your Ideas
Develop a solid plan and make an initial start in a small way to test your skills. Target a small group and observe how well your ideas are received and, discover if there is a potential for growth. You can also conduct a survey among the audience and receive useful inputs to induce into your business.
Invest in Sweat Equity
You are the only one wholly invested in your business. Develop the drive and put your heart and soul to make your dream venture a reality. Explore all perspectives and do everything to build a robust foundation to kickstart your business.
And remember, you will make mistakes too. It’s extremely important since you will learn better what works for you and what doesn’t.
Get Someone You Know
Bringing together whatever you have with someone you know is a powerful combination to motivate you to use your resources effectively. Your partnerships with others give shape to your ventures and enable you to pierce new markets.
Experiment a Little and Adapt Yourself
Try and take small, calculated risks in the process of setting up your business. You can invest in something you can afford to lose yet remain unaffected. By doing this, you can be flexible and reduce the stress in managing your business. If you are not flexible, you may never take the leap to launch your business.
This and adaptability give you a competitive advantage and ensures a successful venture by being responsive to changes. Moreover, being a new firm, you can afford to experiment more and easily adopt newer technologies into your business.
Develop Skills the Inexpensive Way
Discover important skills needed for your business and, if you lack them, look for opportunities to learn without spending much. You can look for free online tutorials or learn from someone you know. You may also tie up with institutions or companies to get trained in exchange for your services.
Keep a Reasonable Amount of Savings
Whatever job you are doing currently or have done, make sure you have enough funds in your savings account. Make an estimate of how much you will need in case of small investments. This way, you can avoid taking loans and keep your risks to a minimum.
Extra Funds from Friends and Family
There arises a need for some extra cash. You can approach your friends or family members once a solid business plan is in place. They can also be the resources to experiment with your sales pitch. You can later ask them if they can contribute a small amount and assure to repay, all in writing.
Check if your business appeals to a large group of professionals or specialists in a particular field. If yes, then crowdfunding is a great way to raise money for your business. Get inputs from established business owners and start a crowdfunding campaign. Have a vision and involve people into it and, make way for secure funding.
Small Business Loan for Extra Cash
During the operations process, the need for extra cash can definitely arise. A small business loan can surely be a choice if not the only one. There are traditional banks and online lenders who have favourable terms and conditions.
You can also consider a business line of credit to purchase items or invest as and when the need arises. You can also try business grants and use free cash advances to fund or expand your business.
Now that we have more than a fir idea of starting a business without cash (well, almost without), lets venture into marketing your newly set up business.
Marketing Your Business Without Money
All those business cards, your classified Ads and other traditional marketing stuff are a passé. With the advent of the digital age, marketing has gone online. And what’s more? Most of it is free. You can easily set up a Facebook page, go on craigslist.org, market on LinkedIn or develop a website with hardly any investment.
The best way to start a business without any money is to start an online business. The advantage is, these are the most affordable business ventures and can be started from the comfort of your home. You can make your own home office and get some business acumen flowing.
In fact, most online businesses can become a potent source of income once you start delivering results and establish yourself as a brand. This makes way to expand your online business and venture into other related areas and target new customers.
Check out these lucrative online business options:
The online business domain is flooded with freelance writers owing to the increasing demand for content marketing. You have strong vocabulary skills? You can write in different styles without grammatical errors? Writing is your passion? Then set up a free profile on popular freelance websites and build your portfolio.
Social Media Consultant
You can help businesses to promote their brand on social media by creating and posting about their products and developments online. You can take complete responsibility for their social media accounts and create online Ads to generate more traffic and increase sales.
It’s one of the most lucrative online business opportunities where there is no dearth of clients. If you have an eye for design and a flair for creativity, then this is for you. Showcase your best works and, you are there.
This goes along with the requirements of a web designer. It’s a great option for you if colours, designs, visuals and art fascinate you. Self-motivation and an eye for detail are the keys to launch a graphic designing business.
Optimising web pages and online content with data-driven analytics keeps clients knocking your doors.You have a great potential to make a mark in the digital world where everything from brand-building to promotion to sales is going online.
Having the knack and the skills to help individuals achieve success is an amazing way to launch a business. Rather than giving advice, you can guide them and teach them how to do it by themselves. You can focus on personal development and induce your clients to incorporate practical skills in their personal and professional lives.
This is, in fact, a fantastic way to earn handsome bucks without selling anything or maintaining any inventory. You can earn a substantial percentage of sales by generating referrals to another online merchant, resulting in sales.
Do you own a camera? Are you good at photography? Then, make a lucrative career by offering extensive photography services. Whether its corporate events or social gatherings like weddings and anniversaries, professional and creative photography is something people are willing to spend a fortune.
In fact, the list is endless. If you look into it, there are numerous online business opportunities that can be launched without any investment (Or, just a negligible amount in select cases).
The Bottom Line
Though seemingly intimidating at the thought of it, you have a choice of business opportunities that don’t require capital to start. You can convert your dream venture into reality and opt for funding only during the later stages if required.
However, it’s advisable not to quit your regular job immediately. Build a business plan, make alterations as necessary and lay a strong foundation for a solid customer base before going full-time. Once you hit the road and start progressing, reinvest a percentage of your earnings to scale higher.
Finding and following your website’s ‘North Star Metric’
By Andy Woods, Design Director of Rouge Media
The ‘North Star Metric’ (NSM) is one of many seemingly confusing terms to come out of Silicon Valley but its message is simple and universal.
It refers to the single metric businesses use to guide activity, drive key decisions and measure success. And while it may seem naïve on the surface, to boil business success down to a single metric, there is a method to the apparent madness.
It doesn’t mean businesses simply ignore all other performance data but instead measure it against the overarching goal they’re working towards.
Here’s how businesses can create their own North Star Metric and follow it to website success.
What is a North Star Metric?
The idea of a North Star Metric is to focus on the goal which delivers the most value for the business and its customers.
It’s a popular strategy adopted by successful business around the world. For example, Spotify set its North Star Metric as ‘time spent listening’, while Amazon focused on ‘purchases per month’. Every business decision was then geared towards increasing these metrics.
For the business, this increase means greater advertising revenue and sales, while for users, spending more time using the service or making more purchases shows the platform is meeting their needs.
Chasing this North Star Metric sees businesses align their efforts towards a single goal. For ecommerce businesses, this means sales and marketing activity is aimed at taking users to the website, where service experts provide relevant content and information and website designers add natural calls to action.
Finding the North Star Metric for your website project, whether it be sign-ups, purchases or more time spent on site, allows the whole team – plus your agency, if you work with one – to move in the same direction.
What does a successful NSM look like?
Nominating your NSM before undertaking a website project allows you to focus all your efforts in design, functionality and content on delivering your goal.
However, some businesses may have been operating for years with a North Star Metric that isn’t quite right. If you’ve been focusing your efforts towards a goal which isn’t driving value for the business or customers, and for which you struggle to measure impact, you may need to switch focus.
Key considerations for making sure your NSM delivers a positive impact for your business include:
Generating engagement: the internet is full of businesses fighting for custom and users don’t owe them anything. If a website doesn’t give them what they need, they can find one that does within minutes.
Solving consumer challenges: Customers want a product or service that solves their problems and they want it now. Does your website contain information that answers their questions? Does it call out the key features of your product or service that makes their life easier?
Building trust: The chances are, many businesses offer a similar product or service to you. Customers need to know your business is trustworthy if they’re to part with their cash. Case studies, awards and user reviews are examples of content which can improve your brand authority.
Finding your website’s NSM
Identifying your NSM doesn’t mean picking a goal that sounds good in the boardroom. It needs to be a targeted, realistic and measurable goal.
Dial-in on your NSM by answering these three questions:
What is the single most important thing your website should deliver? The answer to this should be simple and obvious – more sales, sign-ups, downloads or leads.
What do users want from the site? You’re likely to have many users, so try to identify your main three here. What are they looking for when they enter your site? Advice, a product, a follow-up from an employee?
Which metrics tie together the above? You need to be able to measure your performance in answering these questions. If you’re after more leads, monitoring on-site user data – like time spent on site and number of pages visited – gives you an indication of what users want and how well you’re meeting their needs.
There are many questions to answer when finding your NSM. A useful way to arrange the information is in a visual hierarchy. Place your NSM at the top, with the answers to these key questions as branches.
Breaking it down into a visual flow chart like this also helps with gaining crucial buy-in from the whole business, with teams visualising how their role fits into the wider goal.
As your business grows and industry and user demands change, you may need to adapt your NSM.
If you’ve been working towards an appropriate NSM, it may only need tweaking slightly. For example, as a start-up, your NSM may have been building awareness by generating more leads. After a few successful years, the business may decide to switch the focus from leads to online sales.
While the metric changes slightly, the original strategy has already laid the foundations for the new goal, with your website designed to drive traffic and provide helpful content to inform users’ buying decisions.
Using analytics data, businesses can make changes to their website to align with their changing goals. Look at how users are behaving on your site. Are there ways you can encourage them to convert or sign-up?
This data helps you understand where to add calls to action or how to improve website design and functionality, so completing a form becomes a natural part of navigating the site and accessing content.
Risk assessment: How to plan and execute a security audit as a small business
By Izzy Schulman, Director at Keys 4 U
Despite the current global coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty it has placed on the modern workplace, businesses cannot afford to relax their attitude towards security. Especially as there have been reports of increased break-ins and cyberattacks among the crisis.
Conducting a thorough security audit could be the key to improving employee awareness and identifying weak points in the business to avoid breaches.
Starting from scratch
The first step in an effective business security audit is a risk assessment – reviewing the workplace and all business processes to identify every risk.
No stone should be left unturned. This means conducting a physical inspection of the office, plus breaking down all employee tasks and demands and even reviewing how employees are working from home amid the current pandemic.
It’s important all risks are identified, so relevant and proportionate measures can be put in place – from heavy lifting to ensuring a comfortable office temperature.
At this stage, it’s also important to get employees to buy-in to security policy. Everyone needs to play their part to ensure complete safety.
Let employees know you understand they’re busy with their role but everyone needs to pull together to stay secure.
Offering incentives like employee recognition emails or even small rewards like gift vouchers may incentivise employees to go the extra mile.
Assessing the workplace
The average small business break-in sees around £2,000 lost in stolen property – not to mention the cost of disruption as a result of lost or damaged equipment.
Office security audits should begin with entry points, checking potential break-in spots like doors – and windows if you’re on a low floor – are monitored by alarms and cameras. Make sure these are visible, as this is known to deter potential intruders from trying their luck.
The workplace must also be protected against fire risks. Not only do fires threaten to destroy property and disrupt businesses, but hefty fines can be issued for failing to meet fire safety standards.
Carry out a thorough fire risk assessment, including nominating and clearly signing fire exits, establishing an emergency procedure and educating staff on its steps.
Safety audits should also highlight any trip hazards or danger of falling objects, plus any electrical or flooding risks.
Plus, this year has brought its own health and safety risks, with the coronavirus pandemic demanding new hygiene and social distancing measures.
For businesses with over five employees, the government has put together a specialised risk assessment for a COVID-19 compliant workplace, including advice on handwash stations and staggering shifts to avoid contact.
The online threat
The cost of cyberattacks to UK businesses is estimated at around £34 million a year – from the theft of intellectual property and the cost of recovering from the attack.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has only increased the risk, with many employees encouraged to work remotely, away from employers and IT managers.
A combination of technical IT solutions and educating employees on cybersecurity best practices can help businesses navigate these uncertain times.
For example, multi-factor authentication technology means employees are prompted to enter multiple login credentials to confirm their identity – typically their standard password plus a one-time code sent to their phone.
Even if their password is stolen, the attacker is still unable to log in to the company network without the additional code.
Managing permissions by employee case adds an extra layer of security, with individuals only able to access the data they need. If an employee’s device is breached, it limits the amount of data available to the attacker.
Keeping the company network secure is a team responsibility. Arrange calls in small groups in which IT professionals can explain new remote working protocols in detail and emphasise the importance of adherence, as well as answering employee questions.
Investing time and budget into identifying and addressing threats now, places businesses in a stronger position to maintain high standards of security in the future.
All information gathered from the security audit should be recorded, laying the foundations for a security framework and annual security audits. Log each hazard, along with the status of the risk and measures taken to prevent it.
The idea is to create a clear and structured audit process, which is intuitive to follow if personnel changes occur, or in an emergency. Include a priority checklist with the most significant risks, along with key dates for renewals or updates of any key equipment or facilities.
Update the file year-round, with all new information which may impact business or employee security. Any physical changes to the office should be recorded, along with new or updated equipment and machinery and any significant IT updates. Include key contacts and manufacturer information in the notes to speed things up in case of an emergency.
Buying enterprise professional services: Five considerations for business leaders in turbulent times
By James Sandoval, Founder and CEO, MeasureMatch
The platformization of professional services provides businesses with direct, seamless access to the skills required to face any crisis or opportunity.
The business world was ill-prepared for the current crisis, but a new breed of professional services marketplace platforms is providing valuable access to much-needed enterprise software and data specialists to curb the damage and rise to the challenge.
In today’s age of distributed teams, remote working and material lifts in online communication and commerce, digital systems and data skills are highly important and a matter of success or failure for many organizations.
Enter the ‘platformization of professional services’. Over the last few decades – in a majority of sectors – consumers’ worlds have been reshaped by platformization and personalization. Companies which have offered traditional products and services have moved online or they have been replaced by nimbler online competitors.
The most successful of these companies exhibit two qualities: They offer a platform for others to trade, communicate and to build upon, tailoring their services to the needs of individual consumers. Platformization and personalization.
The innovations born out of the platformization and personalization of B2C businesses are now beginning to transform the buying and selling of goods and services between businesses as well.
This means that businesses increasingly have extraordinary human capital investment flexibility and can safely, cost effectively remain well-equipped to survive and thrive through the most turbulent of times.
Here, MeasureMatch Founder and CEO, James Sandoval, has summarised five core benefits of the platformization of professional services for organizations feeling the heat from shareholders, competitors and even disruptions from pandemics.
The best of today’s professional services marketplaces will win the confidence – and budgets – from clients because they not only provide access to highly desired skills and services, but they’ve also gone to extraordinary lengths to maximise success by conducting, amongst other things, identity, insurance, skills vendor partner verifications. And this is on top of star ratings, written reviews, flexible contract management and more.
The combination of cloud computing services, plus deep ravines of data from historical customer engagement and completed contracts, means that professional services platforms can and should add exceptional value immediately on entry, and across every step of the experience – prior to spending a penny.
Professional services platforms are built for people to use – people from different walks of life and with different business needs. The best platforms provide an equally exceptional layer of people. They differentiate with added human value in the form of due diligence, domain and process expertise.
The OECD says unit labour costs “can be expressed as the ratio of total labour compensation per hour worked to output per hour worked (labour productivity).” Teams and individuals contracted via marketplace platforms, however, are armed and ready with requisite domain knowledge, experience and skills – which means there’s no requirement for the overhead costs commonly required for training, insurance, HR, office rent, utilities, which can amount to 25% to 100% on top of salaries.
Taking into account the contributions made by an unlimited capacity for precise machine-driven matching, exceptional accountability and flexibility, measurable productivity lifts, topped with human customer service and an attractive cost basis, it’s no wonder professional services marketplaces are exploding in popularity. The opportunities for value creation are material and available now.
The future will come with more complexity, surprises and risk. The platformization of professional services, together with advancements in enterprise personalization, will help everyone to embrace it all with confidence, balance and success.
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