When I was about 18, I entered into my first business venture – buying piece of shit cars, fixing them up, and selling them for a small profit. The best part was, I never even saw the cars. I gave my friend about $500, and he bought, fixed, and sold the cars and we split the profit 50/50. If we made $1,000 on the sale, I got $500. I was making 100% return on my money. Not bad! That was my first taste of leverage and I liked it.
A couple of years later I decided to up the stakes. A few friends and I created an exclusive night club in the basement of our rental. It was the place to be on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night (and sometimes Wednesday and Sunday too). We had a DJ, bartender, ice luge, kegs – all the makings of a great party. We were putting hundreds of dollars into these events (and they were events) and we were going to hold our money accountable. We “hired” two 200-lb guys to work the door and make sure everyone who entered paid the cover charge. The cool part is, we didn’t spend a dime on those hires. They were happy to be “paid” with the opportunity to hang out with me, Nate, John, and Casey and be a part of the experience that we created. We brought in thousands of dollars every night, with marginal upfront costs, and free labor.
One night (or maybe it was morning), Nate and I were manning the bar and 6 or 7 cops swarmed our apartment. Someone pulled the one powerstrip that controlled every light and electronic in the basement and the place went dark. Everyone ran. And our one roommate who was out of college and worked a “real” job was sited. But there is a silver lining in every story, right? The guys and I were able to pay for our roommate’s fine, no problem. The lesson, that is still ingrained in me to this day, is that you have to keep your foot on the gas and keep moving forward. If you go big enough, you’ll have the money to pay for your mistakes.
Those early risks and [ad]ventures allowed me to pre-purchase a new construction condo and sell it for a $60,000 profit 2 years later. From cars, to clubs, to condos, one thing remained the same: I connected with the right people to get the help I needed, when I needed, to keep moving forward.
Leveraging people can be seen as a bad thing, especially when it’s confused with using people. But every relationship I entered into was not one side. We all benefited from these partnerships, whether it was the % of profit my friend got on the car deals or the connections my friends made at the parties. Everyone got something they wanted.
My point of sharing these stories is not to tell you how awesome I was in college with my earring and goatee (though I was pretty frickin awesome), but to tell you that I know first hand that there is always a way to get the help you need, no matter how much money you have in the bank. You just have to think outside the box.
As an entrepreneur or small business owner you may be the sole employee. So how do you get it all done at home and at work? Leverage. And I’m not talking about a $50,000 a year hire here. Think about it. As a business owner, your time is usually best spent on sales/marketing, key relationships, strategy, and vision. All other tasks that take you away from those responsibilities are taking you away from additional revenue. People always tell me they can’t afford to hire a personal assistant, or a sales associate, or a marketing coordinator. But I say, how can you afford not to? Look, I get it. Making that first hire is a big step. More money is going out the door and you’re not sure when (if ever) you’ll see a return. But you’re thinking about it all wrong. People are not an expense or a cost, people are an investment.
But they don’t all require monetary compensation. Remember, get creative. Interns are a great way to leverage. You get help with key projects and they get an invaluable learning experience. Note: Check your state and local labor laws on interns – depending on hours and the kind of work, you may need to pay them. Another way to leverage is to trade services. If you own an IT company and desperately need help with marketing, why not form an agreement with a marketing company. You help them set up their CRM or contract X number of hours of IT assistance for help with an online and direct mail marketing campaign. Playing on the good graces of your family members is also a great tactic. Kids and parents are typically good targets for help around the office.
Outsourcing now is easier than ever. From logo design, to website maintenance, to marketing collateral, to scheduling, to answering your phone, you can find most of these services online. We like www.designcrowd.com and www.99designs.com, as well as www.upwork.com. Need someone local to run errands, file, or help with miscellaneous tasks? Check out Craigslist or your local colleges to hire someone on a per project or per hour basis.
How’s your home life? Another option to consider is to hire a housekeeper, a personal assistant, or just someone to mow your lawn. If you had help taking care of these type of personal items, how many hours would that free up in your day? Would you have the mental capacity to focus and be more purposeful on your business knowing that all those other responsibilities were taken care of?
If you’re not quite ready to make the leap and hire a full-time employee, try working with a virtual assistant or hire a part-time employee. You will have a smaller investment, but you should quickly see a return.
The point is, there is always a way. There are endless ways to add leverage to your life with a minimal budget so you can focus on the dollar producing activities that grow your business. So what’s it going to be? Who do you need in your life and how are you going to make it happen?