Beyond Bootstrapping your Office Space

Most of the start-ups I work with look to space as an important way to bootstrap their space.

They begin by working out of their dorm, apartment, parent’s house, or our hatchery.  Keeping their space cost to zero keeps their overhead low and helps them get to positive cash flow more quickly.

Eventually, or should I say hopefully, their growth takes them to a point where they need real space. But, they often continue to bootstrap by building their own desks, buying old used chairs, and cobbling together what ever they can to get by with furnishing their new location.

A company called turnstone is running a promotional program that is going to give away five $25,000 office make-overs to emerging businesses and help them move beyond their bootstrapped work space.

All you need to do to enter the contest is upload a video to the turnstone website pitching why you deserve a turnstone makeover.  From these submissions, they will be selecting the 25 best entries for a public vote.  This voting will determine the five that get an office makeover.

Good luck!!


Find Yourself a Coach…and Listen!

A growing part of my job here at Belmont University is coaching.

We offer our students a “life-time warranty”.  We never take ownership in a student or alumni business and we never take a dime of consulting money from them no matter how successful they are.  We are always there to be their teacher, their mentor, their friend, their therapist, and most of all, their coach.

Besides the teaching I do in the classroom, this is easily the favorite part of my job.

Our students and alumni have learned how to seek out and accept feedback, constructive criticism, and advice.  But not all entrepreneurs have developed this skill set — and it is an essential skill that does not get talked about often enough.

This is something we have learned does not come naturally to many of the entrepreneurs we work with in our program.  Our faculty and staff often talk about what we are doing to try and help student entrepreneurs to become more receptive to our input.  For some students it comes quickly, but for others it can take months or even years to get them to understand the importance of seeking our council and to listen to what others can offer from an informed, outside perspective.

There is too much risk and uncertainty out there.  It is essential to find people who can help you see issues and problems that you are ignoring.  They also help you to discover the things that you don’t know that you don’t know.

Toddi Gutner has a post at Business on Main that helps explain how to become a “coachable” entrepreneur.

Bootstrapping a Franchise

Franchising continues to be a popular pathway to entrepreneurship, particularly for many unemployed professionals who are looking to join the ranks of accidental entrepreneurs created by the great recession.

Rieva Lesonsky looks at home-based franchises as a low cost way to bootstrap your way into business ownership in an article on Business on Main.

Approach a franchise just as you would any new business.  Develop a sound business model, and if financing will be required, a business plan.  Make sure that you temper any projections to the current economic conditions. Also, look for franchise opportunities that create value for the customer.

Franchising is tightly regulated and there can be some sticky contracting issues with buying any franchise. Make sure to work with an attorney who has experience with franchising.

But, beyond the contractual issues that arise in franchising, there are some fundamental business and personal concerns that many franchisees experience after it is too late.

One of the biggest sources of frustration among franchisees is that they perceive that the value added from association with their franchisor diminishes over time. A franchise will charge a significant monthly percentage fee (this can average about 7% of sales) associated with all that they offer, including systems, marketing support, purchasing power, and so forth. Over time, many franchisors realize that they can be just, if not more effective on their own without paying the monthly percentage of sales to the franchisor.

This on-going monthly fee is often glossed over by franchisees during start-up planning, as they tend to think only about the initial fees and capital expenditures in their planning.  So while a home-based franchise can reduce the start-up cost, the on-going monthly fee to the franchisor will still be something to consider when thinking about investing in a franchise.

Another concern expressed by franchisees is that with all of the rules and standardized procedures, they tend to feel more like an employee than a business owner. Those who try to break away from the predetermined model and processes can face the wrath of the franchisor.  Larger franchisors have entire staff dedicated to franchisee compliance.

So as you consider franchising, even a home-based option, approach it as if you are starting a business from scratch and make sure you understand the costs and constraints that come with owning a franchise.

Test Drive of HP Office Pro 8500 Continues

I have been test driving the new HP Office Jet Pro 8500 printer this week.  The last couple of days I have been exploring some of the other features that this all-in-one can offer.

The printer has slots that allow for many standard sized photo cards to be inserted directly into the printer.  Since our camera’s card does not fit one of the slots sizes on the printer, I used the front USB port to serve as a bridge.  It was reasonably easy to use this way, and the colors on the printed photo were excellent.  The print and copy quality of the printer would allow for reproduction of brochures and other promotional materials at a level of quality that would be more than satisfactory for most small businesses.  I printed a full size photo on an 8 ½ by 11 sheet that had bold colors and a reasonable picture clarity.

When it comes to using a new fax machine or scanner I tend to want to curl up in a fetal position in the corner.  It is a situation where the Luddite in me comes out in full force.  I was one of the very last in my circle of entrepreneur friends to install a fax machine back in the late 1980s.  I claimed it was because I did not see the cost benefit, which was partly true, but it was also because the thought of having to learn another new technology overwhelmed me.  After all, I had just learned how to use the personal computer only a couple of years before that time, and I was still getting over that trauma.

Luckily, the fax and scanner controls are simple enough on this machine for even someone like me to figure out without too much hyperventilating. 

The feature I was most interested in trying out was that it is wireless.  I tend to roam about our home with my laptop – although my home office is in our upstairs loft, I spend many mornings blogging and catching up on things on the back porch, or on colder or rainy days working in our family room.

To use the wireless feature, the printer has to be connected to your wireless router.  Unfortunately, our wireless hub is set up at my wife’s computer station at her kitchen desk.  The printer is just too large to put by her spot, so I cannot try this out until I move the modem and router to my loft office where I keep my printer.  That project will have to wait until things calm down from this busy spring term.

As for my conclusion about this printer?  It is a great workhorse for small businesses than need a reasonably robust and versatile all-in-one.  It is probably overkill if you have only occasional or very light use of its features.  But if your business regularly needs high quality printing, faxing and scanning, this machine is a reasonable value, as it is comparable in quality to a laser printer and much more efficient to operate.

As part of this blog marketing initiative, my readers can receive a coupon code to get 20% off the HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One by clicking this link.

(This is a sponsored post).

A Bootstrapper’s Tool

My test drive of the new HP Office Jet Pro 8500 printer continued this evening.

I had several long documents that I needed to print this evening at my home office.  Being a bootstrapper at heart – or as some in my family might say, “cheap” – I like the relatively low cost of printing with this machine.  Inkjet is always going to be lower cost than a laser, and this printer seems to perform at a reasonably comparable speed to my HP laser printer at the university.  It has a quality that is clean and crisp.  This inkjet has certainly come a long way from the models I had even a few years ago in terms of print quality.

HP claims that the printer will save 50% over a color laser printer.  Add to this that it can print front and back – saving paper in quite a few of my print jobs – and the fact that you can recycle the cartridges through HP for free, you have a fairly economic printer.

OK, but shouldn’t a bootstrapper buy the lowest cost printer on the market?   Not always, as I like to remind people that bootstrappers are cheap, but cheap with a purpose.

It is possible to create a lot of materials that not that long ago would require working with a printing company.  The printed materials that you can create with this printer will be considerably less expensive than if you have to send it out.  And it will look much more professional than the low cost printers I have traditionally had in my home office in the past.

Simple stationary, brochures, and so forth can be created with this printer that is perfectly acceptable for the purposes of many small businesses.  By tying into HP’s creative studio, it is possible to create some professional looking materials.  Be aware that some of the links through this site do carry additional costs.

So what don’t I like so far?  The one main drawback is that the machine is a bit noisier than I am used to with the smaller printers I have used in the past.  But all in all, so far so good.

As part of this blog marketing initiative, my readers can receive a coupon code to get 20% off the HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One by clicking this link.

(This is a sponsored post).

New Age Marketing

I am taking part in something that my colleague Dr. Robert Lambert would call the new age of marketing. 

Through my association with, I was contacted to try out a new model of HP printer, the Office Jet Pro 8500.  They said that they would send me the printer for my home office down here in Franklin, Tennessee.  I was asked to set it up, use it, and blog about it.

While I have been taking ads at my blog for quite a while, this is the first time I have been asked to integrate information about a product in my blog by a sponsor.

I reminded them that I am a blogger, and as such, tend to rant on and on about what I think about things.  I asked them, “Do you understand what that might mean?  I will not say something unless I really believe it to be so.

They assured me that they understood – they get it.

Since I have had HP printers in the past and been satisfied with them, I agreed to give their new printer a test drive.

So let me be completely clear – this is a sponsored project, so this is a sponsored post.

Now I am like a kid on Christmas when I get a new piece of equipment – I can’t wait to open the box and see what is inside.  Unfortunately, the box arrived the day I flew out to California with our students this past week.  So tonight is the first chance I have had to open the box, see what is inside, and set it up.

This is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile

As I opened the box my first thought was, “This puppy is really big.  Will it even fit on my desk??”  Well it did – as it turned out its footprint was not that much bigger than my old printer and it fit just fine on my file cabinet.

While a bit more complicated than my earlier, more basic printers, the set-up was not overwhelming.  The pictures helped this Luddite blogger make it though with only a couple of moments of head scratching.

The print heads and ink cartridges were easy to access and easy to install – they are accessible directly from the front of the machine.

Then I turned it on…but, all I got was an error.

I looked up the on-line support and found the number for phone support, as I don’t do well with on-line chat support systems. 

I was connected quite quickly, and found out that I had a static problem.  It was easily solved.  Then the support person offered to help me with the rest of the installation, which I gladly accepted.  All in all, it was excellent service.

As part of this blog marketing initiative, my readers can receive a coupon code to get 20% off the HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One by clicking this link.

(This is a sponsored post).