Bootstrapping 101: Life Lines & Lessons Learned

In the last couple weeks, I heard myself answering questions about People Spark Consulting’s history, explaining that we incorporated over a year ago. Just like that, an entire year flew by, and we can officially say we’ve survived our first year. And anytime anniversaries or other milestones come up, they always provide great reminders of the lessons we’ve learned from our failures and successes.

It still boggles my mind that small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) account for 99.7% of all businesses in the United States. Seriously, stew on that for a minute. Since I tend to be a pretty visual person, here’s how I think about it: For each of our family members and friends who work for recognizable companies and large corporations, there are almost 100 additional people who either own or are employed by a small business. Incredible!

Let’s get back to that first year in business for a moment, though. We continue to learn (and learn, and learn, and learn) every single day, but there were some fun moments along the way to share as well, in honor of Small Business Week.

Shark Tank: Husband Edition

Starting a business meant more than just two professionals getting together and building something. In our case, it also meant two families between us, including two husbands, five kids under the age of 9, and three dogs counting on us to build People Spark Consulting. Early on, we made the decision to “pitch” our business plan, revenue targets, offerings, and all the fun stuff to our husbands. This was intended to be more than a meeting to earn a “that’s nice.” It was intended to give transparency into our goals and plans, and to ask their advice for what we might be missing. There were lots of questions: some of which we knew the answers, others where we didn’t. But what did we get out of a meeting like that? Accountability. Building a business wasn’t some fun extracurricular activity we wanted to try out; it meant setting goals and figuring out what it was going to take to achieve them.

The First “YES.”

There is something about that first client that says YES. There is validation that you have something others will pay for and appreciate. There is relief that you can pay some bills from your actual business account and not just your own savings. And there is the heart and energy that goes into making sure that your client gets everything that she’s agreed to, and beyond. The momentum we built for ourselves from that one YES has meant the world, and has provided clarity and the ability to bounce back from the “no’s” and no-responses that happen as well.

The “Secret” Abundance Society of Entrepreneurs

Having spent my career until People Spark in large companies, I thought I knew what collaboration and teamwork looked like: teams that had clear goals, worked well with one another, played to win. What I saw there, though, was only the tip of the iceberg compared to that I’ve seen in the small business, entrepreneurial world. When we first launched, I remember getting nervous or feeling competitive if I heard about others I knew who were also in consulting. My thoughts followed more of a zero-sum game: if the other person won in that space, then I lost. I was sorely mistaken.

Instead, what I found was quite different. I saw it almost as a secret society of sorts – where entrepreneurs almost want “outsiders” to think that way, before breaking the paradigm completely and demonstrating that there truly is an abundance for us to co-exist. Some of my favorite things to do now is to try and find connection points between people – to refer a potential client to another consultant if I’m not the right fit, and to build trust and confidence in others that they start referring others to us. It’s wild how quickly that word begins to move, too. We aren’t playing a zero-sum game after all, we are making the pie bigger instead.

Life-Savers for the Multi-Hat Heroes

Remember those multi-hat heroes we talked about in this post? The ones wearing IT in the morning, customer service by lunch, and HR and Marketing in the afternoon? We’ve seen these heroes in action in every business we’ve worked with, and the needs of these multi-hat heroes led us to develop our own HR lifeline for them, through our People Spark Memberships.

We’ve also found ourselves taking on multi-hat hero work. There are days when Kristen is the instructional designer in the morning, and marketer in the afternoon, where I might be wearing the IT and Finance hats by lunchtime. In our own bootstrapping, we’ve been insistent on constantly learning and utilizing resources available in our own community.

Here in the Twin Cities, we’ve been blown away by the affordable (and sometimes free) resources we have at our very fingertips. There are cheering squads all over the place with tools and coaches to help make sure small business owners have the help they need – not just to survive, but to thrive. Just a snapshot of those who have been the most help to us in our journey so far: WomenVenture (workshops, classes, support for women entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities), a wonderful coach through the Twin Cities Small Business Development Center, and additional coaches with immensely valuable feedback through SCORE St. Paul. While not intended to be exhaustive, the list of resources extends far beyond – our intent is to encourage you to seek out and use the resources that might be in your own backyard!

We learned, too, that those lifelines can many times save hours of work and lots of dollars in mistakes. Our own experiences, and hearing about similar ones from our clients, led us to develop our solution: an HR lifeline for small businesses – with coaching and content.

People Spark Founding Memberships: Lifetime Rates Until May 15th, 2019

To celebrate the launch of our People Spark Memberships, we are offering Founding Memberships until May 15, 2019. As a Founding Member, you get Plus-Level Access (a $247/month value) for only $97/month – for the lifetime of your continuous membership*. This includes access to the private membership site with tools, templates, resources, tip sheets (with new content added monthly), AND includes monthly group coaching calls with Kristen and me to answer your real-life HR questions and learn from your peers.

We Want YOU as a Founding Member!

These Founding Memberships are only available until May 15th, 2019.

Regular rates start May 16th (ranging from $197-297/month).

Join for the resources and tools. Stay for the coaching and community.

1.  Join today!

2. Complete the HR Quick Assessment to identify pain points

3.  Find resources at your fingertips

More questions? See our FAQ’s here.

Know another small business owner?

Don’t let them miss out to become a Founding Member!

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