Categorized | Shoestring Startup

The Key to Business Startup Success: Just Go for It

My name is Andrew Schrage and the name of our site is the Money Crashers personal finance blog which was started out of a desire to help people make financially sound decisions. With articles that cover a variety of topics, we seek to educate readers on matters such as investing, buying and selling real estate, retirement planning and much more. All content is free, and is provided by contributors who are specialists in topics ranging from green living to running a small business.

The website was started on a shoestring budget. In the beginning, I found a business partner and we invested personal savings while trying to limit expenses as much as possible. Some of the free online tools that we use include Outright, QuickBooks, Google Apps for Business, and TurboTax. Currently, we are actively involved in social media with significant communities on Facebook and Twitter. Including freelancers and employees, there are currently about 20 people on the team.

The best piece of advice that I wish I’d received early on is to simply “go for it.” We knew what we wanted to do with Money Crashers, but we were initially hesitant. We feared the future, feared the unknown, and feared the risk. We thought that if we researched long and hard, we could find all the answers that we needed to eliminate any risk. Months turned into years, and we finally realized that at some point in time we just had to move forward with my idea. You can’t tweak and adjust your idea until it is perfect because it never will be. Sure, we made mistakes along the way, but who doesn’t? Once we began taking risks and advancing our business there was a great sense of relief. We took the leap, we ran with what we had, and then finally began focusing on the core mission of growing and expanding the business. For new entrepreneurs just getting started, I’d recommend starting your own side business while working another job.

As for making any major mistakes, I can’t think of anything that threatened to end Money Crashers, but underestimating the importance of social media certainly limited our growth in the early years. Once we became established in the social media arena, the site greatly benefited as we reached new audiences.

One thing that we certainly did not undervalue was the importance of focusing on the team. A successful company would be nothing without great people, so the vetting process for hiring new employees was pretty stringent. We looked for much more than simply good writers – we looked for people who we felt would have a vested interest in the long-term growth of Money Crashers, and people willing to go the extra mile without being asked. And this will always be a focus of ours, no matter how big the site becomes. Also, turnover has far-reaching implications, and we do our very best to keep it to a minimum.

The biggest transition that we have had to make was the hiring of additional editors and writers. In the beginning, we had one editor (myself) and a handful of writers. A few years ago, we noticed that the site’s growth had become somewhat stagnant. We knew that in order to spur growth, we needed to hire more writers and ultimately more editors. It was a gamble, because if we increased payroll costs and it did not result in increased revenue, then we would be in a tough position where we might be forced to let people go. Once again, at some point in time, you just have to go for it. We took the plunge and hired two more editors and a number of writers. It turned out to be one of the best decisions that we ever made. The site now has a wider variety of content, and the new contributors have added their expertise to the site in ways we never imagined. Revenues have certainly benefited as well.

Regarding marketing, we try to minimize these costs by focusing on free avenues. The best form of marketing is word-of-mouth, and the best way to encourage that is to put forth excellent, unique content that our readers are excited to share with their friends and family. We have definitely used social media to our advantage in this area. In fact, one of my best tips is to use a Facebook page for business marketing while not breaking the budget.

The Key to Business Startup Success: Just Go for It

Andrew Schrage

The one lesson I’ve learned during the site’s lifetime is the importance of staying true to one’s beliefs. I think a lot of small business owners lose sight of the core concepts that made them successful in the beginning, and, as a result, their businesses ultimately struggle. Basically, we plan to continue doing what we did in the beginning; we’re as passionate about the business now as the day we started it, we enlist only top-notch contributors, and we have a fierce commitment to quality content. This is what got us to where we are today, and I see no reason to stray from those ideals.

As far as being acquired by a larger company or selling the site in a few years, the answer is a resounding “no.” People have certainly come knocking on the door, but we have politely turned them down. Honestly, right now, I couldn’t imagine selling Money Crashers. I genuinely love what I do – I work with a tremendously talented group of people, and I truly believe that the sky is the limit for me, the team, and the business. To be able to say this things is something I’m incredibly thankful for, especially in such difficult economic times.

 

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