No Money – No Problem

This question from a reader addresses a common concern:

Considering that my calling is going to involve a large pile of cash, how do I balance the principles that you teach about following your calling, and while keeping in mind the principals Dave Ramsey teaches, which include not taking on more debt? (For example, I feel that part of my calling is to build an outdoor roller hockey facility, which will have leagues, community events, and destination for after/year-round school programs. Obviously I will need to purchase a rink, among other things, to get started) – Matt, from North Carolina

No, no, no – you don’t need to “purchase a rink” to get started.  That would be a horrible risk with a brand new business.  Get an agreement with a school to use their parking lot on a Saturday.  You’ll have instant credibility and an audience because of being at the school and you can test your idea.  My oldest son was a bicycle racer for many years.  We organized and attended races all over the country that were set up in downtown business sections, in business office parking lots and rural roads.  The most popular “criterion” races took place on city streets, often right in the middle of a university.  No one would have dreamed of purchasing land for that kind of race.

Frankly, I’ve never had enough money to start a business – but I just went ahead anyway – with whatever resources I had available.  Here are a couple real examples from my past:

  • Auto Appeal – pinstripping.    I ordered the supplies where I had 60 days to pay for them – I ordered about $300 worth of supplies for this business targeted at new car dealers.  I knew the supplies should not be more than 10% of any job.  So that $300 in supplies turned into $3000 in revenue with a $2700 net profit in the first month and I grew the business rapidly with the business profits funding the growth.
  • Telephone Address Book.  I purchased a telephone/address book at a bookstore for $12.96 – still have that receipt.  Then I went to a church and offered to give them 1000 personalize copies of that telephone/address book with their church logo on the front cover.  In exchange, I asked them to give me the names of people they did business with – hotels, restaurants, insurance, etc.  I then gave those businesses the opportunity to highlight their business on the inside front and back covers.  That first project took me four days to complete and netted me $4600 after paying for the 1000 free personalized copies that I gave to the church.
  • Self-publishing 48 Days to the Work You Love.  I did not have a fancy publishing deal when I first started.  Instead, I bought a few three-ring binders at Office Depot, had the inside text copied, recorded a little cassette to stick in the pocket and then sold over 50,000 at $39 each. (total cost $7.50 each)  That’s over $2 million – with start up costs of less than $100.

There are many such success stories I could share. I worked with a gentleman one time who bought an orange grove, using the existing oranges on the trees as his only down payment. Another purchased an old estate house, contracting to sell the antique furniture inside as his

down payment.  Several years ago I bought a house on a Saturday morning, gave the owner $3,000, took over the loan, did some cosmetic improvements, put it back on the market, and sold it for a $21,000 profit. Many of the best ideas today are not capital intensive. They don’t require buildings, employees, and inventory. Fear of failure is a much larger obstacle than the lack of money.

You can go ahead with your outdoor roller hockey business.  Just don’t try to convince yourself that your calling requires you to violate your personal principles.  That’s a compromise you never want to make.

More on No Money – No Problem in No More Mondays, chapter Eleven

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12 Responses to “No Money – No Problem”

  1. Marlan Says:

    Very encouraging. Thanks Dan.

  2. John Says:

    The urban bike races that you describe in the second paragraph, involving multiple laps around a relatively short course, are ‘criteriums’, not ‘criterions’. A criterion is a rule or principle applied to make a choice or a judgement.

  3. Terry Says:

    This a great post of precisely the sort I seek. (More, please!) I see oodles of business opportunities out there and there are many ways to work around typical financial constraints. (My financial constraints are much greater than those faced by the average North American.)

    Usually buying expensive equipment or facilities is the wrong way to start a business, and quite unnecessary. (In general, think frugal when starting a business. You’ll need to preserve capital until profitable.) I’d like to open a food cart or trailer, and you don’t need to buy an expensive five-figure trailer. Look on Craigslist for a vast array of affordable business equipment for sale or rent.

  4. FinancialBondage Says:

    Very inspiring. thanks for sharing this Dan.

  5. Michael Dickerson Says:

    Good evening Dan, my wife used your 48 days to the work you love book and she wrote her first book, very proud moment for us. But that is not why I wrote you. I have been out of work for 7 months, my job offered me an early out, and because of the financial situation of the organization I took it. I decided it was an oportunity now after not working for this lenth of time, I am wondering if I made the right decision. I have been volunteering at one of the hospitals as a chaplin, by the way it is so fulfilling, after leaving there my heart is so full, because I feel I am helping someone. But volunteering brings no funds in the house, I know God has me there, if He didn’t I know I would not feel the way I do doing it, so please help me Dan (if I can call you that) this is the work I love, but we need MONEY to live, even though I am loving life now…

  6. andy traub Says:

    Dan…anyone can do what you did if they have the drive. I’m doing it now…thanks to you brother.

  7. Bill G Says:

    I’m one of those who bought one of your $39 three-ring binders. I’m thrilled it was a success for you, because I profited from it too!

    Thanks, Dan, for being faithful to your calling.

  8. kenneth Says:

    I love Dan Miller blog.

  9. John Says:

    Can you put me in touch with the person who provided the “telephone/address book” project please Dan ? Many thanks

  10. Ron Anglin Says:

    As always Dan, great words of wisdom here. I am glad you have keep to your calling and have these outlets for all of us to be inspired and grow and push for success! Thank you.

  11. Chris Barber Says:

    LONG TIME reader but first time responder. I absolutely LOVED your “No Money No Problem” section. You took a reader’s email and responded to him for the rest of us to see – VERY NICE!! Also enjoyed your personal success stories included in that response. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep dialogue like that coming. Whether you do it weekly or monthly is up to you but do keep writing those responses. Just the wisdom of your response sinks in and really helps all of us!

  12. Caleb Morrison Says:

    Great point about keeping start up costs low, I’m trying to start something up right now that should cost less than 1k. I love reading responses like these Dan, keep up the inspirational work!

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