I remember being in a real bind with one of my companies. The business was growing rapidly and I needed a delivery van.
But not just any delivery van.
It needed to fit our green retail store theme, so I wanted it to run on alternative energy. But in 1994 that was an expensive concept.
The specialized van needed to run on natural gas, the only technology (barely) available for transportation at that time.
$30K to get it.
Yet I could not raise the money. Totally exhausted from reaching out to everyone I could think of, no one seemed to “get it” or have the capital for me.
Finally, in frustration and desperation, I picked up the phone and called the only guys in town that sold CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) that I knew I would ultimately need to use for fueling my vehicle.
And I asked them if they could help.
Brooklyn Union Gas, now part of National Grid, jumped at the opportunity.
They said, “Heck we’ll even loan you the van… for free! Just allow us to have a decal on it to say we’re part of your cool experiment.”
Problem solved! Cost to us = $500 (for our company’s promotional stickers.)
We then had one of the newest and state-of-the-art vehicles in NYC for 1994. Brooklyn Union had a way to promote their new natural gas vehicles and pumping station and a way to help a small business in their community.
Lesson learned = anything can ultimately be financeable.
I had it stuck in my head that I needed cash to make it happen. And without it, I was stuck.
I cannot tell you how important this concept is today.
Or how many entrepreneurs tell me they need X dollars or they are sunk.
“Really, for what?” I ask. The answers range from, “I need my website up-and-running” to “buy more inventory for my business.”
My response is almost always the same, “how else can you get that done without cash?”
Especially today with our economy in the tank and cash so incredibly tight, it takes something else to move your business forward:
- Creativity—how much outside the box thinking can you do to find ways to get what you need. Let go of the idea (for a moment, anyways) that it must take cash.
- Resilience—don’t shut down if someone says “no” or even worse, thinks you’re unrealistic (or naïve!) Take that as a sign of you’re onto something.
- Flexibility—be open to it not looking the way you initially envisioned. Reach out to others, whom you respect, for creative ideas to get it done.
- Confidence—that you will ultimately find the solution. Depending on how much you want it and are willing to do to get it, stay focused on the outcome you desire.
- Collaboration—one of the hottest tools for entrepreneurs of all sizes today. Partnerships, joint ventures, and collaborations are moving business forward when cash is tight.
So our van ended up being not only a help in delivering our products between our locations and to our customers, it became a powerful marketing tool.
They laughed when they saw it because our $500 investment for the decals read, “Excuse us for passing gas, but hey, it’s only natural!” And then it explained the fuel it used and our mission of our green retail company.
Action Steps for the Week:
Obsessed with trying to raise cash to get something done? Frustrated with how it is going?
You’re not alone!
First, make sure you are clear on exactly what you need the dollars for. Then look to see who you would hire to get that done, once you get the money.
Then find out what you have that they would want in return for their product/service.
Be super creative.
If they are not negotiable who else might be that can get it handled for you? Or offer them to pay them more on the “backend” than you would have given them on the frontend.
Most importantly, be willing to walk away from the deal and ready to try again in another way with someone else.