Swanky offices. The latest and greatest in tech. Epic company parties.

These sort of “Silicon Valley” stereotypes have become synonymous with modern startup culture that’s laser-focused on appearances rather than getting down to business.

Of course, companies that obsess over keeping up with their neighbors often do so at their own peril. Whether due to relying on too much capital from outsiders or simply not having their goals aligned, so many startups fail because totally fail to focus on what really matters.

And no, it’s not a lofty mission statement or the biggest office on the block.

Simple and stylish startup office

Instead, companies in their infant stages should focus on drawing a profit before they worry about changing the world. While it’s only natural to want to be the “good guy” and keep up with your proverbial neighbors, companies that learn to operate quickly and swiftly will have plenty of time to do good down the road.

Rather than bloat your budget or needlessly spend, you should instead consider the steps to running the swiftest startup possible. With the help of the following list, you can understand the principles that’ll keep money in your pocket and trim the fat that slows down so many would-be success stories.

Become a Deal-Hunter

When push comes to shove, you’re going to have splash some cash for your business in some way, shape or form.

New hardware. Productivity tools. The list goes on and on.

That said, just because you need to buy something does not mean you should pay full price. Whether by buying second-hand or scouring the web for coupons, you should strive to become a sort of deal-hunter to ensure that you never have to worry about overpaying for, well, anything.

Need a new work PC? Consider buying secondhand. Looking for some office peripherals? Deals through Tatacliq online shopping and other bargains can make such purchases much less daunting.

Embrace a “Free” Marketing Stack

The world of martech is absolutely exploding right now as businesses seem to live and die by the tools that they use.

The good news for budding businesses is that many pieces of marketing tech can be adopted totally free.

And no, we’re not talking about free trials here. For example, consider how you can form the building blocks of a robust marketing stack via free platforms such as..

  • Hubspot’s CRM: their forever-free customer relationship management system is perfect for smaller companies looking to learn more about their leads
  • Mailchimp for email marketing: offering a free option for up to 2,000 subscribers, such a solution keeps your budget in check as you grow your list from scratch
  • Buffer for social media management: rather than stress over posting in real-time, you can schedule and optimize your social content without breaking a sweat

As tempting as it may be to purchase the latest and greatest in martech, consider how free platforms are more than enough to get you started. Besides, you can always upgrade down the line when your profits justify doing so.

Freelancer on the job
photo credit: Jen Scheutz / Flickr

Master the Art of Managing Freelancers

A cost-effective alternative to full-time employees, contract workers can juggle everything from content writing and SEO to acting as your very own virtual assistant for tedious tasks. Effectively hiring freelancers can be transformative for your business; meanwhile, platforms such as Upwork serve as a place to find proven, vetted workers with a track record.

And on a similar note, working with a remote team does double duty of finding the best talent regardless of geography and avoiding the cost of a physical location. Through collaborative platforms like Trello, Slack and Google Docs, you can keep in constant contact with your team minus missing a beat.

Rethink Your Positioning

When you’re a small company in a competitive space, positioning is everything.

And you don’t need to spend a ton of money to set yourself apart from the competition, despite popular belief.

Rather than run ads or worry about “looking the part,” focusing on a user experience and customer service might be your best marketing firepower.

When you have customers serve as your cheerleaders and sing your praises organically, you know that what you’re doing is working. Putting your customers first might sound cliche, but forming relationships with real people will always beat out any advertising you can pay for.

Don’t Be Afraid to Beg, Borrow and Share

Last but not least, always be willing to ask for help.

This could be from those in your network or past employers and colleagues in terms of advice, guidance and ideas.

Rarely will you see any successful business owners act as islands. When you stay in touch with others who can open you up to opportunities, you position yourself for new partnerships and customers alike.

No matter what your industry might be, applying these principles will ultimately lead you on the path toward profitability by avoiding the needless spending that plagues so many companies. When in doubt, focus on “needs” versus “wants” and embrace your sense of thriftiness moving forward: you’ll thank yourself for doing so down the road.