As a new or even seasoned entrepreneur, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of pursuing your dream, passion or vision; however, you don’t want unnecessary expenses to cause you to run out of money before you get to see your dream become a reality.
When you first start a business, every expense seems necessary to help you grow and expand when in reality most will not help you; they’re only hurting you. It’s important whether you’re just starting out or years into your business to scrutinize every single dollar to determine if it’s truly taking you closer to achieving your dream or only killing your company’s future. Here are three expenses that I personally wish I ditched when I started my business.
1. Your Own Space
As a business owner, you want to be taken seriously; and sometimes it’s hard to imagine being taken seriously when you work from your bedroom; however, monthly rent eats up a significant portion of your expenses and doesn’t always give you a great return.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend that much money to meet with people outside of your home. Over the last few years, co-working spaces have grown exponentially; and they offer the perfect solution for the budding entrepreneur. Instead of starting out with designated office space that is costly, start with introductory plans that allow you to access meeting space as you need it. Many of these plans start as low as $45 a month.
You should sign up for co-working space initially with the smallest plan and then as your business grows, grow into larger spaces within the co-working space or a space of your own. It’s much better to grow into a space through your revenues and business activity than get saddled with too much office space before your business can support it.
2. Monthly Recurring Payments
The recurring payment is a silent killer for business and personal accounts. Signing up for Survey Monkey for $25 a month doesn’t seem like a big commitment at first; however, if you sign up for multiple sites like this, before you know it, you are paying hundreds of dollars a month for services that may or may not be contributing to your bottom line.
When you think about what monthly recurring payments you take on, you should think about those sites that directly help your business. Asking users for surveys seems like a nice thing to do; however, if those surveys are not going to add income to your balance sheet, then you should put them on hold until your business is more established.
3. Membership Dues
Building a business is all about networking, and there are countless business networking groups that will try to convince you that your business will suffer if you’re not a part of theirs. Similar to the monthly recurring payments, if a networking group is not going to directly help your business financially, then other than some interesting conversations, it’s a waste of money for you. I speak from experience as someone who spent over $1,000 on two women entrepreneur networking groups only to find that they were not only a waste of my money but they provided little to no business contacts that could help me grow my business.
Rather than invest in a networking group, invest some money to take your current network out for drinks or coffee to help expand your business. Your current network is more inclined to assist you and the drinks will cost you less than a professional networking group.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.