Starting a Business? Take a Page from MacGyver's Book

Back in the 1980s, a popular television show named MacGyver gave rise to a whole new term. Essentially, the cleverness of his ability to extricate himself from life-or-death situations by making something out of practically nothing led to the use of his name as a verb. As in, “I locked myself out of the house, but I managed to McGyver a paper clip onto a popsicle stick with some chewing gum and use it to unlock a window so I could get in.” MacGyvering (being in the process of building something) and MacGyvered (telling the story of your triumph afterward) also became quite popular.

Entrepreneurs who are starting their own businesses in the current economy – whether by choice or circumstances – could learn a lot from our friend Mr. MacGyver. Because while starting a business using conventional methods can be expensive, there are things you can do to severely reduce costs without reducing your ability to do the work or service your customers properly. Here are a few ideas on how to MacGyver your seed money to make it go farther.

Opt for Used Computers Instead of New

Yes, everyone loves a bright, shiny new PC with all its bells and whistles. The thing is, most small business owners really don’t need all that processing power. Take a look at what you want the computer to do. If you’re planning to use it with basic office applications such as word processors and spreadsheets, send and receive email, and surf the Internet, a used or refurbished PC will likely work just fine.

You can purchase used or refurbished computers online for as little as $99. Many of these computers are units that have come off-lease from large corporations, so you know they should have the core capabilities and speed you need.

If you need to share files or resources with one or more co-workers, you can build simple file and print sharing networks with used wireless routers or low-cost devices available at local retailers (as long as you have a little MacGyver in you to put the network together.) As a bonus, by purchasing used technology you’ll also be helping the environment by keeping those PCs out of landfills.

Create a Business Phone System Using Mobile Phones

Mobile phones and PDAs are rapidly displacing the old land line phones among consumers. In fact, the latest figures show that roughly 20 percent of all American households are wireless-only. Now the technology exists to move business phones in the same direction.

Virtual phone services for small business allow you to overlay an entire business phone system on top of any working phone number – including a mobile number. Here’s how they work: when you sign up for a virtual phone service you are assigned a phone number (which will become your “business” number). Usually you can choose between a toll-free or local phone number, although “local” is a loose term since you can choose the area code you want. The service provides business-oriented features such as an auto-attendant to greet callers and direct them to the right people, the ability to assign extensions to different people in the company (even if those people don’t work at the main office), voicemail, call forwarding and more.

Calls to the business phone service number go to the service provider, and then are routed to the phones you identify as being part of your phone system. Here’s where it really gets good.

Each of the extensions can be forwarded to your employees’ own mobile and/or home phones, saving on the cost of phone equipment. Users can receive notifications

that they have a voicemail message in their email, or even receive a file with voicemail message in their email so they don’t have to call in to retrieve it. Anyone on the system can initiate a conference call, and in some cases bring in as many people as they want whenever they want. All of this functionality (and more) comes for a monthly fee that’s often less than the price of one land line – and with no added cost for equipment or technicians to run it.

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