My father is always leaving behind crumbs of wisdom for me, and I never know what he’s referring to until I hit a roadblock or stumble into a challenge in business.

“It’s not about money, it’s about people.”

What makes his knowledge so sage anyway? And what does he mean it’s not about money, it’s about people?

Many of the lessons I’ve learned along the way have come from falling flat on my face, but my mentor has been my father – who has been an entrepreneur for decades. I fancy his storyline much better than my entrepreneurial journey. He was born in Iraq; his first brush with business came out of a primal instinct to survive — and he’s an example of what happens when you combine hard work and determination. No matter your background, or circumstance — it’s possible to achieve anything you want in life. He is proof of that.

“Your biggest mentor will be your biggest investor.”

He is a man of few words, but his words come with intensity — and a straight forwardness that would make most uncomfortable.

“You need to read this.”

“Take a look.”

“I don’t like that.”

I’ve learned to listen intently, and read between the lines. So if it isn’t about money, then what is it about? The conversation was about how tough it has been to scale HER Magazine (this is no secret – most companies under 5 years old face this conundrum ) “If only I had a million dollars in funding”, I told him.

“That’s where you’re wrong”, he retorted.

Look, let’s be logical here. Of course you need money – those Benjamin Franklins in the bank mean you can invest in your business. But your business is mostly comprised of people. Without the right people, you’re on a road to nowhere.

And that’s what he meant. People who raise VC funding get it wrong all the time. They completely screw up business — and come out on the other end more defeated than going in. So my father is right in many ways. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have the right people — you’re screwed. And if you don’t have the knowledge and lessons learned through failing over and over again, money + a newbie to business? It doesn’t mean they are climbing to success any faster than you. You may believe they have an advantage, but in many ways too much funding up front could be a disadvantage.

In a recent interview with Marie Forleo, Shark Tank Investor and founder of FUBU Daymond John talks about why you need to keep a broke mindset in business. Sounds counterintuitive especially if you listen to all the wannabe mindset coaches out there, but there’s something to be said about John’s philosophy and my father’s for that matter.

John reveals what his early days as a businessman were like, working at Red Lobster even though it appeared everything was going right with FUBU. He focused 80% of his energy on his day job, while hustling 20% of his time for his fashion brand. Over time, those percentages flip flopped.

That has been no different for me and so many business women and men who are in their early days of entrepreneurship. And by early, I mean the first 5 years.

So, some quick tips if you think money is the problem (it’s finding the right people) – how can you do that if you’re low on cash?

    1. Lead with your mission, purpose — your WHY. This will not only inspire those around you, and attract people you want in your business — but it means that others are most likely willing to work with you at a lower rate than they typically do knowing that you’re a start up and most importantly, knowing that their work means something. Make it meaningful and you’ll have no problem attracting people to your company at first. (just remember that this won’t work long term – as your profits grow, what you pay people should absolutely increase)
    2. Recruit an Intern and offer Mentorship. I don’t know about you, but I would have loved for the opportunity to learn under the wings of someone I admired. Still would. There are hungry millennials waiting for the invitation to work with you. Offer mentorship along with their internship. I was an intern for two years when I first embarked on a career in TV. It was the best free work I’ve ever done, and yes in those days interns didn’t get paid. They still shouldn’t in my opinion.
    3. FFF – Friends, Family and Fools. You want to accomplish some cool things right? Turn to your friends – ask for the ‘hook up’ …or ask your family what resources they can provide to help you get off the ground. And if all else fails – there’s always some fool out there willing to invest in your crazy idea.

It is possible to build a business without a big bank supplying you with an endless stream of money. It is however impossible to create a thriving company without some support. This mean you hustle, you work – until you can afford to somehow get your passion off the ground.

This is my Letter from the Founder in the August issue of HER Magazine. If you’d like to learn more about our digital publication, we’d love to send you a free copy. Just click that image below.

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