Don't be afraid to spend money on your business; just be sure you're spending on stuff that will help your business grow.
Here are 10 stories, from real small businesses, of small investments that have turned out to be well worth the cost.
1. Administrative help
"One of the most important investments that I've made was setting a budget to have office help. Although it was challenging to spend resources on hiring an administrator, the move turned out to be vital to the company's functioning. We have been more organized, more productive and I have had the time to think beyond the daily operations."
2. Visible blogging
"My biz partner and I created a simple blog as a way to increase visibility...We made an initial investment of about 6k to have the blog created and within the first few weeks, the blog had netted us projects worth several times the initial investment."
– Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., CSSD, Appetite for Health
3. Tailor-made training
"We decided to invest in a more streamlined training program for our new employees. We created twenty 10-minute videos describing the different parts of our company, our procedures, and our history. The videos have been a big hit—our new hires love them, they save us time, and they guarantee that nothing slips through the cracks in our training program."
– Sander Daniels, Co-Founder of website, Thumbtack.com
4. Buzz-worthy giveaways
"I've conducted giveaways of all sorts of products from T-shirts to electronics and have realized that I get the most bang for my buck through these sweepstakes...The better the prize, the more exposure. I've also given away an Xbox 360 and that received over 11,000 views and thousands of entries."
– Ismail Humet, Co-Founder of MyFreebeez
5. Smart sponsorships
"I agreed to sponsor the state-wide gathering of the MCEEA (Michigan Career Educators and Employer Alliance). The price was right—only $300 for a Silver Sponsorship plus attendance and one year membership in the organization. It was a great investment! Not only was my name on the literature and all the PowerPoint presentations, but also I met great employers and candidate referrers at the conference."
– Adam Kaplan, Big Tent Jobs, LLC
6. Clever contact management
"We invested in using Highrise, a CRM software-as-a-service by 37 Signals, and you could make a claim that it's the best $24 a month we spend...Highrise has paid us back by helping to remind us who we should be following up with, and keeping a history of it, so that we know right away how we met, what we've talked about, when and where it happened."
– Philip S. Chang, partner, Carbon: Publicity & Strategic Communications for Talent
7. Submersive learning
"Hands down the best investment has been to attend conferences. Spending days submerged in my business increased my focus, given me new product ideas, and placed me in a room of aggressive and successful entrepreneurs."
– Lauri Flaquer, Author, Speaker, Business Consultant, Saltar Solutions
8. Deals on meals
"I purchased an Entertainment Book for my region that included coupons and reduced priced meal deals for local restaurants...As a result of using the Entertainment Book and other discount meal programs, I have reduced our annual food and entertainment costs by approximately 30 percent. I have also discovered many new dining options for future meetings as well."
– Crystal L Kendrick, President, The Voice of Your Customer
9. Chief financial consultant
"When I first launched my business in 1999, I was the bookkeeper/controller/CFO/CEO. As we grew, I added a bookkeeper, then a controller. Last year, as we approached $2 million in revenue, my advisory board recommended I hire a CFO consultant to take our financial performance to a new level. Our CFO consultant has been a key player in our success this year and a great investment."
– Bibby Gignilliat, Founder and CEO, Parties That Cook
10. Technology for technology
"I added a zBoost-SOHO cell phone signal booster to my home office and the problem with poor phone reception was resolved. No more problems with missed or dropped calls."
– Roni Pridemore, AquaPR
Annie Mueller is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. She covers small business topics with a focus on lean/zero budget startups, business blogging, and simple (sane) ways business can use social media without selling their souls to Facebook. Her work can be seen online at Investopedia's Financial Edge blog, Young Entrepreneur, Wise Bread, Organic Authority, Modern Mom, and her own site, AnnieMueller.com. Find her on Twitter: @AnnieMueller.