In Ev Bogue's classic work called, Minimalist Business: How To Live and Work Anywhere (sadly, now out of print), he defined a Minimalist Business (MB) like this:
"The idea behind a minimalist business is simple and can be broken down into three rules.
- It has no, or very little, overhead
- It employs as few people as possible, ideally only one
- It runs on automation in order to free up as much of the owner's time as possible "
In contrast to a MB, small businesses are often brick-and-mortar institutions that require a physical location, although some are online. Small businesses usually have more staff and/or more overhead. Overhead is costly. Examples include office space, a desktop computer, filing cabinets, more than one employee, and the inability to scale.
Your MB should have any overhead at all, or very little. Here are six ways to keep your MB overhead ridiculously low so your can realize high profit margins.
1. Keep It Digital
In a MB your products and services are completely digital. Other than business cards which can come in handy if you're that kind of person, you don't need letterhead, envelopes, fancy comb binding systems, or anything else that takes up physical space. As we said above, your MB runs on automation. It's difficult to automate stuffing flyers into envelops and then peeling stamps and restocking them.
When you keep it digital, subscribers use your website to subscribe to your blog, purchase your products, book coaching sessions, comment on a blog post, or get in touch with you via a contact form. Third-party websites can process credit/debit card payments and deliver your products for you while you sleep.
Brick-and-mortar businesses try to mimic MB but they fail because they aren't mobile, stock physical inventory, and often contain needless assets like filing cabinets, multiple computers and leased office space.
2. Avoid Costly Upgrades
The only upgrades I pay for involve airline seats, and even that's rare. Apple, Inc. supplies free operating system updates for their computers, iPads, and iPhones. WordPress supplies free upgrades to the next version of their software (the one that creates this blog). My point is that a MB doesn't require regular costly upgrades to phone systems, intercoms, a better ping pong table in the lunchroom, or fancy coffee services.
A good rule of thumb for your MB is if you think you need to purchase something physical is to plan how you're going to take it with you on vacation in your one bag. I honestly can't think of anything I really need that isn't digital to run my MBs. Have you ever tried to pack a filing cabinet into your carry on?
3. Don't Buy a Printer
Back in the 90s, dot matrix printers were cheap (and so was the print quality). Not long after they were flowed by ink jet printers and then LASER printers. Printer were even given away when you bought a new desktop computer.
A MB doesn't have a need for a printer...ever. I used to think I needed to print out narrative pieces and book drafts to edit them. After doing so, I was then faced with the mountain of paper that I needed to read over and mark up. What a drag that turned out to be.
Just say no to printers. Enough said.
4. Never Stock Inventory
Even worse than owning a printer is the thought of stocking physical inventory. When I published my first book, I ordered hundred of copies and shipped them myself to each customer. Later, when I accounted for the cost incurred writing a short note of thanks inside each book, purchasing packaging materials and then packaging each book, then adding in shipping costs, and mileage on my car, I estimated that in addition to the cost of the book printing, I spent an additional $38 per book in time and cost (which was more than the triple cost of the book)!
That tough me a valuable lesson. It taught me the true value of my time. Sure, I could've hired someone to do that stuff, but that would have been more trouble that it was worth. Since then, with only one exception, I've produced and sold only digital products. It just doesn't pay me to waste time and money (no pun intended).
5. Use Only a Laptop
Macbook, Chromebook, iPad, Surface...they all work. This is because a MB needs to travel with you and a desktop computer doesn't travel well at all. Personally, I might be the only human in the US without a tablet device, because my Macbook Pro is the best computer I've ever used. However, I know people who love their iPads and their tablets and the so-called laptop killer, the Microsoft Surface.
Just be warned that you're most likely going to be writing a good deal on your blog or in your coaching and consulting MB. Because of that, you need to invest in a good keyboard for your tablet if that's your device of choice. Even though I have a Macbook Pro, I have an external Apple keyboard that's more comfortable for my fingers and typing style. Likewise I use an Apple Mouse for the same reason. I use them when seated at a desk and both accessories fit into the one bag that travels with me as a carry on item.
6. Never Hire an Employee
By definition, a MB ceases to exist when more than one person is involved. When you add another person, you have a partnership and a partnership isn't a MB. It might be a lifestyle business and/or an online business, but it's not a MB.
In fact, I'd add to Ev's definition above to include a fourth rule:
4. A MB reflects the individual personality of its owner.
If you need to hire an employee, you're no longer a MB.