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David FullerIt was my lucky day when Emile told me he had some roadkill in his freezer that he would trade for a couple cases of beer. Not so lucky for the cow that had been hit by the semi on the highway, I guess.

Emile told me he had lots of steaks in the boxes he was clearing out of his freezer. If I was to marinate those steaks for several days, they would be fine to serve at my company barbecue, he said.

Serve them I did, grilled over a cut-up shopping cart in the backyard of my parents’ home, to the investors in my fledgling startup.

The company was running short on money and for two years I had held our required annual general meeting with a barbecue. The only thing different this year was that the meat had been tenderized by a truck.

As business owners, sometimes we need to think outside the box to make things happen. When we’re running short on cash, we need to resort to untraditional means that result in success. Jay Conrad Levinson in his classic business book Guerrilla Marketing, recommends that small businesses do that all the time.

Click here to downloadWhether we’re trying to reach prospective customers, doing research for our companies or just serving meals to our unsuspecting investors, being creative can save us lots of money and get people talking. When we get people talking about our business, we’re often on the road to success. When we run lean companies with few extraordinary expenses, we reduce waste and put money away for times when we really need it.

Running a lean company doesn’t mean being cheap with the things that count – our employees and our customers. Running lean means we think of ways that help us get the end result without spending cash we often don’t have. This means that before investing huge amounts in big changes, we try small changes first. Then we get feedback, and tweak our plan and try again.

In our retail stores, we would make changes while the store was still open, in some cases completely changing the layout over a couple of weeks with customers milling around. Not only did this get our customers interacting, but it allowed us to use our staff to help out and get involved.

We would have a pretty good idea of what the end result was supposed to be, but because we were trying things out as we went along, the result was often better than intended. If we saw something wasn’t going to work or needed tweaking based on our customers’ comments, we would make those changes. Often, staff who hadn’t been involved in the planning stage would come up with ideas that were fundamentally superior to ones I had thought of.

More advice on running your business

So how much is a business worth?

Many times as business owners, we think there’s only one way to do things. Sometimes the fastest way to the end result is the most expensive. However, when we slow things down, look for other options and are creative in our thinking, we can save money, time and energy.

I served roadkill to my investors because I didn’t have any other option. My startup was low on cash and this was going to save me hundreds of dollars. Not only did my investors enjoy the steaks, which were nice and tender after marinating for two days, but many asked for my recipe (email me for the roadkill recipe).

The meeting was a success, and I was able to move forward and find a buyer for the business to ensure my investors would get most of their money back.

I never did tell my investors that the meat at that meeting was roadkill. But then again, they never asked.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. mail your roadkill recipes or questions to [email protected]. For interview requests, click here.

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