The In Crowd

 

Crowd funding literally is getting everyone you know and everyone that they know and on and on to get involved in what you are doing. This indirect way of fundraising via social media, directly affects your ability to raise a designated amount of money in a short period of time, usually 30 days. I have always said, anything can turn around in 30 days.

It is a relatively simple process; it is quick detailed and most definitely worth the time investment. Most people have heard of Gofundme, Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but at the rate of Crowdfunding success, the sites are numerous.

So how can you pick the right one for your venture? Click on the link to see an extensive flow chart by Eric Markowitz, 22 Crowdfunding Sites (and How to Choose Yours!). This chart will help you drill down to the place where you can find a successful source of funding for your next great idea, project or passion.

https://www.inc.com/magazine/201306/eric-markowitz/how-to-choose-a-crowdfunder.html

 

EXIT STRATEGIES

 

You don’t immediately think, “I must plan for an out, when I have just jumped in.” But this rational is indeed so when it comes to entrepreneurial success. This is your baby- you have planted watered, tended, weathered and harvested only to see your field of dreams in the rear-view mirror instead of the windshield.

Exit Strategies allow you to plan your Out– You ultimately want to optimize the best situation rather than escape a bad one. Exit strategies are about succession planning and successful transitioning. I created a YouTube video that talks about various ways to escape.

THE WHOLE OF THE MATTER-Just as you plan to build the business to be profitable, plan to leave the business with a profit.

 

CONSIDER COMMUNITY

Even though the community bank presence in local communities have been declining since 1984 from 17,401 to 6,146 in 2013, their contribution to small business operations still makes and impact in the communities they serve. (The Statistical Protal, 2017.)

WHY THE DECLINE? Stricter regulations due to the housing crisis almost ten years ago, shift in demand and interest rates initiated the spiral. Many community banks have changed faces several times, “but the profitability of those remaining has recovered closer to pre-crisis levels than it has for larger banks. And, perhaps most important, community banks’ share of the market for small business loans—the lifeblood of community banking—remains robust and vastly disproportionate to their size.” (Community Banking, 2016)

WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE? People! People bank with people and not buildings. Most banks have similar products and rates, but it is the teller, customer service representative and bankers who are constant fixtures even when the name changes that make the difference. Community Banking in the 21st Century 2016 National Survey “…offers insight into the close relationships that community bankers cultivate with these borrowers, to whom they lent $340 billion last year, an amount that, while slightly lower than in previous years, was nevertheless higher than the amount extended by their larger counterparts.” (Community Banking, 2016)

WHY COMMUNITY? Community Bankers are our friends and neighbors. The personal attention with face-to-face interactions allow for long-term relationships to be maintained while consistently not wavering with a .25 discount on a loan. “Unlike the large banks, community banks have usually been seen as a friend to the entrepreneur.” (Rogers, 2014, pg.180) Many of the larger banks offer an order taking style of service. Even though you can sit down with a person, lending decisions are made from a centralized loan office at head quarters which is hundreds of miles from small town USA. Depending on loan size, community lenders can decision loans at the branch and have answers within 24-48 hours. The community banker knows their customers and the customer capacity outsideof the ratios.

They work with you where you are not from an electronic application. “Close relationships between businesses and banks also are suggested by the frequency with which community bankers meet with, provide advice to or otherwise monitor small business borrowers.” (Community Banking, 2016) The frequency of the meeting may vary from quarterly to annually, but the premise is based on the needs of the customer.

I support community banks because I used to be a part of this financial sector. It brought me joy to accommodate a customer’s needs or offer an alternative solution. Community banks are a trusted friend for entrepreneurs. Start building your relationship today.

References

Community Banking in the 21st Century 2016 National Survey. (2016, September 28). Retrieved from Community Banking: https://www.communitybanking.org/~/media/files/communitybanking/2016/cb21cpublication_2016.pdf?la=en

Rogers, S. (2014). Entrepreneurial Finance Finance and Business Strategies for the Serious Entrepreneur. New York: McGraw Hill.

The Statistical Protal. (n.d.). Retrieved from Statistica: https://www.statista.com/statistics/318034/community-banks-number-usa/

 

One Eyelet at a Time

 Bootstrapping ENT 650

In 1997, little did I know I would begin a venture as an entrepreneur. I just thought a group of friends that sang together in church were going to make something special and offer music outside the four walls of the sanctuary. It sounded simple enough because we had singers and musicians. My partner who was the visionary behind this plan, had been in the music industry before and he was a musician and producer. I was a banker by day and a songwriter by night. We had a place to practice, voices and full instrumentation, but where was the money coming from to start lacing the shoe? It came from our own boot.

I did not know it then, but our financial source came from bootstrapping. Investopedia describes bootstrapping as building a company without external investments. The startup company uses personal finances and the operating revenue generated by the company for capital. We held true the characteristics of a bootstrapping. There was little money as discretionary income and assets were definitely invisible to the naked eye. We didn’t have savings, but we were wealthy in sweat equity. We knew if we could complete a recording, we could sell the product at concerts. I had two vehicles at the time and I sold my work car to purchase the first round of product. That $1500, though little, gave our recording company straps.

The recording company branched off into another line of the business allowing us to form a lighting and sound company. The extra income from providing this service at other venues gave an additional infusion of capital for the recordings. We had basically all equipment needed for these other shows and if it was something that we didn’t have, we rented it and increased our base cost of service.

These two ventures were maintained for nine years by owner financing and operating revenues without other investors. We did not ask the members of the group to make any investment, allowing us to maintain control over the direction of the companies. Also we did not want them to take a personal loss on our dreams. Though it was beneficial for us to have decision-making power, we only achieved regional success. Our finances limited our ability to expand, but we were able to tie the laces into a bow by establishing ourselves as music artist one eyelet at a time.

RESOURCE

Bootstrapping. (2003, November 25). Retrieved September 30, 2017, from http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bootstrapping.asp

 

 

Cash Flow Management

Cash Flow Management – ENT650

Once you have developed a cash flow forecasting module, management of it is where you can see where your projections meet reality. Cash flow management is like pinching pennies. You pinch today in order to have reserves for tomorrow to handle those shifts in revenue. But even more than just being frugal, Rogers and Makonnen believe that it includes “…making somewhat complicated decisions about delaying payments to a supplier in order to use the cash resources to temporarily increase production.” (2014, pg. 85) A delay in payment will allow you to float cash for a short period of time, but you will run the risk of insolvency by not paying your obligations when due. Inc. suggests that “Insolvency is the primary reason firms go bankrupt; [whereas] efficient cash management means more than just preventing bankruptcy. It improves the profitability and reduces the risk….” There is a tight balancing act between outflows and inflows to ensure proper cash flow management.

Mismanagement of cash flows creates a bundle of problems for start-ups which include inability to: support consumer demand, manage unforeseen costs, limits growth potential and creates a high turnover rate. These are just a few examples of a slow drain on cash flow that dehydrates the lifeline of the business.

In a case study originally conducted by SmartCompany.com.au, Emily Ross gives best practices for managing cash flows in a “Cash flow boot camp checklist.”

  1. Focus on sales and debt management
  2. Create a cash flow boot camp checklist with clear payment terms
  3. Find a great accountant for daily monitoring
  4. Chase early, not later by setting clear payments goals
  5. Communicate, communicate, communicate – be transparent when talking fees
  6. Get disciplined by issuing timely and correct invoices with follow-up
  7. Hedge your bets with a mixture of long and short term payments
  8. Spread out payments to decrease default of total debt owed
  9. Take further action with debt collections

I believe Inc. sums the cash flow management task when it suggests, “The key to successful cash management, therefore, lies in tabulating realistic projections, monitoring collections and disbursements, establishing effective billing and collection measures, and adhering to budgetary restrictions.” For a new entrepreneur, enlisting the help of an account or accounting software with help to manage cash flows so that you can make profitable decisions about funding your business.

RESOURCES

Cash Management. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.inc.com/guides/finance/cashmanagement.html

Rogers, S., & Makonnen, R. (2014). Entrepreneurial finance: finance and business strategies for the serious entrepreneur. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Ross, E. (n.d.). Entrepreneurs reveal their cash flow advice. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from http://www.business.vic.gov.au/case-studies/entrepreneurs-reveal-their-cash-flow-advice

 

Cash Flow Forecasting

Cash Flow Forecasting-ENT 650

Financing for your company can be determined by preparing a cash flow forecast. Your financial needs can be managed much better when this forecast in place. “The forecast will tell you if your business will have enough cash to run the business or pay to expand it. It will also show you when more cash is going out of the business, than in.” (Business Victoria, 2017) Financing needs can change due to short term growth such as holiday or seasonal sales and long-term development for expansion due to demand which also will require an increase in employees. Repairs or new equipment also need to be taken into consideration. (Rogers & Makonnen, 2014)

Forecasting is about the future. Your future sustainability and your future growth. Forecasting for an existing business starts with the previous year’s sales. For a start-up, an estimation or assumptions will be used. By estimating all your expenses or outgoing cash, you will be have a better picture of the sales or capital needed to cover the expenses. A three to five year plan is a good start.

Outflows and Inflows will look different for the type of business. Below are just a few considerations for each category given by Business Victoria.

OUTFLOWS INFLOWS
Operation expenses Rebates and refunds
New assets Owner investment
Loan repayments External grant funding
Payments to owners Sale of assets
Investing surplus funds Royalties

Once you determine what capital is needed, another important consideration is when to obtain it. Rogers and Makonnen offer two common practices-Series of Funding and All Funding at One Time. Series is getting “only what you need year to year… [and All Funding] is that you should get the maximum that you will need at once.”(2017, pg. 84) Both offer uncertainties, but the determination is based on the confidence you have in the forecasts.

Accuracy in forecasting is crucial for cash flow management. You are not only looking at the inflows and outflows, but also timing. Your projections determine your success and growth. Part of the process also includes checking actual results with what has been projected, which we will take a closer look at in the Cash flow management blog.

Resources to help you manage this process include software packages like Quick Books and Excel Templates.

RESOURCES

State Government of Victoria. (2017, July 21.) Cash flow forecasting. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from http://www.business.vic.gov.au/money-profit-and-accounting/getting-paid-on-time/cash-flow-statement-projection-with-template

Rogers, S., & Makonnen, R. (2014). Entrepreneurial finance: finance and business strategies for the serious entrepreneur. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Bank On You

The life-line for creating a successful start-up entails securing capital. Be it your money or someone else’s, the financing of your big idea or dream translates into cash flow-in and out. Maybe you have been saving for this new venture or you are enlisting financial support from venture capitalists or angel investors. Another alternative funding source could derive from a financial institution. Any external funding support will require that you prove your ability to be trusted in order for risk to be taken by others. You can risk your own money at your expense, but when you enlist the help of others, your dream becomes their expense or profit.

You, the entrepreneur are the key factor for debt or equity financing. What makes an entrepreneur attractive for risk? “Ideally, investors prefer people who have both entrepreneurial and specific industry experience.” (Rogers and Makonnen, 2014, pg. 2) Investors are more comfortable with those who have the know–how to make it work. It is similar to applying for a job. The employer may require a certain degree level and years of experience or the years of experience in lieu of the degree. They want to see a proven track record of success.

RATING EXPEREINCE
A Entrepreneurship and industry
B Entrepreneurship or industry
C No entrepreneurship or industry

Table 1-1 (pg. 2)

 

Investors rate entrepreneurs with an A, B, or C depending on experience. The table above taken shows how these ratings are determined. An A rating is given to a person who has “…experience as an owner or even an employee of an entrepreneurial firm and also experience in the industry that the company will compete in.” B rated entrepreneurs “…have experience either in entrepreneurship or in industry, but not both.” (pg. 2) The C rating, which is least desirable, with no entrepreneurial or industry experience, sends a red-flag to investors. No history in business says that you are still a dreamer.

Position yourself for favorable outcomes. The life of your business depends on your expertise. A race car only experiences the checkered flag because of the driver’s practice, passion, and pursuit. Even though a race car only has a seat for one, the help of the pit crew (management team) creates a winning situation for everyone. But it is you, the driver, which everyone is banking on to come across the finish line first. Bank on you to make the business successful and others will bank on you too.

RESOURCE

Rogers, S., & Makonnen, R. (2014). Entrepreneurial finance: finance and business strategies for the serious entrepreneur. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Who’s Driving Your Bus?

 

 

I have this saying “who’s driving your bus?” There are many people and things vying for our time which can not be redeemed. Are you true to yourself, your vision and your dreams? Stagnation creeps in, and you stop chasing dreams with moving parts and uncontrollable variables that push you out of your recliner into unknown risk. Every day that we decide to be present, whether in our homes, at work or in the marketplace we take risks. There are relationship risks (do they like me, am I funny enough, will they call me back). We take business risks (today I am going to stand for what is right and not for what is profitable). Alternatively, we ignore health risks (our internal alarm warning us of hidden dangers under our skin). Whoever or whatever gets the most attention is driving. Where are you going? Only time will tell. That is a lie for time cannot be recaptured. It just keeps slipping away.

Time is an “un-renewable currency.” Dr. Johnathan Welton, founder of the Welton Academy Supernatural Bible School, author and lecturer, believes, “All cultures and societies have currency, whether it is paper money or a barter/exchange system, at the root of it all is time. He calls it “Time-Wealth.” (2017, Welton) There are four stages of time-wealth that feed into entrepreneurship: selling your time, selling your knowledge, creating investments, and receiving inheritance.

Selling your time is working for an hourly wage. “When a sixteen-year-old wants to buy a $1000 car to get around town, typically he must get an hourly job …$10 a hour, the hours of his life are bought from him….” One hundred hours equal a hooptie. Selling your knowledge consists of gaining knowledge that “can be sold at a much higher rate than selling your time directly. For example, this would be a lawyer, author, doctor, mechanic, etc., essentially all specialized knowledge.” Creating investments, “…can provide a lot more time and freedom for the individual that is living in the knowledge level. By finding a way to create a system where paper money begets more paper money, this creates Time-Wealth because the money is making more of itself without time being used to create it.” Moreover, finally receiving an inheritance is generated from the creating investments. “[It] only comes because someone previous has gone through the first three levels, then they have passed the investments to the next generation without that generation having to go through the first three levels themselves” (Welton).

This time wealth model moves us from wage earner to entrepreneur for our children to imitate! We are teaching the next generation how to obtain wisdom to secure their future by our actions? We are providing a platform for leadership and business.

I found three character traits from Micha Kaufman’s article 10 Traits for Great Business Leaders (2014) that can help one get back in the driver’s seat and better manage time. Since we all can identify with our passion, the trait I will start with is a Singular Vision. Our many talents are not meant to be explored all at once. Kaufman says, “It all starts with an idea. Howard Schultz envisioned a single brand with coffeehouses across the globe. He turned that dream into a reality and founded Starbucks.” The next important driver trait would be Persistence. We have to keep it moving forward until that vision or dream is out of your head and in the homes of millions. “In the 1890s, Henry Ford came up with the Ford Quadricycle …it wasn’t a success. Ford later founded the Ford Motor F +0.00% Company [;] invented the Model T…, “and the rest is history. Finally and what I saw as most the most important trait, Can’t Get No Satisfaction. The sky is not the limit. There are countless galaxies beyond what we see. “Great business leaders are never satisfied and continually strive to take their business to the next level. As Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, said, ‘The most dangerous poison is the feeling of achievement. The antidote is to every evening think what can be done better tomorrow'” (Kaufman). We were created to solve problems! We should be in relentless pursuit of problems to be solved.

The course of your life is in your hands. The decisions you make to take control of it and your time will change your life and others around you. Ultimately our perception and focus have to change. Our understanding gives us conviction, hope and determination to be doers. Our focus keeps us on track. One idea or invention can mean the difference between poverty or prosperity; mediocre or marvelous; and average or anomalous. Energy, money even our youth is renewable, but the one thing we cannot get back is time. Don‘t continue to let time and wealth fade into the distance.

Resources

Kaufman, M. (2014, September 08). 10 Traits Of Great Business Leaders. Retrieved June 22, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/michakaufman/2014/09/05/10-traits-of-great-business-leaders/#118279f12dc7.

Welton, J. (2017, May 25). The Four Levels of Time Wealth. Retrieved June 10, 2017, from https://weltonacademy.com/blogs/jonathanwelton.

 

Let’s Make a Deal

ENT640 – Winning Angels -Negotiating

Last Friday night I had the opportunity to watch some television. The remote is not the first thing I grab if I have some down town. Usually it’s closing my eyes. As I scrolled, I came across SHARK TANK (ABC). I call it the 20th century let’s make a deal. It is motivating to see how they all came from humble beginnings, yet with perseverance are now the shot callers to make dreams come true. They all have different personalities yet their commonality make each one a force to be reckoned with when it comes to negotiating.

Amis and Stevenson believe, “How you think about negotiation is important not only because it impacts the terms, price, and overall structure of the deal, but also because it is a prelude to the highly interdependent relationship formed between the investor and the entrepreneur.” (2001, pg. 225) At the end of a deal, the investor gives the entrepreneurs a hug instead of just handshakes. Even though negotiations usually involve “structure (terms), price, amount of capital that will be invested and role,” the entering of personal space with an embrace points to a deeper relationship than just clicking a button to invest. (p. 225)

Amis and Stevenson tell us to consider “your preferred role, time availability, preferred relationship with the entrepreneur, whether you are the lead investor, and the amount of capital you tend to invest” for determining your negotiation strategy. (pg.225) Last night’s episode brought a few deals where young and eager entrepreneurs already had lead investors. I saw how a good deal was no longer attractive because of their secondary position. Of course at that point there was no relationship with the entrepreneur and the amount of capital was not a huge concern. The timing of when an investor receives the return-on-invest (ROI) is crucial to the deal. It’s a difference to wait and be first in line, but to wait and to be second is not an attractive view for the risk.

I watched as the interested investors negotiated the terms rather than the price and deals were at $100,000, which is change for a millionaire. “By giving the entrepreneur their own proposed terms, it should be hard for them to regret it later.” (pg. 226) Here again we are looking at relationship. But that relationship does not trump ROI. Of the four investors at least two “take a pass” leaving them to drill down until they strike water or pull out beforehand. The investors do exactly as Amis and Stevenson propose when taking a pass. They let them know with “positive feelings about the project (rejection is always a sensitive undertaking) along with whatever issues led [them] to [their] conclusion.” (pg. 227) And they do it with a smile; it’s not personal, just business.

Negotiating is like a work of art. The entrepreneur brings the canvas and the brush bidding the investor to provide the paint for their picture. But are the colors right to make this a masterpiece that they envisioned? Or will there be compromising to make this vision a tangible offering in the marketplace? Only the entrepreneur can decide.

Resources

Amis, D., & Stevenson, H. H. (2001). Winning angels: the seven fundamentals of early-stage investing. London: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

Burnett, M. (Producer). (2017, June 16). Shark Tank [Television series episode]. In Shark Tank. ABC.

 

Creating Win-Win Situations

ENT640 – Winning Angels – Structuring

“Structuring the deal is a key aspect of completing an angel round of financing. It is critical to ensuring that management, employees, past investors, current investors and future investors are all satisfied with the company under its new capital structure.” (2007, Koss)

How do I create win-win situations when structuring a deal? Amis and Stevenson tend to think that “both enlightened and so-called virgin angels think that structure doesn’t matter too much.” (2001, pg. 182) Trust is the anchor or they reserve to preserve the relationship instead being a hard-noise.

What does a win-win or “sensible deal” look like? Questions to ponder:

Is it simple? Think of the document like a resume-one or two pages is enough. “…complicated structures create more work and less flexibility down the road.” (pg. 206) The courtship will end if the exchange is too complicated. Is it fair? Structure can be used to limit the entrepreneurs exit and to ensure that they are on course. Is there a reflection of trust or verbiage? Here again we reflect on trust in the relationship which will show transparency instead of terminology that confuses and even deters the deal. Is it robust enough to weather a slight differentiation in the plan? Is there a perverse incentive section to cause all involved to behave badly? (pg. 182) Remember the relationship for the greater gain.Structuring is about equity ownership. A lesson in stock options… “Equity ownership structures commonly used are common stock, preferred stock, participating preferred stock, and convertible notes. Preferred stock is distinguished from common stock when the company goes bankrupt or undergoes liquidation. Then the preferred stock holders have priority in getting their invested capital back, along with any unpaid dividends (known as a preferred return), before the common stock holders receive any distributions. In contrast to preferred stockholders, participating preferred stockholders will be repaid their original investment plus any unpaid dividends upon liquidation, and then share in the remaining assets as if they held common stock. Thus, the participating preferred stockholders still earn a return, even if common stockholders realize little or no return. Convertible preferred shares are able to be converted to common shares at a predefined conversion rate. They perform like a note by providing downside protection for the investor because they have preferred status and the option to convert to common stock provides upside.” (Koss)

The key to structuring is equity departure on the part of the entrepreneur. How much equity you are willing to share will affect future aspects of your business.

Resources

Amis, D., & Stevenson, H. H. (2001). Winning angels: the seven fundamentals of early-stage investing. London: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

Koss, A. (2007, July). Best Practice Guidance for Angel Groups-Deal Structure and Negotiation. Retrieved June 18, 2017, from http://www.angelcapitalassociation.org/data/Documents/Resources/AngelCapitalEducation/ACEF_BEST_PRACTICES_Deal_Structuring.pdf