It’s an especially great time to be an entrepreneur in Colorado, which is experiencing an entrepreneurial renaissance according to many sources. Core investing principles are intact, but the situational realities as to who will be an interesting funding candidate are likely to be quite different.
The angel investment and private investment arena is still active in this economy. Banks are still lending, they have to. It’s just that now you have to stand out more and show potential investors/lenders that you are worthy of their time and money. They are holding true to principles and actively investigating new facts that influence decisions.
How do you tell investors about your company? What do you tell them to make you attractive to people with the money you want? Does a 100-page business plan do the job?
A business plan is for the entrepreneur. Most investors or lenders will not read a business plan. Who has time for that? Building a business plan is a process that investors/lenders expect you to go through so they know you have thought through and researched, re-written, thought some more and figured out important matters about your company.
What do they read? The Executive Summary. This better be good, no, excellent. The Executive Summary is for the investor/lender. You want to capture their attention in no more than 2-3 pages. In fact, you’ll want to convince them to read beyond the first page. You’ve got 60 – 90 seconds to capture their interest. If they flip to the second page, you have at least got then reading that far. The Executive Summary is a sales tool that has one main purpose: to let them know enough about your business, your company, and you to see if they want to learn more information. It better hit them like a baseball bat because you want them to flip back to the financials. If they do, your Executive Summary has done its job. You want the Executive Summary to give them enough information to have other questions for you. You want the Executive Summary to get them excited, get their juices flowing, get them emotionally involved. If the Executive Summary does not do that to them, it is not worth the paper its printed on.
In order for an early stage or emerging company to raise money, it must provide investors with a set of financial projections. Typically, companies will pull together a top-down P&L projection going out for three to five years. I have learned from hard experience that this is wholly inadequate. You will need a complete Business Plan which once the company starts executing the plan becomes an Operating Plan. The development of financial projections is an interactive exercise with the me working alongside the entrepreneur, not created in a vacuum and thrown over the wall. My business planning work includes teaching the business owner(s) how to explain the financials and you get an understanding of fundamental financial terminology you can show potential investors and lenders.
I act as the Colorado CFO for more than eight companies. I am helping my clients grow a successful business and keep more of their cash. Many companies use a sister or niece to do the bookkeeping and that’s about the extent of financial practices. What happens when you need to really know without a doubt where your company stands financially? What happens when an investor or banker needs accurate information? Do you scramble around and guess at a lot of the numbers? I am helping all my clients make sure their financial reports are not only timely and accurate, but I make sure they spend time learning them and using the for data-driven decision making.
How much time have you spent planning your business? Most entrepreneurs spend more time planning their vacation. The tried and true method for growing a significant business is financial and strategic planning.
OK, so I had better mention cash. Cash is king, no question. Do you know what your cash situation looks like? I don’t mean looking up your bank account balance hourly. I mean do you truly have an idea what what all your current assets are, how much money you’ll have next week, next month, next year? If not, then you’re like most of my clients before I started working with them.
I am helping my clients figure out what their exit strategy options are, when they want to exit, and that knowledge helps me “begin with the end in mind” (per Stephen Covey). We have a great products called Transition Services, developed over 20+ years and helps business owners reach the dollar amount and time frame they have in mind for transitioning their business to another owner.