Tag Archive: raise_capital

Five Steps to Business Credit

 Operating without loans can have significant impacts on your cash flow and working capital and does nothing extra to build your business credit. Five Steps to Business Credit

Maintaining good business credit is essential, as a bad credit rating may severely hinder your business growth and expansion. Without good business credit, banks can be less likely to accept your loan applications. Operating without loans can have significant impacts on your cash flow and working capital and does nothing extra to build your business credit.

 

In addition, if you skirt your financial responsibilities, it’s unlikely that suppliers will extend your business a trade or credit account. That means that you may lose the ability to leverage the 30-, 60-, and 90-day terms of invoices as short-term loans. In addition, many businesses enjoy discounts provided by suppliers to encourage prompt payment; cash customers usually do not get such discounts.

 

If your business does not have good credit, you can take steps to repair it. The first step to building your business credit is to contact your creditors to set up payment schedules. Such schedules should be reasonable and fair to both your business and the creditor. If you have some history of paying bills promptly, you may find that creditors are willing to set up alternative payment schedules. In addition, successful completion of a payment schedule often leads to a continuing relationship between businesses and creditors.

 

Late payments or unpaid invoices can often be traced back to housekeeping or paperwork issues rather than cash flow problems. Even these types of mistakes can affect your business credit.

To determine the root cause of the problems ask yourself:

  • Are your creditors sending invoices to the correct address and person?
  • Are your payment checks being sent to and received by the correct department and person?
  • Are all parties clear on when payments must be made?

 

Additionally, listed below are steps you can take to improve your business’s creditworthiness:

  • Always pay on time. The ability to repay loans promptly has a great impact on business credit scores. You should endeavor to always pay within the terms you have with your suppliers. On-time payments are the most direct way to improve a business credit rating.
  • Pay your biggest bills first. Some business credit scores are dollar weighted, such as the PAYDEX ® Score. Therefore, if you are consistently paying all of your smaller bills but neglecting your largest, your Paydex score can suffer.
  • If timely payments to suppliers and lenders are not included in your business credit profile, your business may not get the credit it deserves for paying your bills on time. You should monitor your business credit profile at least twice per year to ensure that vendor payment relationships are included.
  • Stay on top of your business credit profile. You must ensure that your business credit profile information is complete and accurate. Address any inaccuracies immediately. Certain business credit companies offer customer services and online tools that can help you update and manage such details.
  • Contribute to your company’s credit profile. You can communicate to the credit bureaus as well. The more information you give to credit bureaus like D&B, the more robust your business credit profile will be. In addition, try to choose suppliers and vendors that report their experiences to credit bureaus, which can also boost your profile.

Many businesses are feeling the pressure of tightened credit requirements. However, by carefully planning and executing your plan, you can help fix and improve your business credit.

Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding

Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital FundingUnderstanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding

Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding. Before taking on venture capital, entrepreneurs must ask themselves a fundamental question – “Do you want to be rich or be king?” As Harvard Business School Professor Noam Wasserman explains, it’s difficult for founders to maintain control over their businesses once they take on outside investors. However, without them, such businesses like Twitter and Facebook would likely have never have taken off. For those entrepreneurs who have developed a product with a large untapped market and a potential for rapid, high growth, venture capital (VC) funding makes sense if you’re willing to give up some control and most likely sell your business at the end of the investment period, or fund life-cycle (i.e. when the fund becomes due). However, if you would like to build a generational business, an angel investor may offer more favorable terms that will allow you to receive some equity while maintaining a degree of control.

 

Looking for that big return

“A VC firm does not invest in a business,” explains investment banker Jeff Koons of San Francisco-based Vista Point Advisors. Instead, it invests in a company that will sell for a lot more than it’s worth at the time of the initial investment. And such firms are looking for a big return (up to 20 times the initial investment) in a relatively short amount of time (3 to 10 years, depending on the fund life-cycle). “If your business is growing just 20 to 30 percent per year, VC funding is not for you,” notes Koons. Focusing primarily on the tech sector, Vista Point acts as a broker to bootstrapped entrepreneurs entering the VC world for the first time. “We help them think through the process from valuation to exit,” notes Koons.

 

Defending your interests 

Vista Point vets various VC firms for the best valuation and possible outcome for the entrepreneur. Unlike others in their field, Vista Point only works on the “sell side,” meaning their sole clients are entrepreneurs. They do not work with VC firms on other deals. “VC firms sometimes look for a break in the negotiations on these smaller deals for the promise of future work for the investment bank on more lucrative deals down the road,” cautions Koons. So a good rule of thumb is to ask any investment brokers if they work on the “buy side,” with VC firms, as well.

 

Having sound advice makes all the difference when entering the complex world of equity financing. Joshua Mag, CEO of SquareHook, a content management system provider, consulted a former professor who is an operating partner at a large VC firm before taking on equity from an angel investor in June 2012. “Potential investors want to know what market you’re targeting and its size,” notes Mag. “They’re not going to invest in something that doesn’t produce a large return, so there needs to be a big potential market for your product.” The angel investment allowed Mag to quit his full-time job to focus exclusively on building his business, which included hiring a few employees and seeking development assistance. “My decision to take on capital was a choice of acceleration,” explains Mag. “Had I not taken on the capital, this would have been a slower task.”

 

Equity comes at a price

Mag gave up 20 percent of equity of his company in exchange for the angel investment; however, a VC investor typically wants at least 20 percent ownership in addition to a board seat and the ultimate sale or IPO of your company upon exit. Nevertheless, how much ownership an entrepreneur gives up, whether to a VC or angel investor, is largely determined by the amount of equity the entrepreneur needs, the valuation of the business, and whether it’s the first, second, or third round of investment.

 

Aaron Skonnard, CEO of Layton, Utah-based Pluralsight, grew his company’s online training platform for software developers organically for about a decade before taking $27.5 million in Series A funding in 2012. “We saw periodic interest over the years from investors,” notes Skonnard. “But we thought it was too risky to give up too much control in case we needed to change direction.” It was only when Skonnard and his partners felt they had a solid business model and were set to enter a high-growth mode that they decided to take on VC funding

Shop around

“It wasn’t so much about the money as forging those strategic relationships,” Skonnard points out. “Once we decided, then it became a financial exercise –– how much do we take, how much do we want to sell, and who’s the right partner to go with.” Skonnard and his partners met with five or six VC firms several times before they decided on one they believed would add the most value to their business. “It was our comfort level with the people and personalities that drove our decision more than the financial metrics,” explains Skonnard. “Make sure you’re happy with the people that will be on your board of directors.”

 

Investors provide more than just cash

While the cash infusion helps grow your company, partnering with a VC firms also gives you access to new players in your industry, which in turn helps attract the top talent and increase your market presence. Pluralsight’s traditional model had been to work directly with content producers to build its online training library. But with the funding, it was able to finance the purchase of two online training companies, which doubled its content library in a matter of months. “The Series A really unlocked our ability to make those acquisitions,” Skonnard points out. “We would have never been able to consider that without such funding.”

 

Beyond their connections in financial and sector-specific industries, some VC investors have an entrepreneurial background as well. Brendan Anderson bought his first business in 1995 and has helped manage and invest in many more since then. In 2006, he co-founded Cleveland, Ohio-based Evolution Capital, which invests in $5- to $6-million companies that have at least $500,000 in free cash flow. “We are point-in-time investors looking for entrepreneurs/founders with a vision creating something compelling in the market,” explains Anderson. He and his partners then work with these entrepreneurs to implement the steps needed for growth.

 

These include getting the entepreneurs’ financials in order to develop a plan for growth, which in turn enables these businesses to attract the best people. Next is transparency, making sure the entrepreneur communicates his vision and shares day-to-day operational data with employees. Finally, holding the entrepreneur and employees accountable for tasks that will move their company forward. “Once these best practices are implemented, they’re happy with the results,” Anderson points out. “But the process of doing it is usually painful.”

 

“The founder/entrepreneur still owns a major piece of the business even after we invest,” Anderson points out. However, Evolution Capital typically controls the majority interest (more than 50%) and maintains the right to change management and control their exit (with a typical investment ranging from 3-7 years). “We want to build businesses that continue to grow long after our ownership,” he says.

 

Understanding terms, conditions, and valuation

If you’re considering taking on equity, it’s critical to understand the terms and conditions of any investment agreement. Whether the entrepreneur maintains some control is largely determined by how the deal is structured. Mag decided to go with an angel investor, who was looking for a longer investment with annual dividends rather than a large payout at the end of a VC fund life-cycle. “Taking on VC means you need to have an exit strategy: IPO, sell, or dividends,” notes Mag. “Most VCs want a full exit to collect on their return within a period that is reasonable.”

And that’s largely determined by when a business becomes part of the fund. “You want to be invested as soon as possible in the life of the fund,” explains Koons. “If there’s only two years left before the VC firm needs to return capital to their limited partners (i.e. investment occurs in year five of a seven year fund), a company could be sold for a loss or spun out even if it’s achieving its growth projections.” Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding

 

Typically, investors are looking for preferred terms that will position them better than other parties (e.g. paid first upon exit, right of first refusal, put option, liquidation preference). Pluralsight has a minority interest deal with their VC investment firm, which has allowed Skonnard and his partners to only give up two seats on their seven-seat board. “The founders still control the board and the ultimate direction of our strategy,” notes Skonnard. “While we have a very healthy relationship with our new board members, we didn’t want to give up too much control.” Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding

 

It’s also important to understand valuation, as you need to know what your company is worth in order to negotiate the best terms. “One way to valuate your business is to look at your competitors to see what they sold for upon exit,” explains Mag. There are a number of public sources and tools that list industry comparables. This will also help figure out how much equity you’ll need to put into your business to achieve your growth plans. “That investment defines what your business will be valued at,” explains Mag. “By taking on more than you need, your business is likely losing equity unnecessarily.” Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding

 

Borrowing Money from Family and Friends To Start Your Business

Borrowing Money from Family and Friends To Start Your Business

by Susan Caminiti

Borrowing Money from Family and Friends To Start Your Business.Chances are they’ve been your biggest cheerleaders as you’ve started and grown your small business. But should family and friends also bankroll your business?

Borrowing money from your parents, in-laws, or even your best friend from college may seem like an easy financial solution when capital is not forthcoming in those early days. But small business experts say this option can be more complicated—and emotionally messy—than it seems. “Most small business owners who go to family for money approach it like they’re about to borrow $20,” says Andrew Keyt, executive director of the Family Business Center at Loyola University Chicago. “The process is too informal and that increases the possibility of tension and misunderstandings with family members down the road.” Borrowing Money from Family and Friends To Start Your Business

Despite those potential pitfalls, small business owners continue to seek out money from those near and dear. A business financing survey by the Global Entrepreneur Monitor, a research consortium that includes Babson College, showed that small businesses raised $41.6 billion in 2010 in so-called informal funds. According to the respondents, 32 percent said the money came from a friend or neighbor; 26 percent said from a close family member; 11 percent from some other relative; and eight percent from a work colleague.

Still, there are ways to borrow seed money from family and friends without making the next holiday gathering stressful and awkward for all involved. Below is some advice from small business experts on how to do it right. Borrowing Money from Family and Friends To Start Your Business

Be clear, candid, and professional

If there’s one topic that people are uncomfortable discussing, it’s money. Talking about money to family only notches up the pain. So says Karen Axelton, co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a market research and consulting firm that helps corporations and government agencies connect with small and mid-size businesses. “Glossing over the details of how much you need and why, because it’s awkward to talk about money with your parents or siblings, is never a good idea,” she says. Borrowing Money from Family and Friends To Start Your Business

FamilyFinancers_PQ.jpgRather, treat the conversation as if you are having it with a stranger—or better yet—a banker. Arrange a time to speak that’s good for everyone and focus only on the issue at hand. Explain the amount of money you’re looking for, your plans for the funds, and how you intend to pay the money back and over what period of time.

It also helps to present potential lenders (yes, even mom and dad) with a detailed business plan. Says Keyt: “Even your closest relatives will want to know if the money is going to some half-baked idea or a business that has a chance to succeed.” Give them time to read it over—preferably without you looking over their shoulder, cautions Axelton. And above all else, Keyt advises, be clear. “Problems arise when both parties have unarticulated expectations. Leave as little as possible open to misunderstanding.”

Define the investment

Are you looking for a loan, equity investment, or an outright gift? Each has a different set of issues—and financial responsibilities—so making sure you define the terms is critical, says Axelton.

With a loan, you’ll want to determine the interest rate you’ll pay on the money you’re borrowing, the repayment period, and what you’ll use the money for. An accountant can draw up these forms, or you can find them through an organization such as SCORE, she says. Borrowing Money from Family and Friends To Start Your Business

Unlike with a bank loan, when the money is coming from mom and dad or the in-laws there’s often wiggle room with the repayment schedule. Pretend there isn’t. Judy Barber, a family business consultant and mediator based in San Francisco, says even if family members don’t need the money repaid on time—or at all—changing the terms of a loan is never a good idea. “It annoys parents because it makes it look like their adult children aren’t taking them or the business seriously,” she says.

Money that comes in exchange for an equity investment is a bit more complicated and will require some soul-searching, say the experts. For instance, do you really want your business savvy father-in-law weighing in on expansion plans or questioning your social media strategy? “Those are the kinds of questions that entrepreneurs have to ask themselves if they’re taking money in exchange for a piece of their company,” says Keyt.

An equity investment also comes with a fiduciary responsibility to share financial data with investors, and in most cases, make them board members. “If you’re going this route, make it clear what percentage of the company they are getting in exchange for their investment and the liquidity options they have when they want to get their money out,” Keyt explains. Also make clear whether or not you’ll be paying dividends to these shareholders and if so, how often. And get professional guidance. Both Keyt and Axelton recommend using a lawyer to draft an equity investment agreement. Borrowing Money from Family and Friends To Start Your Business

As for gifts, well, they too have to be handled with care. To begin with, says Barber, make sure everyone involved understands that the money is just that: a gift, with no expectation that it will be paid back. Further, be sure to stay on top of IRS gifting guidelines. For 2013, the amount of money someone can give as a gift, tax-free, is $14,000, up $1,000 from last year. And of course, the money is not considered taxable income for the recipient.

Put it in writing

Just because these are the people who love you most in the world, doesn’t mean you get to take short cuts when it comes to money. Put everything in writing. “Family and friends are naturally excited for you and optimistic about your chances for success,” says Axelton. Bring everyone back down to earth with a written document that makes clear the terms each party has agreed to, she advises. Enlisting the services of a lawyer is advisable, but not always needed when drafting this kind of agreement, but getting any contract or written agreement notarized is recommended. Borrowing Money from Family and Friends To Start Your Business

It’s also a good idea to include in this document a list of the risks that the lender is taking on by loaning you the money or making an equity investment in your fledgling company. “Not every business succeeds and it’s up to the small business owner to lay out a worst-case-scenario plan,” she says. “What if the business fails and it takes you double the amount of time to repay a loan? Or you can’t repay it at all? You need to set down expectations in writing so everyone knows what the risks are.”

Maintain communication

No, you don’t have to send out daily emails detailing the new client you just snagged or that you’ve hired your third employee. But when you see or speak with your family investors (and you will) give them a brief, honest assessment of how the business is doing and any highlights, say the experts. And of course, if there are dire problems that could impact your ability to start or continue repaying your loan, alert them to that sooner rather than later, says Barber. Borrowing Money from Family and Friends To Start Your Business