Page 1 of 212

The Business Model

There are seven stages in the life-cycle of a business:

  1. Assessment (ideas, resources, market)
  2. Seed (nurturing the idea)
  3. Discovery (discovering a sustainably profitable business model)
  4. Proof (proving the business model)
  5. Scale
  6. Execution
  7. Exit

 

Most people starting this journey for the first time think they will go directly from brilliant business idea to execution of a highly lucrative business model. What they miss is all the hard work in between that it takes to nurture their idea, discover a viable, sustainably profitable business model, prove that model and then scale that model into the highly lucrative machine of their initial dreams.

In addition, most of the business startup press, especially the maximum-buzz high technology startup media, concentrates on the Lean Startup methodology as applied to the business model discovery phase. http://theleanstartup.com/ This leads some first time entrepreneurs to believe that as long as they optimize the business model discovery stage of the journey, nothing else really matters. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

» » » Click here to read the rest of this post « « «

Cash Flow

Cash flow is the top challenge for just about every new business in the world.

Most people who are new to business are fearful, if not overwhelmed, by the financial side of the business. Not many new entrepreneurs have a working understanding of the financial terms, much less the reports, used by business finance professionals. How many new entrepreneurs understand the differences between and the implications of cash versus accrual accounting? Not many.

This is a problem because people tend to avoid, downplay and fear that which they don’t understand. Accounting and finance are no exception. Entrepreneurs who have little to no understanding of finance and even less available time to go up the learning curve on it are naturally vulnerable to financial challenges, if not disaster, in their businesses.

The key to overcoming this is to focus on cash flow, because that is what will kill your business.

» » » Click here to read the rest of this post « « «

Crowdfunding

A relatively recent form of raising money to start or grow a business is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is crowdsourcing for money. With crowdfunding, you take in money from a large number of people, each of whom contributes a relatively small amount. Lots of people each invest small amounts of money, thereby spreading the risk of any one business failure among a large number of people and providing anyone who wants to be in the game the opportunity to share in the upside of a big startup win.

While this sounds logical enough, taking money from others in exchange for a piece of your business is a highly regulated activity in the U.S. So many scam artists have fleeced so many widows, children and inexperienced investors out of their life savings to fund non-existent or otherwise fraudulent businesses that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has made it very, very challenging to accept money in exchange for equity in your business.

The SEC restricts private investments for equity to people who are “accredited investors.” Accredited investors are high-net-worth individuals and people who can prove they are sophisticated, informed investors. The pool of accredited investors is not tiny, but it’s not the millions to billions of people who are available via internet crowdfunding.

The SEC is currently reviewing their restrictions and may authorize an officially sanctioned form of crowdfunding. In the meantime, it is caveat emptor, meaning it is incumbent upon you to ensure that any money you take from anyone in exchange for equity is in compliance with any and all applicable regulations.

The Initial VC Pitch

What should my initial VC pitch be?

When you set out to raise capital, one of your biggest challenges is to craft and deliver an effective pitch.

If you’ve got a business model that is suitable for Venture Capital (VC) funding, you will be participating in a very competitive environment for only a relative handful of capital allocations.

Far fewer than 1 in 1,000 VC pitches receive VC investment, so it is very important to make the most of your opportunity.

The first and most important factor is to research the VC firm before you pitch them.

First, research the VC firm itself. Start with the basics. Do they invest in your market? Do they invest at your stage of growth?

Next, ensure that they have an active fund that they are investing. If the fund is closed out or the remaining balance is being held back to sustain their portfolio companies through tough times, then the VC firm is not a candidate.

Last, check their reputation. Are they people who are assets to their portfolio companies? Do they add value beyond the cash? Talk to CEOs in their active portfolio and, especially, seek out CEOs from companies that the VC funded but later abandoned, shut-down or otherwise shared a negative outcome. It is very important to discover how the VC responds to adversity since every startup is a long string of adverse events overcome, one-by-one.

» » » Click here to read the rest of this post « « «

Funding via MicroLoans

Funding my business; all I need is a small amount to get started

By far the most popular challenge here at the Idea to Exit answer desk is funding a business, especially in the initial stages.

The first step in funding a business is to understand the basics of funding.

Those who are pursuing a small-scale, lifestyle business or bootstrapping their startup may only need a few thousand dollars to get their business started.

One path to small amounts of startup capital is a microloan.

Microloans are best known for helping people in developing economies build small businesses via loans of very small amounts, from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars, through programs from Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) such as Kiva http://www.kiva.org/ .

However, there are also microloan programs in developed countries, including the U.S., whose purpose is to fund small business startups by making loans in amounts of a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.

» » » Click here to read the rest of this post « « «

Patents

I have been granted a patent by the United States Patent Office. I am seeking funds to help with the manufacturing in China.

Congratulations on your patent.

By obtaining a patent, you have obtained Intellectual Property (IP) protection for your product. In order for a competitor to directly compete with your device, they must either pay you a licensing fee for the use of your patented design or create an alternative design that accomplishes the same purpose.

In a broad sense, you have erected a barrier to entry for competitors. Barriers to entry can be created by a dominant brand position, capital resources, unique product capabilities, proprietary sales channels, vendor and customer relationships, etc. All of those barriers to entry are market based.

A patent is a legal barrier to entry in a specific market. In your case, you have a U.S. patent, so your design is protected in the U.S. market. A country specific patent protects products in that country. An International Patent protects a design in all countries who are party to the international patent agreement.

The burden of any legal barrier to entry such as a patent or copyright is that it is incumbent on you, the patent holder, to enforce your rights. That means you must police the marketplace to discover infringing products and file (and pay for) legal action to stop the infringing product’s sales.

The upside of a patent is that it provides legal and enforceable IP protection. The downside is that you need the required capital and legal resources to enforce your patent.

» » » Click here to read the rest of this post « « «

Requirements for business in my state

Knowing the requirements to run a business

Starting your own business is a very daunting challenge, but there are many resources available to help you learn the basics of business.

If you are new to business, I recommend beginning with your local Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) chapter: http://www.score.org/

SCORE’s services are entirely free.

SCORE can provide the basic information around the nuts-and-bolts of starting a business.

Beyond SCORE, your local public library has book, magazines, videos and audio recordings that address business topics.

There are a wide variety of online resources related to business, including:

» » » Click here to read the rest of this post « « «

Diverse Offerings

This challenge is one I see a lot while providing management consulting, mentoring and coaching to entrepreneurs and startup teams.

For example, a business plans to offer the following products and services:

  1. web design
  2. web site maintenance
  3. web design instruction
  4. instructional packages for website owners
  5. life coaching
  6. photography
  7. public speaking
  8. writing
  9. professional skating instruction

You can make the case that 1-4 are related products and could be complementary offerings.

You can also make a case that public speaking and writing can address any of the other offerings.

However, you cannot make a case that attempting to sell all of these diverse products and services is possible in a brand coherent, much less an energy and capital efficient, manner.

I have personally been a professional photographer, public speaker and writer. I know, first-hand, how much time, energy and marketing focus is required to be a success in any one of those three endeavors.

And that is really the point here. It is tough enough to build a successful business around any one, single offering, much less nine, and especially nine that are either completely disparate or tenuously related.

Each offering you sell has its own set of development, maintenance, delivery and support requirements. Each offering has its own market and customers, each requiring very specific value propositions, brand positionings, marketing messages, sales channels and execution.

Each business is a bucking bronco in its own right.

Photo: Meralain via Flickr

 

Trying to ride multiple horses at once is tough enough as a rodeo trick.

It is not a valid business model.

You need to pick a horse and ride it.

Pick one horse, one market, one set of customers, one value proposition, one brand position, one marketing message, one sales channel and one business model to execute.

Find a market niche and own that niche. Then expand from there.

Nine horses is too many to ride.

Before you build a business plan, pick a horse and ride it.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Getting Money to Start My Business

Your biggest business challenge this week: money to start my business idea

Capitalizing a new business is one of the largest challenges to overcome.

However, most entrepreneurs focus too much on this factor. They think that their business idea is so foolproof, all they need is some money to bring their idea to market and the business is guaranteed success.

In fact, that is very rarely the case.

Only one in 10 new businesses survives a decade. The failure rate is the highest in the early months and years.

Although a primary cause of business failure is often attributed to “lack of capital,” the real reason is that the failed businesses ran out of time. They ran out of time because most of the new businesses burned through their available money trying to figure out a viable, sustainable business model.

The moral of the story is, before you go seek capital for a new business, be sure you have a proven business model. Take your idea and make a prototype. Do some tests with real customers. Make some sales or get signed letters of commitment to purchase your product or service once you have it ready to sell.

The key to success in business is selling something people want to buy. That is true whether you are tying to start an enterprise B2B company or a local retail business. The only way to ensure that the money you are seeking is going to build a business that sells something people want to buy is to prove that idea before you invest the big amounts of money.

To accomplish that goal, one task I recommend, developed by Dr. Rob Adams, is the 100 Customers Test. Talk to 100 prospective customers first, before you do anything else. You will learn more talking to those customers that you will by obtaining and spending just about any amount of money in the early stages of your business.

Prove your idea and your business model first, then seek and inject capital to scale the business model.

If you need money to prove your business model, start by talking to 100 Customers first. That will cost little to nothing and will almost certainly guarantee that when you do build a business, it will be selling something people want to buy.

* * * * *

 

 

Accounting

Accounting

Your accounting resource will be one of the most important vendor relationships in your business. An accountant often provides day-to-day tactical support via bookkeeping resources (or referrals to same). In addition, your accountant is a critical strategic resource for tax planning, networking and referrals into their network of professional services providers such as legal, consulting, business brokers, banking, etc.

Consequently, it is very important to have a solid, mutually beneficial relationship with your accountant.

Start by asking other business owners for referrals. Ask people who run businesses that you aspire to emulate for a referral. That immediately puts you into a network of professional and business suppliers that will match your business as you grow. If you start by asking business owners at the size and scale you are now, you can end up with an accounting resource that cannot scale with you as you grow and whose network is not well matched for your aspirations.

Next, talk with at least five potential accountants by phone and meet personally with at least three. Do not settle for anything less than a good to perfect fit with your accountant. In particular, it is critically important that you share common values related to integrity, honesty and trust.

Your accounting and bookkeeping resources can literally make or break your business, so choose them wisely and with due time, effort and consideration.

* * * * *

 

Page 1 of 212