Getting ready to solicit funding sources involves more than creating projections, a business plan and slide presentation. Successful business fundraisers exude subtle but meaningful leadership qualities that inspire funding partners to want to learn more about a company’s capital requirements.
How can you mentally prepare for the fundraising challenge ahead? What steps do you need to take to become more resilient, flexible and adaptable to today’s capital markets?
Here are our suggestions:
What to Know and Do Next:
- Know that lenders and investors won’t rescue you.
Investors and lenders are not in the business of disaster relief. From their perspective, helping you make payroll, attend an important trade show, pay for crucial product shipments, etc. aren’t valid reasons to fund your business.
Give investors and lenders a more compelling reason to fund your company! Show them why a bank loan can enhance your company’s operating capacity to generate more profitable cash flow. Show investors why your approach can take market share away from bigger companies.
Investors and lenders fund companies that are led by responsible business leaders. They do not want to be involved with any business that is run by an impulsive gambler who takes on big cash demands only to work out the details some other day.
- Expect to pitch a lot.
There are many reasons why investors and lenders say “no” or “not now.” Sometimes these decisions have absolutely nothing to do with the financial prospects of a company, but changing economic or operating priorities of the funding source.
The best approach to obtaining debt or equity financing on the best terms in the shortest amount of time is to plan to solicit lots of potential funding partners at the same time. The emphasis here is on the word “plan.” If you plan to solicit dozens of prospective investors, then you are mentally prepared for the initiative. With each pitch you will deliver a better pitch. With each challenging question, you will learn how to handle challenging questions better.
The entrepreneurs who don’t raise funds for their business stop trying to raise funds for their business. See Ask on Purpose: What entrepreneurs can learn from the CEO of Starbucks.
- Decide to communicate…always.
Raising equity and many forms of debt capital usually represent multi-year business relationships. The terms of the funding agreements will usually require you to keep your funding partners abreast of your company’s financial and operating progress on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. This obligation to share the good information as well as the bad information on a timely basis will remain in force for as long as your funding sources have their cash tied up in your business.
Funding partners have a right to know what is going on in your business. If you fail to keep them informed, they won’t be “silent.”
- Respect the decision timeline.
Employees of banks, leasing companies and venture capital funds are financial professionals. Their work deserves respect, not ridicule or complaints.
In general, banks can be more precise about the timing of funding decisions than equity investors. The decision making process for lenders may be a matter of days or weeks from the submission of all required documentation.
For investors, the decision timeline is longer because investors rarely have any security or collateral to protect against total cash loss. As such, investors spend more time to understand a company’s operations, management team, competition, pricing strategies, customer acceptance and prospects for profitable growth. Be patient. Earn their confidence.
- No finger pointing on projections.
Funding sources want assurances that the CEO is accountable for a company’s entire operations. With respect to business plans, they expect that the business owner has already conducted some “what-if analysis” to help understand the implications of delays or higher costs on the company’s operations and cash requirements.
If there are mistakes in your company’s projections, don’t blame your staff for the oversight. Sure, your staff can help you prepare documents and projections, but make sure the work is accurate before handing it off to funding decision makers.
If you can’t develop projections that you believe in or understand, ask your ecosystem of advisors for referrals to professionals who can.
- Don’t complain about the offer.
Investors always want to buy-in-low in order to sell-high. Similarly, a bank officer’s job is to try to get as much security, fees and interest income as possible as part of every new commercial loan.
Investors and lenders are not in business to take advantage of business owners. No one ever forces entrepreneurs to accept a seemingly bad deal.
If you get a funding proposal that is unacceptable to you, don’t waste time complaining. Dial up your determination and lay out a new solicitation game plan to match improvements to your operating strategies.
- Understand adversity is not the same as failure.
Should you quit after a first bank turn down? Should you quit after a hot incubator or angel investment club declines your application? No! No! No!
Sure, there will be times when your company’s competitive challenges and funding needs may seem overwhelming, but the simple truth is all young companies struggle to raise funds at one time or another. You and your trusted employees will make mistakes…sometimes big ones. Your competitors will surprise you when you least expect it, big time. No matter how hard you work, you will encounter some financial and operational adversity. Get used to it. Adversity is not the same thing as failure.
Every problem has a good solution. You can find it.
- Believe you can achieve.
All around the world there are many noted examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in business. At Start on Purpose, we believe in your ability to raise funds for your company. It’s our mission to help you achieve this important objective every time you need to.
We also know that you don’t have to have the highest IQ to create workable projections. You don’t have to have the best ecosystem in order to connect with the right funding sources for your company. Whatever you don’t know, you can learn.
Your next action step is to firmly decide that you are going to raise funds for your business—and you can.