Start-Up

What start-ups need to attract investors

It is important as a start-up to ask yourself whose money you will use in the process of making your business idea a reality.

Would you fall back on your own nest egg to fund your start-up, this means you have saved up some money over time. It appears not many young entrepreneurs have nest egg to fund their start-up.

Now, will you go the route of debt financing? In other words, will you take out loans and pay them back with interest? This is an option to be considered with great care.

One of the benefits of using your own money is that you retain the profits and all control of your business if it succeeds. Your other option is to seek equity financing from angel investors, venture capitalists and others. In this business model, you owe less money, but you will share the profits with your investors. You are basically trading equity in your company for cash.

Going this route enables you to raise large sums of money for your start-up without going into debt. You will lose a bit of your control, giving your investors a “say” in your company. After all, they do expect a return on their investment. There is a catch.

Intending entrepreneurs brimming with confidence in their business ideas tend to believe all they need to take-off is see capital from venture capitalists. For venture capitalists the story is different because they are aware that nine out every ten start-up fails, they understand that funding is usually not the most important thing to consider when starting a business but structure.

Venture capitalists want clear answers to questions about who the business targets as customers, market size and how the business plans to grow and expand.

David Tele, managing director at Seedstars Academy, a seed capital venture firm at a Career Fair organised by BusinessDay in 2017 said that they evaluate start-ups approaching them for seed capital based on the Content, Process, and Results (CPR) method. The content dimension of the evaluation is data-driven: customer, market size, and projected revenue.

Process entails setting clear specific, measurable, ambitious, and time bound goals. It starts with setting annual goals, broken into monthly goals, then down to weekly and actionable daily goals.

Results comprise outcome from the two preceding phases and the cycle is repeated. Therefore, a start-up needs to do substantial due diligence before it approaches a seed venture capitalist. Below are a few things a start-up must do to attract seed capital.

Have a Business Plan

The first item on your list is to create a business plan. Venture capitalists deem this your most important task because, without a business plan, they are flying blind. You must create a plan that presents your overall business summary and a description of how it will make money.

In addition to your business plan, your investors will appreciate seeing one, three and five year plans. They want to see your goals and strategies for growth. They are looking for your “staying power.”

Conduct Market Research

Your investors want to see your market research. They want validation that the market can sustain your business and that your start-up is viable. This is the “proof” that your business plan is sound and provides you with numbers to back up your claims that your start-up will be successful.

Prepare Financial Models

Venture capitalists and angel investors are smart, and they know how to drill through your materials to the proof that your business can actually make money. Your financial models should include spread sheets of projected costs, acquisitions, sales and revenue, profit margins and growth rates. Bottom line: they want to know when they can start seeing a return on their investment.

Article by Stephen Onyekwelu

loans-approved

Business Loan: Advantages and Disadvantages

Business loans serve as a powerful tool to help fund, launch, and grow a small business. As a small business owner, you may be looking to secure financing to maintain business operations, expand locations, invest in new equipment, or hire more employees. A business loan helps you achieve all this.

Not sure if a business loan is right for you? In this article, we break down the advantages and disadvantages of taking out a business loan, as well as questions to ask yourself if you’re still overwhelmed.

Advantages of Borrowing


Receive an influx of cash to grow your business
The easiest and most obvious way to gain major cash flow is to take out a business loan. If your business is at a stage where it’s ready to launch, expand, or grow its operations, business loans are a good choice. Compared to other funding options, you access a relatively large amount of capital for multiple purposes.

Maintain control of your business
Unlike borrowing equity (where business issues shares), taking out a business loan from the bank provides you full control over your business. Banks don’t get involved in any aspect of running your business, which means as a business owner—you retain full control and management over your company’s operations, while still reaping the benefits of extra cash.

Interest is tax-deductible
The words “tax-deductible” probably ring in your ears: it’s great news. Interest on your business bank loans is tax-deductible. This is particularly so with fixed-rate loans, in which the interest rate does not change throughout the course of your loan. This makes it much easier for small business owners to budget and plan for monthly loan payments!

Disadvantages of Borrowing


Tough to qualify
Unless you’re a small business owner with a considerable track record of valuable assets (i.e. real estate), then, unfortunately, it’s highly difficult to obtain business loans. Like applying for a mortgage, banks are extra careful with lending. They want to make sure that you can pay them back. Often, borrowers must provide the bank some sort of guarantee, such as having their personal assets seized in the event the business fails and is unable to repay all or part of a loan.

High-interest rates
Another disadvantage of small business loans is high-interest rates. In addition to that, often the amount a business qualifies for is also not enough to meet a company’s needs.

Borrowing money at a high-interest rate serves as a disservice for the business, as it often has to deal with the business loan and additional funding to cover funds not provided by the bank.

Questions to ask when considering a business loan
Borrowing money for your business comes with its pros and cons—as with any business decisions that involve money. If you are still unsure about whether a business loan is right for you, here are several questions to reflect on:

  • How much funding do I need?
  • What is the timeline in which I need the money?
  • Do I qualify for lender requirements?
  • And if so, how do I plan to spend the money?
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How to run your company when you are the only staff

As a Startup, you might have little to no funding. This lack of financing, unfortunately, will make it difficult for you to hire the staff you need from the onset.

I also struggled in the early days of starting my business. I was the one sweeping, opening and closing the office for the day. I became the accountant, salesgirl and front desk staff. I was everything in my business. As you might guess, the proverbial one-man squad. This situation was an exhausting and demoralizing experience, especially for a new startup with little or no funding. I had a choice, to either quit and see the cup as half empty or to see the situation as an opportunity to get intimately connected with every aspect of my business from bottom-up. I chose the latter. I decided to see the glass as half full. This dose of optimism helped me create the system and structure that worked for my business. To this end, I want to show you the three things you can start doing from today to cope when you are the only staff in your company.

Set realistic timelines

Being the only staff in your company implies that you will be the one that will implement your service delivery system from beginning to the end—or at least be in charge of the process. The downside is that if for health reasons or unforeseen circumstances, you are unable to meet up, you will disappoint your clients.

Disappointing your customers is not the best practice. It erodes credibility and the trust customers have in your business. This lack of trust will affect future jobs from the customers you disappointed. Therefore, you need to find a way to ensure you don’t disappoint your customers.

One way to do this is to give realistic timelines for project closeout or delivery date. If you know you can deliver a job within three days, the wise thing to do would be to extend this by 48hrs to cover for any incidentals or unforeseen circumstances. Moreover, if everything goes well as you have planned, you will register your name as the organisation that delivers ahead of projected time, which will be a bonus for your business.

But then, some customers will come to you and tell you that they are time-strapped and would compel you to agree to unrealistic delivery time. This rushed briefs usually happen to service organizations, that is, printers, advertising agencies, experiential marketing firms etcetera. As a startup, I would not advise you to reject any opportunity. However, be sure that you have made contingency plans to meet the deadline and are willing to pull in an all-nighter by making the required sacrifice. Otherwise don’t agree to the time. You can charge them extra for express service delivery. The additional charge is not about being greedy; it is to make up for all the adjustments and extra cost you will incur to be able to deliver quality products or service in record time.

However, there are times where the challenge is not about delivering on time; but executing a specific task which you do not have the technical know-how to deliver. What you do at such point is to outsource.

Outsource

Outsourcing your service is one way to satisfy your customers, even when you are the only staff without the risk of losing them to your competitor.

For example, while working for an experiential firm, we had extreme deadlines to submit briefs. There was no way we would meet the stipulated time without outsourcing some of the work. We did this all the time, and this method helped us win many accounts with minimal mistakes. The rush of it, the adrenaline while you are working. The uncertainty and intensity of brainstorming and ideating under pressure can negatively affect your output if you do not have the right expertise in-house or on the table. In the manufacturing sector, take the fashion industry, for instance, as a designer, you can partner with several tailoring outfits to produce your designs along the value chain. A protégé of mine runs a publishing company, but, he doesn’t own a printing press. However, this is not a deterrent to him. What he does is to partner with a print house to handle all the heavy lifting, while he does all the design, editing and ISBN.

Therefore, when you get a contract to do a job, and you know that all the skillset required for the timely delivery of that job is not available. The wise thing to do is to outsource the work to your partners. This method is cheaper than hiring a full-time staff whom you may not be able to sustain due to the sporadic nature of jobs coming into your business.

A caveat: Do not just outsource to anybody. It is your name that is on your final product. So, be thorough when selecting your outsourcing partner. Your name is important, and as a startup, you do not want it associated with poor quality and missed deadlines. You want to do jobs and create products that will attract more customers. So, do not compromise on quality!

One of the realities of outsourcing is that you may experience loss of time between job commissioning and delivery. To save time and increase your income, you may need to acquire ancillary skills.

Acquire ancillary skills

There are times when you may need to finish specific tasks at the same time. A case in point is that if you run a digital marketing startup, you may not be able to hire a graphic designer full time to augment your content development strength. If you have to wait for a graphic designer to do a design and send back to you each time a job comes in, you might not meet up with your deadlines. In such a situation, what you need is to acquire ancillary skills.

To be clear, it is not every skill you can acquire. For instance, I cannot tell that protégé of mine whom I spoke of earlier who owns a publishing firm to learn how to operate a press machine. Asking him to acquire this skill may distract him from his core. But assuming he is a skilled writer but does not know how to do graphic design, I will advise him to learn graphic design skill or use Apps such as Canva or Designrr to augment. This skill will help him finish his work in record time without suffering the delay of having to call a graphic designer and the ensuing back and forth that would inevitably follow.

So, as you run your business, do not allow your limited staff strength to keep you from soaring. Give your customers a realistic job delivery time, outsource certain services and acquire any skill or machinery you can combine with your core to make you consistently meet your timelines.

Don’t forget to write to me on ask@startupdoctor.ng or thestartupdoctor@gmail.com. Please send in your business issues let us resolve them together on this page. I would love to read from you.

To your continued success.

Keep Sparkling!

Muna Onuzo

The Startup Doctor.

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Types of Business plan

. The traditional business plan uses some of the nine sections that make most sense to the business.
They include:
Executive summary
Company description
Market analysis
Organisation and management
Service or product description
Marketing and sales
Funding request
Financial projections
Appendix

2. The lean business plan projects fundamental facts about the company. The most well known is the Business model canvas, developed by Alex Osterwalder. Its features are:
Key partnerships
Key activities
Key resources
Value proposition
Customer relationships
Customer segments
Channels
Cos structure
Revenue streams

Browse about the types of business plans to choose the most suitable for your business.

Note: after conducting your research and you still don’t know how to write your business plan, consult the services of a professional.
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