Posts Tagged angel investors

The Small Business Financing Disconnect


Most small businesses start with a business plan to get financing for a venture, but entrepreneurs prefer managing risk through effectuation. Effectuation entails entrepreneurial control over what an entrepreneur can do to achieve a wanted result when the means to that result involves taking an uncertain action. The effectual thinker takes action toward an imagined state incapable of continuous planning because the entrepreneur is uncertain about the result of the action (Gabrielsson & Politis, 2011; Read & Sarasvathy, 2005; Sarasvathy, 2001; Sarasvathy & Dew, 2005).

Entrepreneurs create business plans to achieve early financing and develop plans like they understand the outcome of their actions, but this often is not the case. Entrepreneurs performance typically is significantly off from early plans not because of bad planning, but because of uncertain actions taken toward imagined outcomes. Planning is valid when actions are certain to produce a known result.

Financiers fail to recognize this disconnect, and conventional planning does not fit when an entrepreneur works toward an imagined outcome. Financial planners rely on existing business models and not newly created ones. Not until the entrepreneur perfects the model can planning have true substance in predicting a wanted result.

Financial planning done for business plans at best presents a plan conforming to existing conditions. When an entrepreneur wants to create a new market or product conditions do not yet exist to support such plans. Such conditions cause financiers to rely on risky projections.

This disconnect raises a question about how to evaluate a venture without a financial track record when future actions are dubious. What can an entrepreneur do to convince a financier of the merits of the venture when financial planning projections are so far-off from true results? I want to know your thoughts. Do you want to learn more?

References

Gabrielsson, J., & Politis, D. (2011). Career motives and entrepreneurial decision-making: examining preferences for causal and effectual logics in the early stage of new ventures. Small Business Economics, 36(3), 281-298. doi: 10.1007/s11187-009-9217-3

Read, S., & Sarasvathy, S. D. (2005). Knowing what to do and doing what you know: Effectuation as a form of entrepreneurial expertise. Journal of Private Equity, 9(1), 45-62. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=19164962&site=bsi-live

Sarasvathy, S. D. (2001). Causation and effectuation: Toward a theoretical shift from economic inevitability to entrepreneurial contingency. Academy of Management. The Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 243. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=72362644&Fmt=7&clientId=13118&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Sarasvathy, S. D., & Dew, N. (2005). New market creation through transformation. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 15(5), 533-565. doi: 10.1007/s00191-005-0264-x

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Small Business Risk Taking: History Repeats Itself


“History repeats itself” is a saying I hear on occasion and often wonder about. Today, for example, some businessmen say they cannot work because of uncertain conditions, yet Adam Smith designed capitalism as the “epitome of risk taking” (Bernstein, 1996, p. 19). According to Bernstein, up to the time of the reformation, the stable Protestant tradition stressed abstinence to avoid risk. Protestants considered the danger inherent in risk-taking as akin to gambling. Adam Smith (1904) introduced capitalism believing the danger attached to risk also came with opportunity. Instead of looking at risk as a zero-sum game where someone wins and someone loses, Smith believed trade resulted in a mutually worthwhile pursuit. Smith believed both parties to trade and risk taking could become wealthier contrary to practice before the reformation that relied on exploitation to gain wealth (Bernstein, 1996).

Recent conversations have talked about how unacceptable the transfer of wealth is from the elite to its underlings. Some business people espouse the pre-reformation idea that wealth transfer should only come from exploitation of underlings, while others see wealth transfer more like Adam Smith did. Smith believed business is risky, but full of opportunity and new wealth came to those adventuresome people willing to innovate (Bernstein, 1996). Today with the coming of supply-side economics, some want to return to the days of exploitation and stymie adventuresome entrepreneurs willing to innovate and create new trade. Does history repeat itself? Has the pendulum swung too far in the wrong direction?

I believe an efficient economic system has to balance opportunities with risk taking. If business people do not take risk, I do not see where innovation comes from under such conditions. Stable well-established businesses do not like to remove themselves from their comfort zone and their products and services eventually become stale and do not satisfy consumer needs. Meanwhile, society needs to provide more incentives to entrepreneurs to innovate and create new trade.

What do you think? Is our economic system returning to the stable pre-reformation days bereft of any risk taking relying solely on exploitation? Are you willing to take a risk in today’s economic setting? What incentives do you believe would help entrepreneurs to resume their efforts to innovate new trade? Please leave your thoughts here. Do you want to know more about incentives to small business entrepreneurship to its rightful role? Click here.

References

Bernstein, P. L. (1996). Against the gods: The remarkable story of risk. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Smith, A. (1904). The wealth of nations (5th ed.). London: UK: Methuen & Co., Ltd.

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Does Your Business Need an Attitude Adjustment?


Think about why some companies succeed despite their characterization as risky. For example, one of the most risky businesses people think of is to start a restaurant. The failure rate for restaurants is high, but those that succeed have some special qualities. A good business needs to adapt to what people want.

I am originally from Chicago and I distinctly remember a restaurant chain that became very successful because of its ability to provide what people want. If you have ever heard of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. you may have a good idea what I mean. Richard Melman with Jerry Orzoff  started Lettuce Entertain You in 1971 with $17,000. Melman wanted to start an upbeat restaurant directed at young singles interested in rock music, casual clothing, and healthy food. R. J. Grunts became the company’s first eatery in Lincoln Park followed by Fritz That’s It! in Evanston and Great Flying Food Show in 1974. In 1975 Lettuce Entertain you introduced Jonathan Livingston Seafood and Lawrence of Oregano opened in 1976. Lettuce Entertain You mastered the avante garde casual restaurant business with its unique themes (Anonymous, 2012).

A good business needs to anticipate what customers want like Melman did with Lettuce Entertain You. Traditional restaurant startups do not typically think about what will make a restaurant stand out to a certain crowd and will take a more conservative route. A good entrepreneur has an open mind and anticipates providing a service or product customers will want. Lettuce Entertainment did not stop with the off-beat casual idea, but opened more restaurants with more  ambience like the Pump Room on Chicago’s Gold Coast and Ambria in partnership with renowned French chef Gabino Sotelino. Later Melman introduced several other themes by opening a series of other restaurants (Anonymous, 2012). My personal favorite is Tucchetti’s.

An open mind is important to becoming a successful entrepreneur. This notion reminds me of a TED talk by psychologist Jonathan Haidt I viewed not too long ago. Haidt explained five key differences between conservatives and liberals (Haidt, 2008). Entrepreneurs with closed minds often do not succeed because they fail to anticipate what consumers want. Lettuce Entertain You showed how new themes can entice people.

Think about your business! Does your business need an attitude adjustment? Lettuce Entertain You provides a good example of how an open mind can open doors for a new business and keep customers happy. If you want to start a new business I urge you to start now to explore how to keep an open mind by working with us. Learn more.

References

Anonymous. (2012). Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants. Lettuce tell you our history, from http://www.leye.com/about-us/history

Haidt, J. (2008). Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html?quote=339

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Evidence Social Entrepreneurship is on the Rise


I have expressed the view previously the next great wave of entrepreneurship will come from social entrepreneurs. I found evidence the rise of social entrepreneurship is on the horizon in an article I found in this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek.  The article is about a firm headed by Chamath Palihapitiya called Social+Capital Fund. Palihapitiya is a former Facebook executive, who left about a year ago to launch the new venture capital firm (Bennett, 2012).

Palihapitiya believes properly placed venture capital can solve the world’s biggest problems left from gaps caused by the shrinking scientific ambitions of government, foundations, and other global organizations (Bennett, 2012). Politicians demonize government handling of social problems leaving  social entrepreneurs as the suitable outlet for dealing with these problems. Universities have dwindling funds devoted to research and can no longer deal with social problems.  Bennett explained how Kauffman Foundation, an independent organization, has failed to produce results in dealing with issues it funded over the last 20 years. Palihapitiya believes private equity or as he puts it “purpose-driven money” is the answer to solving such problems (Bennett, 2012).

Social+Capital has amassed an army of technologists and entrepreneurs to find and build products aligned with solving problems in the health care, education, and the financial services industry. These people include Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Sean Parker (Napster and Facebook), Kevin Rose (Digg), and Joe Hewitt (Mozilla and Facebook). Several companies funded by Social+Capital have already started to deal with social problems in these industries. The idea is for these companies to make money while solving societal problems. Palihapitiya’s idea is to find brilliant people of the Steve Jobs variety and invest in them to develop solutions to societal problems (Bennett, 2012).

Palihapitiya admitted inequities in the global economic system precipitated his idea to find brilliant leaders to solve societal problems by making money (Bennett, 2012). Between 1987 and 1997 nonprofit organizations grew to 1.2 million or by 31% (The new nonprofit almanac & desk reference., 2002; Noruzi, Westover, & Rahimi, 2010). These numbers show a growing need exists for social entrepreneurs to solve societal problems. Palihapitiya has started his firm to fund innovation solutions and allow entrepreneurs to make money, while solving such problems.

Social entrepreneurs will play a major role in the global economy. Innovative solutions from social entrepreneurs will create great value by addressing societal needs. I encourage prospective entrepreneurs to start now to take advantage of this opportunity. We can help you get started and I encourage you to learn more.

References

Bennett, D. (2012, July 30 – August 5). The league of extraordinarily rich gentlemen. Bloomberg Businessweek, 54-56.

The new nonprofit almanac & desk reference. (2002). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Noruzi, M. R., Westover, J. H., & Rahimi, G. R. (2010). An exploration of social entrepreneurship in the entrepreneurship era. Asian Social Science, 6(6), 3-10. doi: 2233824571; 56997641; 137930; SSCS; INNNSSCS0000567695

 

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Small Business Financing: Let’s Play Where’s Waldo


Finding financing for a small business is like playing Where’s Waldo. Where’s Waldo is a game in which a player looks for a funny guy in a red-striped shirt and stocking cap in a maze. Waldo blends into the crowd and is difficult to find.

Small businesses look to find a source of financing among a maze of potential financiers and hazards. Financing can include angel investors, venture capitalists, banks, and other sources of equity and debt. Ma and Gui (2010) classified direct small business financing in the United States into venture capital and securities financing. Ma and Gui explained indirect financing comes from commercial bank loans. Some commercial bank loans have a government guarantee from the Small Business Administration. Mezzanine financing is another hybrid source of financing valuable because a company can treat much of it as equity even though it combines features of debt and equity (Silbernagel, Vaitkunas, & Giddy, n. d.). The maze is difficult to navigate because the terms differ from one source to another. The small business should target equity financing whenever possible because debt financing is more risky. Micro financing and crowd funding are some new entries to the maze, but an old favorite is bootstrapping.

A person playing Where’s Waldo has to examine the maze with great scrutiny to find Waldo blending in to the crowd. Waldo is a friendly guy, but is crafty in making himself inconspicuous among the crowd. Waldo may have hidden motives in avoiding making himself obvious.

A small business needs to have an awareness of the hidden motives different financiers may have. Some financiers use convertible features to gain control of a company. The small business should have an awareness of these features to prevent a takeover. Small business founders work hard to find a working model for their business and should protect themselves from possible takeovers by reviewing the terms of the financing. Protecting a controlling interest in the firm is a critical role for a small business founder to keep control and avoid the board from firing him.

When one finds Waldo, the game is over and the player can start a new puzzle. A small business founder looking for the right financing locates it the search is over, but he must remember to make sure the terms allow for keeping control of the company.

What sources of financing have you considered? Want to learn more about small business financing and how to preserve a controlling interest? Learn more.

References

Ma, J., & Gui, J. (2010). Study on the small and middle enterprises financing mode in financial crisis. International Business Research, 3(1), 76-79. doi: 2225515451; 56706961; 137934; NBRS; INNNNBRS0000568443

Silbernagel, C., Vaitkunas, D., & Giddy, I. (n. d.). Mezzanine Finance, from http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~igiddy/articles/Mezzanine_Finance_Explained.pdf

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How a Turnaround is Like Founding a New Company


Once I took a position as the chief financial officer of an organization with a history of over 100 years. The institution in its early years thrived because of its location bordering a city nearly the size of Chicago with a booming coal mining industry. The location bordered on the one of the Great Lakes cutting off half the circumference of the target market.

Eventually, the coal mining industry declined and the city bordering the organization dwindled in population because of lack of other industry in the area. Recreation supplied the next biggest industry in the area because of ideal conditions for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and other winter sports. In the summer, the area provided ideal conditions for hunting and fishing. These industries failed to provide enough jobs and opportunities to keep the city alive.

The organization I worked for had its numbers drop by nearly 70% because the organization depended on people within a hundred mile radius of it. When I arrived I found the finances in a shambles and an accumulated deficit resulting in a negative net worth. At first, this condition alarmed me, but I knew I had a calling to turn this ship around.

A turnaround of this magnitude is like starting a new business because it needs a radical transformation. Fortunately, the executive team committed to a radical transformation of finding a new model for the organization that would turn around the organization and create positive cash flows. Weekly we explored new ideas and acted on cutting drains on the organization’s cash flows. In this way, the turnaround is more difficult than starting a new business because a new business does not have to deal with getting rid of existing programs causing a drain on cash flows.

The result of these efforts balanced the organization’s budget and identified new programs capable of producing positive cash flows. When I did my doctoral research I discovered that many companies that go public have accumulated deficits of the same magnitude and about 70% of them eventually fail. This revelation surprised me and I thought about how many companies can use the same help a turnaround expert provides. Big and small companies have similar failure rates. ‘

Although the cause is different, the need to identify a working model is the same. Without transforming an organization by finding a working model that produces positive results any organization will subject itself to failure. This revelation also caused me to think about the benefits of going public versus remaining private. Often, companies go public far before they rightfully should and prematurely remove the founder whose role it is to find a working model.

Public companies start to create more bureaucratic settings, while the organization needs to stay nimble enough to allow the working model to develop and meet consumer needs. Bureaucratization adds costs and reduces flexibility to adapt to make the model work. I believe many companies act too fast to go public because they believe it provides a safety net for raising capital. I believe a slower more deliberate growth may benefit many companies and allow the founders to keep their company and learn how to manage it instead of getting shown the door.  Founders work hard and if they are serious should hold on to their creation and learn how to improve it.

I believe other consultants place too much emphasis on getting big too fast. Companies might do well to slow down and grow organically than fall prey to seeking the safety net of a public company. Slowing down allows the founder to start to see the forest from the trees and build a sustainable model without risking the founder’s position.  

My company works to build organic growth by building on gaining the experience and education needed to grow organically. I believe a serious entrepreneur has an attachment to his or her creation and needs a different focus to preserve an identity with the company the founder creates.

What is your goal in founding a company? Would you prefer to stay involved in the company you create or do you want to exit and put the company in someone else’s hands? Please leave a comment to let me know your view.

If you are serious about preserving your identity with the company you want to create I urge you to try the services of my company by signing on now.

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Start Your Business or Quit Right Now


I remember when I started my first business how frustrated I became when everyone wanted to reject my business plan. Everyone wanted to say, “Your plan is not good enough, “You can’t do that,” “Your numbers don’t add up,” or some other lame reason to reject me. I don’t even remember them all. The average person might just say, “I’ve had enough,” I tried,” “I give up,” or “Maybe everyone else is right.” I thought who are these people who do not know the first thing about my business to make these disparaging remarks. Do these people even care?

After finally getting the loan I needed to start my business, these comments didn’t even make a difference to me. I was free and I could put my focus on my passion. Now is the time to prove the naysayers wrong!

Unlike some I am not a quitter. Think about it! Would you rather work with someone who is persistent, diligent, determined, vigilant, and deliberate or would you prefer to work with someone who quits? Do you want someone who helps take a project to reach its final conclusion or someone who simply walks away without giving it the effort it deserves?

I know what I prefer, and it’s not quitting. I know I have it in my DNA to never to give up. I yearn to achieve what I set out to achieve and do not let little setbacks stand in my way.  I am energized by learning more about my business so I can serve my customers better. For me the fun is in getting to my goal, not settling into a comfortable position. If you want a comfortable position get a job. What I do is not a job; it’s an eternal fire I need to put out.

If you don’t have the fire, I suggest quitting now.  Do you want to learn more?

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A Tale from the Past: What it Takes to Start a Successful Business


I read a blog a few days ago that said you do not need experience to be a successful entrepreneur. So what do you need? Do you need a degree from an Ivy League school or a large pot of money from a notable investor?

Let me tell you a story from my personal experience. I once worked for a man who came from humble beginnings. Sam was the man. Sam’s family had a hard time putting food on the table coming over from the old country. Sam had a brother that did not fit in anywhere so the Sam felt a duty to take care of him. Sam did not make it through high school because he was pressed for his family’s survival.

So what did Sam do? Sam went into the screw business. Now your first thought might be, “who did Sam try to screw?” If so, you have the wrong idea! Sam’s business had to do with making screws in the fastener industry. Sam started in a small garage at home and at first started with selling products, but Sam often told me his success came not from selling, but from buying. Before starting his company Sam worked as a buyer for another company.

As Sam’s business grew, he started manufacturing screws and with a few of his friends formed a partnership and eventually a corporation. Sam had an absolute passion for the business and made it his business to learn every facet of the business. Over the years Sam and his partners grew the business in to an extremely successful business in the industry. The company grew out of the garage to a large manufacturing facility with thousands of high-profile customers.

Sam led the company from obscurity to a thriving business and Sam mastered every person’s position in the entire company. I kid you not! Sam was faster than a marathon runner and would see how every employee performed in their job. Sam followed this routine the entire day, each and every day. Sam showed his passion for the business and did not think of it as work.

I did not mention I came to Sam’s company late after his partners had left or retired. My role at the company was vice president of finance. By this time, the company was already a public company. By the way, Sam could do my job even though he did not have a high school diploma. Sam made it a point to know everyone’s job inside and out. Sam drilled me at lunch each and every day to keep me on track. Sam would let me know when I eventually mastered my job.

Sam started thinking about retirement and sold the company to a Harvard MBA. By the way the Harvard MBA’s name was Ned and he was a marathon runner. Ned bought the company with money inherited from his wealthy father. Every company that Ned bought he started to bring in his own people to manage the company and do everything by the book. One-by-one each company Ned took over started to lose money and eventually failed. Ned was a turnaround expert in the wrong direction.

Sam saw the handwriting on the wall and decided it was time to get out and semi-retire, but Sam loved the business too much and went back out on his own. During our final time together, Sam told me to look for another job because Ned wanted to bring in his own people after he left. I learned more from this job than any job I ever had thanks to Sam.

So why did Sam succeed? Sam did not graduate from high school, but admired others like myself who had a good education. Sam did not have a large pot of money to start. Yet, Sam grew out of his garage to a manufacturing facility and eventually became a public company. What do you think it takes to build a successful company? Did Sam have experience, and, if so, what role did it play in his success? Did Ned have experience in the companies he took over?

Do you have some ideas about why Sam could build a successful company? Do you want to know more about what I think it takes to start a successful business. Learn more.

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Considering Your Experience: Small Business Entrepreneurs


One of the most important considerations for starting a small business is the ability to find financing. Founders of small businesses have a variety of sources to choose from, but some sources are better than others. For example, a small business owner can use risky debt or credit cards. These sources drive up the cost of capital, but finding equity during a firm’s first few years can keep costs down and improve the likelihood of succeeding sooner.

Entrepreneurial experience improves the chance of finding equity. Zaleski (2011) found a comparative advantage exists for entrepreneurs with previous experience. This finding is particularly relevant when an entrepreneur changes industries. Potential investors may not see the experience from another industry as causing a barrier. Investors view entrepreneurs with experience as having gained valuable knowledge. Although entrepreneurs frequently fail, entrepreneurs learn from experience.

Experience plays an important role in finding equity financing during a firm’s early years. However, the lower cost of capital from obtaining equity financing can improve a small business’s chance of success. Equity sources view experience as a transferable skill and improves the business founder’s odds of finding financing.

What is your experience as a small business entrepreneur? Are you ready to jump in? Let us know your experience. Respond here!

References

Zaleski, P. A. (2011). Start-ups and external equity: The role of entrepreneurial experience. Business Economics, 46(1), 43-50. doi: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/be/index.html

 

 

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Innovation: Small Firm versus Large Firm


I theorize that innovation works best in a small firm because different goals exist than in the larger firm. Some justification exists in the literature supporting this theory. Large firms place improving shareholder value through stock price appreciation ahead of discovery of innovative solutions (Crochetiere, 2011). Corporate managers concern themselves with shareholder wealth enhancement and emphasize short-term profitability.

Founders of small innovative firms put products and services first ahead of profitability. Steve Jobs offers a good example with his obsession to create computers for students. Job’s passion put product ahead of profits (Deutschman, 2000). Jobs exited from Apple when the company put the focus on shareholder wealth instead of perfecting the product (Levy, 2011).

Small business owners starting a company should consider their goal. A founder should consider if the motivation is to cash out or extinguish a burning fire to solve a problem with a new product or innovative service. A firm that opts for the latter should avoid acquisition by larger firms and keep it simple.

Crochetiere (2011) found evidence suggesting large firms produce fewer patents and innovations than smaller firms.  Larger firms not only produce fewer patents, but lose stakeholders and their acquisitions result in greater variability in stock prices.

What is the goal for innovation in your business? If you need help planning your strategy click here!

References

Crochetiere, B. (2011). Transcending technological innovation: The impact of acquisitions on entrepreneurial technical organizations. (D.B.A. 3482298), Walden University, United States — Minnesota. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/909085620?accountid=35812 ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT) database.

Deutschman, A. (2000). The second coming of Steve Jobs. New York, NY: Random House.

Levy, S. (2011). The revolution according to Steve Jobs. Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/11/ff_stevejobs/all/1

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