Choosing an Exit Strategy

First time entrepreneurs are notorious for being overprotective of their “baby”. It is difficult to imagine not being the CEO of my aspiring business at some point during its life span. It’s my idea, my money, my risk, my time, and my efforts, but “you do not have any control over when your company will exit” (MaRS Magazine). An exit strategy is highly recommended because it is appealing to investors and gives the business options in both positive and negative situations.

There are several exit strategies and depending on the selection, a company will alter day-to-day operations in order fulfill that tactic. Exit strategies include an initial public offering, acquisition by another business, sell to a new investor, merge with another company, buyout existing shareholders, franchise an idea or product, liquidate, arrange for a family inheritance, or establish an employee stock ownership plan.

Two strategies that are similar and most often grouped together are mergers and acquisitions. The biggest difference comes down to the change in leadership. Companies that experience restructuring follow the merger exit strategy, whereas, little or no change in corporate leadership implies an acquisition. For example, Google bought YouTube and added value to their search pages by integrating videos. In this case, Google implemented an acquisition of YouTube since they added the video platform to the already established website (no change in leadership). YouTube on the other hand, merged with Google and was forced to cope with the rearrangements.

The goal in merging two businesses is to generate more value. “Reasons an outside company might seek to merge with another company range from allowing them to break into a new market, to giving them a competitive edge, and removing you as a competitor from the current market” (Landau, Candice. “Planning for the Future: Your Exit Strategy”). Be aware that a specific market niche can also harm a business because buyers may not be interested or have little to no knowledge in that unique market.

In conclusion, if a company is interested in merging, it is critical to be appealing to competitors for maximum buyout. The CEO and employees must be willing to accept a change in leadership. In some cases, the CEO has the option cut all ties with the company or add on as a board member or employee. According to MaRS Magazine, merger and partnership (M&P) has become fairly popular. “Partners can provide your company with a cash infusion in exchange for a “look-see” into your business. Once you scale the business and become strategic to their company, one of these partners might put an offer on the table” (MaRS Magazine). Throughout the ENT 650 course, it has become obvious to always be up to date with income statements. Entrepreneurs will feel more secure with current, accurate numbers and an exit strategy.

 

References:

Elmerraji, Jonas. Investopedia: “The Merger – What To Do When Companies Converge”. Web. 25 September 2016. http://www.investopedia.com/articles/basics/06/themerger.asp

Landau, Candice. BPlans: “Planning for the Future: Your Exit Strategy”. Web. 25 September 2016. http://articles.bplans.com/types-of-exit-strategies/

MaRS Magazine: “Exit strategy planning: IPOs, mergers and acquisitions and licensing”. 6 December 2013. Web. 25 September 2016.

https://www.marsdd.com/mars-library/exit-strategy-planning-ipos-mergers-and-acquisitions-and-licensing/

Richards, Daniel. “Writing a Business Plan – Planning Your Exit Strategy”. 11 July 2016. Web. 25 September 2016. https://www.thebalance.com/writing-a-business-plan-planning-your-exit-strategy-1200841

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends and Family Investors

Keep Your Friends Close and Investors Closer

 

Most have heard the saying “ keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” When it comes to business, an entrepreneur should consider following those guidelines. Founders rely on investors to assist financially when starting or growing a business. These finances are derived from three types of investors: family and friends, angel investors, and venture capitalists. By no means is an angel investor or venture capitalist an enemy, but due to a lack of trust or personal relationship, the entrepreneur tends to initially ask family and friends for financial capital. Investments from loved ones are very common, although businessmen should take precaution in relying solely on those funds.

Family and friends are critical when running a business and, “investments from friends and family are often what make a startup possible in the first place” (Wasserman 257). Those individuals also provide support, encouragement, and constructive criticism for the entrepreneur. The ability to bounce ideas off others and gain confidence in presenting a business plan is invaluable. “A founder is greatly influenced by the family and culture in which he or she grew up in. The most powerful influences may come from the early messages sent by the words and action of older relatives or by the culture in which a person grew up” (Wasserman 30). The founder will ultimately have the final decision though loved ones take part in a powerful influence.

Regardless of the business stage, startup or growth, the entrepreneur should be prudent in choosing an investor(s). According to David Amis and Howard Stevenson in the book, The 7 Fundamentals of Early Stage Investing, an investor can participate in one or more of the five fundamental roles: Silent investor, reserve force, team member, coach, controlling investor, or lead investor. Other considerations when selecting an investor should include:

  1. Investor’s goals and passions
  2. Market knowledge/expertise
  3. Social capital in a specific industry
  4. Successful experience and reputation
  5. Financial capacity

It is not out of the realm of possibility to have a friend or family member(s) invest in the entrepreneur’s business and attain a high level of success. The founder either provided a professional structure for the member to abide by or the friend/family member encompassed several or all of the characteristics listed above.

Investments from family and friends are difficult to handle when the member values the small amount of wealth donated, does not provide any business skills or industry knowledge, and struggles with a professional relationship. “A boss-subordinate (entrepreneur-investor) relationship may make perfect organizational sense but will not suit a pair of best friends very well; nor will positions of equal authority suit a father and son” (Wasserman 102). The success of the business sits on the shoulders of the entrepreneur and all decision-making is his/her responsibility. Stressful business situations and differences in opinion can significantly increase tension in a personal relationship. Retaining a friend or family member as an investor eliminates a non-business environment, which can cause impacting relationship damage.

In conclusion, family and friends will always be a valuable part of an entrepreneur’s business. Personal investments can be beneficial, especially in startup, but it is imperative to define boundaries and limit activity in order to preserve personal relationships. Entrepreneurs should keep friends close for support and encouragement while working closely with quality investors to further advance the business.

 

References:

Amis, David and Stevenson, Howard. Winning Angels: The 7 Fundamentals of Early Stage Investing. London; Financial Times Prentice Hall. 2001.

Wasserman, Noam. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Crowdfunding: What is KickStarter?

Inventing a new product is only a fraction of what goes into starting a business. “Nine out of ten startups will fail” (Patel, Neil. “90% Of Startups Fail: Here’s What You Need To Know About The 10%”). The most common reasons include a poor business plan and lack of financial capital. Inadequate research and/or projections can cause a business to go belly up. It is critical for the entrepreneur to attain a substantial amount of funds as well as gain target market awareness before launching the business.

Personal income can only go so far and it can become difficult to ask for money from family and friends. First time entrepreneurs may not have large social capital or connections with investors, making financial efforts a struggle. It is strongly suggested to make attempts in finding local investors who value your business plan and personal goals. Due to our society becoming socially connected online, there is an alternative to locating investors. Kickstarter is a global crowdfunding platform aimed in funding creative projects across the world. According to Wikipedia, “The American public-benefit corporation has reportedly received more than $1.9 billion in pledges from 9.4 million backers to fund 257,000 creative projects”. Business owners now have the technological benefit of producing their business plan online for potential investors across the world to evaluate, hopefully backing with funds.

Launched in April 2009, Kickstarter has become one of the top crowdfunding platforms. The company claims no ownership in the projects and will cancel projects that appear to be fraudulent. Kickstarter differs from other platforms, like Indiegogo and RocketHub, in that there is an all or nothing approach when reaching your financial goal. Kickstarter receives 5% of the achieved goal and requires a 3-5% payment processor fee. They focus on creativity and encourage the following professionals to use their platform: artists, musicians, filmmakers, and designers. “Every Kickstarter project is an opportunity to create the universe and culture you want to see. The games you wish you could play, the films you wish you could watch, the technology you wish someone was building — on Kickstarter, people work together to make those things a reality” (Kickstarter). Another benefit to Kickstarter includes an archived file that remains on their website. The constant advertisement can continue marketing your business, providing added success. Let your creative juices flow and become one of the 112,000 successfully funded projects.

Amadou Diallo, entrepreneur, photographer, and author, suggests seven tips for a successful crowdfunding experience.

  1. Solve a real problem
  2. Do your homework
  3. Bring money to the table
  4. Set a smart funding goal
  5. Make an effective pitch
  6. It’s not always about the money
  7. Make the campaign your top priority

Surprisingly, tip number six, it’s not always about the money, can be the most rewarding. For example, Gavin Fish, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Light Harmonic, credits the success of one of their products to consumer feedback. “The feedback from backers was much more significant than the money we raised. Near the end of our Geek Out campaign, for example, many backers began asking for a larger unit with more features. That feedback led directly to our second product in the lineup, the Geek Pulse” (Diallo, Amadou. “Crowdfunding Secrets: 7 Tips For Kickstarter Success”). Detailed research and development initially grabs customer’s attention, but honest feedback directly influences strategy and the development of products. The key to a successful business involves sales and in order to sell your product, it must appeal to the market.

Crowdfunding is a great way to gain financial capital and get an accurate evaluation of a business’ impact in the market. The crowdfunding platforms can differ slightly, but all offer the benefit of establishing your product across the globe. Upload your business plan, receive funds along with feedback, and join Kickstart’s mission of bringing creative projects to life!

 

References:

Chen, Perry. Kickstarter. Web. 16 September 2016.

https://www.kickstarter.com/about?ref=footer

Close, Kerry. Money: “Why Most Startups Fail — As Told by Their Founders”. 12 May 2016. Web. 16 September 2016. http://time.com/money/4327926/why-startups-fail-silicon-valley/

Diallo, Amadou. Forbes: “Crowdfunding Secrets: 7 Tips For Kickstarter Success”. 24 January 2014. Web 15 September 2016.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amadoudiallo/2014/01/24/crowdfunding-secrets-7-tips-for-kickstarter-success/#276ac80d627f

Investopedia: “Kickstarter”. Web. 15 September 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kickstarter

Patel, Neil. Forbes: “90% Of Startups Fail: Here’s What You Need To Know About The 10%”. 16 January 2016. Web. 16 September 2016.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/neilpatel/2015/01/16/90-of-startups-will-fail-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-10/#f58efc155e19

Payton, Susan. “6 Crowdfunding Sites: Which Is Best for You?” Web. 16 September 2016. http://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/crowd-funding/6-crowdfunding-sites-which-is-best-for-you/

 

Cash Flow: In Need of Financial Capital

Lines of Credit

Need a new car? Want to remodel the kitchen? Need a bigger location for your growing business? Most Americans do not have the funds to pay for large retail items all at once. Thankfully, there is a system where individuals and business owners can open a line of credit. The loan provides large amounts of money, while the individual is expected to pay off the funds in smaller payments over a period of time. This process allows those who have less initial income the ability to purchase items they want or desperately need.

According to investopedia.com, “a line of credit is an arrangement between a financial institution, usually a bank, and a customer that establishes a maximum loan balance that the lender permits the borrower to access or maintain”. The line of credit can be used at any time as long as the borrower does not exceed the maximum loan and commits to paying a minimum, timely payment, usually monthly.

There are two lines of credit, personal and business. Both lines of credit work similar to a credit card, in that, it is a revolving account. Spend money and pay it off, spend more money and pay it off. The difference between a credit card and a personal/business line of credit is higher interest rates and lower dollar limits. Both credit cards and a line of credit are useful to borrowers who spend money infrequently. Interest is only allocated to money spent; therefore, if the borrower does not purchase items, they will not be charged an interest fee.

Since a line of credit is similar to a credit card, several factors come into consideration when being approved for the loan. Banks will evaluate a borrowers credit score (size of debt and promptness to repaying), credit history, yearly income, job stability, and lifestyle spending habits in order to determine an amount for the line of credit and corresponding interest rate. Contrastingly, for a business line of credit, the financial institution will evaluate the profitability and risk of the business. Accurate financial statements are critical for this appraisal and a business owner should be cautious with expenses. Higher expenses can infer that the business is at risk, which will result in a lower loan or higher interest rate.

After the borrower determines which line of credit to use and the maximum loan amount, the credit can either be secured or unsecured. “Secured lines of credit, like secure loans, are backed by collateral, such as a house or business property. Unsecured lines of credit are not backed by collateral and, therefore, tend to have higher interest rates to account for the greater risk to the lender” (Barrymore, John. “How Lines of Credit Work”). The other option is a home equity line of credit (HELOC). This credit works exactly the same as personal and business lines of credit, but an HELOC is secured through the equity in the borrower’s home. The HELOC serves as a great example in determining a credit limit because it consist of the value of personal or business assets (home, office space, equipment, etc.) If there are second thoughts in creating an HELOC, “The federal Truth in Lending Act legally gives you three days to change your mind after you set up a home equity line of credit” (Barrymore, John. “How Lines of Credit Work).

In conclusion, establishing a line of credit is helpful to borrowers who are uncertain of money needs, spends funds erratically, and values reduced interest rates. A fixed loan, like a car payment, is a one-time exact dollar amount loan. The lender will expect a recurring monthly payment and based on financing and credit history, the borrower will pay a larger amount of interest. Once the loan is paid off, additional funds will require the production of a new fixed loan. Set up a line of credit and feel confident in knowing there is access to resources for unpredictable and forecasted expenses.

 

 

References:

Barrymore, John. How Stuff Works: “How Lines of Credit Work” 5 August 2008. Web. 12 September 2016.

http://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/banking/lines-of-credit.htm

Investopedia: “Line of Credit”. Web. 12 September 2016. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/lineofcredit.asp?ad=dirN&qo=investopediaSiteSearch&qsrc=0&o=40186

Direct Response Tool-Reflection

My previous posts explained my “two-step” direct response tool. I plan to catch the attention of my ideal clients on social media with a grand opening flyer and proceed to give real life quotes from college coaches on recruiting criteria for those who are interested in The Circle Training Facility. After creating an advertisement on Facebook and getting the first step of my marketing tool out to potential customers, I wanted to know what would make them open or read the mail I sent for step two or the second part of the direct response tool.

I felt that my primary target market would be too young to give feedback on the envelope or content within my letter, so I decided to pinpoint the secondary target market, the parents or guardians. I specifically asked my clients what are you looking for when you receive mail? What entices you to open the mail? What encourages you to read the entire document?

The three components that were mentioned included:

  1. Personalization
  2. Eye catching material
  3. Something worth while (freebie, coupon, etc.)

Following my conversations, I thought of several ideas. The customers want personalization, but maybe to catch their attention, I would address the letter to Future College Softball Player. In the body of the letter I would direct it to the individual and the family but first start with something intriguing. For the eye catching material, I would experiment with designing the envelope to mimic a softball as well as using bright colors. The letter will have plenty of content but I plan on using several pictures, personal and photos of clients, to establish trust with potential clients. I didn’t really think about adding something of value but when I think of opening my personal mail, I would love to see a coupon or read I can win a free gift. By adding that element to the message, I feel it would keep attention to read the entire document. If adding a free skill lesson or presenting a coupon for a discount will entice the clients to give undivided attention and read my proposal, I would be willing to add that gift in hopes of gaining more customers.

The “Two-step” direct response tool is an excellent marketing technique. It leaves your customers wanting more information and then offers free tips, research, information, or coupons in return. This approach promotes the business and also establishes trust between company and customer. Thank you to those of you who participated in giving feedback for step two. Getting attention is the number one priority but following up with a strong response establishes trust and reduces risk when purchasing from a business.

Direct Response Tool- Step 2

Once a customer is interested in our business, from an advertisement or word-of-mouth, we will mail or email the second part of our Direct Response Tool.

The biggest obstacle to overcome when wanting to play college softball is being recruited. Below is the document we will provide that gives young athletes direct quotes from college softball coaches on their recruiting criteria. This information can really help athletes and their families in the recruiting process.

College Coach Recruiting Criteria

 

The Circle Training Facility Presentation Reflection

Public speaking tends to be a struggle for most people. The thought of standing up and talking in front of a crowd make some so afraid that the fear is defined as glossophobia. Public speaking is not my forte, but I’m glad I was pushed to step out of my comfort zone and present my business plan to the local community. Presenting is an excellent way to communicate with potential customers and create brand awareness.

After reading Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen, I decided to use social media to promote the presentation by advertising on Facebook. I created a Facebook page for my aspiring business and posted an event that included the time, location, and date.

ScreenShot2016-08-15at7.21.58PM_133

Several of my personal friends liked the page and a couple committed to attend the presentation by clicking “Going” to this event. You will notice that some also chose the “Interested” in attending button as well; meaning they are not fully committed but would like to possibly attend. Barbara Byerly, in particular, shared and posted about the presentation. The screenshot below also shows the 6 people interested and 7 people going to the event. By sharing my event, Barbara exposed The Circle Training Facility Page to all her friends and also made it known to all our mutual friends that she was going to support. Sharing posts, photos, or events increases buzz amongst the market and generates much more attention.

ScreenShot2016-08-15at7.23.02PM_136_101

My business plan aims to help young softball players compete at the collegiate level. I was pleased to have travel ball coaches, parents, and softball players in the audience.

IMG_0377

Before I gave details about the business, I expressed my frustrations with the recruiting process as a college coach and revealed researched frustrations from currents coaches, players and parents. Once I informed them of the need, I described how The Circle Training Facility would not only benefit individuals, but also assist in growing the sport.

presentation

Following the presentation, I opened it up for any questions from the audience. I spoke with a parent about the ideal time frame to begin the recruiting process and also discussed other alternatives in getting college exposure other than playing in tournaments. Talking with a travel ball coach made me feel like he would pass along my advice to his team and other teams in the organization.

presentation 2

Because of our common interests, I conversed with several parents about Western Carolina’s hitting philosophy and was also introduced to a new product that supports our teachings. The product is called The Wedge and it helps young athletes use their legs to generate more power while hitting. I plan to research the product more and possibly purchase the device to help our college athletes!

Thank you to all who attended my professional presentation and because of this awesome experience, I plan to continue being an advocate of college softball and sharing my thoughts and ideas with others in the community.

 

 

 

References:

Kerpen, Dave. Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook. New York; McGraw Hill. 2011.

 

https://www.facebook.com/TheCircleTrainingFacility/