When it comes to scaling up a business, it’s often at the critical funding hurdle where they fail. Here are six essential steps to getting your business investment-ready. As entrepreneurs, we all have questions about how funding can take our business to the next level. Is now the right time? What are my options? How much will I need? Actually, where do I start?
Getting a fundraising strategy right is about understanding your business’ own growth potential empowering you to approach investors with conviction about your brand’s ability to grow and deliver a fantastic return. So, how do you get your brand investment ready?
1. Know Your Point Of Difference
It’s competitive out there and any early stage investor worth their salt will want to see proper evidence in a sector that will offer real returns. You need to be offering something genuinely unique and be able to demonstrate exactly how your competitive advantage comes from a truly different value proposition.
This will prove the relevance and potential of your brand as a great investment vehicle. Don’t stop there – look at ways to evolve that point of difference, ensuring investors stay engaged, excited and connected to the brand.
2. Tell Me About Your Market Place
Your investor is looking for a scalable business model, which depends on the size of your market. Know your audience – define exactly who you’re reaching and where. Start off by focusing on a single marketplace to strengthen your focus.
Once you’ve consolidated this, you can look to expand. Know your competitors too, be able to communicate clearly why your brand is the one to back.
3. Be Bold About Your Investment Options
You don’t need to hear it from me – bringing a business to market is a massive task. Strategic through to tactical challenges fill your day.
The beauty of bringing in external investors – whatever their form – gives you immediate access to a ready team of incentivised people who want your business to grow fast. They want to help you do this too. From my perspective, this is a more effective option, rather than bootstrapping a business in fits and bursts or through a handful of smaller loans.
There is a tendency amongst startups to be reluctant to consider investment, with the perception they’re giving away too much of their hard-earned business. Not all investors have a Dragon’s Den profile. Opening your mind to bringing in equity partners gives you a much greater opportunity for success, whether you’re leveraging the experience they bring or the financial benefits.
4. Build The Right Team
The bottom line is, your team is critical; these guys will make your vision and business happen. There will be an expectation from investors that your team will comprise great commercial and creative skills.
Investors can be happy to invest in a credible team even when the actual business model still needs work – they won’t invest in an idea with the wrong people. It’s not always about a big, full-time team either. A small complementary leadership team heading the venture, backed by a team of strong contractors or partners shows flexibility and financial smarts.
5. What’s Your End Goal?
As with any relationship, the best way to work with an investor is over the long-term. Remember, you are going into the financial community to take your business to that next level, not to plug a short-term cash flow issue.
When you meet with an investor, be totally focused about what you’re asking for. £XXX will take your business here, while £XXXX will take it to the level beyond that. Are you just looking for a cash injection or do you see this a deeper partnership, from mentoring through to industry access and networking.
Where do you want to be this time next year? Five years? Investors will expect you to have clear answers here.
6. It’s Not Just Your Forecasts… It’s Your Assumptions
The final, really important issue is how to manage your financial projections when pitching for funds.
Start up forecasts have very little to go on… no trading legacy, model still in flux and so on. This is why so many fail to stand the test of time and market forces.
However, their function is rarely to convince an investor about your projected EBITDA in year 4, it’s to convince them about the way you think, the assumptions you make, and whether you’re an entrepreneur they can trust and believe in.
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