Securing funding is a major feat for any brand and requires a great deal of planning and expertise. However, the real value comes from turning that initial support into long-term growth – transforming a spark into a sustainable fire. Without financial stability, eCommerce brands lack the foundation to tackle key business endeavours like evolving product lines, expanding geographic storefronts or making new investments into shipping and packaging that enhance the customer experience.
This is particularly true for emerging businesses transitioning from angel or first-round funding sources into companies with verified equity. These brands are no longer simply selling an idea but must be able to back their entire business model with a concrete financial plan.
As both the CEO of Dotcom Distribution and a CPA, keeping track of our financial standing is a critical component of managing a business – at any stage, but especially in the early days. With a lineup of clients funded heavily by private equity, I’ve seen my fair share of financial successes, as well as blunders. With 50 percent of U.S. businesses failing within their first five years, it’s important that any emerging company makes smart financial decisions.
Here are three tips I find valuable when helping entrepreneurs keep their brands out of finance troubles:
1. Develop a clear vision/path to profitability
It’s important to develop strict financial principles that govern all incoming and outgoing spending. If you are seeking capital through funding, you must demonstrate your expected return-on-investment (ROI) for those investors and detail where expenditures will go.
You should also be able to explain how you intend to manage cash and receivables, and have a clear vision toward becoming, and remaining, cash flow positive. When involved in any type of private equity or venture capital funding, ‘building the business’ is no longer a detailed enough financial plan.
For example, if you intend to allocate $10,000 to marketing, why are you doing so? What outreach efforts are you going to push, and is your anticipated ROI based on real-world research? You should plan to speak to how you will stand out from competitors and compel consumers toward conversion. If you cannot demonstrate how future funding will build upon your existing business, investors will likely take their money elsewhere.
Part of following through on your finances is developing clear communication strategies with your investors, as this creates accountability for you and your team.
Transparency with your funding sources will ensure they see you as a worthwhile investment and can enhance your own strengths. Also, when working with investors, it’s important to showcase business maturity. For instance, it’s imperative you implement segregation of duties, work processes and controls that support your key performance indicators and success drivers.
2. Use investors to increase financial viability
Your own finances are paramount, but it’s equally important to think critically about the success of your investors and partners. These players are backing your growth, and it’s a sign of good faith when you can make business decisions with them in mind. For example, if you have the chance to scale down a marketing strategy while maintaining growth or can cut costs by decreasing manufacturing inefficiencies, this helps stretch an investment further.
Helping your investors or partners often allows you to ask for help in return down the line. We have helped clients remove pain points on the manufacturing side and in turn have been able to help them save money. Those companies were later able to negotiate discounted supply chain costs, which ultimately helped to positively affect their cash flow.
3. Make sound hiring decisions
I once had a client say to me “I don’t know if I’ll always be the CEO.” Shortcomings are tough to admit, but self-awareness is the mark of a smart entrepreneur who is focusing on the financial future of his/her company.
Others’ experiences and expertise are often the best way to avoid squandering important financial opportunities. We’ve been impressed by clients who knew when to bring in smart executives from other already successful eCommerce players. The people often better understand how to leverage finances (including private equity and venture capital funds).
Running and owning a business should never be all about money, but properly managing your finances is a key part of long-term success, especially in eCommerce sales. By using the tips above, you can help your company make the most of the investments it has earned.
It’s also a good idea to add new technologies – or seek out a partner that can add these technologies for you – that will help you make smarter financial decisions when it comes to areas like advertising spend, strategies for liquidation, customer acquisition costs, etc.
As you continue to grow it’s not enough to just know how to spend or save money. Successful brands also need to know how to manage money on behalf of investors.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
6 Hacks For Getting Clients To Pay You Faster
Almost everybody pays eventually but almost nobody pays sooner than they have to. That’s a problem.
Getting your clients to pay you on time is a real hassle. After a sale, it is easy to think you did your job and just relax. Nothing is set in stone until the payment is final.
Not getting your payment on time can be detrimental to your company. This is especially so if you need or were expecting that money to come within a certain timeframe. It is frustrating, and there is a fine line because often you are working with people who could be recurring, valuable customers.
Therefore, it is critical to you find ways to get paid on time. Here are seven hacks to avoid the hassle and get paid faster:
1. Set payment expectations early and give gentle reminders
From the onset, ensure that your clients know what their cost and payment schedule look like. You do not want to give them any reason for confusion or an excuse not to pay on time. Make it crystal clear when they need to pay by and how much they will need to pay. It will properly set their expectations to avoid surprises.
Offering gentle reminders about an upcoming payment can continue to keep their expectations in check. They might not be prepared to pay if they signed their contract three months ago and forgot that their payment date was tomorrow. Instead, put the pieces in place to ensure, with total certainty, that they know how much they will owe and when they will owe it.
Poor communication also sets a poor standard with your clients. It will give them the message that they can receive your services without having to pay on time. It is hard to change this precedent. Therefore, being consistent and straightforward from the very beginning will help you keep these payments coming.
2. Follow up
Do not hesitate to follow up after sending the invoice. Your clients are busy. They likely overlooked a payment if they did not make it. You can send friendly reminders to pay after a few days have gone by. No one minds a gentle follow-up as it demonstrates your ability to act professionally. I built my calendar app for this very reason. Follow up frequently till they pay.
Streamline the payment process as much as possible. There are some awesome tools to help collect payments today. The less time it takes your customers to make the payment, the faster you will get paid and the less hassle you will deal with. It is worth the upfront investment to set up the right systems in order to get faster results.
When possible, take the payment upfront, too. This way there will not even be an issue of getting them to pay. Today, people are more comfortable paying for a service before they see its full value in. Take advantage of that.
3. Offer small incentives for quick payment
Offering incentives for quick payments will speed up the process and build customer loyalty. Customers know they are going to have to pay at some point. If they know that making the payment immediately will give them an additional benefit, then they will often do so.
You can even form these incentives around your product or services. It could be sending company stickers, access to an additional feature, or a free week of service. This will reward them for paying on time and give them further reason to continue coming back.
4. Send the invoice to the right person
At larger companies, it is crucial that you send the invoice to the right person. When your clients are originally agreeing to pay, make sure they know how that payment will take place. It takes two minutes to discuss who will be making the payment, and it will save you significant stress on the back end.
5. Establish personal connections with clients
You might not always have the bandwidth to do this, but getting to know your clients will give you a much easier route to payment collection. In the case that someone has not paid, you will feel more comfortable asking them. It is easier to send a quick reminder to someone that you know than it is when you feel like you have to be more formal. Personal connections with your clients will ensure you get your money faster.
6. Think about the little things
There are a variety of small factors that add up to improve the speed in which you receive payments. Think about the time of day that you are sending the invoices out, the styling of the invoices and the actual content within them.
You can streamline the process with a clean and concise invoice. Make it visually appealing and include descriptions of what they are paying for. The process will slow down if you make mistakes. Instead, take the extra time to make sure that everything looks as it should.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Why Bartering Can Be Your Untapped Revenue Source
More organisations are experimenting with cash-free solutions. Here’s how bartering may drive the future of B2B commerce.
Many small- to medium-size business owners have begun to barter, trade and swap goods and services without any cash involved.
Take the city of Portland for example. Unsurprisingly, the culturally tight-knit and self-proclaimed weird city has given rise to a thriving underground bartering network. A recent Rolling Stone article showcased the colorful personalities and supportive business community that is Portland’s bartering economy. Some of them call themselves “swappers,” others simply identify as community-oriented business owners. All of them share a common bond of exchanging goods and services to help each other grow.
The trouble with traditional bartering like this is that it’s incredibly difficult to scale. The idea of a coffee shop exchanging beans for fresh food from a local grower is nice, but any business looking to expand can’t possibly expect that kind of barter to lead to scalable growth.
That’s what gave Bob Bagga, CEO and founder of BizX, the idea to create a community that enables businesses to turn their excess capacity into potential capital. Bagga explains:
“By using the BizX dollar, businesses are able to turn extra business capacity and assets into cash flow, which can, in turn, be spent at member businesses without any cash involved. The goal for us is to reduce waste, maximise member potential and help companies earn new customers.”
By creating a complementary currency to power commerce through the sharing of excess goods and services, Bagga and his team have given business owners a chance to create cash-free lines of capital for little more than their incremental cost of goods sold.
Most business owners have plenty of great ideas to grow, but lack the capital and cash resources needed for those growth initiatives. Take a restauranteur, for example. Expanding or upgrading the restaurant may be their desired path for generating increased revenue, but the cash required for such an undertaking might not be readily available.
What if that same restaurateur was able to exchange empty seats and excess food for a shared currency that they could then spend at other businesses in the network? While trading one meal with a contractor might not result in enough capital to exchange in return for a major overhaul, many units over time will eventually add up.
That’s precisely why business owners are looking for alternatives to traditional financing and venture capital raising. Those models, though effective, often edge out small- to medium-size businesses in favour of rapid growth SaaS companies or user-heavy business models.
As a result, businesses looking at growing should explore growth opportunities that require little to no upfront investment.
The future of B2B commerce
B2B companies often operate at less than their full potential. Bagga pointed out that small businesses in the United States, on average, only run at 80 percent capacity. In many cases, this is simply because connecting with new customers presents a real challenge.
Also, most B2B companies have excess business potential because they offer products or services that could field more customers at a small marginal cost of goods sold. As such, many can afford to accept an alternative form of payment, as long as they can use it for other practical applications.
While traditional bartering usually doesn’t result in additional cash flow, companies that are able to exchange services based on a shared or complementary currency can determine when and how to spend their newfound capital. Many will use that for marketing, advertising and public relations services that would otherwise have been too costly.
Cash flow isn’t always confined to exchanged services either. In many cases, these unique partnerships result in cash business resulting from direct referrals from services rendered in exchange for other goods.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
The Steps Involved In Joining An Investment Holding Company For High Growth
There are many growth capital avenues available for established entrepreneurs. One of those is joining an investment holding company. Is this the right move for your business?
Let’s say you’re a high-growth, high-impact business that’s reached a ceiling; a point at which you need to seek investment partners as a growth tool. Many mature businesses approach an intersection at which it becomes clear that they need to unlock capital, identify mentors, or collaborate beneficially with other subsidiaries.
If your goal is to join an investment holding company, what are the steps involved and what can you expect from the process?
Sustainability and scalability are the key
To begin with, it’s important to clarify the difference between a private equity (PE) investor and an investment holding company. PE investors need to go into an investment knowing what their exit strategy will be, while groups choose to invest in businesses that have shown themselves to be sustainable and scalable. As long as they continue along that road, the group is more likely to hold onto them. You are also a member of that group, and subject to its board.
In the case of MICROmega, we seek first to understand the business. If we are able to do that, we look for sustainability and scalability, and if these characteristics are clearly evident, we go on to pursue an investment opportunity. This is typical of investment holding companies.
Once we become the investment holding company, we try to remove as many of the subsidiary’s distractions as we can: Alleviating administrative and financing burdens so that business owners are free to focus on growing the business. In our experience, growing businesses become more and more administratively intensive, which can bog entrepreneurs down.
This is ultimately a partnership, so everyone should benefit from the association. At the same time, you need to be sure that the investment holding company shares your values — this is a long-term relationship, and you need to know that you’ll be happy down the line.
What would-be subsidiaries need to do
1Define exactly what you want
While there are some basic strategic values that any partner should be able to bring to the table — namely, access to capital, industry-specific networks, and economies of scale — it’s wise for an investor-seeking business to have a predetermined idea of the specifics that they require from a potential strategic partner.
2Research, and research again
Any long-term investment relationship should begin with extensive research on the investment partner universe. There are many potential investment partners out there, but each has specific investment mandates, sector or industry preferences, and value preferences. Ensure that you can identify and understand these.
3Be clear on your own risk profile
The quantum of funding required will impact the choice of funding partner. When you understand your risk profile relative to the type of returns on offer, you’ll be able to determine, and strive to seek out the most appropriate funding source.
4Unpack your plan for the capital
Businesses seeking to be acquired should be clear on what they will do with the capital to be contributed by the investment partner, and how growth will be achieved.
5Ask the investor the right questions
I’m a firm believer in would-be subsidiaries ensuring that they adequately evaluate potential investors. The starting point is to ensure that the interests of both parties are aligned.
Thereafter, further questions should cover:
- Investors’ detailed track records
- Their investment mandates
- The returns that they target
- Their typical risk profiles
- The origins or sources of their funding.
6Ensure a sense of shared spirit
It is essential that the investor and the organisation’s priorities and approaches are aligned at the outset; that they are on the same page. Many things can go wrong between entrepreneurs and financial partners, and the worst outcome is that the investor crushes the entrepreneur’s pioneering spirit.
In such a scenario, no one wins. This is why I believe that both parties should be happy, with a sincere sense that they have entered into a partnership that will create value on both sides.
Regardless of who your investment holding company is, you should expect it to provide access to capital and support throughout the business; provide mentorship and ideas around innovation; and help you to create an environment in which you are able to focus on innovating, and not on administration management.
- Do you know what you’d like from an investment partner?
- Have you thoroughly researched potential partners in your sector?
- Have you determined your risk profile versus potential returns?
- Do you have a plan on what you intend to do with any capital raised?
- Do you have a clear list of questions to ask any potential investors?
- Have you evaluated whether there is value-alignment?
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