Conceive, Believe, Achieve: Making Your Business Dream a Reality
The nature of work as we know it is being radically redefined. As cloud software applications, and smart algorithms begin to automate many functional activities across a variety of industries, even highly-skilled employees are being forced to ask: “Will I even have a job in the next five years?”
The truth is that many of the changes these career professionals fear are already here. The much-vaunted hierarchical model which sustained scores of corporate executives for decades is rapidly going the way of the dodo. Throughout the world’s leading Fortune 500 companies, CEOs are looking to flatten organizational structures and introduce dynamic, contingent workforces. At the same time, flexible service platforms like Uber and WeWork are giving rise to a new gig economy, based around flexible working practices and limited oversight.
In response to these upheavals, a number of people are being forced to adjust their educational and professional objectives, because the traditional systems which guaranteed highly-paid jobs to individuals with the right qualifications and achievements just aren’t sustainable anymore. However, one class of businessperson that is positively thriving amidst this chaotic landscape is the entrepreneur.
The Allure of Entrepreneurship
As massive multinationals struggle to streamline their offerings, and introduce more innovation into their business processes, entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the fast-paced nature of this digital economy. Equipped with massively powerful communications tools and an unprecedented volume of data, start-ups and small businesses are finding gaps in the global market to deliver the personalized buying experiences that consumers demand.
In fact these firms are now driving the majority of economic growth, while 59% of entrepreneurs surveyed in 2016 indicated that they were looking to increase their workforces, only 28% of large businesses agreed. Entrepreneurs also serve to disrupt stagnating industries, employing radical new technologies and service models to derive value where larger businesses see only risk.
Of course not everyone is willing to take the leap of faith. In North America, 58% of working adults (including a fair share of millenials), see strong possibilities for starting a business in the current market, yet only 13% say that they’re willing to actually invest in these ideas over the next three years. From the fear of failure to a lack of capital, there are a host of potential challenges, which may stop you from pursuing your business idea. For motivated entrepreneurs, these obstacles can be easily navigated with the right strategies.
In Conversation with a Budding Entrepreneur
At The Expat Money Show, we recently spoke to Clara Day Herrera, a new business owner who challenges many of these fears on a daily basis. In 2016 Clara quit her long-time position as a cabin manager at a leading airline to pursue her dream of opening an eco-friendly yoga resort on the beautiful island of Palawan. This unique retreat is now scheduled for its grand opening in the first quarter of 2018, under the name Salt and Sky Resorts.
In an extremely illuminating discussion, Clara opened up about what she’s learned over her entrepreneurial career so far, and offered key insights for aspiring business owners looking to go down the same route. One of the most interesting parts of our conversation centred on capital, one of the major concerns for any new business. Here are some great takeaways.
Get Your Funding in Place
To be successful, your business needs to fulfil three primary objectives. First, it must serve an identifiable need in the marketplace. Second, you must have the right people around you to ensure success. Third, you must have access to sufficient capital to get your venture off the ground. Without these three factors in place, even the most enthusiastic entrepreneur is doomed to failure.
Of course capital can be hard to come by for even the most skilled negotiator. In the post-recession economy, traditional financial institutions are more risk-averse than ever before. So how does an enterprising business owner secure the necessary funding?
Work out a business plan and identify the minimum capital requirements for your business. Then start saving as much of your regular income as possible to invest in your new business. Because you have a keen appreciation of the money you’re putting into the business, you will be far more scrupulous about any spending decisions moving forward. You’ll also have some added motivation to recoup your sunk costs. Self-funding also gives you the ability to retain full equity in the business as it grows.
Friends and Family
If you’re not in a position to save substantial amounts of money, and external financing isn’t an option then your personal circle might be the best bet. Before asking a friend or family member for funding, be clear about the proposition you’re making. Are you asking for an interest-free loan? Are you offering a silent partnership role? Will you be guaranteeing a certain amount of equity in the business? Set everything out on paper before committing to any agreement, have a lawyer look over the paperwork if necessary.
If your acquaintance has little to offer to the business apart from money, then you should stick to a traditional loan arrangement. Make sure to set the terms of the loan at the outset, a 10-15 year repayment period should be expected. Start making regular repayments on the capital and interest as quickly as possible to ensure a good relationship with your banker. Remember, even if the business fails you will have a responsibility to complete payments.
The Traditional Route
With no business history and no proven revenue it can be extremely difficult to persuade a bank to commit to your idea. But there are a few critical steps you can take to increase your chances of success.
- Create a comprehensive business plan that includes financial projections for revenues, profits, cash flows, and capital expenditure over the first 5 years of your business. Make sure to detail the opportunities and risks to your business in the market. Define qualitative goals for your business and describe your ideal path to exit.
- Make sure that your personal credit is in good standing. Pay off any outstanding loans if you’re able to. An overleveraged entrepreneur is generally a bad bet for investment.
- Make sure you have a bank statement, tax records, resume and other personal documentation in hand.
- Register your start-up before you enter into negotiations.
Venture Capital & Angel Investors
From successful businesspeople, to independently wealthy individuals, local investment clubs and of course dedicated investment firms, a much-needed capital injection can come from a variety of sources but finding a stranger that’s willing to invest in an unproven idea is understandably daunting. Here are some tips that might help you along the way.
Talk to as many people as possible in and around your industry. Make sure you get opinions from individuals with the right expertise that can poke holes in your foolproof business plans and help you create a more robust proposition in the process.
Once you have a business strategy that holds up to scrutiny, it’s time to use your newfound network to secure introductions. Find out who’s making investments in your area, and align yourself with successful individuals that share the same passion and perspectives as you. LinkedIn is a particularly powerful tool for creating connections with powerful people within your industry. Use the six-degrees of separation rule to foster relationships with prospective investors.
Have Your Team in Place
As motivated as you may be, you alone do not constitute a business. If you go into an investment meeting with just a business plan and no other team members then you’re still going to look unprepared. Assemble a quality team of trusted, technically competent individuals and bring them along to answer any specific questions.
Know Your Stuff
Venture capitalists and professional investors make a living out of scrutinizing business ideas. So if you think you have a concept that’s guaranteed to win you supporters without any further effort then think again. From financial estimates, to routes to exit, patent consideration and plans for expansion, you should have a comprehensive five-year plan for your business ready to go.
Wildly optimistic claims open you up for instant criticism. Unless you have substantial proof to back up your profit estimates, it’s best to err on the side of caution and keep your confidence to yourself until your plans pan out.
More Keys to Start-Up Success
Listen to our full conversation with Clara to hear about the one source of funding we didn’t bring up in the blog. Clara also recommends some great literature that has helped her change her mindset towards business and create success in real, tangible ways. And if you really want to take things to the next level make sure to sign up for our newsletter below…