Capital Raising For Small Business – Choose Your Advisor Carefully

So you are thinking of raising capital for your business by bringing in a new equity partner (i.e. with funding) and giving up some stake in your business to do so?

New and emerging businesses often demand fresh capital. As a founder drives their business and builds their empire, they are often prepared to take a longer term view, reducing their 100% holding by bringing in new capital to fulfil their dreams.

However raising capital is a difficult exercise for young and entrepreneurial businesses. In essence you are asking  investors to give you their cash and speculate that you are the next Henry T. Ford who’s just about to commercialise the automobile (such high expectations are not beyond some investors, such is the premium they place on their capital).

Let’s consider Henry Ford. He started one company with outside capital that ultimately dissolved, commenced a new one that he left (the forerunner to Cadillac) and then created another company with other investors’ money before the business finally became successful.

While Henry is a great lesson in innovation, commercialisation and tenacity, he also knew what it was like to ask for investment capital (and clearly, he was quite good at it!). So if Henry can ask and receive capital, given his early somewhat chequered career, so can you.

To be as successful as Henry Ford, as well as being entrepreneurial you need to understand the capital raising process and the mindset of the people you are likely to deal with.

Investment proposals today (post GFC) are now more than ever likely to face very conservative, deliberate people who carefully assess investment risk and return. Even if the investor appears to have ‘bought in’ they are usually smart enough to employ an army of advisors to make sure they don’t commit before at least hearing their paid for investment advice.

The background of such investors is usually that of people who have been successful in business, now have financial capacity and regularly receive a range of alternative investment proposals to consider. If your investment appears to make commercial sense, you have a business plan, a strategy, good people and you can demonstrate this to the investor and their advisors, then you and your business might be worth “a punt”.

Don’t underestimate the emotional aspect too – investors are human and they prefer to do business with people that they like.

Here are my 7 must-dos for capital raising – take care of these before commencing the process.

  1. Ensure you have exhausted all attempts at raising finance from banks and other financiers.  Family and friends might, might be a possibility too.
  2. Look at your business through the eyes of an investor – have an answer for their burning question “What’s in it for me?”
  3. Select a good advisor very carefully. Look for advisors who have credibility in the market space they occupy – don’t choose a global consulting firm if you are looking to raise $500,000.
  4. Look for an advisor you feel comfortable with – you’re going to spend a lot of time with them so you might as well enjoy their company. Ask for references!
  5. Ensure that you are actually ready to give up some equity in the business – this is critical.
  6. Recognise this could be a 6 month process and that the business still has to function – so make sure you have enough management capability within your business. (Also harden up!  This will be a very busy, frustrating and trying time for you – it’s stressful.)
  7. Go back to Tips 3 and 4 and make sure you’ve got this right.

Don’t forget the non financial benefits which may come out of this – new business connections, a fresh set of eyes and the capacity to draw on additional business experience – all of which could greatly assist you in achieving your business goals.

Happy hunting!

Steve Hogan was a former Client Director at Vantage Performance, a profit improvement and turnaround specialist. Vantage Performance is a member of the Turnaround Management Association Australia and winner of the 2008 and 2009 “Turnaround of the Year” awards.


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