If you have a great idea for a business and your second thought is to look for financing, I want you to hold your horses for a moment and ask yourself, Why? You need to get three different answers before moving forward. If you think that funding is the best option rather than bootstrapping it with your personal resources, be careful! Outside funding brings its own crop of distractions.
Here are 7 things you need to know before pursing financing for your small business.
1. You Won't Write the Deal
If this is your first business, then you don’t have a financial track record, which puts you in a beggar's position. The investor you seek funding from has the power and may deploy an agreement that puts you at a disadvantage, either by valuing your company less than you think it should be valued at, or by charging you a higher cost of capital.
2. You'll Be Chasing the Funding Instead of the Customer
At this stage of building a business, there are few things as important as your customer. Once you divert your interest from your clientele to pursue funding, you will distract yourself from the building your business. Building a customer base requires focus and dedication; getting funding requires the same. Since you have limited time, it will be a real challenge. Customers are the linchpin of your success. Ignore them at your own risk.
3. You Could Undervalue Your Company
When you seek money from outside sources, you have to place a specific monetary value on your company based on its assets and intellectual property. It is easy to make a substantial mistake that you’ll only be able to determine after the fact. It is difficult to calculate the value of an emerging company, and this may make getting funding a challenge.
4. You Might Partner With the Wrong People
Partnerships are like other relationships. When you partner with an investor in haste, you put your business at risk. The offer to fund your enterprise rarely comes without strings, so make sure you understand your financier better than you understand your spouse. If that sounds like a tall order, then you may not be ready to take the leap with complete confidence. There is a lot at stake, so use caution.
5. You'll Learn More Without Funding
Bootstrapping is a valuable exercise. A true entrepreneur builds a business to learn something: about the market, about the customer, about the product and himself. When you build your business without a cushion, you get to learn expensive lessons. They are often the most valuable. Running a business will build your instincts and help you hone your talent.
6. Funding Often Masks Underlying Problems
An excess of cash can hide critical deficiencies in a business model. An infusion of capital won’t fix all your problems. If your staff isn’t properly trained and you’re getting customer service complaints, money won’t remedy that; effort will. It’s sometimes easier to see these issues and fix them if you don’t have too much money between you and the problems.
7. You Could Lose Control of Your Company
Once you’ve put your most devoted efforts into building your company, and secured outside funding you’ll have to appoint a Board of Directors, but most likely your funded will have financial and board control. Investors like to work with executives they know. You, as a fresh entrepreneur, represent an unknown territory. Backers don’t know how you’ll react to success or difficulty and may want to remove you as the CEO.
If you see your business opportunity as a way to cash in quick, you may not have the stamina to bring your business venture to success. Investors rarely invest in an idea and they don’t invest quickly. It could take 18-24 months to secure a deal.. The reality is that funding brings as many problems as it appears to solve. While there are other options for funding, explore them carefully and avoid making commitments under duress.
Melinda is a founder and president of Quintessence Group, an award-winning marketing consulting firm based in Philadelphia, PA, serving Fortune 500 brands who target small businesses.