Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Q&A: How Do I Finance My Company Without Losing Control? 1

Question:

I need $250,000 to get my business started, but from what I see on the web, I’m going to have to give away the business, practically, to get that money from investors. And I don’t want to borrow the money because it’s a startup and I can’t be sure I’ll succeed.

cash ball and chain

My answer:

  1. You may be worrying about the wrong thing entirely because investors want know part of you or your business. Don’t even try to get angel investors unless you can convince them that there’s a reasonable chance that the money they give you today will give them ownership in a company that they’ll be able to sell to somebody else for 5, 10, or more times that amount of money in 3-5 years. “Reasonable chance” is just that, a decent shot at it, we know you can’t be certain. But can you convince people that it’s worth spending money on your business for their chance of return?   Ask yourself: do you have what investors want? If you don’t, then don’t waste time on this.
  2. Investors write checks. They expect something back in return. If they they write checks for your business instead of to buy a fancy car or second home, that’s because they expect to own something for a while and make money on it when they sell it. Don’t complain about giving them ownership.
  3. Real investors want control for good reasons. Good investors end up as partners. Don’t give up control if you don’t have to, but depending on how good your business looks, and how much startup experience you have, sharing control might be the only way to go. Or the best way.
  4. I’ve written it many times, although this isn’t mine originally: choose an investor like you would choose a spouse. Find somebody compatible, who can offer help and advice, and ad to your team.
  5. If you manage to convince friends and family to invest in your business and give them a bad deal, you’re going to have to live with that problem for a long time.
  6. 10 good reasons not to seek investors for your startup.
  7. You don’t want to borrow the money because there’s too much risk? But it’s your startup, right? Why should anybody else take the risk you don’t want to take. Banks aren’t supposed to take risks either; it’s against the banking laws.
  8. Not that you should borrow the money, even if you can because you have house equity or something to pledge as collateral. Weigh your own risks and returns.
  9. If you want peace of mind, scale that business plan back to a size you can manage with your own resources. It’s possible for some businesses.
  10. Look for alternative financing like early prepaid sales, or share of future revenues, etc. Read 5 non-traditional ways to get startup money.

(Image: cash chained, bigstockphoto.com.)

  • http://www.coach2wellness.com Garrett Foster

    Great post. I have owned several small businesses and somehow managed to start and grow each one with my own resources. I am definitely not someone with unlimited resources, I just didn’t want to owe anyone else, or to be using funds that weren’t mine. It also made it easier to make decisions regarding my business, since I did not have to consult with investors. Still, I am not opposed to working with an investor, if I believe it is the way to go at the time.