Do I need a Business Partner?

Thursday, July 13, 2017 9:29

Business Partners can be a help to every business from start-ups to established companies. A Business Partner will:

  1. Bring additional or complementary skills
  2. Have ideas that when added to your own create new opportunities
  3. Provide support and motivation when times are tough
  4. Share the workload
  5. May have contacts and some funding to grow the business

When taking on a business partner it is sensible to have a business agreement so that there are no surprises and it gives a chance to ensure that both partners are clear about the direction the business is going. See: Business Partner Agreement help

I gave some tips on forming a business partnership last year which is still up to date, have a look at How to Avoid Business Partner pitfalls

 

Once you have a business idea how quickly should you start it?

Monday, April 10, 2017 11:23

Business ideas need actionBusiness ideas are like freshly buttered warm toast, they look wonderful. But if put to one side for long enough they get cold, stale and uninviting.

The first surge of excitement at discovering an opportunity needs to then have action to build a momentum, which in turn drives further action.

If the initial process of research and getting products or services to market takes too long, it may never happen.

There is the real chance also that if the idea is topical and takes advantage of events or trends that are happening right now, others will go ahead and do it while you are dithering.

If you have a good business idea, check out that it is commercially viable and do it. Right now.

 

Fed up with working for someone else?

Monday, January 23, 2017 14:13

Follow your dreamsWorking for a company can bring security (less now than in the past) and for those that are fortunate, job satisfaction. However it also can bring the stress of not being in control of your own destiny and there is nothing like creating your own business, perhaps following a passion and using fully your skills.

If you are in a job at the moment but thinking of beginning your own business, here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years of talking to those that have been successful:

  1. Don’t immediately quit. Do as much research and planning as you can while still bringing in a wage.
  2. You may already have a strong idea of what you want to do. But if not, look at what interests you and makes you happy. Starting a business you enjoy means that you are more likely to make it a success.
  3. Write down your thoughts on the business. That makes you think it through rather than just keeping everything in your head. Yes it is the dreaded “Business Plan”, but this can be just a couple of pages and doesn’t have to be formal. Having said that, have a look at the areas that are important to consider when starting a business in these Business Plan headings.
  4. Starting a business with a partner can be easier. You will have someone to bounce ideas off and motivate each other. Putting people together to begin or grow businesses is the reason that Company Partners started. Find a Business Partner.
  5. Don’t wait too long. It can be warm and comforting to have the dream and scary to actually start it. Wait too long and it may never happen.

There are a record number of new businesses starting across the world as regulations and technology make it easier than ever. Will you live your dream, or work for someone else who is living theirs?

 

Should you have a Business Partner?

Thursday, December 1, 2016 17:04
Ben and Jerry Business Partners

Business Partners – Ben and Jerry

Running a business is a lot easier when you have a business partner to share the highs and lows, as well as all the work.

You may of course have all the skills needed for your business, but have you the time? Or are there some areas that you love doing and excel at, but would rather have someone who is an expert doing those areas you don’t enjoy?

 

Then you need a business partner.

Hang on, why not just hire someone, surely that’s faster and there is less commitment? Well yes, in many established businesses taking on an employee is the right thing to do, but if you are starting out or a small business, then having a Business Partner that can share the burdens, rather than just an employee that needs paying every month is the way to go.

Business Partner advantages:

  • Fully motivated
  • Someone to bounce ideas off
  • May bring additional funding into the business
  • Their payment can be linked to the business profitability
  • Can shoulder issues and share the responsibilities
  • Will bring skill-sets that you may not have
  • More will get done – having a Business Partner will more than double your efforts as each drives and encourages the other forward

When taking on a Business Partner it’s best to put together a Business Partner agreement (see Business Partner Agreements ).

Running a business by yourself is tough, almost all successful businesses had 2 or more Business Partners, even if one of them took on the role of media frontman.

 

 

Types of Business Funding

Tuesday, August 9, 2016 12:06

Seed money

Do you need funding?

Start-up businesses often think that they need to find an investor. We only have to read in the papers about the latest internet billionaire to know that big funding means big success.

Yet most businesses can get going, or even grow without external investment. It depends on the amount required to gain entry into your market and whether you have sufficient funds to make a start, perhaps growing organically through sales.

The injection of funds into a business can however jump-start a project, or allow a more rapid growth. So if funding is desired it’s useful to think about the options for doing so:

Investment cycle

There is a natural progression of how a business is funded. Initially it may be that the business is financed by the owner or by approaching family and friends. This may be sufficient by itself for your business.

Alternatively, or perhaps as a follow-on, a local bank might be approached. Although nowadays these have been less helpful for young businesses, so after proving the concept, many tend to seek business angels.

At the next stage beyond this, venture capital firms might be brought in. Few companies go straight out and raise multi-millions; those that do are often high-tech businesses with known entrepreneurs, or ground breaking technology.

Types of funding:

Self-funded
Traditionally the way that the majority of businesses get going. For further investment it also shows your commitment in that you have put your own money into the concept and is invaluable in gaining that first bit of traction that Investors look for.

If the start-up business is taking the form of a partnership it will need to be made clear in the partnership agreement exactly how much of the funding each partner is providing and whether this entitles them to a greater or lesser proportion of the partnership profits. See Partnership Agreements

Loans
Banks will normally only loan money against you having security to offer. These may be assets of the business or personal assets such as your house. They are not entrepreneurial and don’t take risks based on you having a good idea.

Many Business Angels will include a loan in addition to purchasing equity in the business as part of the way in which the funding deal is structured.

Private equity funding
This is the generic name for sources of funding, normally in exchange for equity in the business. It includes both Business Angels and Venture Capital companies. People sometimes confuse the two. The differences are:

Business Angels

  • Anything from £1000 to £1M (although that would require several banded together).
  • Will look at start-ups and young businesses
  •  Since they are investing their own money they can take more risk.
  • Often want to contribute knowledge or contacts

Venture Capital

  • £1M plus (normally)
  • Not for start-ups or just at idea stage
  • They are investing a fund comprised of other people’s money, so have to take less risk than Business Angels.
  • May place own people on board and require strict reporting

When exchanging equity in a business for funds a legal document must be agreed that specifies the terms of the investment. Venture Capital companies will have a range of agreements to use from Investor Rights Agreements, Stock Purchase Agreements and Term Sheets. It can be expensive and time consuming to raise money.

Agreements with Business Angels can be quicker and much less costly to organise, but never be tempted to cut costs so much that a well thought out signed agreement is neglected. There has been much woe and falling out of parties when issues occur that haven’t been previously considered and placed in a legal document.

Private equity funding can come in stages as the business grows:

• Seed funding
• First round
• Second round
• Later stage
• Mezzanine
See Types of Private Equity funding

Grants
There are only a few government or institutional grants available to businesses. These tend to be market sector and geography specific. Whilst serving a useful purpose for those able to claim them, they are so few that they are not applicable to most businesses and so not covered here.

For young businesses, the more you can do in proving your concept works and gaining what is called “traction” the more offers of help you will get and be in a better place to negotiate terms.

 

Small business marketing ideas

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 10:21

Marketing for small businessesSmall businesses can have great products and services but struggle to get sufficient customers to allow them to expand.

Often this is because the owners of the business are too busy dealing with day to day activities to have time to plan or initiate the marketing activity. Yet it need not be an overly arduous task and can fit the finance and resources available.

Here’s how:

  1. Firstly you need to establish some basics. You may think it’s obvious but just stop and jot these down on paper. Moving the information out of only being in your head on to paper (or to a PC), makes you have to think it through.
  2. Who are your customers? Describe them; gender, age, interests, were do they live, what do they read, what qualities are they looking for in a product / service.
    Are some types of customers more profitable, or even more enjoyable to work with than others?
  3. Write down who the competition is and what makes them good or bad.
  4. What is it about your offering that will excite your target customers and beat the competitors?
    I’ve already written on how to market smarter by using market segmentation. By understanding the above you’ll now be ready to do so.
  5. Look at your current branding, if any, and make sure it fits your identified customer. This is letterheads, logos, tag-lines (what you do in a nutshell) and the messages you want to convey.
  6. Now get those messages to the right customers. Marketing is a creative process and by doing some brainstorming with colleagues or even friends you may be able to think of many ways of doing so, here are some:
  • Team up with other businesses / organisations by offering their customers special deals.
  • Have you got a good web site? Do you sell on-line? Even if yours is not a product that can be sold on-line, ensure your web site shows you at your best, is found for your important keywords and has good marketing messages plus contact details.
  • Write a blog, put helpful videos on YouTube, become known as an expert, speak at suitable events, all the time getting your brand out there.
  • Engage your current customers. Seek, reward and use feedback. Start a loyalty club. Ask to be recommended. Get existing customers to return.
  • Use advertising wisely. This is where knowing your customer pays off. Only advertise where your target customers are looking. The more niche you are the easier it is to be precise, but even if you have a broad offering, think about the market segmentation mentioned earlier.

It is important finally to put together a plan to do the marketing, with dates against actions. If you don’t then the pressures of running the business will always make it something to do tomorrow.

 

Good reasons for the use of Business Angel investment

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 11:30

One of the key bits of information that Business Angels or Investors into a venture will want to see is how the funds are going to be used.

I’ve seen every possible use given, from the perfectly sensible – “product development”, to the unlikely to succeed – “no one will lend to me any more and I need money to pay my rent, then I can get a business going”.

For some time I communicated with a chap who needed funds to train as a commercial pilot, he would then pay back the funds with significant interest out of his subsequent earnings. Sounded risky, relying on his ability to pass the exams and training, but he was a pleasant and determined guy, I hope it worked out for him.

So what ticks the box for Investors? Generally this can be anything that helps to grow the business:

  • Additional market research
  • Product development
  • Manufacturing facilities or equipment
  • Marketing of the product or service
  • Recruitment of staff
  • Working capital

Within this you do need to explain why you feel this will expand the business and some explanations are more attractive than others. Throwing money at marketing a new business that has never been operational is risky, but bringing to market an exciting new product or service from an already established business could be a winner. Taking on more staff to meet a high demand is good, whereas taking on staff to simply start an unproven idea is not so attractive.

Note that Investors are not interested in reducing debts or to pay yourself a high salary.

Surprisingly, many of the business plans and requests for funding that we see have excellent write ups of the opportunity, but completely miss out describing how the Investment will be used. Not only should that be very clear, but it should be part of the financial spreadsheets, showing when tranches of investment come in to balance the operational costs.

If it isn’t clear how the investment will be used in your proposal, but you have been fortunate in securing a meeting with an Investor, be prepared – they will ask!

 

 

Business Partner pitfalls and how to avoid!

Monday, February 15, 2016 10:45

Business Partners TalkingHaving a Business Partner can be a great benefit. They bring additional skills and resources, you also have someone to bounce ideas off and to share the stress & risk.

But in some cases the partnership can go wrong. Occasionally it is because there was not enough due-diligence in checking the background of the potential partner. Simple Companies House checks will reveal past company directorships and you can ask for references.

However most times where a business partnership ends it is because the partners no longer get along. This can result from incompatible personalities, differences in the direction that the business should be taking, or conflicting work styles. In many cases this can be avoided by:

  1. At the beginning of a partnership you should establish that you share the same vision for the business.
  2. Talk about how you and your partners wish to work on the business. Is the way of working compatible? Can you foresee any issues; for example one partner may be happy working late, whereas the other may prefer to finish at regular times. Resentment or guilt can build up from such differences.
  3. Have clearly defined individual responsibilities. Ideally fitting complementary skills.
  4. Ensure that the partners have common values and ethics.
  5. Maintain respect for each other and trust that each is doing their best for the business.
  6. Communicate. Lack of communication can generate misunderstanding, relationship difficulties and concern. Rarely is it possible to over-communicate.

Don’t let the pressures of running day to day operations prevent talking regularly to your partners, not just on immediate activity. Take time each month to review progress against targets and discuss how each is doing, checking if support is needed by one partner. Is the vision and direction still being maintained and shared?

Finally build trust with each other by doing what you say you will do. If you can’t for some reason, let your partner know ahead of the deadline.

 

 

What Type of Business Partnership Should I have?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 11:59
Business Partners

Business Partners

Every enterprise that isn’t a sole trader will have people who are working together as partners to drive that business towards its goals.

This can be in a business that is registered as a legal partnership (see below), fellow directors of a company, or at its most simple just 2 people working together with no legal entity formed. Let’s look at the most common types of partnerships:

 

 

1. A General Partnership:

Where 2 or more people work together sharing responsibilities without a separate legal entity being formed. Profits and liabilities are shared. The least complicated, however it does mean each individual is personally liable for any debts that result from the business.

Although not a legally registered entity, HMRC must be told that you are working as a Partnership with someone and the income is included in your personal self-assessment.

2. Limited Partnership (LP):

At least one, or more, partners must take full responsibility and liability for the business and are known as a General Partner, similar to above. These must also be the only ones that take the management decisions.

Others can join as Limited Partners by putting capital into the business and their liability is limited to the amount they have put in. HMRC must be told and the partnership registered with Companies House. Each partner includes their portion of the profits within their own personal taxation.

This is a popular entity for Venture Capital companies, where there is a management team of General Partners, with other Limited Partners who invest funds into the portfolio.

3. Limited Liability Partnership (LLP):

For most partnership businesses this is a good choice, since it protects the individual partners against the business liabilities. You’ll need at least 2 “designated” members of the partnership who take on the HMRC and Companies House responsibility.

Other partners are termed “ordinary” members of the partnership. Again each is taxed on their income from the partnership as individuals.

Professional services such as solicitors sometimes prefer this legal entity for the flexibility it provides in bringing in new partners and altering profit sharing arrangements.

4. Directors of a Company:

Although not normally thought of as a ‘partnership’ in the legal sense, I include this because many companies will take on a new business partner and make them a director of the company. In this regard it is the most common “business partnership” and has the attraction of being well understood, protects personal liability and can give tax flexibility.

 

If starting a new business you have the opportunity to chose a format that works well for you. So it’s a good idea to check with your accountant on which legal entity is best for your personal circumstances.

 

Make your business scalable – the Investor holy grail

Thursday, November 12, 2015 12:09
Investors ideal business

Investors look for business growth

Firstly let me say what I mean by scalable. That each new customer produces additional revenue for very little addition cost.

Think of software for example, once the costs of developing and producing the first copy are met, each additional sale of the software has minimal costs.  Whereas a service orientated business such as consulting is limited by the number of consultants available and each one has a significant additional cost attached.

 

A scalable business can grow large and produce high profits, every Investors dream.

If you are starting from scratch and have a choice of the type of business to run, think about fixed cost Vs variable costs for that business.  Fixed cost will be that which you need regardless of the number of orders you receive – office or factory rent, insurance and basic salaries for example.

The variable costs are those associated with each order, such as the cost of making that product or supplying the service. It can be materials that you have to buy in for each order, assembling or manufacturing the item, or the cost of hiring and paying the wages of an additional service person to fulfil the order.

There is of course going to be some additional (variable) costs associated even with a scalable business. You’ll need more marketing or sales staff if you are growing and other additional expenses, but it’s not the main cost of each new order.

Tips for a scalable business

  1. Build it into your business model. Make being scalable an essential part of what you do and how you operate. Don’t undertake activity that can’t be scaled even if it seems like additional revenue, if you are not able to scale it, don’t do it.
  2. Decide what your core expertise is and outsource the rest as much as possible, that way you are not restricted on growth. You can also form partnerships with others to allow faster growth.
  3. Automate, automate, automate. Think through the whole sales/supply chain, cheap computing power now days can make business processes for each new order very little additional cost.
  4. Being scalable by itself is not of use unless you can take advantage of it by getting lots of new business. You will need to market yourself as heavily as you can afford. This is where Investor funds can help (if you have a compelling business model and show you know the market). Use indirect marketing to give scalability to your marketing. PR, news items, Facebook/Twitter and brand recognition all have far reaching effects.
  5. Use the web. The most obvious scalable companies are web based social media sites, but even if you are a product orientated business you can get very scalable using the internet. Amazon are a product company, but they outsource their products and sell and fulfil using the web.
  6. If the business is not easily transferred to the web, perhaps because it is a very hands-on service, look at franchising or licensing your product or business model. There are all kinds of businesses successful this way from fast food to grass cutting companies. The example chart on this page is for a Mexican restaurant!

Not every business will want Investment, or to grow large and that is fine, but even those can benefit from looking at the way that scalable businesses make life easier for themselves by automating and using the scalability techniques now available.