Tag Archives: Forecasting

Seed Round Capital

Notes on Raising Seed Round Capital

Throughout the past year I’ve helped lead a couple of seed round funding for company’s that I’m a co-founder of. While I’ve assisted and consulted many startups prior to that with raising money, doing it from this perspective was quite different. I won’t admit to knowing absolutely everything, but I’ve certainly learned a few things along the way that are worth sharing if you’re in a similar situation or considering it.

Seed round funding takes significantly longer than you think it will, even if you’re just going after “friends and family”. Start reaching out to potential investors at least 6-9 months before you think you’ll need the funds as it can easily take that long to close the deal and collect the check.

How are you going to structure your company, and the investment? Delaware C-Corp’s are a common favorite structure and get a ton of attention, but you don’t necessarily need to structure it that way. Do you want to offer a convertible note or do a straight equity investment (or equity crowd funding – which is a whole other game)? There are pros and cons to each of these decisions, so it really just comes down to preference and seeking expert counsel.

Get serious about documentation as there’s a ton of it required. These deals are a negation, so anticipate there to be red lining for edits on a term sheet contract, additional concessions will be asked for, etc. Secure an attorney to assist you with this side of things. While you can start with a template, always get approval from a professional before executing the deal and finalizing documentation. It will help you later.

Your valuation is likely too optimistic. But even then, a valuation is always subjective. Your true valuation is essentially what you can convince someone your company’s worth. Remember no business plan or pitch book in the history of the world was 100% accurate with their projections. Make sure your work comes across as thoughtful and realistic however to show the potential investor that you did the work and aren’t just flying by the seat of your pants.

A “yes” isn’t really a yes until the money has been transferred. Don’t count your chickens and start deploying capital until you have received it. You can get a yes (or what you perceive to be a yes) on a deal but then when it comes time to complete a wire transfer the investor can get a little gun shy. Things happen, whether they get push back from their spouse, the market takes a downturn, or perhaps it’s some other random unexpected occurrence, a deal isn’t truly closed until you have the money in hand.

Collecting the funds isn’t where it ends, rather it’s just the beginning. After you receive the investment capital, then you have to execute the vision, deliver on what you said you were going to, provide further documentation along the way, communicate progress regularly, and ideally turn a profit so you can return the capital back along with a sizable return on their investment. Not sure which is the hard part? They all are.

What are some of the things you’ve learned along the way? There are so many others to consider. I always love hearing, and learning from, a good case study about your personal experience raising funds if you’re willing to share.

Market Contraction

The Coming Market Contraction & What it Means for Your Business

After a nearly decade long recovery period, it’s starting to look and feel like the time for an economic contraction is on the horizon. It likely won’t come for another year or so yet (if we’re lucky), but based on the history of our country, it’s certainly inevitable at some point.

A lot of the experts, economists, and pundits are starting to sound the alarm already. Things like the student loan debt crisis, 2018 interest rate hikes, the collapse of retail, and the toxic political climate, are all going to come to a head and likely trigger it. Forbes, Inc. Magazine, CNBC, Bloomberg, Seeking Alpha, and Newsmax are just a sampling of publications that have had a relatively recent article about it.

Now I’m very much an optimist, so I don’t want you to interpret my prediction of a market downturn as me being pessimistic. On the contrary, I think recessions can be an incredible opportunity for those who are prepared for them. Historically, a lot of fortunes were made in the years during and shortly after economic recessions. Not to mention, regardless of whether the stock market goes up or down, someone is always making a lot of money.

While I’m no economist, I am fortunate to be able to work with a lot of people with brilliant business minds and insight into the mysterious world of macro market forces. My suggestion (if you made it this far I’m guessing you care enough to read it) is to keep an open mind to start being proactive before it’s too late. I know a lot of you might be a bit too young to really remember 2008, but if you think back to past recessions they always seem to abruptly appear to come out of nowhere and catch people off guard. One day everyone is riding high with exuberance and the next day the bottom falls out. Clearly, it’s possible and likely that it happens this way again.

I’m not saying to run around being worried or dwelling on this. I’m simply recommending that you start tightening your belt a bit now while you can. Rein in those spending habits that may have gotten a little out of control lately. Perhaps consider cashing out on a few things while values are high and take some chips off the table. Otherwise, you could end up falling into the preventable trap of being forced to sell assets at the bottom.

Simultaneously you should also be going all-in on growing your business too. I know that may sound contradictory but investing in revenue/income generating activities is and always will be a wise move. A lot of people will be out of the game when the day comes and being able to perform a land grab because your business is dialed in can be a life changing opportunity.

Start thinking strategically about the next 1-3 years and what they could mean for you and your business. Instead of hiring several full-time employees consider leveraging a consulting firm so you have more flexibility. Make the commitment to increase your emphasis on sales and marketing even more. It’s tax season right now, so it’s a great time to really look at your numbers and analyze your financial data to identify weak spots or areas for improvement.

Hey, perhaps myself and others will end up being wrong about the timing of it. Maybe the next recession doesn’t come for another 3 to 5 years instead. Either way, would your business not be better off be taking those steps sooner rather than later?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject! If you agree with me I’d be interested to hear what steps you’re currently taking. And if you think I’m crazy, I’d still like to hear why you think we have nothing but blue skies ahead.

CRM Revisited (Again): It Should be Your #1 2018 Priority

I’ve been harping on the importance of CRM programs for about a decade now (here’s the last time), yet it still hasn’t caught on the way it should. This is the year that changes. Like with most technology, competition, economies of scale, and innovation have driven costs down significantly. Not only are they cheaper, but the functionality and value has simultaneously increased dramatically. Now, you can even get basic versions of a CRM program for free. It’s why acquiring and implementing a CRM program is my #1 recommendation for every business, regardless of industry or target market, if you’re looking to increase revenue.

Whether you work for a large and complex company, or if you’re an independent freelancer, or if you’re a sales mercenary who is compensated by getting to “eat what you kill,” there is a CRM program out there for you. Regardless of your budget (or lack thereof), you can customize the level of sophistication of your CRM program, as they all have various subscription levels. Further, there was recently an absolutely game changing announcement from one of my CRM platform preferences (and the one I personally use for my business).

Zoho One – An Operating System for Business

“Zoho One is a broad and cohesive set of applications that work collectively to run an entire business on the cloud. It includes more than 35 web applications and an equal number of mobile apps—under a single sign-on, with centralized administration and provisioning—making it a true operating system for any business. While each application punches above its weight against the competition, collectively they deliver a knockout punch.

With Zoho One, we’ve put together all the applications a company needs to acquire and serve its customers (marketing, sales, and support apps); run its operations (finance, recruiting, and HR apps); and provide all the tools for its employees to work collaboratively and get their work done (office suite, mail, personal productivity, and collaboration apps). Almost any company has these same needs. With Creator, our drag-and-drop app builder, customers can even build custom apps for unique business needs—like logistics scheduling—and put them under the same umbrella that forms the single operating system for their business.

Zoho One is available at $30 a month—or just about a dollar a day, per employee. ($35 if you pay on a month-to-month basis).”

While WIMS, Inc. is platform agnostic (we work with all of them, including Salesforce, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics, and Insightly among others) it’s getting more difficult not to refer my clients and prospects straight to Zoho right now. There are of course exceptions, but they’ve built something special, particularly for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Now, back to the more general CRM theme.

They all integrate with your email provider of choice, along with most social media channels, so tracking communications is easy (and automated). There are an incredible number of third-party add-ons you can incorporate depending on how robust your operations processes are to add additional functionality too.

Most importantly however, is that the ROI (return on investment) will more than make up for the expense.

CRMs help you automate your sales process. The more automated your sales cycle and follow up efforts can be, the greater volume of deals your business will be able to close. Further, the more accurate data you have about your sales cycle, the more deeply you can analyze it to gain insight that will not only help increase revenue, but ultimately help you improve:

  • Close rates,
  • Customer service and retention,
  • Length of sales cycle, and
  • Forecasting efforts and projections.

While implementing a CRM program can be a significant commitment initially, if you do it right, the benefit to your business is invaluable. With just over two months left in 2017, now is the perfect time to start planning and conduct your due diligence to start 2018 with yet another New Year’s resolution.

We’re here to help if you need it!

Go F Yourself!

Let me start off by apologizing for the super click-bait-y title, I just couldn’t help myself. Also, FOR those of you who were expecting an epic verbal-lashing style rant I’m sorry to disappoint you too, you’re more than welcome to keep it moving if so (but if you do then you can take the title literally…just kidding). Rather, this is yet another post about personal and professional development/self-improvement.

As The WIMS Guide’s scope suggests, these posts are meant to be about documenting the journey. Thus, I wanted to share some insights with you all as I’ve been experiencing a great period of growth and progress over the past few months after shifting my FOCUS towards a now sacred set of priorities. And you guessed it, they all start with the letter “F.”

These aren’t all going to be FOR everyone, so FEEL FREE to pick and choose the ones that are most applicable to you. Also, if I’ve left any out, whether they begin with “F” or not, please make sure to share them.

FAITH – It truly starts with this above all else FOR me. Praying, reading devotionals, and hearing the word of God regularly has helped me significantly, especially lately. The confidence and reassurance I get allows me to continue to take calculated risks without doubting myself. If you’re one of my atheist FRIENDS, I’m not trying to preach here, the term is relative and you can shift the meaning towards having FAITH in yourself if you prefer. Nonetheless it really sets the tone FOR everything else.

FAMILY & FRIENDS – #2 on my list because this is generally the purpose and reason why you and I hustle and grind our asses off. I don’t mind working 16-hour days (I’m a sicko and actually enjoy it) as much when I at least get to spend a couple hours having dinner and relaxing with my wife before returning to my desk FOR the late shift. Spending quality time with F&F is crucial, even if it’s just on the phone or Skype/FACETIME.

FINANCES – This is what keeps the merry-go-round (aka your business) spinning, so having a handle of your FINANCES is imperative to being a good professional, entrepreneur, and person in general. You don’t need to be rich or well-off FOR this to matter, in FACT it’s even more important to properly plan and budget if money is tight. FROM the business side, it’s all about FACTS, FIGURES, and FORECASTING, because “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” – Peter Drucker.

FITNESS & FOOD – Wow, what a tremendous difference incorporating FITNESS and a healthy diet into my daily routine has made on my life. I’m not talking about one-off gym sessions, but truly making a commitment to it at least 5 days a week. My energy, passion, and positive attitude lately has shot through the roof and has become borderline annoying to people that aren’t on the same level. I’m not going to dwell on this topic as you know already know the benefits, but I suggest not waiting until the new year, get on it today and get a head start.

FOLLOW UP & FOLLOW THROUGH – FOR those of you in sales (and let’s be honest every single person on earth is selling something whether they know it or not) this is by FAR the most important thing from a professional/business perspective. Now I’ve made incredible progress, but I still struggle with this and strive to improve every single FREAKING day. I get so caught up on the next thing I can tend to slip on closing out the last thing. And that’s even with a great CRM program to help me (btw – if you need to implement one hit me up).

FUN – You just have to take some time to recover and let loose occasionally as burning the candle from both ends will only end in burn out. Some of my personal FAVORITES to keep the theme going: FANTASY FOOTBALL, FILMS, FICTION, etc.

Now believe me, I’m FAR FROM perfect and still struggle with every one of these regularly, so its ok to slip up. The key is not to beat yourself up and let that disappointment or shame linger. Just keep getting back on the wagon and keep F-ing yourself until you get it right. When you see how FAR you’ve come, you’ll be happy you did.

(FULL disclosure: some of the puns and innuendo may have been intentional FOR the sake of FUN)…

Marketing Process Outsourcing

The New WIMS Inc: Putting In-House Marketing Departments on Notice

Unlike my typical blog posts, this one is certainly going to piss people off, including current and former colleagues, friends, clients, and prospects. While I usually try to avoid that, I can’t any longer as some things just need to be said. Change can be a scary and complicated thing, but there’s just a better way to do business and it’s nothing personal.

Now, the trend of outsourcing is far from a new or innovative concept. Yet companies like professional services firms continue to allocate extremely high budgets of $500,000-$1,000,000 and often much more to their in-house marketing departments. They do this despite the fact that they could spend a fraction of the cost while simultaneously getting significantly better service and results.

Regardless if you prefer to keep your team in house or to use a consulting firm, one thing is constant in either case, you need to DEMAND to see ROI. There are some advantages to keeping the team in-house I’ll admit that, but you should at least be able to make an apples to apples comparison between both approaches.

The way to do that is ROI, the objective metric that evens out all playing fields. I’ve seen many CMO’s apply the “smoke and mirrors” strategy year after year. They avoid accountability by overlooking past failures while waving the amazing, shiny new “marketing strategy” that they’re going to deploy this year. This is often just the old strategy repackaged to appear new however. CEO’s looking to avoid conflict accept it as a cost of doing business and then proceed to kick the can further down the road.

Now while there are plenty of exceptions, as there always are when dealing with people, there’s something I’ve often observed in the corporate world, I call it the “comfort theory.” Essentially, when you’re paying someone a predictable and stable salary it inherently allows most people to start cutting corners and reducing the quality of their work because they can get away with it. Not only is there a reduced quality of work, but why subsidize employee’s internet browsing time and social media addiction when you can just pay for the work that’s actually done. Besides, I doubt they’re going to give you a cut of their fantasy football winnings despite squandering hours a week of your time managing their team.

Don’t just take my word for it, conduct your own experiment and see for yourself. The next time you’re in a meeting with your marketing department demand more out of them or suggest changes, and watch the level of pushback, reluctance, and resistance you get. On the contrary call a consultant about a new project idea and watch them passionately geek out about all the possibilities.

I understand the comfort of familiarity and the status quo believe me, but is it really worth spending $50,000-100,000 on a salary for someone to just write an occasional blog post or article, blankly stare at a twitter feed, or create an occasional ad. You can get the same result or better for a tenth of the cost in many cases.

As another experiment, this Friday afternoon say around 3pm, take a walk around your building and see how empty the offices and cubicles are. The mentality of being an employee and working for your boss vs. being a client and working for your business partner can’t be compared. Working with independent contractors that need your business takes the quality of work to another level. They are mini-CEOs trying to better their lives, they’re not just punching a clock while desperately waiting to leave the office early on Friday afternoon. They’re the ones working at midnight on a Saturday because they’re hungry and ambitious.

You create the best work when you absolutely need to, like when writing a paper the night before it’s due. There’s something about having your life depending on it that generates this hyper-focus of productivity. Imagine having a team of people producing this kind of work every day because that’s how they approach their live, very deliberately.

Typical counter-arguments for in-house departments include things like, “oh but we know the brand so well,” or “what if someone urgently needs a brochure for a sales call?” It may not be a popular sentiment, but people are easily replaceable. We work with various brand guidelines all the time and pick them up very quickly. Also, I’ve seen countless desks with stacks of brochures piled high collecting dust, as much as marketers may try to convince you otherwise, your beautiful brochure is not what’s going to win you new business, relationships are.

Perhaps this post is like that old “Magician’s Greatest Secrets Revealed” show where the masked magician showed you how the tricks were really done and made a lot of magicians extremely angry. If you’re feeling that way right now I hope you take this opportunity to step your game up and prove me wrong.

Changing a decades long mindset of keeping marketing teams in-house is going to require evolution and a rebuilding process, but there’s definitely hope. It will force people to BE BETTER. Think about the Golden State Warriors a few years ago. They were very bad, but they had some decent and promising players, they stuck to their long-term plan to build their team, make a few strategic moves and then a few years later they won a championship. The metaphor is very relative in business as well.

For the sake of full transparency, this long-winded blog post has the additional goal of announcing the new WIMS, Inc. We now offer a complete suite of marketing, CRM, and business development services that are provided for literally a fraction of the total cost you’re paying for your entire marketing department. By leveraging strategic partnerships and a deep team of independent contractors we are now able to offer literally any marketing service, and to any size firm in any industry. If you’re interested in video, we can develop the content, build an entire distribution network, and even create your own online channel. If audio is your thing, we can help with the creation, publishing, and promotion of your own radio show and/or podcast. If you need a website, an ad campaign, online content creation, or social media network, whatever it is you’re looking for, we can help facilitate.

Give us a call or send us an email and we’ll be happy to provide you with a FREE consultation to see if our companies would be a good fit to work together. Part of building strong long-term relationships includes occasionally offering some free advice, which we do happily. What do you have to lose by at least evaluating whether it’s worth pursuing a potential 6-figure a year cost reduction in your marketing expenses?

CRM

CRM Revisited: It Should be Your #1 Priority Heading into 2015

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs aren’t only the future of business; they’re the present. And they aren’t just for Fortune 500 companies anymore either. Like with most technology, competition, economies of scale, and innovation have driven costs down significantly. Now, you can even get a basic version of a CRM program for free. Without a doubt, acquiring and implementing a CRM program is my #1 recommendation for businesses of all kinds looking to grow and increase revenue.

Whether you’re an independent freelancer, a sales mercenary who is compensated by getting to “eat what you kill,” or a large and complex company, there is a CRM program out there for you. Regardless of your budget (or even a lack thereof), you can customize the level of sophistication of your CRM program as they all have various subscription levels. Most integrate with your email provider of choice and have a mobile app too. Additionally there are an incredible amount of third-party add-ons you can incorporate depending on how robust your operations processes are.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like building a CRM program is a cheap and easy task, far from it in fact. So keep in mind when considering which CRM program is best for you that the cost typically exceeds that of the user license fee. They require a significant amount of time and commitment, especially in the beginning when you’re just getting started. Don’t let that deter you however, as the ROI (while seemingly intangible at first) will more than make up for it, assuming it’s implemented correctly. In fact, the average ROI of a CRM system is $5.60 for every $1 spent.

CRM systems allow you to track and store vast amounts of data about your customers and prospects. The more data you have about your sales cycle that is accurate and relevant, the more deeply you can analyze that information to gain insight that will not only help increase revenue, but ultimately help you improve:

  • Close rates,
  • Customer service and retention,
  • Length of sales cycle, and
  • Forecasting efforts and projections.

Just as important, CRMs also help you automate your sales process. The more automated your sales cycle and follow up efforts can be, the greater volume of deals your business will be able to close as opportunities will be less likely to slip between the cracks.

By now you are probably either thrilled by the amazing potential a CRM program can provide, or perhaps you’re overwhelmed by the thought of endless amounts of data. If you’re like me and skew towards the former, below is a list of the necessary things to consider before rushing into it, along with some things to keep in mind after you’re fully operational.

  1. Conduct an “audit” of existing processes and database.
  2. Clean up your existing data to avoid the dreaded trap of “garbage in/garbage out.”
  3. Code your database to more easily identify priority contacts, “ABC”.
  4. Perform a sales cycle analysis, what are the typical steps involved and the time frame?
  5. Customize CRM pages, fields, and layouts with your appropriate specifications.
  6. Training of users/administrators.
  7. Import your database and start beta testing.
  8. Integrate with your existing systems, i.e. email, QuickBooks, etc.
  9. Reporting and sales forecasting.
  10. Ongoing maintenance, monitoring, updates, and improvements.

While implementing a CRM program can be relatively time‐consuming and expensive, if you do it right, the benefit to your business is invaluable. Don’t dismiss CRMs and cloud‐computing as trends that will soon go away, otherwise your competition may have already long passed you by the time you’re ready to get on board. With just over a month left in 2014, now is the perfect time to start planning and conduct your due diligence to start 2015 with yet another resolution.