How to Find & Attract Capital to Grow Your Company
Finding Capital to Expand Your Business – 6 Nontraditional Capital Sources
Finding investment capital in today’s market is difficult to say the least. But if you’re going to grow your company knowing where to find capital and how to successfully convince lenders, investors and potential partners is essential. First, you must ask your self are you and your company ready for the examination that lender, investor or potential equity partner will put you through? Do you have a clearly thought out and documented one to three year financial plan? Can you document how and when the capital will be deployed and what the return on investment will be? If the answer is no to one or all of these questions your not ready.
Creating a well documented business plan is the first step and the most time consuming but is also the most important. I cannot over emphasize the importance of a well written and documented business plan more commonly known as a offering memorandum. You will only get one chance to make a first impression regarding your investment opportunity. A couple words of caution go with writing an offering memorandum. The first is being incredibly honest and upfront. Under no circumstance hide or sweep under the rug anything that is negative. In fact, inform the capital group about the issue and explain how you are overcoming the issue. The last thing you want to create is an atmosphere of distrust with investor and or partners. A well written memorandum should allow investors to come to a very quick decision regarding your opportunity. Most memorandums are split into four sections.
In this section you will want to present the past three years’ financial history that includes tax returns, year-end financials including your balance sheet and Profit and Loss statement. You will have to perform some level of analysis and have a detailed write up of the findings. This is a short list of items that you will want to include:
- History of the Company
- Description of current operations
- Financial History
The second section will outline the request and present the opportunity. If you’re launching a new product line that requires an investment of $1,000,000 you will want to clearly define the following;
- Amount of request
- Rate of Return of your offering
- Security that you’re willing of offer.
Depending on your request, you will need to prepare a one to three year budget that shows how the capital will be used. If the capital is going into your existing company, use the last year’s financials as a starting point. Show when the capital will be expended and the associated expenses. You should be able to clearly demonstrate cash flow and set milestones with regards to major activity. In addition you will want to prepare an in depth market analysis.
- One to three year budget
- Major Milestones set
- Return on Investment
- Market Analysis with regards to product launch
Writing an Executive summary is the last thing you do. Having written many offering memorandums over the last twenty years, I have found that this is the easiest way to write the executive summary. Having gone through the process of building sections one – three, this section is actually the last one, even though it will be the first two pages of the memorandum. Most investors will read the executive summary and go to the financials. If they like what they see they will then read the entire memorandum. It is important to keep the executive summary to no more than two pages. You should address the following:
- Financial History
- Funds Request
- High level 3 year budget summary
Now that you have a complete offering memorandum written, take the time to have it printed, bound, with a cover and a table of contents. Don’t print any more than 10 at a time to avoid costs. You will also want a PDF version for electronic delivery as well as 10 to 15 slide power point presentations covering the highlights.
Having a complete offering memorandum, you’re ready to start your search for capital. The saying “if it was easy everyone would be doing it” applies to this next step. You must be willing to spend the time to secure capital. A lesson learned from my years in mergers and acquisitions as an investment banker is to talk to as many prospects as you can simultaneously. The more activity you can create with regards to your offering the better. As you talk to potential investment partners and learn from the conversations, do not hesitate to change your offering memorandum to reflect those learning’s. Unless you’re very fortunate you will be turned down a number of times. Depending on your capital needs and current financial position you may want to consider the following:
- Financial Institutions: Community, Regional and National Banks represent the largest opportunity for companies with good financials. The commercial banks are now starting to lend again, but very cautiously.
- Private Capital Companies: These are privately owned investment companies that act like a commercial bank with regards to lending but they will take more risk than Banks and will charge for the risk. They will require security. These companies are usually run by ex-commercial bankers that understand the need in the market for capital and fill a void that the commercial banks are unwilling or unable to fill. You private or business banker at your commercial bank should be able to give you several referrals.
- Friends and Family: To access what is commonly known as “Friends and Family” you will most likely need to secure a broker or an Investment Banker. Friends and Family are privately owned investment groups or organizations that tend to have access to funds that take advantage of unique investment opportunities. They may or may not require an equity stake in your company but will most likely require a higher return on their investment without it. Depending on the size of your company they may require one or two investors be appointed to your board of directors.
- Private Equity Companies: These are firms that will make investments in companies but will likely require equity in your company in return. Most of these firms are very transparent and well managed, but you need to be careful with regards to equity positions and terms.
- Endowments: These are investment funds that are set up and managed for non-profits. Think Stanford Endowment Fund. Past Stanford Graduates or individuals may donate large sums of money to the university endowment fund. These funds are managed either by the university/non-profit or by a Private Fund Manager. They can be a source of capital for companies that are positioned with the funds mission statement or purpose. They traditionally do not take on much risk in association with their investments.
- Government Grants/Loans and or Reinvestment Programs: Depending on the size of your business and what the capital is to be used for, this can be a good source of low interest rate funds. Federal, State and some City programs exist that can be used in this matter. They may supply a portion of the capital required leaving you with additional capital requirement to fill. They may also have restrictions that associated with the capital. Just be prepared to do all of the paperwork and be patient.
- State Lottery Funds: I know this last one may appear to be out there a bit, but some State Lottery Funds were set up with a portion of the funds going to small business development. The Oregon Investment Fund is one of them.
As you can see, finding and securing capital is not as easy as it looks. To do it right it takes a lot of effort and work. But the side benefits of preparing an offering memorandum, is that you can use the exercise to dig deep in your business and understand what you may need to do to improve your company. This may seem like a daunting task but the rewards of growing your company can pay large dividends in the end.