FREE TRAINING: 3 Keys to Sell Your Business with Confidence

Don’t Make Your Business a Parking Lot for Your Investor’s Money

I need $1,500,000 to open a new distribution center in North Carolina. It’s a homerun idea, but how much equity will I have to give up raising that much?” Johnny (not his real name) and I have been good friends for seven years. We see each other socially several times a year, and once every 5 or 6 months we sit down to a serious conversation about his growing and vibrant medical supply business. “If I ever sell this business, I want you to handle it,” Johnny always says to me, but at the age of 43 and appearing to love every minute of every day, I don’t expect Johnny to be selling anytime soon.

Johnny knows how to make big decisions. He’s done his homework to project revenue from the new territory, the cost to hire sales staff, and the working capital required to stock the distribution center.  He has even done a net present value analysis to justify the risk-adjusted return on the required $1.5 million investment (an approach to making financial decisions I unfortunately don’t see many small business owners doing).

Johnny is set to go as soon as he has the $1.5 million, and he is ready to sell equity in his company to raise it. However, Johnny does not know how much equity he needs to give up in exchange for that $1.5 million. Being the analytic guy he is, he’s done his homework to understand pre-money, post-money valuations. But Johnny has lost sight of the fundamental question an investor will ask, “If I give you this money, what kind of ROI can you get me and when do I get the money back?

This question forces an owner trying to raise capital to focus on how the capital will be used and how that use will generate a financial return. I told Johnny to set aside worry about valuation of his business, and instead focus on three questions: what the requested capital will be used for, how that use will transform the business, and the “exit plan” for the investor. Here’s the problem, too many business owners just assume that investment money comes in and stays parked in the business until the majority owner decides to sell the company. This is essentially saying to the minority investor, you’ll get your money back when I decide to give it back. To be fair, that works with some investors, the rare uber-patient investor. But most investors want to know, going in, what the getting out plan could be. I call it the “if this, then what? plan.”

I suggested to Johnny he turn his analytic brain toward developing a plan to show an investor how they could get their money out within three to four years of the investment. This “if this, then what?” discipline will increase his chance of getting the money, and ensure, when he gets the money, he’ll be in strategic sync with his investor.

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Tennessee Valley Group

Jim is an attorney (non-resident status with the Missouri Bar) and though he no longer practices law, he has read and negotiated enough legal documents to fill a cargo tanker. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and knows how Wall Street and private equity operates. Jim is a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 listed general civil mediator with tons of experience helping business owners (large and small) work through sensitive problems to achieve winning results. He is the author of "Home Run, A Pro's Guide to Selling Your Business, Seven Principles to Make Your Company Irresistible."

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