This article presents 14 times and ways when you can negotiate to get a better deal for your business.
After reading this, I want you to choose the ONE most significant thing in your business that you must negotiate in the near future.
I'm not talking about buying a used swivel chair on Craigslist. I'm referring to one of the various opportunities that you have as an entrepreneur to determine your own end results-possibly saving thousands or tens of thousands of dollars-on some significant expense or transaction coming up.
Since so many things in business are negotiable, keep negotiations top of mind. Generally you should always try to negotiate as you often have nothing to lose.
Here we go...
Negotiating with Suppliers
1. Cost of high-end purchases - Typically, items you buy in the hundreds or thousands of dollars have a more involved sales process, so the vendors offering them are more likely to adapt and negotiate in order to secure your business. They also have more leeway between their cost and what they charge than if they were selling commodities.
2. Payment terms - Oftentimes you might rely on customer payments to cover your purchases. IF so, you'll ideally want to pay your vendors after your customers pay you. So negotiate this preference
3. Quality/Scope of Offering - Maybe your budget is limited and you just can't pay more for something than you have. Don't stop negotiating! Just change what you ask for. Suppliers might be able to offer you better service, some freebies, or an upgraded package just by asking for it.
4. Volume discounts - If you're a startup and don't have volume yet, then share your vision with suppliers of how you will grow and what your company will become. Use this vision to negotiate a volume discount over time that starts immediately.
5. Office Space - It's funny how many people walk over dollars to get to the dimes. The same people who drive 2 extra miles to pump gas at a station that's $.02/gallon cheaper will not bother negotiating on major purchases and save thousands. Your working space is one of your highest expenses-so fight for the best price!
Negotiating with Employees
1. Salary - Obviously, when hiring a full-time employee there will be salary negotiations. This is the final part of the hiring process and it pays to prepare as it might save you thousands of dollars per year. And, with freelance service providers, they will often offer discounts off their regular hourly rate in order to get a first project started with you, or in exchange for consistent work.
2. Equity or Partnership - in the beginning, you might not have the cash to offer real players a full-time job, but you can attract them by offering a piece of the pie, if you can show that the opportunity is great enough. You can avoid paying market-level wages.
Negotiating with Investors and Lenders
1. Basically, everything you agree on with an investor or lender is negotiable, including:
Negotiating with Buyers
1. Price - Your customers generally want the lowest price, and you probably want the highest. So try to offer other concessions besides price to close sales when customers won't pay as is. For example, you can include an additional product or service to influence the customer to buy.
2. Special Discounts - These are made on a case-by-case basis, and should be used sparingly. These are different from sales, which is a pre-emptive concession to get people in the door. Only agree to lower your price in exchange for something else, or if they commit to buying now.
3. Offering bonuses - These are the extra add-on items you can offer the customer that add value but don't affect your cash flow as much. You might upgrade or further personalize the product or service you offer-anything to sweeten the deal.
4. Extending financing or payment plans - This is another way to keep your price high and still make more in the long run, if you don't mind waiting a little longer and also not being able to collect a certain percentage of the remaining payments (hopefully a small number).
5. Collecting accounts payable - If someone falls behind in making payments to you, the best thing to ask them is how much they are able to pay, and when. Let them tell you...and this will start the negotiation and give you a better idea of what's possible.
Which of these negotiating scenarios do you see coming up soon on your radar? Which could you make happen now? What would you stand to gain by having the courage to ask for more?
And what do you stand to lose by asking? The odds are, nothing. The worst they can say is "No." Don't worry...few deals have been lost because someone got offended by an attempt to negotiate. They may even respect you even more for having tried!
Now, since the first step of negotiating is to begin with the end in mind, and picturing a clear outcome in your mind, take the negotiating opportunity you choose and break it down in to specific objectives, like "Save 25% on our office's new security system" or "Work a deal with our new CFO to work for $2500/month in addition to 10% ownership" or something equally specific. The time to negotiate starts now.
Last month, author Brad Stone released an interesting book called, "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon."
The book chronicles the story behind Jeff Bezos and Amazon, but there's really only one paragraph from it that I'd like to focus on herein. That paragraph reads as follows:
So, let me break this down for you if it's not apparent. Rather than selling items like apparel and kitchen items itself, Amazon launched these categories through the Amazon Marketplace where other vendors sold them.
In doing so, Amazon was able to see what products sold well and how they were sold. And then, when a product sold well, what did Amazon do? Well, they started selling the item themselves in the main Amazon.com site.
So, what is this strategy called?
Market Research. That's right, Amazon.com went from an online bookseller to the WalMart of the internet by doing market research. Because with the right market research you can avoid the missteps that most companies and entrepreneurs make.
So, what kind of market research will help you grow your company? Below are the key research areas you need:
In assessing your industry or market, start by defining how big it is. Why? Because if it's too small, it's probably not worth entering. Define your market as clearly as possible. For example, if you manufacture prosthetics, look at the size of that market, not the entire healthcare market.
Next look at market trends. For example if the market is shrinking or consolidating, it's probably not a great market to enter; unless you have a revolutionary new product that could shake things up.
Understanding your target customers is absolutely critical to your business' success. In fact, one of Jeff Bezos' hallmark strategies is "We start with the customer and work backward."
In your research, you need to precisely identify and define who your customer is. Define their demographics such as what gender they are, how old they are, where they live, etc. If a business customer, also define their role in their company and the type of company for which they work.
Then move to the psychographic questions. What do your customers like to do in their free time? Who do the like on Facebook? Etc.
The more you know your customers and what make them tick, the better job you will do in creating the products and services they want, and effectively marketing to them.
Identify who you are top competitors are. Importantly, like Amazon did, determine what has worked well for them and what their customers are buying.
The old investor saying is very important here, which is as follows: "if you have no competitors; maybe you have no market." What this means is that if customers aren't currently buying a product or service that serves the need your company fulfills, then maybe that need and thus market doesn't exist.
The more you understand your competition, the better you will do in creating a winning strategy. Fortunately, with online tools, you can learn a lot about your competition. You can find out the demographics of their website visitors, what other sites those visitors frequent, what other companies they like on Facebook, and so on. Clearly this information will help improve your marketing and overall strategy.
The final category or research to conduct is financial research. Here the goal is to develop benchmarks. For example, what is the average Cost of Goods Sold in your industry? What percentage of your revenues should staffing costs comprise?
By understanding these benchmarks, you can do a better job in determining financing needs and also measuring and improving your performance over time.
We all know that knowledge is power. And when running a business, the knowledge you need is market research. With it you'll have a better strategy and your likelihood of success skyrockets. Without it, you're shooting in the dark. I prefer the former.
Suggested Resource: If your business plan and/or strategy is missing critical market research, you will fail. Or worse yet, if your plan or strategy is based on faulty research, you're doomed. Click here to learn how my team can quickly and affordably conduct your market research for you.
In my posts over the past few weeks, I have talked about the power of business intelligence dashboards, and why companies that use them enjoy triple the revenue growth and double the profit growth of companies that don’t.
This is driven by the simple two facts that a) businesses today collect more data than ever before and b) wading through and making sense of it all is overwhelming as this data is collected and stored in multiple locations, including in CRM and ERP systems, in accounting software, in advertising and marketing platforms, in social media sites, and so on.
So it is the executives who quickly access this data - and connect the dots between it all - that incrementally but inexorably make better strategic and tactical decisions, gain competitive advantage, and win.
Intrigued, but not sure exactly how an executive dashboard would work for your business?
If so, you’ve come to the right place, because my team and I have created a special webinar where I share best practices as to how today’s best run companies use executive dashboards to:
• Identify the most important business metrics to track
• Develop real-time visibility into their organizations
• Improve employee performance
• Make more intelligent business decisions
• And ultimately grow sales and profits
Importantly, this webinar will neither be an academic lecture nor a sales pitch in disguise. Rather, it will be an intense hands-on workshop where I will share key tips and tactics as to how to harness the power of executive dashboards in your business right away to grow revenues and make more money - while working less and having more fun.
Sign Up Now
Note that to promote interaction, we are limiting this program to no more than 35 attendees. So click below to register before the spots fill up!
Look forward to your attendance!
No great companies have just one employee. None. Which means that in order to grow your company, you need to build a great team.
In building your team, there are two equally important but distinct parts: recruiting great employees and expertly managing them so they perform at their best.
1. Recruiting Great Employees
Recruiting great employees requires you to: 1) determine who to hire, and 2) hire the right people.
Determining Who to Hire
In determining who to hire, you need to assess both what job functions you need now, and what functions you'll need in the future. This will help you find the right people.
Consider this example: you need someone right now to manage your marketing. So you hire a marketing manager. A year from now, your company is doing well and you hire four more people as part of your marketing team.
Now here's the question that arises: is the person you initially hired for the marketing position the right person to lead your marketing team? Sometimes they are, but often they aren't. Since performing in a role yourself is a very different job than managing a team.
So, the question you need to ask yourself when you initially hire the marketing person is this: should I hire someone simply to meet my short-term marketing goals, or should I hire someone that can fill my short-term goals and who could also manage and grow my marketing department. The latter hire will typically be more qualified, and more expensive, so making such a decision is important.
Another tip when determining who to hire is to conduct a return on investment (ROI) analysis on new positions. That is, what expected return, typically in terms of increased profits, will the business generate in return for hiring each new staff member. The less funding you have in your business, the more important this analysis becomes in choosing who to hire now.
Hiring the Right People
There is an old and important saying in management, "Hire slowly and fire quickly." You hire slowly since it's critical to get the right people in your organization. And you fire quickly, since bad employees can ruin the morale and productivity of your entire team.
The process of hiring the right employees starts with sourcing them. You can source or find employees from a wide range of places, from college job boards to posting classified ads. For each open position, think about the best places to find qualified prospects.
Once you find qualified prospects, the key is to weed through them to find the top performers. While interviewing prospective employees is key, remember that someone's interviewing skills are not as important as their on-the-job performance. That is, someone can be great during interviews, but not so great on the job.
To overcome this challenge, delve into the prospect's performance in their last jobs and, as much as possible, give them tests to see how they might perform in your company. With regards to tests you give them, treat their performance on them as their best possible work. While they can refine their skills with training, prospective employees generally give it their all on such a test. So, if they score mediocre, they are not a good prospect.
2. Expertly Managing Your Team
Your job as a manager doesn't stop once you've recruited a great team. Rather, you need to expertly manage them. We see this in sports all the time; one team has incredibly talented players, but they still don't win the championship.
Key to your company's performance is motivating and managing your employees so they work collectively as a team and are highly productive.
Among the many techniques for accomplishing this, here are two of my favorites:
1. Let Your Employees Set Goals for Themselves
Employees will perform much better when they've set their own goals, rather than goals being dictated for them. So, have each employee set goals. Then review those goals with them. As needed, persuade them to modify their goals to better align with company goals. Even when you do this, they will feel personally accountable for achieving their goals.
2. Conduct Performance Reviews
If you don't meet with employees and review their performance, they won't know whether they're doing a good job or not. So, meet with your employees periodically to discuss their performance versus their goals, detail what they are doing well at, and identifying areas for improvement and your suggestions to achieve such improvement.
Your Team Allows You to Win the Game
We all face competition in our businesses. And the difference between the winners and losers is often the quality of the teams. Clearly, if your marketing manager is better than your competitors', and so is your sales team, your production team, etc., you're going to win every time. So, focus on building your dream team so you emerge victorious.
Suggested Resource: Building Your Dream Team is a comprehensive video program that takes you through the four phases of building an outstanding team, which are: 1. Building a Founding Team, 2. Determining Who to Hire, 3. Hiring Superstars, and 4. Expertly Managing Your Team. Click here to learn more.
Last week, I wrote about the power of business intelligence dashboards.
How, for the first time, smaller businesses can harness the power of big data to more efficiently and profitably manage their companies.
Some readers expressed skepticism that this "stuff" actually works.
That it is just more "noise” that causes entrepreneurs to get “lost in the weeds” versus long-term thinking and planning.
There is some truth to this.
Heck, “Big Data” at its worst is probably best personified by Wall Street “quant jocks” who equate positive expected value "bets" with larger, more foundational truths of right and wrong, and of good and bad.
To these concerns, let me offer a few suggestions as to how to best utilize business data to support, but not drive, leadership and managerial decision-making.
The first point is that for the vast majority of small businesses “getting lost” in the data is the least of their concerns.
A far bigger one is simply analyzing anything more than the barest minimum of balance sheet - "i.e. How much money is in the bank?" and profit and loss statement - i.e. “What were our sales last month?” data.
And when broader data, like the number of incoming leads, sales proposals, average call hold time, marketing spend per action, e-mail open and click-through rates, is analyzed…
…so much of it is either incomplete or just flat-out incorrect to make doing so an exercise in futility.
AND the data that is complete and accurate sits in so many places, Excel worksheets on the sales manager's computer, deep in a little understood (and used) CRM, in the reporting functionality of software as services like Grasshopper, IfByPhone, Constant Contact and Google Analytics to name just a few…
…that a way too high percentage of the time and energy set aside to analyze it is outright wasted in simply accessing the reports from the data sources that house it!
The simple answer to these challenges is to utilize a best-of-breed business intelligence dashboard that:
• Automatically collects and updates all the data in one easy to access place;
• Has alerts built-in to flag incomplete or way-out-out-the ordinary data; and,
• Is arranged and presented in a visual and formatted way that works for the executive reviewing it.
But it goes deeper than this.
You see, leading and managing a business based on proper data collection and analysis is no longer a choice - it is a necessity.
Because all of our best competitors are doing it.
And doing so along with proper and appropriate strategic repositioning as the consistent and correct interpretation of the data allows, affords, and demands.
Or, as David Byrne of the Talking heads once so famously said “This ain't no party…this ain't no disco…this ain't no fooling around. “
You see, when it comes to data-driven decision-making, it has become a matter of going big or staying home.
As in admitting that one is really not that serious about growing and sustaining a business of lasting value - one agile enough to adapt and evolve in the face of technological and marketplace change, and of competitive threat.
Now, I don't believe this.
No, the best entrepreneurs I know are as serious as they can be about not just surviving but thriving in this massively opportunity-filled world of ours.
Just take it one step, one click, one API integration at a time.
Sooner than you think, your business will be running more responsively, more nimbly than ever.
Then watch the profits follow.
To Your Success,
P.S. Like to demo our dashboard offering? Then Click Here to learn more.
The acquisition market continues to be very strong. In the 12 months ending August 31, 2013, $881.7 Billion was paid to acquire 9,499 US companies. This represents an 8.1% increase over the $815.9 Billion paid to acquire companies in the previous year.
Importantly, during this time, the average EBITDA multiple paid for Middle Market firms (companies valued between $1 million and $500 million) was 9.1. This means that if your company's EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) were $2 million, that your company would sell for 9.1 times that or $18.2 million.
I'm telling you this important information because selling your company is the ultimate goal for most entrepreneurs, because it's how you achieve significant wealth.
Importantly, not all of the $881.7 Billion paid to buy these companies went to the founders of these companies. Some of it went to investors, employees, and others. But the entrepreneurs who founded them received by far the biggest chunk.
That's why 80%, a full 4 out of 5, of individuals with a net worth of $5 million or more (called "pentamillionaires") are entrepreneurs who started and sold their businesses.
Here are some acquisitions that have taken place in just the last few days:
And the list keeps going.
Now importantly, I want you to understand why each of these companies was acquired for millions of dollars. Here's why: each of them developed the right value drivers.
You see, whenever a large company considers buying a smaller company, they make a "build or buy" decision. That is, they think, "how long and how much money will it take for us to build what that company has already built." And then, they compare that answer to the price at which they could buy the company.
And when the larger company realizes that buying the smaller company is less expensive (in terms of dollars and time savings), they buy it. And as you read above, they often buy it at a huge price.
Now, what value drivers do buyers want?
I have identified 21 different value drivers they want. Such as the following:
1. Customers: the more customers you have and the more valuable your customers are, the more acquirers will pay to buy your company.
2. Intellectual Property: the more intellectual property you have, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets, the more your company is worth to acquirers.
3. Team/employees: the more talented and trained your team, the higher the price the acquirer will pay for you.
So, be sure to build your company with these value drivers in mind. When you figure out which of the 21 value drivers are most important to acquirers in your sector, and focus on building them, you'll soon get to a massive payday - a big acquisition of your company.
There are eight key things angel investors will look for when considering whether or not to fund your business. No, you don't have to satisfy all of these criteria. But the more of them you do, the better the chance they will say "yes" to your funding request.
#1: They Like You
Believe it or not, this is really important. No matter how good your venture is, if the investor doesn't like you, they generally won't fund you. So, build rapport with prospective investors and give them the respect they deserve.
#2: They Feel Good About the Venture's Genre
Even if the investors likes you and even if they think your company can be a huge success, they need to like what the venture is all about. For example, someone who hates politics will generally not fund the new political website you are launching. So, find investors who have an affinity for the type of venture you're launching/running.
#3 They Feel a Void
If an individual is an ultra-successful business person who is currently running multiple operations, they are generally not going to invest in more ventures. Since, they don't have a void; they have all the excitement in their daily life that they need. Conversely, a person who feels they might be "missing out on the action" will be more motivated to invest in you.
#4 They Feel There's Good ROI Potential
This is obviously important. Even if investors like you, the type of business, and they feel a void, they generally want to believe they will get a nice return on their investment if they fund you.
There are five sub-criteria to this, which get us to our sum of eight things angel investors want.
Does your company have a strong potential to achieve significant annual revenues? In a truly scalable business, you can multiply your sales without having to greatly increase your resources. Scalable businesses grow more rapidly and can reach an exit (whereby the investor gets their return) faster.
#4b: High Barriers to Entry
Barriers to entry are those things that make it difficult for another firm to compete against you, such as patents or proprietary technology, a unique location, strategic partnerships, and long-term customer contracts.
The stronger and/or more barriers to entry you have, the more likely you are to succeed, and the higher expected ROI the investor has.
#4c: Worthy Management Team
Angels must believe in both the founders and the key operating personnel of your company. Because even the best idea will fail if the team isn't good enough.
#4d: Your Exit Strategy
Your "exit strategy" or method in which you will "exit" your business, is generally to sell it or go public, with the former being much more common. As such, it's good to think about your exit strategy early. Who might want to buy you in the future, and why?
Since angel investors can't realize their investment until you exit, be sure to prove to them that such an exit is viable.
#4e: The Right Price
Finally, angel investors will only invest when the price is right. If you price your equity too high, angels may not have the potential to reap significant enough returns and will not invest.
We see this on the show Shark Tank all the time. The entrepreneur says, for example, that for $400,000 they will give up 10% of their company. The sharks always laugh at percentages like this and say they will need at least 40% of the company or more for that dollar amount.
While the sharks are much more sophisticated, and shark-like, than your common angel investor, you need to price your equity fairly (give them a fair equity stake for their investment) if you want them to fund your venture.
Knowing these 8 things that angel investors want will help you identify and convince the right angels to fund your business!
For my complete game plan for raising funding from angel investors, check out our Angel Funding Formula.
Last week, I wrote about the strong ambition across the globe to have a "Silicon Valley of One's Own," and to replicate the otherworldly innovation of a region that has produced more than 75% of the World’s Unicorns - technology companies started since 2003 that now have valuations of more than $1 billion.
Then, on Monday I went deeper into the drivers of this remarkable concentration along with the macroeconomic drivers of today’s very hot IPO and M&A Markets: long-term low interest rates, the $1.5 trillion in cash held by big tech. companies and private equity firms seeking deals, and venture investor’s now almost universal realization that only via extremely large exits they obtain alpha.
All of this is well and good, but what we found out was of much greater interest was to look at the common attributes and mindsets of these unicorns and their prospective investors and then how to integrate these elements into YOUR entrepreneurial and investment approach, especially when:
• As an entrepreneur, you know that you don’t have a business with “billion dollar potential”
• As an investor, you are more frightened than excited by the “big outlier” return phenomenon
We put it all together and boiled it down to the most essential and actionable insights, and are going to share them via webinar on Thursday at 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT.
Do sign up now via this link: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/622073466
I look forward to your attendance and feedback!
Tech. Exit Trends in Today's Hot Markets
Monday, September 29th
My Wednesday column as to tech. opportunities far from Silicon Valley was well-received, but frankly left a lot of folks wanting more.
Mostly what was asked was a variant of a common theme: How can I apply the wisdoms and best practices of the Uber - successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors to my business, or to the one I advise, or are invested in.
It was almost a hope against hope, something that most unfortunately are almost too scared to dream about…
...Having / being involved with a unicorn of one’s very own.
How important is this? Well, given that last week's $25 billion Alibaba IPO was greater in size than 2014’s other 154 IPOs - combined - even slightly improving one's "Unicorn Landing" odds has enormous expected value.
So I and my research team collected and analyzed some of the best research on the topic, from the Kauffman Foundation, NVCA, PricewaterhouseCoopers,Dr. Robert Wiltbank, Harvard University, and TechCrunch’s Aileen Lee, including:
- Categorizing the common attributes among 39 companies started since 2003 that are now valued at more than $1 billion
- The relative likelihood of success of enterprise (B2B) versus consumer - facing (B2C) business models
- How the great liquidity in today's market, with some estimates showing more than $1.5 trillion in cash being held by strategic tech. buyers and private equity firms, is impacting deal modeling and valuation analysis (all the way down to the startup stage)
- How and if yesterday’s report from Harvard University that for their endowment VC return for FY 2014 was 32.4% (compared to a 15.4% return for its total portfolio and the S&P 500's 21.38%) was an outlier, a harbinger of an over-heated market, or a reasonable return expectation given the high variance and the illiquidity of the asset class?
We put it all together and boiled down the most essential and actionable points, and are going to share our findings via webinar on Monday at 2 pm ET / 11 am PT.
Do sign up now via This Link.
I do look forward to your attendance and feedback!
I had the good fortune to moderate a panel at last week's IBA Silicon Valley from Start-up to IPO / Exit Conference.
With entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, attorneys, and investment bankers from over 18 countries represented - from places as far afield as Switzerland, Singapore, and Spain (and Santa Monica and Silicon Valley!) - it was a truly international gathering.
Predictions were shared ranging from the outcome of the Scottish independence vote (incorrect) to Alibaba’s 1st day’s trading closing price (correct!), to animated discussions on the differing perspectives on Internet privacy in the U.S. and Europe.
But, the main thrust of the conference call was quite simple.
It was an inquiry, especially from the conference’s international attendees, as to how and why such an incredibly high percentage of the tech. start-ups that turn into “Unicorns” - businesses with exits via IPO or acquisition of greater than $1 Billion - emanate almost exclusively from the United States, and far more specifically from Silicon Valley.
How concentrated is this phenomenon? Well, as shared by Doug Gonsalves of Mooreland Partners, more than 70% of these Unicorns - names like Dropbox, Airbnb, Facebook, Splunk, Uber, Waze, LinkedeIn, and Palantir - were born and are headquartered in a “30 mile circle around San Francisco Airport.”
The “top down” effect of this cannot be overstated.
These huge exits and investor wins drive the fact that the Bay Area - with less than 6 million people - ingests close to 50% of all U.S. venture capital funding, which in turn is four times as much as in all of Europe.
This in turn drives an as large disparity in the number and quality of tech. startups and innovation emanating from various points on the globe.
Now, my perspective on this concentration has been mostly as an American businessman, as one that lives and works in Los Angeles (which may seem close to Silicon Valley, but to those who know both places can attest are worlds apart).
But visiting with entrepreneurs and executives from Europe, Israel, India, Singapore, and beyond brought the matter into much sharper relief.
Gil Arie of Foley Hoag shared the Israeli perspective - one where the best tech companies there as often as not are making the simple and powerful decision to move themselves (and their families) from across the globe for a Valley presence.
Sure, these companies can (and prefer) to build engineering teams in the lower cost, talent rich environs like Israel, India, Eastern Europe, etc., but for the “top of the pyramid” stuff - strategy, product design, capital formation and funding – being in the Valley feels like a necessity.
But expressed also was a strong counter-balancing sentiment, a deep desire to prove that world and industry leading technology companies can be born and grown far from Sand Hill Road.
And surely it will be so.
For this ambition - always in abundance in the world's best entrepreneurs - to build something that is theirs will eventually push back on the Valley's admirable yes, but also unnatural hegemony on global tech innovation and wealth.
And the great thing is that it will be far from a zero sum game.
Just think about it - if even a small fraction more of the world's Seven Billion People could live, work, and dream in a culture as forward and possibility - filled as Silicon Valley's…
…Anything is possible, is it not?