Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, April 2, 2010
VC-backed exits had a great quarter in Q1 of 2010. (For those who don't understand "VC-backed exits" it means companies funded by venture capital firms which cashed out, which typically happens through being acquired or by going public.)
According to The National Venture Capital Association and Thomson Reuters, VC-backed M&A exits were the highest ever in a single quarter. 111 venture backed companies were sold for $5.86 billion in disclosed value. And nine venture backed companies went public, raising more than $930 million.
Another note to folks seeking VC; in the first quarter M&A (exit by acquisition) was 12.3 times more likely than going public. This ratio is fairly typical.
Another piece of good news is that 79 private equity firms, including VC firms, raised $50.4 billion in Q1 to invest in companies.
So, VCs are generally in a good mood since they've just made big money on their exits, and they now have more money to invest. So start sending out your teaser emails and raising venture capital!
(If you don't know what a "teaser email" is, or you haven't raised venture capital before, it is a very tricky path with lots of landmines. So download our Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Venture Capital so you can successfully raise venture capital.)
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, April 2, 2010
Like many of you, my first full-time job wasn't as an entrepreneur. I too "worked for the man" and earned my steady paycheck. And each month, I advanced a little. But never as quickly as I wanted.
And what did this cause?
It caused me a lot of stress, discomfort and anxiety.
I was in a position that I wasn't comfortable with. I wanted something better.
The other day I realized what I really had been feeling was a lack of control, which in turn caused my stress and discomfort.
In fact, according to the new book, The Art of Choosing, by Sheena Iyengar, the ability to make our own decisions is critical to our sense of well being.
For example, studies show that it isn't the company's CEO who's most likely to have a stress-related illness or heart attack. No. It's actually the CEO's assistant! Research shows that the less control we have, or that we think we have, the higher the likelihood of stress, back pain, mental illness, high blood pressure, getting sick, and so on.
So what does this mean for you?
1. If you're still working for someone else, and are feeling the stress of not controlling your destiny, then now's the time to launch your own business. I'm not necessarily saying to quit your job until your business is generating income. But I'm saying to at least take pen to paper and write down your business plan and strategy so you can start planning out your venture. (As you know, I designed my business plan template specifically to help with this).
2. If you are running your own company, make sure that you give enough authority to your employees. You don't want your employees to feel a lack of control. This will lead to stress and they will get sick more often, won't be as productive, and so on.
Note that I will be releasing a new Leadership course later this month that reveals lots of leadership tips, but to start, make sure your employees have some decision-making authority and a feeling of being in control within their areas of responsibility.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, April 2, 2010
I recently interviewed sales expert Marvin Montgomery.
And I don't use the word "expert" lightly....Marvin has 30 years of sales training experience, served as director of sales for one of the country's largest jewelry store chains (where he trained over 1,200 associates in 95 stores) and is the author of the book "Practice Makes Perfect: The Professional's Guide to Sales Success."
Marvin gave me tons of great sales tips during the interview, but one thing really stood out to me.
He told me he'd been invited to the weddings of people to which he has sold products and services. Now, these were NOT people he knew beforehand. But people that he met when trying to sell them something.
Imagine that for a moment. Inviting your salesman to your wedding. You get a phone call from a salesperson. Or you're at the department store and a salesperson is trying to sell you a vacuum. And, then, a few short months later, you're inviting them to your wedding!
Marvin and I both agreed that this is the ultimate sales test - if your prospects and/or customer invite you to their wedding, you are truly a great salesperson!
Now, to accomplish such a feat, Marvin explained that you need to start by having a "servant mentality" and really listening to and serving the needs of your prospects. By doing so, you create real, lasting human-to-human bonds, which will massively increase your chances of making the sale.
Remember, people (not companies if you are selling to businesses) make buying decisions. And a key part of a person's buying decision is how they feel about the salesperson. Your job is to make the prospect feel good about themselves, which will make them like you more!
In the interview, Marvin focused on the "3 R's" of selling: Repeat business, Referrals, and Requests.
You can listen to the full interview here, but here's a key point that he mentioned for each.
Repeat business: repeat business starts by satisfying the customer the first time. And a key to satisfaction is to eliminate buyer's remorse. Marvin explained that re-affirming the person's buying decision helps here. A simple phone call or letter starting with "you made the right decision and here's why...." can eliminate buyer's remorse, increase satisfaction, and set the customer up to buy from you again.
Referrals: Once you know your customers are happy, you need to ASK for the referral. Marvin differentiates between "planting a seed" and actually asking; and explains that specifically asking is key. A great idea that he mentioned was getting the customer to visualize who they can refer. For example, he gave this example: "I know that you're in the local rotary club - are there any other members of the club that you think could also benefit from this service?"
Requests: Requests are when a prospect specifically requests to work with you, rather than anyone else at your company. When someone specifically requests you, clearly you have a much greater chance of making the sale. One of his keys here was "lagniappe" which is defined as a small, unexpected extra.
Does this work? Well, I'll give you a personal example here. Every Monday I bring bagels into the office. There are two stores from which I can buy bagels. A while back, one of the workers at one of the stores gave me 2 extra bagels at no charge. Since then, I only go to that one bagel store and I always wait for that worker to serve me. Yes, it works.
In the interview, Marvin gave a ton more insight into the 3 R's and also talked about keys to sales team management, how to hire sales staff, and how to get more customer leads and prospects.
You can download or listen to the interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/427.cfm
Or listen to a short clip in the player below:
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Is it possible to double, triple, or even quadruple your sales conversion rates?
It sure is.
And to explain how, you simply have to spend an hour with the world's best salesperson - my daughter.
You see, kids are pretty amazing sales people. They ask for something. And when they don't get it, they ask again, and again, and again.
So, my 7-year old daughter wanted a horse figurine. So she asked me to buy it for her. I said I'd think about it. So the next day she asked me again. And again I replied "Let me think about it."
This routine continued day after day after day. Until finally, I broke down and bought it.
Now the lesson here is simply -- persistence is absolutely critical to sales success.
Consider these statistics from the National Sales Association:
* 2% of sales are made on the 1st contact
* 3% of sales are made on the 2nd contact
* 5% of sales are made on the 3rd contact
* 10% of sales are made on the 4th contact
* 80% of sales are made on the 5th-12th contact
This is truly amazing -- your chances of closing the sale go up 40 TIMES when you try 5-12 times.
Likewise, a recent report from The Bridge Group found that it takes an AVERAGE of seven touches to "convert a suspect to a prospect." These touches may include phone calls, direct mail, email, webinars, or face-to-face encounters among others.
Once again, the key is persistent follow-up. You cannot afford to give up on prospects after the first, second, or even third or fourth contacts. By continuing to follow-up with them, you will skyrocket your sales conversion rates and profits.
The EASIEST way to ensure consistent, high quality persistent follow-up is using Autoresponders. Autoresponders are automatic emails that you send at defined intervals. So, for example, you can automatically send high quality emails to your prospects every 3 days for a month in order to increase your conversion rates. In the Ultimate Internet Marketing System, we dedicate two modules to Email Marketing where we cover how to expertly use emails and autoresponders to increase your conversion rates. Learn more here: http://www.growthink.com/products/internetmarketingsystem
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, March 29, 2010
In 2002, the CEO of Integreon, Liam Brown, sat in Growthink's offices in Los Angeles.
Integreon was just getting started and had 4 employees.
In the subsequent months, we worked with Integreon on its strategy and to developed its business plan.
The rest, as they say is history.
After raising rounds of capital and growing like gangbusters, Integreon is now a global provider of outsourced research, legal and business Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) services. It currently has 2,000 employees and offices throughout the world.
And just today, the company announced that it raised another $50 million in expansion capital.
But the big amount is not what excited me most when I heard about the raise. It was the one tiny phrase in the press release that most others probably missed: "a substantial minority stake."
I like when the $50 million investment only accounted for a "minority stake" in the company. It means the company is worth over $100 million, and probably much more than that.
Yes, the right strategy and business plan can produce amazing results!
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, March 17, 2010
There’s one role in an organization that most entrepreneurs and business owners’ don’t really understand.
It’s not the Marketing Manager. That’s pretty easy. The Marketing Manager is in charge of marketing the company’s products. It’s not the Sales Manager. Or the Operations manager either. These roles are also quite evident.
But the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) role confuses most entrepreneurs.
In fact, most don’t really understand what a CFO does, or think that the CFO role doesn’t apply to their business until they’re much bigger.
Well, recently I had the opportunity to learn more about the CFO role when I interviewed Jonathan Weiss.
Unlike many of the interviews I’ve done, Jonathan is not a famous author, investor or renowned entrepreneur.
No, Jonathan was simply a classmate of mine when I went to business school at UCLA (The Anderson School). But when I started speaking with him at our 10-year class reunion a few months back, I realized he had some special expertise.
You see, Jonathan had recently been the CFO of a small company, LA Rose, which manufactures fashionable uniforms for healthcare workers.
The company had been around for a few years and was generating $3 million in annual revenues when he joined it.
But in short order, Jonathan helped grow revenues from $3 million to $10 million, and then he helped sell the company for a nice multiple.
I listened to Jonathan’s story in amazement, and the questions started flowing. What did he do as the CFO of that company? Do all businesses need a CFO? What should my clients be doing to replicate his success?
But rather than monopolize Jonathan’s time at the reunion, I requested a telephone interview to ask these questions, and he was kind enough to oblige.
Here's an excerpt of my interview with Jonathan:
Click here to listen to and/or download the full interview and/or transcript.
Now, before I brief you on some of the interview’s highlights, let me explain the core role of the CFO.
As the title implies, a CFO or Chief Financial Officer is responsible for helping the company achieve it’s financial objectives.
Specifically, the CFO:
Ensures that key financial metrics (e.g., last month’s sales, current inventory levels, etc.) are reported in a timely manner.
Ensures that the company has enough cash to fund its growth
Helps improve the profitability and efficiency of the company
Figures out where assets should be invested
So, for example, some specific things that Jonathan did at LA Rose were as follows:
1. He created a financial dashboard. This dashboard showed the business owners exactly how the company was fairing on key metrics such as month-over-month sales, inventory levels, etc. This helped the company set and accomplish goals. Importantly, he also put key financial figures in terms that the business owners could understand so that they were able to make better decisions.
2. He improved the profitability of the business by better focusing the owners’ time. For example, one owner was amazing at designing new uniforms. But, she was only spending 10% of her time doing that (and spent her other time managing customers, employees, etc.). When those other roles were delegated and she focused more of her time on design, sales and profits skyrocketed.
3. Product sourcing. Jonathan boosted profits by finding new suppliers to manufacture the same quality uniforms at a lower cost.
4. New financing. Jonathan identified that much of the company’s capital was tied up in receivables (e.g., money owed to it by customers). He used a unique combination of factoring and receivables insurance to get this money from third parties at a low cost. The money was then reinvested in the company, and sales went up dramatically.
5. Investments. Jonathan made investments in IT that helped streamline operations and cut costs, boosting long-term profitability.
Whether your company needs to hire a CFO right now is up to you. But clearly someone needs to be performing the CFO role if you hope to really grow your revenues and profits.
To hear Jonathan tell his story and reveal his best CFO tactics, click here to listen to and/or download the full interview and/or transcript.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Monday, March 15, 2010
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Scott Jordan, founder of All Credit Lending Solutions.
All Credit Lending Solutions was formed in 2005 to help small business owners in obtaining commercial financing from banks and other alternative lenders and can be found online at yourbusinessloannow.com.
Scott gave some nice tips on raising debt capital in today's environment. Click here to listen to the full interview, or listen to a preview below.
To begin, Scott mentioned that building your credit score is key to getting debt financing for your business.
As you may know, Dun & Bradstreet's Paydex is the primary source for business credit scores. Paydex scores can range from 0 to 100, and Scott said that a score of 70 or above is necessary for a business to get unsecured lines of credit.
With regards to startups, who don't have a business credit score, you ideally want to have a personal credit score above 680.
In either case, Scott stressed the importance of spending the time to manage and improve your personal and business credit scores.
For those folks who don't have great credit, Scott revealed two other things that will help in receiving debt financing. The first is having orders in hand from reputable customers, and the second is having assets which you own free and clear that you can use as collateral.
Another key point which Scott revealed is that entrepreneurs and business owners need to "think like a banker." Bankers, according to Scott, think "safety first." You need to show the banker multiple ways in which you can repay the debt; e.g., via revenues, liquidating assets you own, etc.
Scott also mentioned that your chances of receiving a loan multiply when 1) you are very clear on the reason why you need the loan, 2) put together a quality business plan, and 3) get all your financial documents in order for the bank's review.
Click here to listen to the full interview, or listen to a preview below.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Monday, March 15, 2010
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, February 25, 2010
Last night at dinner, as my kids were saying "I want this" and "I want that," I said something that you should never tell your kids.
What did I say?
I said, "you know, money doesn't grow on trees."
Why is this so bad?
Well the goal of my saying this was to try to show them the value of money. And that we have to work to make money to spend on the things we want.
The bad part of this saying is that it paints the wrong picture. It paints the picture that we can't always get what we want. Which is the polar opposite of the attitude I want my kids, and all of the entrepreneurs reading this today, to adapt.
What entrepreneurs MUST be thinking is YES, I CAN get whatever I want. Yes, it won't just come to me, but with hard work and ingenuity, I can and I will get what I want.
Fortunately, right after I said that to my kids, I caught myself.
This was partly due to the interview I recently conducted with Ken Lodi about The Bamboo Principle.
Here's the link to that interview in case you missed it the other day:
In the interview, Ken explained that timber bamboo shoots grow very little for four years while their extensive root system is growing and taking hold. But once the roots are firmly in place, the bamboo can grow a shocking 80 feet in just six weeks.
So, I immediately realized that money does in fact grow on trees. The key is to work on the tree's roots. To build such a strong foundation that generating money becomes easy.
Every great company has a strong foundation. They create a brand name, sales systems, delivery systems, etc. And then, they can generate cash and profits each and every day.
So, focus on building an extremely strong foundation. Think through your business model. Learn the best practices for each of the key business disciplines - marketing, HR, finance, sales, etc.
And never let anyone tell you that "money doesn't grow on trees" or that you can't have everything you want. Because money does grow on firmly-rooted trees and you CAN achieve and get everything you want out of life if you resolve to do so.
As you might expect, explaining to my kids (ages 9 and 7) that money can in fact grow on trees wasn't so easy.
Maybe I should have just had them listen to The Bamboo Principle interview.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, February 24, 2010
This is pretty amazing.
After being planted, timber bamboo plants are hardly noticeable above the ground for nearly four years. But once their roots are fully formed around the four-year mark, they can grow a remarkable 80 feet in just six weeks.
The key to their amazing growth is their extremely solid foundation. To learn about how emerging companies can create a solid foundation for their businesses, the other day, I interviewed Ken Lodi, creator of The Bamboo Principle.
What Ken explained to me is that the solid foundation of a company is rooted around its employees. But, importantly, Ken explained that a company's greatest resource is NOT its employees.
Rather, the greatest resource is the TALENT of its employees.
The fact is this - most companies have some great employees that are underutilized. Conversely, great entrepreneurs and business owners are able to figure out what their employees like to do. Interestingly, what they like to do is oftentimes what employees are best at, and what they will achieve the best results at.
Ken equated this to sports. Players on your team, he explained, don't necessarily have to be great at everything. For example, on a football team, the quarterback doesn't need to be a great punter. And the punter doesn't need to be a great quarterback. The problem arises when your quarterback is spending his days punting. The business owner must figure this out and make the requisite changes.
The best way to figure this out is to mentor and coach your employees. You need to figure out what their values and goals are, and modify their roles as needed to leverage them. When meeting with employees ask open ended questions (not just "yes" and "no" questions). For example, ask "if you could spend the majority of your work day doing just one thing, what would it be?"
Employees too must figure out what they value and enjoy and make sure their job roles are in line with this. This is the key to improving employee productivity, satisfaction and performance. It's called "making a vacation out of your vocation."
Both employees and entrepreneurs/business owners should develop a fresh assessment of themselves. What do you/they like to do most in their jobs? What makes you/they say "cool?" And, ask yourself, "if money wasn't an issue and you could do one thing with your work life, what would it be?"
Success requires a solid foundation. Six minute abs don't work. Nothing is fast and easy. You need to work hard to build a solid foundation from which you can build success. And this foundation is your employees. And making sure you are leveraging your employees to their best potential.
So make sure you quarterback is not playing defense. Talk to your employees. Find out what they value and enjoy doing. And create a workplace that supports their values, leverages their talents, and achieves massive and successful growth - just like the timber bamboo.
Growthink University members can listen to my interview with Ken Lodi here. Not a member? Then simply test drive Growthink University for 30 days here.