Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Do you remember the Faberge Shampoo television commercial from the 1980s?
Growthink University members can listen to the full interview with Trevor Shanski and/or download the transcript here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/356.cfm.
Not only does the interview cover referral marketing, email marketing and mobile media marketing, but I got Trevor to reveal his secrets to operational success (as mentioned, as COO of his last company, he grew it to nearly $100 million in revenues) and how he developed a highly-impressive, nine-person Board of Advisors.
To hear a short clip of the interview, click the blue triangle in the player below:
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, October 22, 2009
I just finished conducting an interview on how to be an entrepreneur.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The other day, a BusinessWeek reporter contacted me with a question about entrepreneurial success.
She wanted my thoughts on a new business opportunity that one of their readers was considering.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, October 15, 2009
Why do entrepreneurs start new businesses?
To hear a short clip of the interview, click the blue triangle in the player below:
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The more I learn about this guy, the more impressed I am.
And if you've been reading my emails, you've heard me talk about him. In fact, he's mentioned in Growthink's Definitive Guide to Creative & Alternative Financing Sources because he initially financed his business via credit cards (in the Guide, I present the best way to do this in addition to 27 other overlooked funding sources).
I'll tell you who he is in a second. But first, let me tell you why I thought of him again. Well, next week, we are celebrating Growthink's 10 year anniversary with a party at the Los Angeles Sheraton. And at the anniversary event, I will be giving a presentation on the key entrepreneurial lessons that we've learned over the past 10 years.
In putting together this presentation, I started assembling a timeline of interesting business events that have occurred over the past decade; like the formation of Napster in 1999 and the founding of Facebook in 2004.
And in doing this research, I thought it would be interesting to see how this guy's company has fared since Growthink launched in 1999.
Well, the guy's company, which he founded in 1996, reached the $1 million sales mark for the first time in 1999. And, when I searched to find his company's revenues today, I learned that last year (they haven't reported revenues to date in 2009 yet) their revenues reached $725 million.
That's right -- $725 MILLION!
Now, that's not even what got me so pumped up. What got me excited was that in 2008, the company's founder's goal was to reach revenues of $775 million.
And, when he didn't achieve that, he cut his $500,000 annual salary to just $26,000.
Yes, even though he generated $725 million in revenues, since it didn't meet his expectations, he cut his salary to a mere $26,000.
The "guy" that I'm talking about is Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of sports apparel company Under Armour.
This is a guy who maxed out his credit cards when he was starting a company in his mid-20s. Not to mention that he was launching a company in a very crowded space with massive competitors. Not many other people I know would have the nerve to compete head-to-head with Nike, Adidas and Reebok to name just a few.
Kevin Plank is the true entrepreneur. He had undying faith in his vision and put his money (and his credit) in his belief. And when he didn't meet his goals (like generating $725 million instead of $775 million in revenues) he accepted the blame himself. He didn't blame others. No, he took a massive pay cut to improve the company's financial performance in challenging economic conditions.
I hope that Kevin Plank inspires you like he does me. I'm sure he has many faults like the rest of us, but his faith in his business seems unparalleled. This happens when you truly love your company and truly believe in it.
I am fortunate that I truly love Growthink and truly believe in our mission. The result has been 10 years of success and ambitious plans to grow in the future. I hope that each of you are as passionate about your own businesses. For this passion is essential to your success.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Imagine a business opportunity that had a 95% chance of success.
In the interview, Ed revealed tons of great tips and information regarding buying a business, including:
Listen to the full interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/357.cfm
Non-members can listen to a brief clip of the interview by clicking on the blue triangle in the player below:
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The conversation I had the other day started like many others I have with entrepreneurs.
"How can I help you?" I asked.
"I need money to grow my business," he said.
"So how far along is your business right now?" I replied.
Now, here is where things got a little strange.
In most cases, the entrepreneur says that they are just starting out. Or that they have been around for a year or two and have some customers and a nice revenue base.
But this entrepreneur responded, "Well, we're 7 years old and projected to do $120 million in revenue this year."
??? No, this was not the response I was expecting.
So, why does a company that's doing over $100 million in revenue need capital? To buy a competitor? To build market share since it's selling products at a loss?
While these are two valid reasons why more established companies constantly need capital, this company was actually very profitable and not looking for acquisitions.
So, why then did this company require capital?
Because it was growing too quickly and hadn't financially planned for that. You see, the company was manufacturing and selling products at a nice profit, but it needed to pay its manufacturing costs 90 to 120 days prior to when it received payment from its customers.
The result is a cash crunch.
The company has lots of outstanding orders. But it can't fulfill them since it can't lay out the cash to manufacture the goods. This is extremely frustrating for the entrepreneur, and potentially lethal (if customers decide to switch to a competitor).
Now, there are two key ways around this problem.
One, as discussed in Growthink's Definitive Guide to Creative & Alternative Financing Sources, is customer financing, whereby the customer pays for the product upfront or more quickly in return for some benefit (equity or price discounts).
The other is getting outside capital to solve the cash crunch.
The underlying issue here that you must understand is that "cash flow" is very different than "profitability."
Profitability compares your revenues to your costs.
On the other hand, cash flow determines when, where and at what times cash is coming into and cash is leaving your company. And without proper cash flow projections, a fast growing company can find itself in big trouble.
That's why it's critical that all companies, as part of their business planning process, prepare a Cash Flow Statement or forecast. And in fact, companies should prepare cash flow forecasts every month if not every quarter.
This is particularly important for companies who expect significant growth or those with seasonal sales fluctuations.
Your cash flow statement is roughly calculated as follows: Cash Flow From Operations minus Cash Invested in Equipment plus Cash Received from Outside Financing.
It gets a little more complicated than this, since Cash Flow From Operations includes things such as whether your accounts receivable (how much money you are owed from customers) is going up or down, etc.
So, the key takeaway is this - do NOT risk bankrupting or slowing the growth of your business because you don't forecast your cash flow statement every quarter or month.
If you need help, the financial model portion of Growthink's Ultimate Business Plan Template has a full, plug & play, financial model which includes your Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Statement, so you can accurately project what your monthly cash flow will be.
Importantly, this will ensure that you can get financing, as needed, well BEFORE the months when you need it (and not risk your company's future).
Here's the link to Growthink's Ultimate Business Plan Template - http://www.growthink.com/products/business-plan-template.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, September 17, 2009
The other day I was given a badly-needed, private webinar by John Moccia, Technology & Venture Capital Practice Leader at Rollins Insurance, which is a member of TechAssure.
John has been working with venture capital firms and emerging ventures for many years to make sure they are properly protected. And he was gracious enough to give me a private presentation (which we recorded as a video) regarding the insurance needs at the four key stages of an emerging company's lifecycle:
Stage 1 - Formation/R&D
Stage 2 - Growth Phase
Stage 3 - Mature Company/IPO
Stage 4 - Public/Fully Developed Company
I think all of you will find tons of value in this presentation, particularly as it relates to Stage 1 and Stage 2, where most of you currently are.
John went through each of the key types of insurance that entrepreneurs need during these phases. He discussed numerous types of insurance that you must be aware of, including:
• General Liability
• Property Coverage
• Business Interruption Coverage
• Workers Compensation & Disability
• Errors & Omissions
• Directors and Officers Liability
• Crime Coverage
• Global Companion Policy
• Employee Benefits including medical, dental, 401k, life and disability coverages
• Key Man Life Insurance
Importantly, John not only talked about what each of these insurance policies are, but he explained when you need them and when you don't, and gave great tips regarding finding the right insurance policies for your company (and what to look out for).
Now, I'll be the first to admit that buying insurance for your company is not the most important part of being an entrepreneur. But getting the right insurance is part of being a sophisticated entrepreneur.
And in fact, several types of insurance are required when reaching key milestones such as getting your first office, raising capital, and expanding geographically. So, it's important to understand the key insurance issues and plan accordingly.
You can watch the video below:
If you need to contact John or Rollins, his contact information is on the last slide of the video.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The other day I had the pleasure of interviewing someone who I really admire - Dr. Basil Peters.
What I really like about Basil is that he's had success in so many positions. As an entrepreneur, he co-founded Nexus Engineering, which he grew to over 300 employees and sold to Scientific Atlanta.
He's also had success as a venture capitalist as CEO of the venture capital fund, BC Advantage Funds. And he is a successful angel investor, and co-founder and CEO of an angel fund called Fundamental Technologies II.
Basil also writes a blog on best practices for angel investors and entrepreneurs at www.AngelBlog.net and he is an Entrepreneur in Residence at Simon Fraser University where he spent 15 years as an Adjunct Professor of Engineering Sciences.
And finally, Basil is the author of a great book on exit strategies called Early Exits: Exit Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors.
So, with this wealth of experience, I knew that I would learn a ton from the interview, and more importantly, be able to pass on several nuggets of wisdom to other entrepreneurs.
And he delivered.
In fact, Basil made one statement during the interview that I've thought about nearly every day since we spoke. Here's what he said:
"...So I've come to believe that it's a law. I believe that successful entrepreneurs have mentors, and I also believe that it's the most controllable success factor - it's the single thing entrepreneurs can do that would dramatically improve their chances of success that they can control."
An entrepreneur's most controllable success factor. Those are pretty strong and pretty wise words. Let's think about this. From the perspective of a proven entrepreneur and investor, having a mentor is one of the smartest thing an entrepreneur can do to improve their chances of success.
And Basil told me that virtually every successful entrepreneur that he has met has had either a formal or informal mentor.
So, why wouldn't every entrepreneur have a mentor?
Let's start with me. I don't have a formal person that I call my mentor and who considers me their mentee. But I have had several informal mentors. An uncle who's a successful business man. Mega successful Growthink clients (I define "mega successful" as having exited companies for $100 million or more) who I've worked very closely with for years. And professors who have taught me and answered my numerous questions over time.
Now for those of you entrepreneurs who do not have mentors, I'm going to give you a hard time....Let's go over some excuses you might have:
Unfortunately, none of these excuses are valid.
Finding a mentor shouldn't take all that much time, and this time will possibly have the greatest ROI of all your time investments.
Regarding fear of getting rejected, you'll simply have to overcome this. The fact is that you probably will get rejected by some potential mentors. That's ok. But you can't be afraid to ask. And to persevere until you find a great mentor.
Like everything else in entrepreneurship, rarely does your first effort work as planned. You need to persevere and keep trying.
Now finally, with regards to not knowing who to ask, I believe that any business person who has achieved success and who you respect and admire can make a great mentor.
Wow, 500 words so far, and I've only touched on one of Basil's great points. To get many other great insights from Dr. Basil Peters, listen to the interview.
Click below to hear excerpts from the interview:
To download the full interview and/or transcript click here.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, September 10, 2009
As a reader of my blog, I'm sure you're aware of my "Definitive Guide to Creative & Alternative Financing Sources." The Guide presents 28 unique ways to raise money to start or grow your business.
I knew the Guide was really good (since it took me so long to create and since buyers have continually praised it), but I didn't know just how impactful it would be.
Well, a month ago, CNN found out about the Guide, and a CNN Money Reporter contacted me.
What resulted was a full story on ONE of my creative and alternative financing sources: customer financing.
You can read the article here: http://money.cnn.com/2009/09/08/smallbusiness/barnraising_a_business.fsb/
What I liked most about the article is that Helaine (the reporter) gave numerous examples of customer financings. This will hopefully give you more ideas on how customer financing might be right for your business.
If customer financing is not right for you, or if you want to tap 27 more unique and proven alternative and creative financing sources, download Growthink's "Definitive Guide to Creative & Alternative Financing Sources."
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