Every business needs to raise money. It will never stop, and this is a good thing, because it is part of taking care of your team and customers as a business owner and operator. However, we all know that the task is daunting and overwhelming, especially in a pandemic.
Trust me, the best funders and lenders and investors for you WILL BE THERE WITH YOU BY YOUR SIDE throughout this phase of re-discovery, re-building, and must we say, re-growth in the pandemic.
So I propose we all slightly adapt our approach to “raising money.” Most businesses think of it as securing a check to deposit in the bank, with the check coming from a family member, a friend, a wealthy individual who is a network connection, and most common, a loan officer at a bank or private investment group like a startup fund or venture capital fund. Many - and almost all - of these avenues of cash have changed in the pandemic, and continue to change as we hit a COVID-19 second wave.
Let’s start to think about raising money in the context of business operations and business growth, especially given the fact that funders providing the checks have shifted the way in which they assess a business as part of an investment. My teammates and I at Westchester RISES think of this approach as “path to money” with many roads to securing cash for operations and growth initiatives. And guess what - raising money started yesterday for all of us, so let’s dive into our key takeaways from the workshop on Securing Funding to Operate & Grow in a Pandemic.
01 Manage Relationships Now for Future Funding
In short, too many businesses waited to react to the pandemic funding landscape back in March and April 2020. With businesses - even medium and large enterprise businesses - having an average of 14-30 days of cash-on-hand for business operations, there was a rush to secure PPP and EIDL grants and loans to keep business running. But many owners and operators faced hurdles securing the money partly because of an almost non-existent or “back burner” relationship with their banker. Establishing an engaging, ongoing relationship with your bank, and funders, will pay off in the future, especially during a time of challenge.
02 Secure a Partner to Secure Funding
The pandemic throughout 2020 has shown that businesses continue to need immediate, short-term capital, perhaps more now than even in March and April 2020, because of the persistent threat of the COVID-19 virus to customer relationships, engagement, and projections. An overwhelming element of the current challenge for businesses is the factor of the unknown and uncertainty of what is coming in 2021.
Businesses need to identify funding relationships locally in their region as a primary strategy for operations and growth. With many programs available, including government, philanthropic, and private funding opportunities, business owners and operators should be exploring more sustainable avenues of funding through partnerships. Yes, it is important to secure cash for short-term needs, but in order to take care of your business - which means taking care of your team and customers - you must find ways to provide and offer sustainability with funders and lenders. For example, have you explored revenue sharing models as a funding vehicle?
03 Get Your Finances & Team in Order
We are seeing that businesses of all sizes, whether in business for one year or 20+ years, are struggling with cash flow, customer revenue, and especially for small business owners, personal credit status. With the largest amount of applications going into funders and lenders within the last 8-9 months, there has also been a great increase, unfortunately, in the amount of applications that have been rejected because of personal credit status, with business owners as individuals below 650 or 600 levels.
Funders and lenders across the spectrum - including angel investors (the earliest investors) and commercial bankers (who are looking for $1M or more in Annual Recurring Revenue) - need to see confidence in your ability to pay back a loan and/or provide a return to investors. Even if you have never secured a bank loan or investment from a fund, now might be the time to take the step, and if you do, then assess your monthly and/or project burn rate, which is the amount of money you are spending on operations and growth initiatives. Also, plan a safety net of cash-on-hand, especially as you pivot your business operations during a time of challenge.
04 Have a Customer Roadmap
In my opinion, the greatest way to secure funding or to raise money is to secure customers. Managing customer relationships is, hands down, the best strategy for providing a sustainable path to money for your family, team, and customers.
Part of adapting your mindset and approach to securing cash - or as we said above, that check in the bank - is to take care of your customers with more passion and precision than ever before. Next time your customer walks in the door and asks for a product you do not have, instead of saying you don’t have the product, perhaps you can ask them if they would come back next week when you have the product. This agility will require you to re-train your team, too, to be even more customer focused, all of the elements that a funder and lender wants to see in your business as a partner.
And trust me, the best funders and lenders and investors for you WILL BE THERE WITH YOU BY YOUR SIDE throughout this phase of re-discovery, re-building, and must we say, re-growth in the pandemic.