Applying for investment is a positive and exciting step forward for your business. The process, however, can be tiring and long-winded. We’re here to stop you feeling like you’re running in circles with our top tips for building a solid business plan and getting your foundations off to a good start.
Having an investor that’s experienced in your business’s size and industry, and suits your culture and way of working can lead to an investment worth far more than the on-paper total.
In turn, applying for investment is much like auditioning for a play: your performance has to resonate with your audience. You need to know your investor’s interests before writing your plan and presentation to suit.
Additionally, doing some research about them will probably help build the rapport on a personal level. ‘Wow, you happen to love all of the books I’ve conspicuously laid out on the coffee table? We must have so much in common!’ (although – maybe don’t go that far).
Besides being appropriate for your company, they need to be appropriate for (and aware of) your desired relationship. Have a clear idea of what you want and make this clear in your discussions.
Do you want an active investor, who can provide industry advice and have a hand in the day to day decisions of the business? Or would you rather a silent investor, who’s only called upon for board-level decision making?
So, now you’re all *heart eyes* about your new investor and you’re in contact.
First things first, make sure all the basics are in order. How solid is your business plan? We can help you fill in the facts – trusty reports and (big bonus points) forecasts are great for proving that your business is worth their investment.
Build your business roadmap. Investors will want to know exactly what their money will be funding and a compelling reason for why you need it. Your best shot at getting them to love your business is by showing them why you do what you do and what you’re excited to see on the horizon.
Similarly, make sure to tell your business’ story, as well as your financial story. Most investors come from business backgrounds themselves and are likely to resonate with aspects of your entrepreneurship journey.
Highlight your USP. It’s what makes you stand out to your audience, so give it the centre stage position it deserves. Highlighting the ways you’ve overcome challenges and hardships in the past can also reflect your resilience and resourcefulness, two things they’d like to see in someone they’re entrusting with a cheque.
Make use of your team. They’re the people you’ve already entrusted with the future of your business and, hopefully, are motivated, interesting people. Getting your team involved puts your biggest assets on full display and gives your business some character in your investors mind.
It’s a given that you believe in your business. But, introducing your investor to a team of people that dedicate their time and effort to believing in and building your business might just tip the scales in your favour. It gives a great insight into your company culture and ultimately, what your investor is investing in. It’s also much harder to say no to a lovely group of people you’ve met and interacted with, than just one!
Prove that you understand the world outside of your business. Even the strongest business plan doesn’t mean much if you walk into a saturated market with no idea who your audience is. Provide them with the full picture, leave no doubts in their mind.
Sneak market knowledge into your talk alongside your forecasts. If you’re a florist, make sure you mention trends (Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day, etc.) and potential obstacles like Brexit and other political changes. Reassure them with a clear action plan about how you’d tackle and take advantage of these.
Following the above point, your investor is also going to want to have confidence in your ability to risk assess. Map the risks in your plans and don’t be afraid to talk about them!
Proving you have a glass half full approach to your business and a solid awareness (assessment, minimisation and plan) of the risks is sure to impress and enforce that your business is a safe place for their investment.
We can use scenario planning tools to model potential actions and see their best, worst and middle outcomes. There are risks in every move and opportunity, something your investor is very aware of. Make the ride easier for them by having already considered their worries.
Above all, stay resilient. Remember that your application could have been at the bottom of fifty rubbish applications, at the end of a bad day. Or, just wasn’t a good fit.
You aren’t all that likely to hit the jackpot on your first application, or your second, for that matter. But, that shouldn’t put you off. If it does happen, congratulations! If not, reread this from the top and have another go.