This blog post was originally written by Andrea Henry for Henry Business Law
So last week we opened up a can of ugly worms called why are so many brilliant women entrepreneurs struggling to land much-needed funding? It seriously enrages me, and I want this to change. That’s my goal for this decade. To WAKE LENDERS UP to the new world order when it comes to running a business, to get their heads out of the sand – and out of the 1990s!
So, what CAN you do (or NOT do!) if you’re hitting a wall when it comes to financing your company? There are a few things you can do to help you if you can’t get loans from a traditional bank, credit union, or other type of lending institution.
You can look for investment, which, in a sense, is less risky than financing through debt (where you are 100 percent liable and will usually need to provide a personal guarantee). Now, of course there are pitfalls to this option – especially if you’re growing rapidly and starting to feel a little…desperate, maybe?
Imagine you need marketing help, or a sales coach, or an additional employee to help you get to the next level – and someone is willing to offer you their services for, or, I don’t know, a 10 or 20 percent stake in your business – no cash changing hands. Sounds great, right? Almost manna from heaven! I don’t have to pay you and you’re going to give me all the services that I need!?
And I fully understand that feeling (BOTH the desperation and the relief!).
But step back a second. What if the hard cost of those services would only amount to $20,000 – and your company ends up being worth a million-plus?
Well, at 20 percent, you’ve just “paid” $200,000 to get $20,000 worth of services. YIKES! It is an expensive way to fund your growth.
Look, most of us don’t have wealthy family members or friends to go to in order to secure an emergency loan. Lord KNOWS I don’t! So, if push comes to shove, make sure that you keep some control of your shares. In other words, if you have to give up some of your company, keep control over it through call options or convertible shares, so you can potentially get those shares back later.
It might be more expensive, but it’s not as painful as if how you’ll feel when your company grows to the multimillion-dollar beauty that you know it can be, and you then realize you’ve given up too much too early.
OR, you are suddenly attractive to people with those deeper pockets you’ve been clamouring for – but you’ve given away so much of your company getting to that point you’ve become a minority shareholder! Trust me – this happens!
Have a LEGAL Corporate Structure in Place
Whether you’re going for traditional bank financing or hoping to drum up investors, incorporation is KEY. And I don’t mean just incorporating online and having your certificate of incorporation, but actually going through the formalities, and dotting your Is and crossing your Ts on ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that might need to be reviewed by your potential lenders/investors.
For example, having a shoddy minute book can 100 percent KIBOSH a deal. I’ve seen it happen. Keep your record-keeping absolutely legit and keep a clear distinction between business and personal. I know this is hard when you’re starting out because generally there will be a lot of fluidity between your personal and business financial lives but your future self will get on her knees and thank you for it.
Most importantly (and not just because I AM ONE) please make sure you’re working with a business lawyer who really understands corporate structuring and who understands what it is you want your business to do and where you want it to go. You really shouldn’t just “get the certificate and go” because you run the risk of hurting yourself and your business in myriad ways ESPECIALLY if you expect to become a big business and attract significant funding someday.
Don’t Procrastinate When it Comes to Securing Financing
Now I’m going to give you the hard truth. Debt SUCKS and has the potential to stop your rise before you’ve even gotten started.
Here’s the thing – MOST of us have been in debt. You’re starting out, you have a dream, you don’t have access to resources or boatloads of money, so you pour everything you’ve GOT (and most if not all that you don’t have, including maxing out credit cards and your line of credit!) – come on now, I know some heads are nodding out there right now – and you’re >this close< to running out of cash and THAT’S when you go for funding.
You will not get financing if you are in debt up to the wazzoo! Even the most liberal of financial managers won’t touch you.
Go after funding when you still have savings, when you’re regularly paying off your credit cards, when you still have access to a nice chunk in your line of credit. It makes you look financially viable AND financially mature and financially trustworthy. And don’t ever get into debt with Revenue Canada – trust me, no one will touch you with a ten-foot pole.
Get the best bookkeeper you can (one of the wisest investments you’ll make over the life of your business). And for heaven’s sake, ladies, pay for excellent advice and do it NOW!
You don’t have to be a million-dollar company to seek advice – learn how to accumulate money and then structure things in a way that makes you tax efficient. Or how to present your accounts in an appealing way. Or how to negotiate with those investors we talked about above, in such a way that you DON’T end up losing your company in the end. Plus, the more you know, and the more you’ve done with your company before you start hitting up lenders and/or investors, the greater the chance you will land the money you need to get to that elusive seven figures.
To end, here’s something you should write on sticky notes, and stick them all over your house, office, car, heck forehead even!
This really stuck with me because it’s SO TRUE – in every area of life:
WE OFTEN DON’T GET WHAT WE DESERVE. WE GET WHAT WE NEGOTIATE.
Also, I have the tools to help you, if you’re stuck in a rut and not sure how to get out of it. I went through it myself when I was building MY business! So don’t hesitate to reach out for a chat about what we can do together moving forward!
There’s so much more I could write about women-led business and the gross sexism that we still struggle with, even in 2021. Yes, it’s getting better, slowly. But we ladies have to work together and elevate each other through this crap – because THAT is the kind of investment we all need right now.