Many great and excellent business ideas never get past the spreadsheet stage and into the real world. This is usually the case because entrepreneurs fail to connect to the people with enough money and risk appetite to help them implement the ideas.
Finding the right investors and pitching your idea effectively is a business skill that can be worked on.
Today, I would like to share the following 10 tips that can get you started:
- Get yourself connected and networked. Investors are out there, and they are usually only one or two people away from those with whom you do business with anyway. Your accountant or suppliers, for example, can put you in touch with potential investors, or at least someone who knows a potential investor. Emphasise the “work” in “network”—investigate and ask for referrals.
- Prepare and sharpen a concise story around your idea that contains no waffle, but only the essential elements that will interest an investor—marketability, sustainability and your own passion for the project. Your value proposition should come through succinctly—what are you offering to whom, and why will they be prepared to buy it.
- Make sure that you know all the aspects of your idea, its market and industry. Investors want to know that you are experienced in the industry in which you want them to invest their money. Therefore, the more you have worked on your plan, even to the point of taking your idea to the market on a small scale, the better.
- Have a detailed business plan ready. Not only will it help to give you the knowledge mentioned in the previous point, but the fact that you will immediately be able to send or present your plan if someone wants to have a closer look will help to convince potential investors of your readiness. Besides, knowing that you can back up your pitch with a plan will give you confidence.
- It helps if your plan has a powerful executive summary, the written equivalent of your verbal pitch mentioned in point two. It must encapsulate your business plan precisely, without waffle or exaggeration. Chances are that the investors whom you will be targeting have seen many business plans in their lives, and they will not bother to read further if the executive summary does not whet their appetite.
- Be prepared for a face-to-face presentation, more detailed than the one in point two, for when an investor calls you in for a follow-up meeting.
- It is almost guaranteed nowadays that an investor who becomes interested in your idea will check up on you on the Internet. It helps to have a good website around your idea and a strong presence on social media in which your successes are highlighted, not only in your current business but in previous ventures and jobs. Most astute investors investigate the strength of both the business idea and the prowess of the entrepreneur.
- Once you have made contact with a potential investor, stay in touch, even if it is just by asking for advice, for example, on how an investment of the kind you are looking for can best be structured.
- Be open to feedback from potential investors, who would want to see that you are open-minded and adaptable. Besides, chances are that the investors you are pitching to are experienced businesspeople themselves, and can enhance your ideas with their advice whether they decide to invest in your idea or not.
- Have a realistic exit strategy for the investor, who unlike you does not necessarily want to remain in the business in the long-term. The investor’s thinking is likely to be: “How do I make the best return possible on this investment?”
The time frames that most investors work with are between three and seven years. n
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Fosters Kalaile is country manager for Business Partners International