The Check is in the Mail How E-Payments Render that Saying Obsolete
If you’re like me, you probably can’t remember the last time you heard “the check is in the mail” with any seriousness. While it had been a fairly common sentiment for many years, with online banking, cash apps, Zelle, and more e-payment options materializing every day, it seems to have become a saying of times past.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, paper checks are projected to become obsolete by the year 2026 – that’s just five short years away, begging the question – Are you ready? And while it may seem sudden to some, this trend is not at all that recent. According to the Federal Reserve, even as far back as nine years ago, in 2012, only 15% of all U.S. noncash payments were checks. By 2019, that percentage was reduced to a mere 8.3%.
Some “Ancient” History about E-Payments
The history of e-payments goes back much further than 2012 though. One of the significant impetuses of e-payments was actually due to the effects of September 11th; specifically, the grounding of all air traffic (and many checks in envelopes on those planes). The Federal Reserve took action shortly thereafter with the “Check 21 Act.”
The new legislation authorized fully electronic clearance of checks, rather than presentation of the physical check. At the time, the “new” verification process was explained by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, “This legislation initially permitted a paper substitute digital image of a check, and later an electronic digital image of a check, to be processed and presented for payment on a same-day basis.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Paper Check Usage … A Question of the Ages
In our tech-driven, fast-paced world, with e-payments and cash apps paving the road to the future of payment processing, it is probably no surprise that check usage is a numbers game in more than one way. It is often based on the person’s age range. For example, younger generations feel the process of checks (and mail in general) is annoying, takes too long, and is inefficient. They’ve grown up with deposits on their smartphones and Venmo payments. In fact, the Google search term “how to write a check” has increased drastically over the past decade, presumably by younger people unsure of the check-writing process.
In contrast, older generations do not quite “trust” these apps and transferring their cash to anyone with a swipe on their phones or the click of a mouse. They are familiar with paper checks and live by the motto, “if it’s not broke don’t fix it.” But the question is, “Isn’t it broke?”
E-payments have a huge impact on business savings. They save money by reducing the costs associated with using paper checks (as much as $9 per check). They also save time with increased efficiency of payments. They even help save our environment by enhancing a company’s green initiative. They do all of this while keeping the foundation of a check alive and well – the ability to securely move money from one entity or person to another.
Other benefits include:
Reducing a company’s exposure to fraud. For years, checks have been the payment method most susceptible to those committing fraud.
Increasing the ability to quickly process last-minute bill and payroll payments.
Improved client-vendor relationships due to rapid, more efficient payments.
Better reporting and workflow surrounding payments.
This may be a shift for some businesses, who haven’t been ready to take the full e-payment leap yet. But doing what they’ve always done will not only make them inefficient, it will cost them more money in the long run. Yet, we understand that making the shift and trusting in these systems may still be overwhelming to some. That’s where Barker Associates can help.
We have seen the “deer-in-the-headlights” look that clients get when trying to sort through the options to choose the best solution for their company. But the fact of the matter is the use of checks will eventually fade away completely, and if the Federal Reserve is correct, that time will be fairly soon. There are simply too many options and solutions now for the old method of writing, signing, and mailing a paper check to live on. If you would like to discuss these services, or if you have other specific areas of concern, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
True leaders know they are as only as strong as the team they build around them. To that end, hiring not only the most qualified, but also the most compatible C-Suite executives with whom to strategize and collaborate on the future of the company is invaluable.
Recruiting the right person at this level differs significantly from recruiting at other levels. He or she must possess the requisite qualifications and also the requisite experience to be enabled to make significant decisions quickly. Moreover, he or she must have the ability to handle incredible amounts of responsibilities, and function well, if not thrive, under pressure. This person’s presence will impact other employees, the company culture, and the company itself. And a bad hire at this level can lead to enormous disruptions, including damaging morale, decreasing productivity, and adversely affecting the company culture.
Finding the Best Talent Doesn’t Come without Challenges
Recruiting top-level employees presents its own unique set of challenges that aren’t generally encountered at other levels. These challenges should be kept in mind as the recruiting process begins. First, you will likely face competition. These employees are in demand, usually having the ability to choose where they want to work and name their terms.
Additionally, C-Suite employees in general are not actively looking for a new job. In most instances, they are already employed. However, individuals at this level are always looking for new opportunities, so don’t let their current employment stop you. The workforce is different today. Long gone are the days of people retiring from a company after thirty years of service. This person may be ready for a change in his or her career, and that change could be your offer.
Tips to Help Secure the Right C-Suite Fit
Set Goals. Ask yourself the following: What are you looking for? What is negotiable? What is not? What input have you received from your board of directors or even other employees? You should have the answers firmly decided upon before moving forward, and be clear about them during the interview process. It is equally as important to understand with clarity who you do not want to hire. What characteristics do they have? Transparency from the start is essential in this process.
Draft the Right Job Description. Don’t just resurrect an old job description or write what you “think” you need. Engage in due diligence to find out what your competitors are searching for, what candidates are putting out there (if anything), and then set benchmarks and make the description appealing based on the information you learn. This document should never merely be about a title and responsibilities. It should reflect the company’s culture and clearly demonstrate where this person will make the largest impact and how.
Realize Expectations. C-Suite candidates will have certain expectations, often resulting in increased costs. They may request their own office, own parking spot, and certain other benefits. Ask yourself what you are prepared for and can handle financially before you engage in discussions.
Vet carefully, but do not delay. It’s important to get to know this person – not just their qualifications and experience, but their values and who they are at their core. Utilize behavioral interview questions and emotional intelligence quizzes. Have frequent follow ups and thoroughly check references. However, all of this is said with a caveat. Remember this individual is likely in high-demand, and one of your competitors could move in and make them an offer if you delay too long.
Consider promoting someone from within. You should always consider moving someone up from within. Benefits of this decision include being good for overall morale, motivating employees, and increasing retention. Yet, while it is ideal to promote from within, you must ensure he or she is ready for the type of responsibility and demands the C-Suite brings with it.
Hiring at this level requires forward-thinking analysis. It calls for significant preparation far before any job description is drafted or interview occurs. For example, you want to ensure that you’ve created a culture that reflects the company’s mission, objectives, values, and long-term vision. Without proper alignment, you risk attracting the wrong type of candidate for your company.
Often, the first (if not, one of the first) C-Suite executives hired is the Chief Financial Officer. Generally speaking, the owner or CEO excels at strategy or operations, but does not possess the knowledge needed for financial decisions. He or she needs someone who thoroughly understands all financial aspects of the company and can then guide it the right direction. Outsourcing this function is another available option.
With the significant investment of time, money, effort, and energy the recruiting and onboarding of your new C-Suite employee will be, you want to ensure longevity with the right fit. Barker Associates has extensive experience working as an outsourced CFO and assisting companies in determining their needs for this position. If you would like to discuss these services, or if you have other specific areas of concern, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
How Angel Investors Navigate Deals with an Investment Thesis Creating a Roadmap for Success
How do you know where you’re going without a navigation tool – GPS, a smartphone, or even the “ancient” map? For angel investors, that navigation tool is an investment thesis. When done correctly, it will not only guide you along your chosen investment course, it will help you identify the roadblocks and detours to avoid.
An investment thesis is one of the most useful tools in the angel investor industry, summarizing your reasons and conditions for investing in certain types of companies. If you do not have an investment thesis or some type of investment strategy from the beginning, you may fall in love with a charismatic founder and invest in a deal you have no business investing in. This scenario happens all the time and it shouldn’t because it leads quickly to frustration and likely, the loss of the investment down the road. There is a myth that an investment thesis is only for venture capitalists—those who have a fiduciary duty to invest money in a certain way. While it’s true it is an important component to them, it is equally, if not more, valuable to all investors, especially those who are just starting out on investment roads less traveled.
Essentially, if you invest in start-ups, founders will inevitably pitch you for money (it’s the name of the game, after all). Without an investment thesis, you may find it difficult to concentrate only on the start-ups that match your investment objectives because simply, you may not know those objectives. On the other hand, a strong thesis will guide you into sourcing the right deals, with your criteria, conditions, and requirements clearly set in advance.
The Benefits of an Investment Thesis
All angels should have clear, documented investment theses due to the numerous benefits they provide. And like any good roadmap, your thesis not only benefits you, it benefits others as well. Behind the driver’s seat, it keeps you disciplined on your selections and focused on where you want to go with your investments. With a deep understanding of the types of industries and businesses you want to invest in, the risks you’re willing to take (and those you’re not), and the parameters you want to see in companies, you are much better equipped to find the right fit for your money.
An investment thesis also benefits the start-ups and entrepreneurs looking for funding. It allows them to understand what you’re looking for and what you’re not, and if you’re the right fit for them. If not, they can move on to someone who is, saving time, energy, and money in the process. This can only happen when expectations are delineated clearly from the beginning.
Finally, an investment thesis facilitates communication and dealings with other investors. Angel investors refer deals to each other frequently. What may not work for one in one instance may be perfect for another at that particular time. And no one wants to refer a deal that the person is not interested in. Not only does it waste everyone’s time, but it makes that person look as if they are ill-advised.
Tips for Creating a Strong Investment Thesis
Let me reiterate – an investment thesis is crucial for your success as an angel investor. A strong one will help develop a stong portfolio, while a weak one may indicate lower overall performance. Here are a few tips to help you create a strong investment thesis:
Do not rush it. It should take thought, research, and time.
Have a clear, simple purpose, conditions, and expectations.
Choose an industry you either have experience in or in which you are passionate about.
Determine how that industry’s impact influences your decision.
Conduct market research with both primary and secondary sources.
Analyze long-term trends and short-term events that could affect the industry.
Set specific criteria for an investment. Be clear as to what you will invest in and what you will not.
Remember diversification. While you should focus on a particular industry or sector, you can diversify other factors, such as geography, business model, technology, or customer segment to create a more balanced portfolio. This should also be calibrated with your personal net worth.
Once your investment thesis is created, you will have a detailed roadmap of where you are going on your investment journey. It helps serve as a reminder of why you do what you do and what your own investment parameters and boundaries are. And it guides you toward finding the investments that fit those objectives.
Remember, all early-stage investments are risky and can fail even with the best idea, product, and management. By investing only in companies that fall within your thesis, you are not only minimizing your risk and exposure, you will also have an increased ability to help more companies grow through your specific offerings. And ultimately, a better fit in the beginning will likely lead to a better return in the end.
Barker Associates has extensive experience working with angel investors on their investment theses. If you would like to discuss angel investing, either as an investor or as a company that requires funding, or if you have other specific areas of concern, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
Angel Investors and the Upcoming Seattle Angel Conference
I have the distinct pleasure of participating in the Seattle Angel Conference as an Angel Investor. This virtual event is May 12th, and I am thrilled to be involved. The mission of the Seattle Angel Conference is to create stronger startups and more effective angel investors with a “Learning by Doing” approach. Through this approach, the angel investors provide invaluable benefits to participating entrepreneurs.
Angel Investors vs. Venture Capitalists
With all of the excitement surrounding the Seattle Angel Conference, I thought it was a good time to point out some of the differences between angel investors and venture capitalists. Before a company can determine which type of investment is for them, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two.
An angel investor provides a large cash infusion of their own money (or a group’s money) to an early-stage startup. Working with an angel investor benefits the entrepreneur through the wealth of knowledge and experience the investor possesses and is ready to share. Most have earned a substantial amount of wealth through entrepreneurship, and have experience with the exact same processes, preparation, and questions in the past. They can guide the entrepreneur through all of the bumps in the road, as they build their company and success.
On the other hand, a venture capitalist is a professional group that invests money into high-risk startups or developed companies because the potential for rapid growth offsets the potential risk for failure. While they may still offer support and guidance, the transaction is mainly one of larger sums of money and more control over the venture going forward.
While both angel investors and venture capitalists invest money in start-ups, here are three of the major differences between them:
How they work. Angel investors work alone (or in small groups), while venture capitalists are part of a larger company of professional investors. Angels invest their own money, while venture capitalists invest money from various funding sources.
The amount they invest. As a general rule (and there are always exceptions), angels invest less than venture capitalists. Angels will usually invest somewhere between $25,000 and $100,000 (angel groups could be much higher – up to $750,000 or even more). Venture capitalists generally invest millions of dollars per company.
The timing of their investments. Angels only invest in early-stage companies. Venture capitalists invest in both early-stage and more developed companies, as long as there is a proven track record showing strong indications for rapid growth.
Accreditation for Angel Investors
Many angel investors, but not all, are accredited according to guidelines established by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). To be accredited, the angel investor must have:
annual earnings of $200,000 per year for the past two years, with a strong likelihood of similar earnings in the near future (if the angel investor files taxes jointly with their spouse, their required annual earnings increase to $300,000) or
have a total net worth of at least $1 million (regardless of marriage and tax filing status).
Seattle Angel Conference
The Seattle Angel Conference provides education for the companies that participate, completely free of charge. The education experience alone is invaluable, allowing exposure to many professionals with a depth of knowledge to help build a company with the right attributes to move to the next level. As an investor-led event, the conference connects entrepreneurs and a collection of new and experienced angel investors, who truly are everywhere. Each investor contributes $5,500 to create a fund, estimated to be between $100,000 and $200,000.
Applying companies participate in a company review, during which the angel investment committee sorts the documentation, looking for key components of investment. This ongoing review and due diligence strengthen the entire process. In the end, six companies are chosen to present their ten-minute pitch at the final event on May 12th to get a chance for funding and a more thorough review by the investment program.
The participating startups not only receive a detailed review of their company, but also the opportunity for valuable feedback from the investors, who are often seasoned entrepreneurs themselves. While many entrepreneurs want to avoid the “tough questions,” it is only through those difficult questions that the company’s narrative increases in clarity and strength. In addition, these entrepreneurs get introduced to dozens of angel investors through the process. While they may only end up working with one of them, building that network is a huge benefit – you never know whose path you will cross in the future.
For me, personally, I have loved participating as an angel investor, as it inspires me to learn about the innovative ideas of early-stage companies. I enjoy having a pulse on what is happening in various industries and what is next through these inventive entrepreneurs. All angel investors have the opportunity, and are expected, to participate in the process, including review, analysis, and due diligence. The collaboration of investors with diverse backgrounds and experiences helps bring about a better investment decision.
Click here to purchase a ticket to this thought-provoking, inspiring virtual event and learn more about angel investing and the companies that need it. If you would like to discuss angel investing, either as an investor or as a company that requires funding, or if you have other specific areas of concern, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.