Embracing Negotiations in Leadership How to Break Through Hesitation and Negotiate Your Best Solution
Negotiations are a crucial part of corporate strategy, but not (as some may think) merely for high-stake deals, such as mergers and acquisitions. In fact, leadership frequently requires negotiation on nearly a daily basis. And good leaders understand that negotiating is a skill that needs to be developed, just as with any other leadership attribute. Yet, many avoid it unnecessarily … and often, detrimentally. They tend to be more concerned about the objections and perceived conflict they believe negotiations brings about than with the feasible solutions they uncover. Some feel they lack the confidence to ask for what they want or need.
Underlying all of these concerns is age-old fear, and in particular, fear of failure or rejection. This is the fear that likes to stop us in our tracks, causing us to hesitate in the belief that we are safer that way. And, as we all know, the only way to grow and truly get what we want is to push that fear aside and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
In addition to the uncertainty and fear that can arise in preparing for negotiations, the pandemic has also actually affected how we negotiate. Non-verbal communication and body language are important elements in connecting with others, especially during negotiations. However, with the increase in virtual negotiations, our view of the other person is restricted to computer screens or smartphones. Without the ability to fully see a person’s body and, more specifically, his or her subtle movements, it becomes more challenging to anticipate their acceptance or objections and proactively work toward solutions. But while their individual preferences and comfort levels may be more difficult to ascertain, they are not impossible if we remain mindful of them throughout the process.
Finding Opportunities to Negotiate
If you find yourself shying away from negotiations, it’s time to start thinking about why, and recognizing the numerous opportunities that surround you each day to do so. Like any skill, it takes practice and development. Utilizing average encounters will increase your confidence as you move into negotiations with higher stakes. Even asking for a discount on an item you are purchasing and asking your cell phone service provider for a better rate are, in fact, negotiations.
One could argue it’s not worth the effort or the time to engage in these activities, but that’s the fear talking again. Even if you don’t care about saving a few dollars at a store, the investment in building your negotiation skills and confidence is invaluable. Avoiding negotiations in these “not worth it” circumstances leads to avoiding them in other “very worth it” ones.
Going into any negotiation, you can also hone in on your skills by considering the following questions:
Is the situation fair?
Do I deserve a better outcome than the one I have been offered?
Am I feeling hesitant or confident?
How can I connect with the other person to come to a better resolution?
Tip 1: For in-person negotiations, pay close attention to the other person’s body language and try to anticipate and address objections before they ask them.
Tip 2: For virtual negotiations, take the pulse of the other person often. Repeat what they’ve said to ensure you are understanding correctly. Ask them if they have any questions throughout, and pay attention not only to their words, but to their tone.
How can I cultivate the relationship?
How can I close the deal?
Negotiating is really about making the conscious decision to do so, rather than avoiding it all together. Be mindful about recognizing and evaluating the potential for negotiations and that it may look a bit different today than it has in the past. But underlying it all is always relationships, confidence, and the mindset to put yourself in a position to strategically approach the deal. Ask for you what you want, be fair, work through the objections, and get better outcomes.
As with any skill, the more you practice – even with “low-stake” negotiations, the stronger your skills will become. If you need guidance, Barker Associates has experience working with CEOs on negotiation strategies and skills, particularly with finances, lending, and mergers and acquisitions. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
The Real Costs of Deal Fatigue How Not Being Prepared for the Deal can Cost You the Deal
Deal fatigue is a common occurrence in the world of mergers and acquisitions. The parties involved get frustrated with the process and feel helpless that they can do anything to speed it up. Frankly, they’re fed up, and as negotiations or other processes necessary to close the deal seem to have no end in sight, one of both parties loses hope and wants to give up. For example, oftentimes, the timeframe between a Letter of Intent and the close of the deal takes too long and can result in one or more of the parties deciding they want out of the deal.
The High Costs of Deal Fatigue
The costs of deal fatigue are high and the complexities many. Not only has the company lost the proposed deal and any related funding, but there are many other associated costs of the deal falling apart, including:
Attorneys’ Fees. The funds used to pay attorneys and consultants have added up over the months (or even years) and can no longer be paid from the closing proceeds.
Impact on Operations. With the pending deal, the C-Suite has been distracted by answering due diligence questions and negotiations. And, as a result, they have not focused on the core day-to-day responsibilities of the company’s operations. This could impact many success metrics, such as ensuring customer satisfaction, building the proper pipeline of sales, managing personnel, and regularly reviewing financial data.
Personnel Problems. There is also the potential loss of personnel if they had learned of the pending transaction and decided to pursue another career opportunity. The costs of recruiting and onboarding are always high, but this has never been truer than in today’s environment, where the costs of losing personnel have skyrocketed.
Lack of Preparedness and Its Effect on Deal Fatigue
The root cause of deal fatigue is a lack of preparedness. This can begin years prior to the idea of entering any transaction whatsoever. Decisions that are made, and processes put in place, that are not healthy for the day-to-day organization can impact the company’s ability to complete a transaction. The following are a few far too common examples:
Lack of organization of legal documents and contracts. Unfortunately, this is a huge issue that has gotten worse in the digital age. Years ago, businesses would have filing cabinets full of documents, along with administrative personnel who managed those documents. There was a clear-to-follow process to make sure all contracts were executed and fully completed prior to being added to the filing cabinets.
In contrast, contracts now reside in emails and other cloud-based storage systems. They may have signatures, or they may not. In fact, most of the due diligence processes I have gone through over the past eight years are held up because the “completed and executed” contracts are not readily available or the parties involved thought the documents were executed and find that they never were.
Financial statements are not up to date and do not reconcile to the billing and sales data. The ease of use of some modern cloud-based accounting systems combined with the fact that most personnel are not taking the necessary time to reconcile as often as they should lead up to outdated, unbalanced financial statements. Imagine going into a deal only to find that their representations are based on unfounded financial principles? This could not only cost you the deal, but your reputation, credibility, and integrity. There is simply no negotiating around outdated financials.
The best way to avoid deal fatigue is to be prepared in every aspect of your business and the deal itself. This will help each step move along faster and more efficiently, reducing the overall time of the transaction. If deal fatigue starts to creep in, remind everyone involved about the mutual advantages and the reasons the deal was struck in the first place. Keeping a clear vision of the big picture helps to avoid getting stuck on the smaller details.
Are you about to go into negotiations or already experiencing deal fatigue? Barker Associates can help keep the parties and the deal on track. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
Leadership – The Importance of Leading Your Mental Health First
I love people. I always have. And I am sure I always will. That being said, once I became a leader of an organization, one of the most difficult things for me to grasp was that my team, made up of colleagues who previously would join me for lunch or socialize after work hours, no longer seemed to want to be with me outside of meetings or the office. I wondered what I had done wrong … until I remembered that my new title brought along more with it than met the eye, and that it can be lonely at the top.
I have grown tremendously throughout my career and, through the process, have come to understand myself better. Moving from a CFO of an organization to a consultant and business owner catapulted my self-development to a new level. I have learned more about my strengths and, even more importantly, my weaknesses. Sure, I enjoy learning more about people. I ask tons of questions, not to be intrusive, but to get to know the other person better. And yes, I am an open book, even “honest to a fault,” so I had to learn to grasp that just because another person is not an open book does not mean they don’t like me.
Through this self-discovery, I am now someone who can better understand not only my own perspectives, but empathetically, those of others. I understand how much “me taking care of me” is required to be the best leader for my own organization. And I appreciate it even more after going through COVID-19.
Leading Ourselves to Better Mental Health
Recently, I listed to a great podcast that brought these points home for me. As I listened, I could completely relate to how the guest, Nick, talked about how hard his parents were on him (as my parents were on me). While it bothered him (and me) greatly in our younger years, there is nothing but acceptance and appreciation now for the person they molded me to be. Nick also talked about the feelings of isolation brought about by COVID-19 and how exhilarating it was to have the first business dinner meeting post-COVID. He was right. I’ve had a few meetings that don’t require a camera and Zoom over the past few months, and always felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders in doing so. After I listened to that podcast, I made sure to book more in-person business meetings, and it has already made a difference in how I feel.
Another area of change for me has to do with my physical health. Pre-COVID, I loved group exercise. When the gyms shut down, it was incredibly difficult for me to learn how to work out on my own and to get and stay motivated. But I didn’t stay in that space. Instead, I found several sources to help me, and now I have many options to deal with stress to ensure I exercise when I travel or even when I cannot make a scheduled exercise class.
You Don’t Have to Do it Alone
I have come across some amazing resources that have helped me maintain my mental health through life’s (and a pandemic’s) transitions. I do not receive affiliate income from any of the links I share here. I am sharing them with you in the hopes I can help make your path to self-discovery less bumpy than my own.
Calm App – This has become one of my go-to apps. And I love sleep stories. By far, my favorite is Wander with Mathew McConnaughy. I also have enjoyed the guided meditations that I can use throughout the day. The music is great with coffee in the morning and they also have a selection of music to play to help you concentrate while you work.
Jill Coleman (Instagram) – I love following Jill Coleman, a business coach for fitness professionals, on Instagram. I also listen to her podcast FITBIZU. She offers great advice about mindset around eating and exercising. Her fitness programs helped me make it through COVID-19 with an actual workout plan. She also offers business advice on her podcast, including how to run a sales call.
Katie Hammill (Instagram) – I follow Katie on Instagram, and work with her to review my weekly meal plans. She taught me that one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle is a meal plan. We have implemented it in my household, helping to maintain calm in our daily lives. We always have a plan for dinner, rather than having a stressful conversation at 6 p.m. about what we are going to do. Another helpful hint to reduce stress around mealtime – make sure you have all the ingredients in the household when you make your meal plan!
Kathy’s Table – Kathy’s Table provides individually proportioned meals that are healthy and gluten free. We include these in our weekly plan at least two nights a week. After two minutes in the microwave, you have a healthy, and delicious, well-balanced meal. And, maybe even better yet, clean-up is fast and easy, which also eliminates daily stress.
Our mental health is impacted by much of our daily lives, especially with all that we have been through in the past fifteen months. And as leaders, we must also recognize our own impact on the mental health of our employees, who are looking to us to lead with more confidence and less stress. We must rid ourselves of the thought process that if we work harder and longer, without any care for ourselves, we will be more effective leaders. In fact, the opposite is true. Without taking care of ourselves, we will eventually burn out, leaving our team without a leader at all.
Leadership requires accountability not only of your subordinates, but of yourself. When you are overwhelmed with so many day-to-day responsibilities you may put self-care on the back burner. If you need a leadership coach to help you with this important aspect, and you are serious about the accountability to do so, click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. We will work out the right coaching plan for you, and I will apply the $100 toward the package.
Acquisition Integration – After the Ink Dries The “3 Ps” of Integration
Last week, we talked about defining your corporate strategy, and that oftentimes, those strategies include acquisitions of other entities for your company to grow to the next level. Whether it’s to streamline operations, introduce new products or services, or both, many companies define their corporate development strategy within the parameters of an acquisition.
There has been a shift in our global economy. And in that shift, acquisitions have become the norm, not the exception. Yet, according to Harvard Business Review, historically, 80% of companies that have been involved in an acquisition fall victim of the plethora of moving parts essential to the process and ultimately fail. Combining not only two companies, but two sets of stakeholders is fraught with potential landmines.
This week, we take the acquisition strategy a step further. The inevitable questions surface after the ink dries on the legal documents … How do we increase the chances of success? What exactly happens now that we’ve acquired another business? The due diligence is complete, the documents are signed, the lawyers have left – so, what’s next?
Acquisition integration is the process of combining the systems, process, operations, and personnel of the acquired company into your own by maximizing synergies and efficiencies. Logistically, the integration itself should be focused on what I like to call the “3 Ps” of Integration – Personnel, Plan, Practices.
Acquisition Integration – Personnel Issues
Appoint an Integration Manager and Team. The integration manager should have seniority and experience with your company, and be able to hold the team members accountable. The integration will be his or her full-time responsibility for as long as the process takes. The team should be made up of those with expertise in the various areas of integration, including information technology, operations, finance, and marketing.
Communicate the Good … and the Bad. Meet with those you plan on bringing onto the new team from the acquired company as soon as possible. Without some reassurances that they are staying, they will soon look elsewhere for career opportunities and may consider offers from competitors. For those who will not be moving forward, let them know quickly. This is for your own benefit, as much as their own. Indecision will lead to rumors, which inevitably paves the path to a lack of morale – no way to start a new venture.
Focus on Cultural Integration. Decide how much of the acquired company’s culture you are bringing into your own. Will they mesh? Are their conflicting values? What are the priorities on each side? Culture will have a huge impact on the new relationships going forward.
Acquisition Integration – Plan Issues
Develop and Follow a Conversion Plan. The conversion plan should incorporate all of the changes that need to be effectuated, as discovered during due diligence pre-acquisition. Additionally, understand who is responsible for each task and goal, along with applicable due dates. The manager and team must be held accountable to the conversion plan.
Modify the Plan as Needed. Through the integration process, additional opportunities may be discovered. Modify the plan accordingly to adjust for these opportunities, including the required resources, and communicate any changes to the team.
Use Metrics Consistently to Measure the Plan’s Success. Measure everything you are doing as it relates to the integration. Compare actual results to those anticipated, including timelines.
Acquisition Integration – Practices Issues
Identify Best Practices. Determine if the acquired company had practices that worked well and could enhance your own operational practices. If they bring value, develop ways to incorporate them into your own. Then, as always, communicate these Best Practices to the rest of the team.
Evaluate Practice Similarities and Differences. What services, products, and operations are the same? Which ones are different? Are there overlapping vendor practices or relationships? Which parts of the accounting and marketing are complementary? Which are contradictory?
Provide and Receive Feedback. Ask yourself the following: What went well with the integration? What didn’t? What are the expectations moving forward? Provide this feedback to the team. Additionally, accept any feedback provided to you and use it for improvements going forward.
Focusing on the “3 Ps” in acquisition integration is crucial for the long-term success of your business post-acquisition. Barker Associates has extensive experience helping companies with acquisition integrations. If you need assistance with yours, or have any other questions, we can help. Please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
Defining Your Corporate Development Strategy How to Navigate from Where You Are to Where You Want to Go
Typically, when you get into your car, you have a destination. You’re going somewhere and you know how to get there (or you have your smartphone or navigation to help you along the way). You don’t get into the car and sit there wondering absentmindedly about what you should do next (put the key in the ignition, put the car into gear) or where you should go (a quick trip to the store, a commute to work, or a longer road trip to a vacation destination). Rather, you know what your next steps are to take you where you want to go.
We’ve used this analogy before in our financial literacy series, but it holds true here just as much. Running a company is very similar to driving a car. You need to know the steps you need to take to get started, where you are going, and of course, how you will get there. Without them, much like as a driver, you will soon find yourself lost. And, with a company, you not only have to worry about yourself getting lost, but all of those others (staff, clients, vendors, partners) following close behind. It’s important to navigate and lead them along the right path, or, as I like to call it, your corporate development strategy.
What is a Corporate Development Strategy?
A corporate development strategy is best described as an actionable plan for your company. There are different strategies (or routes) you can take—Stability Strategy, Expansion Strategy, or Growth Strategy, to name just a few. And while they all will take you in different directions depending on the goals you have for your company, they all have the exact same foundation—understanding your financials, both current and future projections. Without a clear understanding of your revenue, expenses, and other financial data, it would be difficult to define your strategy based on where you want to drive the company in the future.
As you begin to define your own corporate development strategy, it’s important to put aside some common debates and confusion. Corporate strategy is not corporate finance (although it will always incorporate finance). Corporate strategy is also not business strategy. Like the distinction with finance, they are close, but distinctions abound. Business strategy deals specifically with how you are going to achieve your goals. Corporate strategy is more all-encompassing—it includes not merely your annual goals, but a clear overall strategy on where the company is going with well-researched answers to questions, such as:
Where do you want your business to be in terms of revenue in ten years (not three or five, as most business project)?
Note: This should be realistic, but not conservative.
What will it take each year to get there?
Who is in the competitive landscape?
How will you compete?
What are barriers to where you want to go?
Should you introduce new products/services? Should you remove any products/services?
If so, when?
If so, should you acquire another company with experience in that space?
Are their potential partners or suppliers in which you can outsource some of your operations?
How do you optimize productivity and profitability?
Do you need new technology?
Should you acquire a company with expertise in that technology?
Dig Deeper than a SWOT Analysis
This list in not all-inclusive, but should give you an idea of the scope of the due diligence required. Small companies often will think about some or all of these questions during an annual review (if they have one – let’s hope they do) where they dust off their white board and do a typical SWOT analysis. But a true corporate development strategy will dive much deeper than a four-section chart detailing the somewhat generic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a small business. To grow beyond a small business, there needs to be much more than the contents of four cubes on a whiteboard.
A successful corporate development strategy may include diversification, where a company acquires or establishes a business other than that of its current product. It could also include horizontal integration, where there is a merger or acquisition of a new business, or a vertical integration, which includes the integrating of successive stages of various processes under single management.
Many, but not all, corporate development strategies focused on growth will include a merger or acquisition at some point. It’s often the best way to truly grow your business to the next level. But it always begins with a decision made as you define the right corporate development strategy for your business.
Putting the appropriate strategy together is crucial for the long-term success of your business. If you need assistance defining your business’s future, or corporate development strategy, or have any other questions, Barker Associates can help. Please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
Finding the right investor, who is interested in your company and you, begins long before you actually may need money. Preparations include thinking about businesses that investors want to invest in and then modeling yours accordingly, maintaining up to date financial data, and building a strong consumer base. Once you’ve made the decision to search for capital to grow your business, you create two pitch decks (yes two), and the clock is now ticking. Your goal should be to secure funding within three months from making this decision. And the best way to do so is to have targeted contact list.
First, Some Introspection
Before you can ask anyone for money, you should first ask yourself some important questions. First and foremost, why are you raising money? Be very clear as to why you are doing so, why now is the time, and what the funds will ultimately do for your business. These answers should be weaved into the fabric of your business’s story and included in your decks and any accompanying materials you may present to potential investors.
You should also do a check on your core values. Are they aligned with the company’s vision and mission? Are they still as relevant as when you developed them? Are changes needed? Only when you are confident in what you stand for can you try to find someone who shares …
Who Should be on the List?
Your targeted list may include any combination of some or all of the following: family and friends, angel investors, angel groups, venture capital firms, private equity firms, and corporate investors.
Gather data by performing research on Crunchbase or Pitchbook, and simply networking with others. You should identify vertical industries to see what is happening there. Startup accelerators are also an invaluable resource. Follow groups on social media to see what they’re talking about and what they’re interested in.
Keep in mind that you are not just looking for money. You are looking for someone (or a group) who shares your values, will be excited about what you offer, and who fits with what you do and who you are. Identify who has money and is actively investing.
Factors to Consider in Building Your Contact List
Industry. Who is investing in your industry? Why? Is there some personal connection or is it just about the potential profit? Note that those interested in one particular type of industry often have a background, experience, and connections that can help your business.
Location. Some investors want to be close to the businesses they are investing in. Others give preference to local startups. It’s important to understand if this is a priority for them.
Amount. How much do they typically invest? Some may invest only smaller amounts than what you are looking for, whereas others may invest amounts that are larger that what you need. Ensure there is a good fit.
Longevity. Are they looking for long-term or short-term relationships? Will they be involved for your next round of fundraising or will they want out before then?
Track record. How many successful exits do they have? How many businesses they’ve invested in have failed?
Value. What value do they bring? Investments into a venture are rarely just about money. Do they have operational experience? Industry experience? What are their connections and network? Will they provide advice based on their knowledge and experience? All of this will factor into how quickly you scale.
This process is about targeting the right types of investors, focusing on quality over quantity. You want the best fit to bring the most value. As is with much in business, and life, it is about networking and cultivating relationships.
Once you’ve identified some strong potential investors, gather as much contact information as possible, including email, social media accounts, website, phone number, and address. Understand that they will want to see your pitch deck to determine if it is a good fit with their investment thesis before moving forward. Being prepared sets the right expectations from the start.
Your list should be an ongoing concern. Contacts will fall off and new ones will be added. By keeping it up to date, you can ensure that you will be ready for each round of funding in the future.
Your most limited resource is your time. And the time you spend finding investors is less time you have to focus on operations, marketing, or sales. Protect that time fiercely by targeting the right investors from the start. With increased focus comes increased efficiency and clarity on what and who you really need. You may need to talk to 100 or more contacts to get some interest, but you don’t want it to be thousands. That’s where your targeted list comes into play. So you’re not spending too much time and energy and burning out before the right person comes along.
Ultimately, if you need money for your business, you need people to pitch to and the more targeted your list, the more possible yeses you’ll have, and the greater ROI on your time.
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.
Celebrating International Women’s Day The Past, Present, and Future of Women Leaders and Founders
“We need women at all levels, including the top, to challenge the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.” – Sheryl Sandberg
Yesterday, we celebrated International Women’s Day, highlighting the accomplishments of social, economic, and political achievements of women around the world. It’s no coincidence that we celebrate this day as a part of Women’s History Month. How can we celebrate the achievements of today and look forward to the progress of tomorrow, without acknowledging the determination and sacrifices of the past? While there is no shortage of influential women leaders today, they stand on the shoulders of hundreds of others who paved the way.
A Look into the Past
Unfortunately, we cannot list every courageous woman leader from the past (not to mention those we each have within our own families and friends), but here is a celebration of a few, intended to honor all:
Sojourner Truth, after being born into slavery and escaping with her infant, became an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She later became known for her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech regarding racial inequalities in the year 1851.
As a young girl, Louisa May Alcott worked in the mid-1800s to support her family financially, something unheard of at the time. She later wrote “Little Women,” one of the most treasured novels in American history.
In the mid-1900s, Marguerite Higgins became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Foreign Correspondence after working as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune during WWII, The Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
Rosa Parks became one of the most famous, influential women of the civil rights movement when, in 1955, she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. Today, she’s known as the “Mother of the Freedom Movement.”
Sandra Day O’Connor was the first female justice on the Unites States Supreme Court (1981-2006).
The list, of course, goes on in all government and private sectors, industries, and facets of life. These women and thousands more played prominent roles in advancing women to where they are today. And, as we celebrate women this month, we share in our gratitude for them all.
The Here and Now
There is no doubt that progress continues for women leaders and founders. There have been great successes in the government, sports, finance, and corporate worlds. Women are breaking records every day, but there is still a long way to go. In 2019, the proportion of women in senior management roles globally grew to 29%, the highest number ever recorded (same percentage in 2020). On the one hand, we love breaking records. On the other, at only 29%, there is much room for improvement and many more glass ceilings to crack.
The gap doesn’t just exist within the boardroom. It is also very apparent in female founders and funding. We need improvement in women led companies locating and securing the funding they need to scale their companies.
While there was already a significant gap in funding, according to Crunchbase, global venture funding to female-founded companies fell further in 2020. Whether this is the result of COVID-19 is unclear; however, there is data that suggests the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women in the workforce.
Through mid-December, 800 female-founded startups globally had received a total of $4.9 billion in venture funding in 2020, representing a 27% decrease over the same period in 2019.
Optimistically, early 2021 Crunchbase data shows improvement. In fact, 30% of investments in U.S. companies at Series A and B stage between January and mid-February went to teams with female or Black founders. While it is a brief study period, this trend is worth watching over the coming months.
Overall, while female entrepreneurs are still far underrepresented in startup funding tallies, at least there are some signs of, and initiatives to, continue that progress. In fact, there is a new target set by All Raise (an organization that advocates for female investors and founders) of growing seed and early-stage funding amounts from the current 11% to 23% by 2030 for U.S. companies with a female founder.
So much has been accomplished, yet, it’s clear we still have a long way to go. According to the World Economic Forum, global gender equality is not estimated to be achieved until 2133. So, as we celebrate the great women leaders of yesterday and today, we do so with an understanding that thousands more women will be standing on our shoulders tomorrow. And the forward momentum that is women’s leadership continues on.
Are you a woman founder looking for funding? Are you ready to be a part of that 23% target? Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with this link to my calendar to talk about how we can work toward getting you the investment money you need.
A Successful Pitch May Come Down to Your Words What to Say and What to Avoid
Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about pitching investors. We talked about the importance of your story coming through loud and clear and why you need two pitch decks. And with all this “talk,” it now comes down to your actual words.
You have a limited time to tell your story and make the best impression. Knowing what will resonate with potential investors, and perhaps, more importantly, what will not resonate with them, can make all the difference in whether you receive funding. Even if your pitch deck is perfect, it can easily be derailed by poor word choice. How you choose your words says a lot about you, your views on your business, and how you would fare as a potential partner.
Overall, your pitch will tell your story, including information about the problem (briefly), target market, revenue or business model, early successes and milestones, customer acquisition, team, financials, competition (briefly), funding needs, and exit strategy. As you’re talking about each, there are words and phrases you should avoid, as what the investor hears when you say them will be entirely different than what you intend. Take the following chart as an example of some of those situations.
No one can do it alone. This person will burn out.
No market or you have not done your research
Amateur – there are no guarantees in investing.
Any word or phrase you cannot explain well
A Quick Note on Buzzwords
People tend to use them because they think it will make them sound like they know what they’re talking about. But those people aren’t fooling anyone, particularly sophisticated investors. A “buzzword” is defined by Merriam Webster as “an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen.” By the definition alone, you should see why you should exclude them completely. You want to impress the investors (who are not laymen) the right way – with legitimate numbers and proven strategy, not by trying to sound impressive.
Powerful Words/Phrases that Strengthen Your Story
Instead of the above words and phrases, focus on the following powerful ones that show you mean business:
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – explain how much your customer acquisition strategy costs and how it can be reduced over time.
Lifetime Value – explain how your customers will eventually cover the cost of operations.
Churn – explain how efficient you are about retaining your existing customers (eventually generate enough value to pay back their acquisition cost and help you generate a profit).
Burn Rate – explain how much cash you have remaining to operate and how efficiently you are operating your business.
Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) – explain the sum of all costs that go into offering your product.
Gross Margin – explain how well your business is performing.
EBITDA – understand what this means and have projections to back it up.
Use of Proceeds – explain how the investor’s money will be spent and make sure it is not to increase the existing C Suite or Founder’s salary.
These are the terms investors want to hear. Not only do they demonstrate that you know your business inside and out, but they also give more credibility to your numbers. A win-win for investors!
Other Pitching Tips
Now that you understand the words and phrases to avoid and those to focus on, other pitch tips include:
Be on time and respectful of your time limit. Show that you value the investors’ time.
Be confident, but not arrogant.
Focus on the solution, not the problem.
Don’t attack the competition. Instead, focus on your strengths.
Think and talk long-term. Investors are not interested in quick wins. They’re looking for companies that are going to make an impact on their industry.
Communicate your “why” passionately and infectiously.
Understand that there is a difference between creating a great pitch deck and creating a great pitch.
Going into any pitch is a nerve-wracking experience. Even with practice, you may struggle to find the right words, which is why focusing on them from the start is so important. There are many available pitching tips out there, but word choice alone can make or break the deal. At the very minimum, they can give some extra positivity, and who doesn’t need that on pitch day?
Barker Associates has extensive experience with assisting companies in preparing their pitches, including the keywords they want to use (and to avoid). Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with this link to my calendar to talk about how we can work toward getting you the investment money you need.
Non-Profit Mergers: It’s Time to Close. Now What? Beyond Planning & Due Diligence
Last month, we talked about the initial considerations of a non-profit merger, as well as the critical due diligence phase. After finding unity of purpose, reflecting on the relevant issues and deciding that a merger aligns with your goals and mission, you engaged in an extensive due diligence process, examining all legal, financial, logistical, and human resource documents and processes. At the conclusion of due diligence, the board of directors of each organization developed and approved a Plan of Merger consistent with applicable state laws. At long last, after months of preparation, meetings, discovery, approvals, and planning, the time arrives for merger implementation. Essentially, it is finally time to close the deal. However, this is only the beginningof the end.
As with the previous phases, planning and organization are crucial for a successful implementation. While it would be nice if we could sign on the dotted line and all issues magically resolve, we know that is not the case (it never is!). This process, like the others, will take time, patience, and an in-depth understanding of the logistical steps that must be achieved to effectuate the merging of two different organizations. The following checklist can be used as a guide through the final steps of the merger.
1. Appoint a Merger Transition Team. This group of three to six individuals will spearhead each logistical step of the merger. They will assign tasks, set timelines, and keep the merger moving forward at a reasonable pace for the new nonprofit.
2. File Appropriate Documents with the State. Each state has its own requirements for filing with regard to non-profit mergers. All documents should be filed with the state of organization/incorporation, following those particular guidelines and requirements. Note that although the merger is legally completed once the state accepts the documents as filed, many more steps must be taken for actual completion.
3. Develop Integration Plan. Due diligence should have previously identified duplicative positions, departments, and resources. This plan will identify what is being removed and what is surviving in the new organization. The plan should also identify any issues in the short-term due to the merger and provide for analysis at one month, three months, six months, and twelve months.
4. New Board of Directors Established. The new board generally consists of previous board members from each of the non-profits prior to merger, but can be entirely new. They should establish their new meeting schedule and implement new by-laws as soon as possible.
5. Schedule Employee and Volunteer Training. How will the new departments, responsibilities, and tasks differ from the previous ones? What do employees and volunteers need to know about the mission, vision, and day-to-day operations to effectively perform their duties?
6. Determine Human Resource Needs. Establish a new payroll system, health benefits, vacation and sick pay, and hiring and termination protocols.
7. Finalize any Facilities Management Issues, Vendor Contracts, and Insurance Coverage. What contracts need to be rewritten in the new organization’s name? How will insurance coverage transfer without lapsing?
8. Develop Communication Plan. This plan should involve internal and external communications and ensure consistent messaging throughout. This may include the launching of new branding, the name and logo, and a marketing campaign. The new website and social media accounts must also be established and maintained.
9. Finalize Financial Transactions. Transfer assets, close and open accounts, as needed, and integrate accounting systems.
10. Implement Technology Solutions. How will technology, phone systems, and databases be integrated? What is still required? What can be eliminated?
While the entire process can take between twelve and eighteen months, depending on the size of the organization, this Closing Checklist enables the Merger Transition Team to keep the merger on track, heading toward a successful completion.
Need more assistance? Barker Associates has extensive experience working with non-profit organizations as they implement and finalize mergers. If you are considering this strategy, use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for a free 30-minute consultation.