What to Include in an Investment Package

What to Include in an Investment Package

If you are looking for investments for your startup but not sure what pieces of information investors will need, READ THIS ARTICLE!!!! We will be going over documents needed for investment submissions and making sure your more than ready for potential investors. To begin, we will be looking on how to share this type of confidential data with investors.

Data Rooms

To share documents and confidential information about your startup what you will need is a “Data Room,”this is a very safe location that is created by the seller where important data is placed to be viewed strictly by the investor or anyone else who is significant. These data rooms can be created virtually and many firms provide them. Datarooms.com, Drooms, etc. are just some of the few that provide safe due diligence with information like this. In addition to this, you also want to make sure you can track open rates, so then your data is actually being useful to investors. If you see a file being opened more frequently then others than make sure that file is your priority and ensure it is updated frequently.

Documents

1. Historical Financial Statements 

(Here is a Template)

This information is important to investors as it provides a means of analysis and helps evaluate your startup’s financial performance. Your historical financial statements also help determine future trends as well as future expectations on your financial runaway for your startup. However, different financial statements relay different types of information. For example, a Balance Sheet will state your assets and liabilities and represent what the company is actually worth. Income Statements will state your income and how much things are costing you; this is very important for investors as they would like to see growth. There are many different financial statements you can have, but it is good to have a wide range of them in order to be more transparent with investors. Below are examples of a Balance Sheet and Income Statement from Walmart.

Balance Sheet (See Template)
Income Statement(See Template)

2. Business Forecast 

(Here is a Template)

What this is, in essence, is a prediction of future developments in your current startup through many aspects. Whether this may be in a sales aspect, technology advancement, or anticipated expenses, this all helps with budgeting and giving an investor a better understanding on what to expect in the upcoming years. It also helps them gauge the potential future growth according to anticipated business environment changes. There are a few places you can check out to see how exactly to create your own business forecast, Chron, JumpStart, and Entrepreneur.com. Below are also snippets of brief business forecast’s to give you a general idea of what investors expect.

Business Forecast

3. Customer List 

(Here is a Template)

A great way to begin talking about this is by describing what exactly is a “Customer List.” This is a intangible asset which means it is a non physical, non financial asset. Investors would like to this because they may find the demographics of the customers very helpful in making their decision. For example if your product was designed and made for teens but majority of your customers are middle aged people, then there is a mismatch and something is off. They want to see a realistic market potential sized and addressable market. It is mostly for transparency within your startup and making sure that your product or service is indeed reaching it targeted market. Although you may be reaching your sales or profit goal, analysing the customer list may tell investors that you are hitting a different and maybe a smaller market; in fact, it may decrease long term growth and potential. In addition to this, keeping the privacy of your customer lists is also very important and should only be provided to serious investors, do not post or upload customer lists online as it is a breach of your customers privacy. Below is a mock example of a very brief customer list example for general needs.

Example of Customer List

4.Customer Contracts 

(Here is a Template)

A “Customer Contract” is a legal agreement between you and the consumer by whom the service or goods will be received. In addition to this, the customer must be paying for the goods or services. Signing a partnership with another company is not a customer agreement if there is no monetary exchange for a good or service. An example, to represent this would be if Facebook partnered with Uber and created a new database of information. This is a partnership, not a customer engagement because there was no monetary exchange whatsoever. On the other hand, if Facebook paid Uber for all their data, then this would be a customer contract. As you can see, it is important for investors to know about these customer contracts as it may have potential growth for your startup in the future. Only include customer contracts that consist of big amounts of money relative to your startup and ones you may feel are appropriate.

Example of a Customer Contract

In addition to this, letters of intent are also great ways to show customer agreement with the service or product you are offering. Check out this article to learn more about it in more detail.


5.Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)/ Churn (SaaS) 

(Here is a Template)

MRR = Revenue/ month

Churn Rate= # of clients lost in period/ # of total customers at the beginning of period

Let’s begin off by diving into MRR ( Monthly Recurring Revenue). MRR is essentially a measure of your revenue stream on a monthly basis. This is applicable to companies who operate on a subscription basis and get recurring revenues and also companies who also make regular single transactions that may not necessarily reoccur. Examples of a recurring revenue type of model is Bell, Netflix, Spotify, etc. A startup with monthly recurring revenue is also more attractive to investors as there most likely is stronger retention rate. For companies who have regular one time transactions the MRR can be calculated using the average amount for each month.

Moving on, the “Churn Rate” refers to the percentage of clients who stopped and discontinued commitment to the service they signed up for. An easy way to remember this is through an equation.

(Churn Rate= # of clients lost in period/ # of total customers at the beginning of period)

Sample Charts

MRR Chart
Churn Rate Chart

6. Employee Contracts 

(Here is a Template)

This is a signed agreement between an employer and employee; it is vital in protecting employee rights and also employer liabilities. Aspects such as salary, general responsibilities, duration of employment are all addressed in this document. Investors maybe be interested in this info as they want to know what type of team your startup consists of and if it is well balanced. For example if you had a high paying programmer compared to other programmers in the startup, investors would like to if it makes sense especially if the startup isn’t as widely scaled yet. Every dollars matters and it matters even more when it’s the investor’s dollar. In addition to this, a “Non-Disclosure Agreement” would also be in the employee contracts and this is very important to include. This prevents any vital information regarding the startup to leak out to the public or competitors who may utilize for their own profit.

Below is a very brief employee contract meant just for example purposes.

Employee Contract

7.Details on Competition

(Here is a SWOT Template)

Competition is present in every industry in the world and there is a good chance you have a good set of competitors in the field your startup lies in. It is important to address these competitors for both yourself and investors as you want to be as unique as possible to order to differentiate. You can analyze your competitors in a number of ways but a common way is to complete a SWOT analysis on potential competitors. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What this analysis does is that is looks at competitors through internal and external aspects and makes sure you are being able to differentiate them. Accept your weaknesses as a startup and continue building upon your strengths. Identifying and sharing threats early on ensure transparency and makes investors more aware of the whole market situation. Below is an example of a SWOT analyse on a pie company.

SWOT

8.Cap Table 

(Here is a Template)

This is one of the most important documents an investor is interested in and one document you should not miss in your submission. The “Capitalization Table” shows ownership segments within the company, including shares, options, and equity. Everyone who has a stake in your startup MUST be in this document so then valuation of an investment is valid and accurate. This is a table which also has to be updated regularly. In essence, every line you add to the table should add value to the company because it shows investors, employees, and partners that there is indeed a successful vision which they also believe by. Furthermore, there isn’t necessarily a proper way to format this table, just make it simple, organized, and easy for investors to understand.

Example of a Cap Table

9.Option Pool Information

An option pool helps to acquire top talent for your startup and entice people to stay with your company. This is done by offering them stake in your company. Where does this stake come from you may ask? There is actually a dedicated percentage of your startup dedicated to your employees, obviously if you opt in to do it. A scenario to represent this could be as such, you start up your own company in the field of creating innovative energy sources. You want top talent, so you hire a few grad students and someone who also has worked at other places to guide your startup the right way. In the beginning of their time at your company you can offer each of them a certain percentage of the company stake, this can be in the form of stocks assuming you are a public company. Let’s assume each year they get 200 individual stocks for each person which they can buy at the price at which they first joined the company at ($5 dollars). If they leave, they do not get to redeem any of the stocks they have. Over time, they tend to work harder and harder to make the company more successful essentially increasing the stock price. After 4 years each of them has quantity of 800 stock parts and the stock price is now $50 dollars. If they sold the stock at this point in time they would have made an instant profit of $36,000. {(800*50)- (800*5)}= 36,000. This is what drives employees and creates an urge to join your startup compared to others. Investors want this information because they want to know that dedicated percentage that you allocated to your employees and seeing if it makes a difference.

Cap Table with the Option Pool Option

The final step investors are going to do is call many large vendor customers and ensure there is indeed a legitimate business taking place. The investor wants to make sure his money is going towards the right investment and think of this call as a reference check. They want to know how the customer feels about you first hand and how their experience has been with you. Depending on the industry, investors will also ask customers if the product or service has made their job easier and if it is something sustainable.

You must understand that for a investor their money is very important and will want to know everything and anything their money is going towards. It’s best to be transparent with investors and provide adequate financial details with strong analyse on your competition. Investors have been through this many times and being prepared with all this information puts you ahead of the curve.

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How to Build Traction Starting from an MVP

How to Build Traction Starting from an MVP

A vision without traction is merely a hallucination. Cultivating and creating a successful startup is more than just offering a product or service, it’s a consistent effort of building, measuring, and learning. However, one of the most important factors to venture capitalists (VCs) is traction and measuring the potential success of your product. In regard to measuring traction for your startup, below is a list of what potential investors will value when looking for investments.

Minimal Viable Product

Let’s begin off with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This is not a beta or prototype you are launching it’s rather a product or service you make to see if there is a market for it. You are trying to learn what your users want and don’t want and minimize the amount of time you spend on creating features or aspects of the product which is not valuable. Believe it or not, many big companies we know today originated from an MVP.

Dropbox

A good example to represent this is cloud database company called “DropBox.” Their MVP product was essentially a video which showed what they wanted to do and a signup form for people who were interested in the idea and wanted to be early adopters. Almost overnight, there were over 75,000 signups all with only a 3-minute video of Dropbox and not even an actual product of the software. If you are very early in your startup, make sure there is indeed a market for your product or service using an MVP. This is a valuable aspect to present to investors if you haven’t created real customer data points yet.

Below is a list of more MVP’s which you may find very interesting and see how the actual product which has derived from this has changed.

1. Airbnb

Airbnb

Co-founders of Airbnb needed help paying their rent in San Francisco. They also noticed lots of business conferences around; hotels were very expensive in their area. They wondered if strangers would pay to live in someone else’s house for a night. They provided all the facilities and tested out their product assumption using the interface you see above. Creating a website like this especially in the type of technology we have right now would cost you couple hundred dollars max.. If you have no idea about coding then check out ShareTribe, it is great place to create a peer to peer marketplace website and they take of everything for you. You get to focus on building your customer base and they take care of everything that’s technical. Base plans start at $100 a month and this is definitely a great way to see your your product has a market fit without spending tens of thousands of dollars into something that hasn’t been validated yet. In addition to this, hiring university students in computer science is also a great cheap alternative as well.

(MVP is estimated to be $100/ month and 2–3 weeks of coding)

2.Groupon

the point

They first started off creating “the point” which was a platform for bringing people together for fundraising or boycotting a retailer. This platform failed and from this they created Groupon. They used a customized wordpress blog and didn’t invest any time in developing a coupon system or designing a new website. They just took whatever resources they had and made a MVP out of it. It definitely was not scalable but it did answer Groupon’s questions for them. To recreate this type of MVP a simple subscription to “WordPress” will work as well. Relaying information on your own customizable wordpress website is great and more importantly relatively cheap compared to investing in a dedicated server and a team maintaining the site.

3.Buffer

Buffer

What Buffer did for their MVP was create a landing page where they showed what it would do for potential users; if you were interested, you could sign up as a paying customer. If you still weren’t sure as to why you wouldn’t join, it you could still sign up for their email alerts and executives would reach out to to find out why you weren’t convinced to use the platform. Hundreds of people responded and the demand for Buffer was evident. This strategy helped give valuable feedback and find out what users really wanted out of the service. In today’s day and age creating a landing page to show potential users is very simple. The only real aspect of what is being invested is essentially your time to review and analyse what users are saying about your potential product or service.

You can use WordPress for $10–33 dollars a month and creating the static landing page will take a few days.

4.Zappos

Zappos

The founder began off by posting photos from the local shoe store and uploaded them to this website. He then checked if anyone was interested and if there was he would go to the store and buy the shoe and then sell it to the customer. Doing this overtime he found out there was indeed a need for this type of service and answered his question if his product would be accepted into the market. Only after that, he invested into infrastructure and inventory. Reselling is becoming very common in the 21st century and online commerce is almost everywhere around the world. To recreate this type of MVP it is very cheap, quick and easy. For example you can get a subscription on “Wix” for $5–10 dollars a month and use a premade template to upload photos onto your site. This process can take as little as a day. There are multiple website builders such as Wix, Shopify and SquareSpace and all with free and paid options as suited to your individual needs.

You can get this website running in 1 day and $5-$10/month on Wix

5.Twitter

Twttr

It was first used as an internal messaging system for Odeo employees and it picked up so much that the monthly bill for the messaging system went into the hundreds of dollars. They noticed the demand and prepared to take Twitter large scale and release Twitter publicly. Creating an MVP like this is more expensive than the other options available. Creating a whole messaging system for internal use requires some capital equipment which many startups may not be able to afford. However if you do have a reasonable number of assets and capital equipment then you should consider creating something for a specific group of people then expanding once you see the validation. Another way to overcome this issue is getting a developer on your team who can use today’s available tools to create a messaging system more efficiently and cheaply.

6.Zynga

Zynga

Zynga uses landing pages and adword MVP tests to direct available resources into developing projects. What this means is that they launch ads for games in existing games and if the user clicks on it and seems interested in the new game, then they would continue developing the new game and put more attention towards it. Farmville, Yoville, etc. are all games that were developed this way and based of users interests. This type of MVP is essentially placing ads whiles users are playing games or browsing through Zynga. Sending ads to your own users are virtually free but placing ads through the Google Search Engine costs about $0.58 per CPC.

Creating and launching your own ads take a few days.

7.Foursquare

Foursquare

Foursquare began with a single featured MVP which is essentially a version of the product where design and features were minimal. They started off with user check in and offering gamification rewards. Once they realized users like this they added more features and then tested those out. It was a very repetitive process but in the end it creates a product completely sculpted by users. Although it is still very pricey to outsource work in the creation of making an app as an MVP (50,000–1,000,0000) it is strongly advisable to have a experienced coder who has coded apps before. This saves on a lot of money and you make it completely customizable towards your needs. The whole app making process however takes a number of months. If you are still insistent on hiring a company to create your apps there are few who are great at that (247 Labs, Openxcell, etc.)

This MVP takes 3–4 months to build.

8.Pebble

Pebble

Pebble actually was actually able to get money from investors; however, over time, the money ran out and they needed funding to showcase their research in E Ink displays in watches. They really wanted to find out if people would be interested in a smartwatch that had an exceptional battery and could connect to your phone. They started a kickstarter which had a video explainer describing the product and reached their goal of $100,000 in 2 hours. At the end of the fundraising they had raised 10.2 million for the project and then finally they went to manufacture the product after the evident market demand. Kickstarter is a great way to really see if your product has a market fit without starting to mass produce the product. It’s free to launch on Kickstarter but there is one catch. You need to get all the funding you submitted for, if not you lose the funding you raised. In addition to this there will be a certain percentage kickstarter will take away from each successful fundraising effort. Furthermore, you need to have pictures and a live demonstration of your product in order for you to be valid for kickstarter. This whole process will take a number of days and it will be for. More specifically the Kickstarter team spends 30 hours reviewing your submission and will reply back in 2–3 business days.

If accepted, this costs $0 and 1–10 days to make the graphics/ video. (This does not include promotional campaigns.)

9.Spotify

Spotify

Spotify has a 4 step cycle when it comes to creating and testing out its MVP. “Think it, Build It, Ship it, Tweak it.” Spotify is made up of many small teams and they have many ideas, the way they get this idea validated is by first creating the MVP based off their idea. Then they release it to users very slowly and take in a mass amount of reviews from their MVP. After, they tweak the MVP based off the reviews and users’ thoughts. They used this very process to scale from bottom up. While Spotify’s MVP product was very expensive because of its strong software background, Spotify was still able to minimize costs by creating a complete roadmap of early and cheap prototypes. They only completely launched when baseline of quantity was met.

The next sign of traction I would like to focus upon is customer acquisition. How are you going to reach out to customers? What’s the cheapest way to reach them? How much customer growth have you had? Different traction channels works for a variety of startups and can cause a chain of explosive growth for your venture. A few examples of channels for traction is through targeting blogs and search engine marketing.

A) Targeting blogs is one of the most effective ways to reach out to your first wave of customers and create your presence.

  1. The first step is to find a blog which is in the similar field as your product or service and ensure there are an appropriate number of followers on that blog suited to your needs.
  2. Secondly, reach out and offer your product or service to its readership to develop and build traction. Popular startups such as Code Academy , Mint and Reddit all got their start by targeting blogs. Mint actually gained initial traction by reaching out to mid sized blogs and ensured the bloggers were a good fit for their service. The famous bloggers used to exemplify the service and showcase it while Mint gave them VIP service in return through the service. This essentially grew the customer database.
Search Engine Marketing

B) Another channel to gain traction is through “Search Engine Marketing.” This term refers to placing ads on search engines such as Google and Bing and because SEO is so broad it will be applicable to any startup. This whole SEM process works by finding high-potential keywords which leads to your website or business online. The page that a potential customer lands on is called a landing page, and this is one the most important pages on your website. Key SEM metrics to reflect upon are CTR and the CPC. CTR (Click-Through Rate) is the percentage of people who clicked on your ads compared to the amount of people who actually saw your ads. The CPC (Cost per Click) on the other hand is the amount it costs to buy a click on an advertisement. What this means is how much are you willing to pay to get a potential customer on your website.

www.ancestry.com

A good example of a company that used this method to generate traction is Inflection, this is the company behind Archives.com which was soon to be acquired by Ancestry. They spent over $100,000 a month and dedicated several employees to customer acquisition through this method. Obviously very early startups don’t have this type of resources, but Monahan’s input on SEO is that “even if you decide to send less than 5,000, do it, because you get to have an early base of customers and users and it will create a whole bunch of things that are important in terms of regular metrics.”

The harsh reality is that majority of startups fail, and investors know that, that’s why traction is very important to them and making sure there is a market for that product or service. A MVP (Minimum Viable Product is a great way to see whether or not a business opportunity exists and ensures your long run potential. There are many ways to gain traction and I have showed many examples of it from successful startups who have all taken very different routes. Ensure there is a product market fit and traction will follow. The more traction you have, the greater the chance to catch an eye of an investor and finding external investment. “Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have are enough customers”- Gabriel Weinberg (CEO/Founder of DuckDuckGo)

To learn more about examples of traction feel free to head on over to the article written by us on how letters of intent can increase your startup’s funding success.

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VenturX is a Startup Awards Finalist 2018!

VenturX is a Startup Awards Finalist 2018!

 

Honored that VenturX is a finalist for Startup Awards by Startup Canada

It was a beautiful night that took place at Le Gare and Ubisoft in Montreal with multiple categories recognizing the hard work and accomplishment of diverse entrepreneurs. It was truly an honour to be recognized by an incredible organization such as Startup Canada among our extraordinary peers and award recipients.

About Startup Awards

Each year, hundreds of nominations pour in from across Canada, and thousands join us as we celebrate the regional winners at local, grassroots ceremonies in startup spaces and education hubs.

Nominations for the 2018 Startup Canada Awards will open in February 2018.

The winners of the Startup Canada Awards are selected by an esteemed adjudication committee which consists of a diverse group of leading entrepreneurs, ecosystem builders, and previous Startup Canada Award recipients. Regional and National Adjudications committees to be announced.

This year, we are delighted to announce 6 regions for the 2018 Startup Canada Awards: British Columbia, Ontario, the Prairies, Quebec, the Atlantic, and the North! The Startup Canada Awards culminates in October 2018 with a red carpet Grand Finale in Ottawa celebrating the national winners. Click here to register for a regional event near you or the Grand Finale today.

Objectives of the Startup Canada Awards:

Celebrate those working to advance entrepreneurship in Canada;

  • Increase awareness of the importance of strengthening Canada’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and culture
  • Incentivize efforts and elevate the ambitions of the Canadian entrepreneurial community
  • Nominations for the 2018 Startup Canada Awards will open in February 2018.

The winners of the Startup Canada Awards are selected by an esteemed adjudication committee which consists of a diverse group of leading entrepreneurs, ecosystem builders, and previous Startup Canada Award recipients. Regional and National Adjudications committees to be announced

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IPO vs M&A

IPO VS Mergers and Acquisitions

IPO VS Mergers and Acquisitions

As time rolls by, there is good chance your start-up may have attracted some investors, other companies, and achieve success sooner or later. This exit decision to finally glorify yourself to the public market comes down to either an IPO or a Merger & Acquisition. We will be speaking about Pros and Cons for each, steps that need to be taken to pursue either path, and really finding out if your start-up is suited towards a specific route.

What is IPO?

An IPO is the first initial (public) stock offering that you are giving to the general public, and what really turns the company from a private one to a public one. You are bound to do this when you want to raise even more cashand expand significantly. Beyond getting money from the banks, investors, or additional grants, an IPO is the best option in regard to raising money. However, there are a few cons to keep in mind, such as you may NOT be able to raise the desired funds if the IPO price is not justified in the market. In addition to this, loss of control will develop as many new shareholders develop, as you are giving equity away in return for cash to expand your company. Other start-ups that have expanded through an IPO is Alibaba (25 Billion) and Facebook (16.01 Billion).

Facebook Alibaba

Facebook Alibaba

Furthermore, an IPO is not something you can decide within months, it takes years of planning and a lot of resources and cash to set an IPO and ensure it goes smoothly. On the other hand, if you are looking to expand and grow but do not want to take the IPO path, the merger and acquisition route is an excellent choice as well.

What is M&A?

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) is the combination of 2 or more companies as a single entity. Specifically, in an acquisition, you do not need to see a 100% stake, it just needs to be majority stake to be declared as an acquisition. In terms of a Merger, there are different types, such as Congeneric, Horizontal, Vertical, Cash etc.. The reason why start-ups take up the merger path over an IPO is simply that they aren’t ready to take it public but want to increase the company’s valuation. However, if you want to ease back on the pedal, then an acquisition by a bigger company is a better option as expertise and resources will be readily available. Some examples of famous mergers include Exxon and Mobil, Disney and Pixar, and many more.

Angela Brady

Angela Brady

The steps to officially launch your own IPO is lengthy and will cost you greatly. Although, in the end, you do grow a very big amount of money. To begin off, you must ensure all your financial reporting systems are consistent and financial documents are properly audited, as you are going on the public market and transparency is key. Next, you will need key individuals to act as underwriters who essentially approach potential investors to buy the shares. Services like these can be available at companies, such as Gold Man Sachs and Morgan Stanley. After this, you MUST register with SEC to present the company story and allow them to do most of the legal registration and review process. You want to ensure you gain as many investors as possible as nothing is guaranteed. An IPO that I will shine light upon is Facebook’s famous IPO in 2012. The build-up leading to the IPO created extremely high expectations and investors were ready to invest, however, on May 12th, things started to go downhill. When the initial offering launched, technical issues stopped some orders from going through, but as usual, the stock shot up in the preliminary stages. However, it soon went back down to around the initial price, but barely managed to stay above at the end of the day. Given a few weeks, investors lost an average of approximately 40 million dollars, which showed a lot of work still needed to get done. Underwriters bought back shares to artificially increase the price, but given the factor of time, the Facebook stock steadily increased and created a stable environment for the share. This is a prime example of where an IPO can go wrong in the beginning. However, if you have the right people, right resources, and persist through it, everything will pull through at the end. This IPO raised 16 billion for Facebook, which is recorded as the third largest IPO in U.S history.

Nasdaq Welcomes Facebook

Nasdaq Welcomes Facebook

Mergers and Acquisitions are a lot simpler when comparing it to an IPO, however, they are still lengthy and takes time to implement. To begin off, an acquisition or merger are strategic decisions based on current and forecasted market situations. Since this merger or acquisition will most likely be in the millions or billions, you want to ensure you have appropriate analysts as it is a very big step for your company. Next, you want to locate and find potential partner companies that would be a good addition to your company both in the present and in the future. Work out implications of the actions you would make and see aspects, such as risks, benefits, and more importantly, how it will affect your company. Another important aspect to look at is to check if the company is financially doing well. To do so, hire auditors to do a financial background check on the targeted company. The last thing you want is to find out that the targeted company is financially unhealthy after the potential acquisition or merger. After this, a thorough valuation is a must, as it draws the line between ensuring the investment was worthwhile. This goes both ways round, if a bigger company is trying to buy you out or get a major stake in your company, ensure it is a reasonable price, keeping in mind the market forecast and current financial status. Everything after this point is all a legal matter and speaking to executive members on both sides of the company. Agreements and negotiations will take place, and execution will soon also play its role if both companies agree to the merger or acquisition. You want to ensure that the immediate impact regarding the M&A maximizes efficiency, while minimizing potential disruption to operations.

A successful and very strategic merger is Disney and Pixar. Disney used to release a lot of Pixar’s movies, however, post the movie “Cars”, the contract was about to expire, and a merger was getting set up within the two companies. This move was beneficial for both companies as they needed each other’s resources and brand reputation in the market to succeed.Pixar developed plans to release movies twice a year with the aid of Disney. Disney is one the biggest brands when it comes to marketing to children, and working with “Cars” in collaboration with Pixar, it created the most top-selling merchandising toy among four-year-old boys. Disney has a very good sense of marketing, advertising, and merchandising plugs to help market Pixar’s movies and toys. If it wasn’t for this merger, both companies wouldn’t have been where they are today and this very strategic move has helped both of them for the better.

Disney

Whether you are in the initial stages of your start-up or are looking for ways to expand, planning for an IPO or M&A are great places to start once you do see success in your business. It is important to maintain good financial records and consistent financial procedures throughout the life of your start-up. To recap, if you want to expand and gain big amounts of funding, an IPO would a suitable option, given your financially doing well and investors can see future success within the start-up. If you want to ease and let someone else take control or aid you, significantly in your start-up, a merger or acquisition is also a great option as a plethora of resources will be available to you and more importantly a great team of experts that can take your start-up to another level.

Questions

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Should Founders Work on Their Strengths or Weaknesses?

When looking at this scenario in a macro, it seems that most entrepreneurs at different stages of the business would choose to work on strengths and let another expert work on the weaker part. In theory it sounds logical and favourable. However, let’s examine these scenarios why a lot of first time founders seem to fall into the pit of spreading themselves too thin and focus too much on the business areas that are weak. Is there such a thing as a good balance? How do you measure it?

Different entrepreneurs will have strengths and weaknesses in different areas. Running a successful company is very demanding so it may seem that startup founders are supposed to be good at everything or all else will fail. Here is a short list of what strengths and weaknesses entrepreneurs may possess:

· Getting investor funding

· Pitching to investors

· Managing customers

· Managing internal team

· Building the product or service

· Marketing

· Sales

Investor Funding

Investor Funding

The famed author of the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” Robert Kiyosaki describes funding as a prime example of a necessary skill that most entrepreneurs are weak at. This is not to say they will not be successful but it is say that they should be aware of this early on in order to prepare for it when their business needs funding the most. A lot of startup founders try to take getting funding into their own hands, even though it is their weakness; they do this instead of hiring for others’ strength such as a software tool to help train their business or professionals to help broaden their network. Like any strength, securing investor funding requires knowledge of the startup investment field, relationship building, and logistical time. Usually startup founders would try and fail between 2 months — 12+ months before asking for the necessary help. By them, their business would have gone through a significant amount of suffering that could have been easily avoided. We have heard of startups who have gone through 1 year of unsuccessful capital raising before finally considering help with their weakness.

Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss, #1 New York Times best-selling author and Silicon Valley entrepreneur, dedicates to steering people to work towards their strengths and hiring/ outsourcing for weaknesses in order to accomplish professional goals. When founders dive into the entrepreneurial journey and undergo self discovery, each will find where their strengths and weaknesses really lie. Each business decision relies on utilizing available resources, time, and strengths and weaknesses of people.

Team

When founders try and do everything themselves, they realize that they take a longer time to develop the skill sets that funding experts, accountants, web designers, etc.. would have. It would cost more time and money in the long run and the return on investment (ROI) is poor. When founders hire experts in the fields where they are weak, they can work along side the experts to better learn what the end result should look like. It would be a positive learning experience that also saves you time and resources in the end.

If founders did not put too much on their shoulders by hiring for weaknesses and doubling down on their own strengths, they will not only save themselves a lot of time but they will spend their days building their business and doing what they love.

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How letters of intent increases startup funding success

How letters of intent increases startup funding success

Letters of Intent

What is a letter of intent? Who are they for? Are letters of intent outdated? Are they legally binding? How is it related to funding? How does it increase my conversion metrics as a startup?

Let’s take a look deeper into one of the important elements of startup conversion called letter of intent. We have come across this topic when one of our startup clients who is preparing for funding using www.venturx.casuggested for more information about letters of intent and how it would affect his Conversion score on the VenturX tool. Let’s dive in and answer all those buzzing questions!

What is a letter of intent?

A letter of intent outlines the terms of a deal and serves as an “agreement to agree” between two parties. They are usually not legally binding but it depends on how it is written. Most partners, investors, merchants, etc.. tend to favour those that are not legally binding. Below, there are a few examples of letters of intent.

How does a letter of intent help me get startup funding?

Startups are always trying to defend their valuation of their business when it comes to funding. The truth is that most startups do not realize the gold and leverage they tend to have. Even when you cannot show revenue, you can certainly show traction. A written agreement proving the interest or partnership of another party is certainly a strong way to show traction. When you are up for investor funding, the investor has more confidence in what is presented when there are contact details, price points, etc.. on these letters.

Who should startups get letters of intent from?

There are several sources that startups could be collecting the letters of intent from.

1) Potential investors — startups might hit need to hit a certain milestone (ex. Patent approval) in order to get the potential investment. Like a term sheet, this letter assures other investors that your startup is valued at that particular pre-determined valuation. These would be used to back up those claims.

2) Clients — this works very well with Business to Business (B2B) clients. For example, before putting in a purchase order, the business you are trying to sell to might want to see test results, patent approvals, etc.. These terms would be written into the letter of intent.

3) Partners — there are many different kinds of partnerships. For example, a referral partnership would be when two parties refer clients to each other in exchange for a commission fee or just out of goodwill. When startups do not have a full product yet in order to sign a referral partnership agreement contract, a letter of intent could take its place until development is completed.

What should be included in a letter of intent.

1) Language and Tone: Think about who the letter of intent is for. For example, if you are a VenturX startup aiming for funding, your letter of intents would be read by the investors that VenturX matches you with. Therefore, your letters of intent would cater to the language of investors.

2) Pricing, dates of delivery, etc.. — if you have agreed on pricing, dates of delivery, etc.. that is great to add because it strengthens your letters of intent. Note that if deadlines are not met, you can send an updated letter of intent to be signed for the updated estimated delivery date. Specific details are better to be included when a third party is reading it because there is context and clarity.

3) Signatures — be sure that whoever’s signatures are on the letters of intent are the head decision maker and not likely to change jobs anytime soon. If this happens, you may need to spend more time getting another signed letter.

Examples

1. Purchasing Letter of Intent

This letter of intent includes details such as the pricing, who is buying, etc. It is a great example because these detail tell the investors that there is definitely traction in the pipeline. It helps support the analytics of the VenturX report for that company.

LETTER OF INTENT FOR PURCHASE OF COMPUTER EQUIPMENT

March 11, 20xx

Contact Name

Address

Address2

City, State/Province

Zip/Postal Code

OBJECT: LETTER OF INTENT FOR PURCHASE OF COMPUTER EQUIPMENT

Dear [CONTACT NAME],

[YOUR COMPANY NAME] intends to purchase certain computer hardware from [SELLER]. The purpose of this Letter of Intent is to summarize our discussions to date and to confirm our respective intentions with respect to the proposed transaction.

[YOUR COMPANY NAME] intends to purchase from [SELLER] the [MODEL] computer.

The purchase price for the [MODEL] model shall be the lower of [AMOUNT] or whatever better price [SELLER] is able to extend to [YOUR COMPANY NAME].

[YOUR COMPANY NAME] and [SELLER] will use their best efforts to conclude a contract on or before [DATE].

In order to secure timely delivery of the equipment [YOUR COMPANY NAME] has paid to [SELLER] the sum of [%] of the listed price as a deposit, which shall be promptly refunded in the event negotiations are terminated.

In the event that a contract is not signed on or before [DATE] for any reason whatsoever, [YOUR COMPANY NAME] or [SELLER] shall each have the right to terminate the negotiations without liability.

This document is a Letter of Intent only. It is not intended to be, and shall not constitute in any way, a binding or legal agreement, or impose any legal obligation or duty on either of us. If the foregoing reflects our mutual statement of intention, please sign and return the enclosed copy of this Letter of Intent.

Sincerely,

FOR [YOUR COMPANY NAME] FOR [SELLER]

Authorized Signature Authorized Signature

2. Purchase with Deposit/Escrow

This letter of intent is a great example even if your industry is not real estate. The timeline details as well as the deposit procedure details are included. It allows investors to visualize how the process is going to go. Even though the investors may be familiar with the industry standard deposits or escrow, it is always good to include the details in it so everyone is on the same page.

LETTER OF INTENT

This letter sets forth some of the basic terms under which Seller and Purchaser would be interested in entering into a Real Estate Purchase Agreement. It serves as a letter of intent (“Letter”) from _________________________ (“Purchaser”)through and dated ______________, 2010, in which Purchaser has set forth its interest in acquiring the subject Property. NEVERTHELESS, PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THIS LETTER IS NOT CONTRACTUALLY BINDING ON THE PARTIES AND IS ONLY AN EXPRESSION OF THE BASIC TERMS AND CONDITIONS TO BE INCORPORATED IN A FORMAL WRITTEN AGREEMENT.

PROPERTY:

____________________

____________________

____________________

(hereinafter, the “Property”)

PURCHASER:

____________________

____________________

____________________

____________________

SELLER:

c/o Silo Group, LLC

7800 W Sand Lake Rd, Suite 210

Orlando, FL 32819

PURCHASE PRICE:

The Purchase Price shall be $___________

FINANCING:

EARNEST MONEY

DEPOSIT:

_________________ dollars ($_________) (“Earnest Money”) shall be placed in escrow with the Title Company upon the execution of the Purchase and Sale Agreement (defined below). Upon expiration of the Due Diligence Period (defined below) and provided Purchaser does not terminate the Purchase and Sale Agreement before expiration of the Due Diligence Period, the Earnest Money shall become non-refundable.

DUE DILIGENCE ITEMS:

Within five (5) days after the Effective Date. Seller, at its expense, shall provide Purchaser with the following items, if any, in Seller’s possession:

A copy of the most recent title commitment for the Property

Lease

Survey

Environmental Report

Items (a) through (d) above and the updated title commitment and updated survey, if applicable, are hereinafter referred to as the “Due Diligence Items”.

DUE DILIGENCE PERIOD:

Purchaser shall have up to ____________ (__) days from the Effective Date (the “Due Diligence Period”), to review the Due Diligence Items and to enter upon the Property to inspect the physical condition of the same, as it shall deem necessary. On or before expiration of the Due Diligence Period, Purchaser shall determine whether it is feasible to purchase the Property based on Purchaser’s review of the Due Diligence Items and its physical inspection of the Property. If it is not feasible for Purchaser to purchase the Property, Purchaser may terminate the Purchase and Sale Agreement. If Purchaser so terminates, the Earnest Money shall be returned to Purchaser, and the Due Diligence Items shall be returned to Seller.

CONTRACT:

Upon the mutual execution of this Letter, Seller will promptly prepare a Purchase and Sale Agreement and Seller shall make a good faith effort to deliver said Purchase and Sale Agreement to Purchaser within five (5) days from the effective date of the LOI.

TRANSFER:

Special Warranty Deed or the equivalent thereof in the State where the Property is located.

CLOSING:

Closing shall occur on a date mutually acceptable to purchaser and seller, no later than ________ (__) days after the effective date.

CLOSING COSTS:

Closing Costs shall be paid according to local custom, further detailed in the Purchase and Sale Agreement.

SALES COMMISSION:

Purchaser and Seller each represent that no real estate broker, finder or intermediary has been consulted or used in connection with the purchase and sale of the Property except Silo Group, LLC. Silo Group, LLC shall be compensated upon Closing by Seller pursuant to a separate agreement with Seller.

CONFIDENTIALITY:

Seller, Purchaser, and their agents shall maintain the confidentiality of the parties, terms, and conditions of this letter and the negotiations that may follow, if any, from this date forth.

The above items are the general business terms and conditions to be covered in the Purchase and Sale Agreement, which would be submitted to the Seller. Additional remaining terms of the Purchase and Sale Agreement will be negotiated and must be acceptable to both Purchaser and Seller.

This Letter is not intended to be a binding contract.

If this Letter accurately reflects the general business terms and conditions which may form the basis of a separate written agreement, please confirm in writing no later than ______________, 2010.

Buyer hereby agrees to the terms and conditions of the Letter.

By: ________________________________ ____________________

Date

Name: _____________________________ ____________________

Title

Seller hereby agrees to the terms and conditions of the Letter.

By: ________________________________ ____________________

Date

Name: _____________________________ ____________________

Title

3. Purchase Upon Due Diligence and Shipping Details

This example gives details about how the inspection or due diligence will take place. These details are good to give assurance to investors because depending on the situation, investors may also offer a second round of due diligence. If the inspection/due diligence is being serviced by a trusted third party, that is even better. The delivery details also gives an overview of the timeline when things will take place. This transparency in the letter increased trust level between the parties.

AIRCRAFT PURCHASE OFFER

Ref: _________________ S/N ___________ Registration: _________ (the “Aircraft”)

Subject to ratification of a mutually agreeable Aircraft Sales Agreement within 5 business days, Purchaser offers to purchase and Seller agrees to sell the above referenced Aircraft subject to the following:

1. Purchase Price: The purchase price shall be $ _____________________________________ USD

2. Deposit: Upon ratification of this Offer, Purchaser shall make an immediate refundable escrow deposit in the amount of $ ________________USD to _______________________________ (“Escrow Agent”) within 1 business day. Purchaser and Seller shall share escrow fees equally. Time shall be of the essence.

3. Inspection: This Offer is subject to Purchaser’s satisfaction with a visual inspection of the Aircraft and records to be completed within 3 business days followed by a technical inspection (hereafter “Inspection”) of the Aircraft, engines, avionics, logbooks and records including a test flight of one hour, to be commenced within 5 days at _______________________________ or other mutually agreed upon facility to determine the Aircraft is in compliance with Paragraph 5 below. Purchaser expressly agrees that all costs of the visual or technical Inspection and the movement expenses shall be for Purchaser’s account and pre-paid in advance. The Aircraft shall not be flown, except for delivery, following the Inspection.

4. Acceptance: Prior to rectification of any discrepancies found during the technical Inspection, Purchaser shall accept (“Acceptance”) or reject the Aircraft in writing within 2 days following completion of the technical Inspection. Upon Acceptance, the deposit shall become non-refundable, subject only to Seller’s performance hereunder.

5. Condition: Aircraft shall be delivered at the Seller‘s expense:

(1) With all airworthy systems and avionics functioning normally

(2) Current on it’s maintenance program with no deferments or extensions;

(3) With all AD’s and mandatory SB’s accomplished

(4) With all records, logbooks, flight manuals, and accessories in owners possession;

(5) Free and clear of all liens or other encumbrances.

6. Delivery & Closing: Final payment & Delivery for the aircraft shall occur simultaneously at ___________________________________ within 3 business days following Sellers compliance with Paragraph 5 above through the Escrow Agent. Prior to delivery, Seller shall execute and place a Bill of Sale with the Escrow Agent. This contract and all negotiations shall remain strictly confidential.

7. Additional Terms:___________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

SELLER: PURCHASER:

_________________________________ ___________________________________

(Company name) (Company name)

_________________________________ ___________________________________

(Signature) (Signature)

Title: _____________________________ Title: _______________________________

Date: _____________________________ Date: _______________________________

The examples show that there are different styles for letters of intent. It highly depends on what industry the business is in. When reviewing it, make sure to include all the details mentioned in this article and your business will be one step closer to your funding goal.

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Should Startups get Free Resources or Customize Help? (AWS Edition)

Should Startups get Free Resources or Customize Help? (AWS Edition)

Should Startups get Free Resources or Customize Help? (AWS Edition)

As more and more startups sprout from each major city in the world, the number of free and customized services to support startups also grow globally. One of the first expenses that startups will be spending on are servers. No matter what industry your startup company is in, you will need a website. So let’s review which is better: a free server or a paid customized help. As a small gift, our development team has written out FAQs about the Set Up that are not included in Amazon’s free trial. See end of the article.

I Want Freebies! (Obviously)

I love freebies

I love freebies

Freebies

This would be the obvious answer that free is the first resource that unprofitable startups would turn to because of their limit budget. When startups on a budget, words like “free” can mean a lot. You don’t know if you would like to commit to a monthly payment. This is especially true for first-time startups. There are services like Ormuco,Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) that offer free startup hosting for a year. We will focus on the one we just switched to which is Amazon Web Hosting from Ormuco. We won’t go into why there was trouble with using Ormuco. It is not the place for that.

Pros

  1. This is FREE for one year for you to try unless you have multiple sites like we do. Then it could be less than 1 year.
  2. Choosing things that are well known will have a lot of documentation that is available online including this one to help you set up.

Cons

  1. They do not have anyone to help you with any support when you are on the free version (so make sure there is someone on the internal team you can trust with handling all of this)! You might not want to outsource this part. This is also attributed to if you have questions about the setup.

Should I Go for Customized Services?

This is a great option if your budget can lean this way. You can get things done faster with less headache.

How can I get set up info for Free?

As part of our company mission, we want to help as many startups save time, be more efficient and achieve their goals. If you do end up choosing the free version, here are a few questions that our internal team has answered for you!

Frequently Asked Questions (AWS Set Up for Beginners)

FAQs
  • How to move to continuous integration with code deploy?
    A: If you are using Bitbucket, this guide will help you. It basically boils down to building a series of scripts that throw your source around from bitbucket to an S3 instance to your EC2 server. If you make sure everything is running (especially the code-deploy agent). That way, it will work beautifully and save you time.
  • Getting charged on free tier/What does the free tier actually encompass?
    A: This is a big one because their support pages dance around it very much. In general, Amazon tells you what will be charged as an extra and what you’ll get for free. For example, Amazon’s free tier includes an EC2 – their cloud instances – running for  750 free hours per month for one year. Since you are billed per hour this sounds pretty straightforward… until you realize you’ll be charged for setting up any additional concurrent instances. You should set up your development environment elsewhere unless you want to pay for your free trial. In general, the free trial availability varies from service to service, so you should check, but they all should cater well enough to early-stage startups.
  • Do I need an Elastic IP?
    A: Yes! Your instance comes with an IP; but every time you stop and re-start it AWS assigns it a new IP. You have to set up an elastic IP under their services and associate it with your instance. That one will persist restarts, so you should definitely assign it to your server.  You get one per instance for free
  • Which set up do I start with?
    A: We went with the free tier t2.micro EC2 and some negligible SSD storage space running Ubuntu. Simply, you pick a tier and a region. Then you name it and configure it.
  • Which region should I use?
    A: This is also a tricky one. On the one hand, at least in theory, you mitigate latency by having an instance closer to where your user base is. On the other hand, certain regions are cheaper. We don’t know exactly what the science of choosing that is. Nevertheless, us-east-2 seems to be the cheapest.
  • What if I want more?
    A: The 1 year free tier is the smallest generic one that anyone could get with just an email.

But for startup, AWS offers much more interesting free tiers though, from 1000$ to 15,000$ over 2 years, depending on your context (backed by an incubator or not, …)
Startup should try to not use just the free tier, but ask for the AWS Activate program: https://aws.amazon.com/activate/

1) https://aws.amazon.com/free/  –  The free-tier central page, which gives information on a plan by plan/product by product basis, notably “what’s covered exactly by the time-bound free tiers, what’s covered by the lifetime (renewed monthly) free tiers, like DynamoDB or Lambda” etc.

2) https://calculator.s3.amazonaws.com/index.html – The official cost calculator  where you can include/exclude the 1- year free tier

For more great information about AWS, here is a Medium article from another user: Bootstrap to Billions on AWS. Enjoy!

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15 Employee Engagement Activities For Your Small Business

15 Employee Engagement Activities For Your Small Business

Employee engagement is more than a buzzword.

Time and time again, studies have found that higher employee engagement rates contribute to greater productivity and with it, profitability. According to the Gallup State of the American Workplace Report companies were indicated to also experience 37% less absenteeism and 90% less turnover.

So, why do so few small businesses invest in employee engagement? Three words: budget, budget, and budget. With limited resources, it’s easy to see why investing in employee engagement tends to dwell on the bottom of SMB to-do lists. But here’s the good news. There are many low-cost ways for small businesses to increase employee engagement, and with it, foster a happy and healthy work environment.

1. Host a Brown Bag Presentation

lunch

Often used for training or information sessions, a brown bag is an employee-hosted casual meeting during lunch with a short presentation on a topic that usually relates to the business. Participants bring their lunches, listen in, and ask questions. Learning from a fellow co-worker versus reading a 60-page PDF is certainly optimal, and far more memorable.

2. Take a Half Day and Hang Out

bubble soccer

Friday is known to be the least productive day of the week. The work slows down, people slip off to happy hour, and slam their computers shut at 3:00. Once in a while, encourage a final boost of productivity by offering a half day and then afterwards getting the team together for an outdoor event. This can be anything from a picnic in the park to a department-vs-department sporting event to a relaxing barbeque where employees can invite friends and family.

3. Try to Complete an Escape Room

escape room

An escape room is a physical adventure game, where puzzles and riddles have to be solved using clues and other strategies to get from one room to another. Perfect for the small company, escape rooms are known for encouraging teamwork. Learning to communicate with each other and solve puzzles is a positive skill that is directly transferred to the workplace. Another plus is seeing how individuals think and come up with solutions so you know the best person to bring certain problems to.

4. Host Work Clubs

football

Ever notice how certain hobbies bring about like-minded people? There can be different work clubs for beer, fantasy football, improv, and more! They’re a great way to change the conversation from purely work to personal life, and offer an environment to develop friendships in. When co-workers are also friends, they’ll be more likely to help each other out at work, which makes working less stressful and more enjoyable. A workplace comprised of good friends consists of better communication and greater engagement as a whole, which means they’ll be sticking around for a while. The Society for Human Resources Management found that the more friends an employee has at work, the more likely they are to reject another job offer.

5. Make Onboarding and Learning Fun

trivia

Ever have a job where you’re told that the first few months are like drinking out of a firehose? It can be stressful to have to learn so much in such a short time. If you have a lot of new information for employees to learn, you can make things easier by gamifying the process. Whether you have unique terminology for your line of business, lots of stats, or case studies, there are all sorts of creative ways you can incentivize learning. Encourage competition and set up an afternoon trivia game between teams, or hand out personal quizzes and set a timer. (Don’t forget the prizes!) Once onboarding is finished, have your new employees present to the larger team to ensure they understand the rules, regulations, and processes at your business.

6. Ask for Feedback Often — and Act upon It

survey

Everyone wants to be heard. This is as true in the office as it is anywhere. Make it clear that you care and want all feedback — the good, the bad, the ugly. Then actually do something. Let your team know what you are changing or implementing based on what feedback was received. Connecting the feedback to real change makes employees feel valued and appreciated. The smaller a business is, the fewer decision makers there are. To act in the majority’s best interest, bring your employees’ voices in to help make decisions. Send out surveys on which snacks they’d like, how to utilize a currently empty room, or which brown bag topic they’d like next. Knowing one is heard and respected provides a huge incentive to stay.

7. Promote Perks That Support Physical and Mental Health

yoga

As a small business, providing great care is expensive. It also eats away at other perks you could be offering, and when 4 out of 5 employees want benefits more than a pay raise, it’s time to get with the program. Try giving a stipend each month to go to exercise classes or see a nutritionist. Employees will love the perks, be more encouraged to make healthy decisions, and feel that you really care about their well-being. Healthy employees also need less sick time, get more done, and are generally happier!

8. Offer Healthy Snacks

Snacks

More and more, employees are expecting snacks in the office. (I blame the millennials!) You can help everyone out by offering snacks that give your team energy without the sugar crash. No more digging into the receptionist’s candy bowl — make it a fruit bowl. Healthy food improves concentration, provides lasting energy, helps with digestion, and overall increases happiness levels. For snacks consider having avocados, blueberries, nuts, and other fruits to munch on.

9. Ongoing Training and Mentorship

mentor

Once onboarding is complete, that shouldn’t mark the end of learning. Employees who are consistently challenged are more engaged! Communicate with employees and find out who their mentors are. Make an effort to connect young employees with other mentors you know of to help them grow. This will help build solid work experience, and offer your employees a way to grow their skills, their network, and their careers.

10. Bring in Motivational Speakers

Tony Robbins

This idea may be skipped over more than it should be. Having a good motivational speaker can do wonders. Think about your favorite pep talk or an inspiring speech from your favorite movie. Goosebumps, right? You’d watch it on YouTube the night before your 5,000 word essay you haven’t started and bang it out. Now, imagine hearing one for real. It may sound cheesy, but motivational speakers can be genuinely inspiring, and a good story can reignite some fading embers and inspire your employees to reach farther and work harder.

11. Sip’n’paint Night Vs Hackathon (Creatives vs Brainiacs)

hackathon

Know what employees appreciate? Choices. Have activities geared more toward right-brained individuals, and activities geared more toward left-brained individuals. Then, encourage full participation at both! Each event will have different stars of the show, and give others the opportunity to try something new. Add in a little wine, and those not holding a paintbrush or clicking away can mingle and chat with others.

12. Create a Comfortable Work Space

workplace

Think about it. When your back hurts, when the sun is too bright, when the coffee machine is broken — are you really thinking about work? Make sure your employees have all the supplies they need to feel comfortable and focus for longer periods of time. Keep snacks stocked, the AC at a reasonable level, and be willing to invest in good chairs and more. Making the office feel like the home office will increase productivity and satisfaction. If you could use a time tracker to see how many hours your team spends in the office, you would agree: It’s time for better chairs.

13. SWAG

Swag

Everyone has seen the company backpacks, fleeces, and water bottles. They’re useful, memorable, and pretty cool! It’s a great way to get the word out when others see them and ask about the company, and employees can feel company pride using them. Some kind of onboarding goodie bag is a treat, and having smaller knick knacks to give away such as bottle openers and stickers are also fun for employees. Never underestimate the value of SWAG, it really is something that employees talk about and want to have.

14. Performance-based Promotions

promotion

Retention, you say? Millennials are notorious for job hopping, staying at the same company between 18 months and 3 years. Giving promotions based on performance rather than tenure can motivate employees to stick around longer if they continue to advance. Emphasizing performance will encourage more consistent communication between leaders and employees, build trust, and strengthen mutual respect. These take time and dedication to achieve, something an engaged employee won’t want to lose so soon.

15. Freedom in the Office

Working outside

In 1981, Adam Osborne invented the very first laptop, “Osborne 1”. With all the major technological advancements made to computers since, laptops are more portable and cheaper than ever before, and there should be no excuse as to why any employee shouldn’t have access to one. Being constrained to a desk for several consecutive hours has been shown to cause back pain, migraines, and dangerous blood clots. Instead, have employees freely move to rooms they can concentrate better in, stretch their legs throughout the day, and reap the benefits of a more productive, happy employee.

Investing in your employees’ happiness and education is the key to fostering employee engagement, and will ultimately benefit the both of you in the long term.

employee happiness
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90% Trade business owners make the mistake of waiting for the “weather to warm” to begin driving for leads and estimates

90% Trade business owners make the mistake of waiting for the “weather to warm” to begin driving for leads and estimates

Guest Post by: Jeff Consul, Institute Of Innovation

This puts you into the position of a high stress April and May where everything needs to happen at once; staff training, marketing, estimating, and production. This is the worst way to try and launch a profitable year.
Instead here are the things you should be doing & thinking right now:

1. Start Marketing Now. Reboot the online ads. Pull out the signs. Hire cold callers, start flyering — begin canvasing your neighbourhoods early. Remember the first to door advantage and that people need to see your brand 3–7 times before they purchase.

2. Remember that 33% of marketing is retaining market share, 33% is getting new clients and 33% is to intimidate your competition, and always keep ’em sweating 😉

3. The big ‘secret’ that that big business’s understand is that homeowners and clients will in fact happily book months and months in advance. This allows for them to budget for a project and put money away (that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford!) as well as allowing them to arrange their summer plans (To be gone on holiday while a reno is going on) Earlier is always better — it allows for follow ups.

4. Connect with all of last years previous customers. Thank them for their business and if they have a corner lot — request to put up your business sign in their front yards for 2–3 weeks while you market. This create momentum for your marketers.

5. You WILL face this objection — ’But its too early!’ — The best way to handle this is, ’Actually we do the majority of our estimates while we are slow because it allows us to price things out exactly how you want it, and then gives us a timeline to plan accordingly. It also gives you the time to select colours/finishes/styles. (And we’re very busy during the summer)’
If you start marketing now you can have 50–60% of your projects booked before May 1st. Imagine how easy hiring staff would be after that.
Hope this helps!

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The Art of the Ask

The Art of the Ask

Have you ever someone say, “Well, you should have asked.” The lesson learned that those who don’t ask, don’t get. This article will tell you about top reservations why people don’t ask for things, what business opportunities can be missed, and how to structure the Art of the Ask!

The art of asking questions

The art of asking questions

The Art of the Ask could be anything such as inquiring questions to which you don’t know the answers, sharing where your company is really at and what you are looking for, asking for help, etc..The ask isn’t always a favour but it can make people feel that way.

For startups that means there are many missed opportunities over their journey because they didn’t ask; they know they could have asked; ultimately, they didn’t get the opportunity. Sometimes, these missed opportunities mean they missed meeting an investor, meeting a potential customer or learning about a new resource that would make their business more productive.

When you are running a lean startup, your main advantage is speed. Startups are all about catching opportunities at an accelerated speed! As they grow, new opportunities arise every day and it is either a gain or lost.

So then why are people so afraid of asking for things? Here are some top reasons why people don’t ask and how to master those reservations.

1. Fear of bothering or annoying others

As people, we want to be liked. So it is natural to not want to bother others. This is also a fear that the other person will say no. A simple and collaborative way to ask for help with something is to prepare to offer something in return. When we offer our expertise, services, etc., we get the opportunity to meet the needs of others. In turn, it helps limit the fear of bothering or annoying others.

For example, when our company was going through UX testing, I wanted to find a way to repay a user for going out of his way to meet us and give feedback. I found out that he was hosting an event so I knew how I could help. I lead a group of entrepreneurs within the Internations.org organization and I could help him promote his event in our community. So my promotion efforts filled up his remaining seats at his event.

2. Fear of showing your vulnerability

Sometimes an ask is indirect such as a description of how the business is going and what you need. When you express your need, you may be surprised how often others try to help. Because our clientele are startups, whenever I ask someone how business is going, the first automatic answer is “things are going really well.” This is because we are so used to saying it and so used to feeling the need to protect our “baby” (which in this case is the business). People tend to not let others in because they are afraid of any potential criticism. An easy way to perform the “tell others what your need is” would be to structure your sentence this way, “Things are going well. We just hired a new developer and we are just starting to look for funding.” It gives a realistic sense of how things are going and gives a peek about what you might need. When performing this one, just remember to keep an open mind. Don’t expect that others will suddenly know an investor to refer you to. However, when you keep an open mind, you may find opportunity in the unlikeliest of places.

Don’t be afraid to share things that you need. It takes a lot of strength to own your vulnerabilities. You would be surprised about the opportunities it open up when you share your truth. Like a child, it takes a village to build a company and startups need to grow as fast as they can. Unforeseen opportunities from unexpected sources can help you alleviate some of those “growing pains.”

3. “Oblivion is Bliss”

Oblivion

Oblivion

When we don’t ask for help or insights from others, we will be sure to stay on the same path. At the time same, we will also be sure to protect our egos. When people start companies, the market does not care about your ego; therefore, living in blissful oblivion will not help your startup in the long run. Startups need to ask, learn, and reiterate. It all starts with the ask.

When we were doing our market research when we first started, I met an entrepreneur who told me that his biggest fear was to be copied by competitors. He didn’t show me his product. It was ok. He told me that he was so afraid of being copied that he spent 3 years building it and never talked to a single potential customer. He did not want feedback and did not welcome it. It was very surprising to me that even though there were best practices on how to do product market fit and why market research was important, there are many startups who choose to build businesses their way.

Ultimately, there are always going to be new reservations about why first time entrepreneurs will not ask for things such as help, insights, and perspectives. When you do, you get the chance to uncover the possibility of the good, the bad, and the ugly from others. But here is the key thing, at least you get to uncover A POSSIBILITY that wasn’t there before! I want to leave you with a quote from my grandfather who said, “Those who ask the most questions, get the most answers.”

Asking Questions

Asking Questions

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