At the outset of your venture – you as the
and founder – have the unique opportunity to spend money that can help keep you
out of trouble – trouble which is usually truly costly to fix (maybe even
impossible) later on.
Here's the suggestion: at the moment you begin, start by
(1) a business attorney
who is familiar with the special issues involved in
young entrepreneurial companies;
(2) an intellectual
who understands logos, copyrights,
trademark registration, and, if
relevant to your particular company,
patents as well;
(3) an accountant
who will help you find a qualified bookkeeper for the day-to-day stuff and
who will keep you straight on the big issues (financial statements, tax
filings, local fees and permits) and can assist in financing issues; and
(4) a business
(sometimes known as a Venture Consultant) to help you with converting
Strategy and then converting Strategy
Buy 1 hour of time from each advisor
and do the following:
1. Basic Facts and Info
Take 5 minutes to describe who you are and what your new company is involved in
doing. (Remember: if you spend more than 5 minutes, you will have less than 55
minutes left to hear what your professional advisor has to tell you.
2. What can you do for me?
Ask your new professional advisor to describe what he or she typically does with
young companies such as yours. Remember: the second dumbest question is the one
you leave unasked. The truly dumbest question is the one you ask but don't
remember the answer to. It's your nickel. Have fun. Hey, you're the client here.
(If your idea has flaws, here is where you find out.)
10 Success Lessons
from Mark Zuckerberg
10 Success Lessons
3. Who do you know?
Ask what other companies like yours (or situations that may be similar to
yours), your new professional advisor has worked on. What did he or she actually
do? Can you speak with one or several of those clients? (NOTE: If the answer is
"No," you may wish to find a professional advisor who is comfortable
having you speak with current and former clients.)
4. What am I
supposed to be doing?
You already have lots of ideas and tasks running around in your head. Probably
more than you can figure out how to get done. But what if they are not the right
ones? What if you have left out something? What if you could actually eliminate
one or more of these tasks and actually be better off? What if, by changing the
sequence in which you address certain issues, you would end up with an easier
process? Or a more effective result? Ask your new professional advisors. They
have experience that you don't yet have. And they have specific expertise that
is different from yours. That's why you picked them, right?!? Use them.
for Building a High-growth Business
Startup Business Plan
5. How do you want to work with me?
It is important to get solid guidance. Find out how it will be done. Even if it
is only 1 hour per quarter. Done regularly (no kidding), it is
6. What's this going to cost?
You've got to end up knowing this. You might as well find out now. (But note
that this probably isn't the most useful initial question.) And the
answer might surprise you. Pleasantly. It certainly won't be (should not
be) zero. Most professionals work with entrepreneurial companies because they
enjoy the process and truly believe in its importance. There are degrees of
pricing and billing flexibility that usually make it entirely workable. Always
pay professional advisors (A) on time (you expect their advice to be on time,
right?) and (B) with real money (not stock). If things don't work out, you want
to be able to make a change. A fired advisor who owns stock isn't pretty.
7. When should we next get together
See Question #5.
8. Fire Alarm!
Fire Alarm! Fire Alarm! Fire Alarm!
Something totally unexpected pops up. It could be either good news or a seeming
disaster. It's not yet time for the next scheduled meeting. What should you do?
You might as well discuss this possibility and agree on a procedure right
now. It costs lots less money to chat about a possible issue
today than to fix a Big Problem tomorrow. Some issues, even ones that initially
seem minor, can become life-threatening for fragile young ventures. Like yours.
Don't mess around with such risks. And don't try to "tough it out." You and your
new professional advisors ought to be able to agree on how surprises should be
handled. Advisors hate to get an entrepreneur's phone call that begins "Maybe I
should have talked to you before I did this but . . . ."
Hey, the hour's up.
Wasn't that interesting?
Feel like you've now got a better handle on what to do? Was that first hour's
worth of money well spent? If so, go use your experience with another
entrepreneur and convince him or her to "do it right." And Best Wishes for the
success of your new venture.
Venture Financing Funnel
Estee Lauder: 15 Rules for Entrepreneurial Success