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FAILURE TO FUND? ALTERNATIVE FINANCING

Whether you’re looking to set up your own business, or expand an existing one, an injection of cash can make all the difference. We look at some alternative ways of raising funds for your business.

 

Until recently if you were looking for cash to expand your business the two main options available to you were private investment or a grant from Enterprise Ireland. But finding the right investor for your business can be tricky, and not every product or service fits the criteria for Enterprise Ireland. Still – there are other options available to you other than a humiliating turn on Dragon’s Den.

 

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding, also known as crowdsourcing, entails using the internet to build up capital for your project. You pitch your project on a dedicated website, and people who believe your idea has potential can invest a variable sum. A big plus to the process is that it allows you to connect with people who you may not have encountered in the natural run of things, such as investors from abroad. This can be particularly useful if you are planning on targeting customers outside of Ireland. It can also be easier in some instances to get a large number of small investors, as opposed to one or more larger backers.

Ireland already has a number of indigenous crowdfunding companies, and global leader Kickstarter’s planned entry into the Irish market means it’s set to get more popular. There are downsides to it – if you don’t reach your set target, you don’t get any of the money pledged to your project, and successfully marketing yourself to meet your target can be time consuming for a fledgling business, particularly for entrepreneurs or businesses with a small number of employees.

The type of product or service that you have will have an impact on how successful a crowdfunding campaign can be. Novel and innovative ideas tend to get the best response.

 

Friends & Family

Borrowing money from friends and family is common when starting out, but the maxim about not mixing business and family didn’t come from nowhere.

With all business endeavours there is an element of risk, and it’s important that your close ones realise this. Make it clear from the start whether they are giving you a loan or if they are investing in your company. It’s an important distinction; the former means you will have a sum to repay, the latter means they can expect – or hope – for some return on their investment. Bear in mind that, like any investor, they may look for influence in how your business is run, which may or may not be helpful. Don’t rule out the idea of a legal agreement just because you’re dealing with someone you trust – it’s best to have these things hammered out at the beginning to avoid misunderstandings.

If none of the above funding options are applicable to you, then don’t rule out bootstrapping. Coming from the phrase to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, it is entrepreneurship at its grittiest, using personal income, savings and the lowest possible operating costs to get off the ground. Easier said than done, true, but many of the world’s biggest corporations – such as Apple, Coca-Cola, and Dell – began from these humble origins.

 

Eamonn Garvey

Partner, DCA Accountants and Business Advisors

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IS AN INVESTOR RIGHT FOR YOU?

Having gone to the trouble of finding an investor, you may not want to question your luck. But understanding an investor’s suitability is vital.

Most people don’t like to look gift horses in the mouth. And, having gone through the long process of finding an investor to take your business to the next level, someone offering vital capital seems like quite the horse. However, not all investors are created equal, and tying yourself legally to a bad partner can be a fatal mistake. You need to ask yourself a few questions, therefore, to determine whether an investor is right for you.

 

Can my investor deliver?

It’s bizarre to think that somebody would commit themselves to investing funds that they do not have. Unfortunately, strange things happen in businesses, and we have seen cases where companies have been left waiting for a cheque that never comes. Do your homework on an investor’s past career and investment history to see whether there are any red flags. A prospective investor may be willing to talk about their past enterprises, and accounts filed with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) will let you check them out.

 

Does my investor have realistic expectations?

You’re obviously optimistic about your company’s future, and your prospective investor presumably shares that view. It’s important to make sure, however, that his or her optimism is grounded in reality. Your investor’s expectations in terms of growth and profitability need to be in line with your own – otherwise, you risk being tied to a partner who feels let down, maybe even cheated. In this situation, an investor can become obstructive, and create a pretty toxic working environment.

 

Does my investor’s vision match my own?

People invest in businesses for all sorts of reasons. Some buy in to the strategy of a company, while others see more value in radically realigning the business. Assuming you believe in your business plan, you want to attract the former and be wary of the latter. If an investor is taking a stake in your company where they can dictate or at least influence its direction, you both need to be broadly in agreement about your core business for the foreseeable future, what markets you will target, and products or services you will bring to those markets. Otherwise, you’re signing up to endless disagreements over strategy.

 

Can my investor add value?

An investor doesn’t need to be an expert in the field to help a business. He or she can have contacts in your targeted market, could offer insight to improve your business internally, or even have an idea for a related product or service that you can offer. Offering this added value isn’t essential for an investor – most entrepreneurs are happy for someone to offer capital and take a hands-off approach. However, you should think about areas of your company that an investor’s skills, contacts or knowledge can improve.

 

The right investor isn’t just someone willing to stump up cash – it’s somebody with the capital to actually meet their commitments, a realistic expectation regarding their return, and a shared vision for the business. If they can also use their talents to boost your company beyond the bottom line, then you’ve got a winning formula for a long-term partnership. At DCA, we assist many companies going through the process of finding an investor and sealing a deal – our experience has helped numerous businesspeople in entering appropriate partnerships, and avoiding bad ones. Just contact us if you would like to set up an initial, no-obligation meeting.

 

Eamonn Garvey

Partner

DCA Accountants and Business Advisors

EXCELLENCE IN EXHIBITIONS

Participating in trade fairs and expos takes investment – a structured approach is the best way to maximise your return.

If you’re looking to make a big impression in the market quickly, a trade fair or expo is an attractive idea – rather than setting up many disparate meetings, these events offer you the chance to meet many potential customers. However, participating as an exhibitor takes quite a bit of investment, and even attending uses up valuable resources if the event is overseas. So how do you make the most of participation?

 

The Right Event

It might seem obvious, but picking the right event is half the battle. Event organisers can dazzle you with statistics about the number of companies attending or showcasing their products, but remember the maxim of quality over quantity. You’re far better off meeting a few strong potential customers then twenty random firms with no interest in your product or service. Before committing, seek a detailed breakdown of the companies that either attended past events, or are expected. Failing that, tap your contacts for information on how the event is perceived in the industry – particularly if it’s an overseas event that you’re not familiar with.

 

Plan Your Presence

The event hall will be a competitive space with many companies vying for attention – whether you’re an exhibitor or visitor, you need to communicate your unique selling points in a direct, impactful way. If you’re exhibiting, your unique selling points in a market should inform everything from stand design to the products that you showcase. As a visitor, you need to prepare your 30-second pitch, and also think up responses to the questions that you’re most likely to face.

 

Come Armed

Don’t arrive at an event with nothing to show people. Even attendees travelling internationally should bring a good supply of marketing materials, and business cards are still essential. Exhibitors, meanwhile, should have plenty to show. If you have a small budget and a small space at the event, just make sure that you fill it with things that communicate your company’s values – and value.

 

Listen

When you’re in a sales mindset, it’s easy to just talk about what you can offer. However listening carefully and showing interest is often the most positive message you can send about your company. It shows that you’re interested in the issues faced by potential clients or partners, while you’ll glean a lot of information that could prove useful in time. Also, remember that the people you speak with are also here to sell and make contacts beside yourself: it’s inconsiderate to monopolise them. If a conversation throws up a potential opportunity or longer sales pitch, agree to discuss it in detail at a less pressurised time, either at meal times around the event, or at a meeting later on.

 

Follow Up

When you get back, you’ll be tired and you’ll find a full workload on your desk. But don’t put off the essential follow-ups. Even if you see no basis for a sale or collaboration with people, a LinkedIn message or email thanking them for their time, wishing them well and showing that you remember them will create a positive impression. If, like many people, you struggle to recall faces and names after an event, you can take notes on the back of business cards that you collect – which will let you follow-up in a relevant way.

 

Eamonn Garvey

Partner,

DCA Accountants and Business Advisors

 

For more on our services or to receive a free consultation for your business from one of our experts, visit www.dca-ireland.ie or follow us on Twitter.

A NEW LAND OF OPPORTUNITY?

A change of regulations by the Department of Justice presents a major opportunity for investors and Irish business.

 

For a number of years, Ireland has offered an attractive package to potential investors in the country. While the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) soaks up much of the public attention for this work, the Department of Justice has also sough to offer attractive residency terms for those willing to invest. A forthcoming change to the law on Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) looks set to raise the bar even further.

REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) are useful vehicles for buying exposure to commercial property, and listed on the stock exchange. Since they were introduced to law earlier this year, two such vehicles have already listed – Green REIT and Hibernia REIT, which raised €365m in its flotation this week.

 

Residency Benefits

Why is this of relevance? Well, the Department of Justice is expected to announce shortly that REITs are an acceptable investment vehicle for non-EU nationals who are seeking residence in the country.

While an official announcement has yet to me made, the scheme is expected to offer a stamp 4 residence permit for an investor, his or her partner, and all children under the age of 18 for a non-EU national who invests at least €500,000 in REIT shares. After hanging on to the shares for five years, they will be in a position to apply for Irish citizenship.

 

Useful Terms

Under the highly-anticipated regulations, successful applicants only need to travel to Ireland once a year rather than maintaining permanent residence. This is a key difference from most other EU countries, which only allow extension of residency permits for people who continually reside in the jurisdiction.

All this puts an amply-sized ‘open for business’ sign on the Irish commercial property market. Investors who commit for five years, at a time when prices are  still relatively low but recovering, will be able to continue living in their home countries and claim an Irish passport for themselves and their family in due course. Moreover, the managed nature of an REIT allows investors to benefit without having the hands-on involvement of a direct property purchase.

 

A Significant Impact

As you can imagine, the proposed change is going to be of serious interest for international investors, and far-thinking players in the domestic market. If this proposed policy goes ahead, and has its intended effects, the impact on Ireland’s commercial property sector – and commercial rents – will be significant. For this reason, it’s important that any businessperson (not just those potentially investing in Irish property) pay close attention to the new rules concerning REITs when they emerge.

At DCA Accountants and Business Advisors, we assist many businesspeople and investors in dealing with the impact and seizing the opportunities created by changing Government legislation. If you would like our advice on this or any other regulator change, simply contact us to set up an initial, no-obligation meeting.