If I build it they will come.
This is the title of the first chapter in my book, “Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.” The chapter basically deals with the idea that if you aren’t sitting around waiting for the latest “thing” (fashion, technology, gismo, app etc) to walk through your door and land in your lap, then chances are about 100% that no one else is either.
Here’s a variation on this theme that’s dedicated to fundraising and a key aspect to fundraising that a lot of entrepreneurs and startup businesses fail to recognize. Or if they recognize it, the concept is so foreign to them that they can’t even get their minds around it. And that’s the issue of scaling. When you build your business and business plan, if you are planning to raise money, then building it is not enough. The money won’t come. Why not? Because most startups and entrepreneurs don’t recognize the value of scaling their company – the value to them but more importantly the value to the investor.
Often the first question an investor will ask is ‘how fast can I get a return on my investment?’ And they don’t mean dollar-for-dollar. They mean $10 for every dollar they invest. If you don’t show them plans to scale the company, then you can’t answer that question. If you can’t give a map (or better yet a spread sheet showing the exact details like timeframe, expenses, projections to profitability, personnel and equipment being brought on), then you’re probably in a lot of trouble. If I’m investing in your company, why would I want to give you money unless I’m going to see the company grow (“scale”) and give me multiple times back my investment? If you’re a one or two person shop determined to keep it that way, then that just isn’t going to happen. Those kind of companies are called “lifestyle” companies, where the entrepreneur is making a success just for themselves. Big difference (see http://thinktraffic.net/startup-vs-lifestyle-business) . You may get investors, but it’s that much more difficult. In this case you are more likely going to be eligible for a bank loan than investment.
Some issues around scaling, such as when is the right time to scale and do you scale out or deep are discussed by Geri Stengel in her Ventureneer blog (http://ventureneer.com/vblog/business-plan-nonprofit-growth-planning-scale). Don’t let the fact that Geri deals with non-profits scare you off – these tips work for profit companies as well. Other tips can be found on CNN’s blog “Pop Quiz: Is Your Business Scalable?” (http://www.inc.com/karl-and-bill/pop-quiz-is-your-business-scalable.html) .
Important tip to remember: “If I scale it, they WILL come.”