Chapter 1: How to bring Business to next level
Business – Smart Money Leverage and Creating Successful People
Do you still remember the day you tapped into the idea of starting a business? Your gut feeling told you that you are able to do a better job than your boss and the opportunity was there, call on you to get started.
Do you still remember the day you managed to earn so much commission, more than what you have ever imagined? You could actually own your business rather than working for someone – it is not only highly profitable but also easy to execute.
Do you ever dream of being a millionaire and have all the free time for yourself to enjoy life with your friends and family? Yes, all of us do have dreams. Dreams to be powerful and rich with freedom, and a happy family institution established.
In the world we currently live in, there are only three possible routes that lead you to being rich. Joining an employment may not let you generate millions, however there is still an exception for certain multinational companies that you would need to climb the corporate ladder. So, what are the three possible routes for you? The first option, to be a famous singer or artist in the entertainment industry; or secondly, to be a champion in the sports industry. However, they may be unrealistic when viewing from several perspectives, and this leads us to the third and indeed most realistic option – that is for you to become an entrepreneur.
As we embark on our journey as an entrepreneur, we would have people calling us “BOSS” and this is where we begin to get one step closer to our dreams. Being a boss, we would end up learning everything on how a business runs, from sales to marketing, operations, human resources, finance, accounts, and also administration. You enjoy being a boss because a boss’ major task is to solve problems related to the business and as well as your customers. You have the skills to solve problems, you are trusted by customers, and as a result, your business is excellent.
However, after solving business problems for years, why does your revenue and profit remain stagnant at one point? You are not able to leverage other people’s money to invest more into inventories and equipment for the purpose of your business.
After establishing your business startup, why does your employee resign to work in the same industries as you? Perhaps, the worst scenario where they become your competitor? You paid them well, they knew your trade secret but at the end of the day, you were still struggling to make them your business partner. What had possibly gone wrong?
Let’s talk about David, the new rich who works for only four hours a week. David is good with people and he manages his money smart. As you are good with people and are able to make a lot of money, time would be the only factor in your business. So, how could you make money fast enough so that you could achieve your dreams to retire early like David?
Since David is so good with people, everyone is willing to work for him as he treats everyone like family. He knows how to pay right and everyone feels it is fair. He started his business with his parents’ money, and consequently resorted to other people to build a few more start-ups. In addition to that, he borrowed from banks for a line of credit facility. David sold some of his businesses to those who specialised in mergers and acquisitions, and unfortunately, was also forced to close down some of the businesses that were making losses.
Regardless of the troubles he has faced, David has successfully listed a company and is now a business angel who invests in start-ups, properties, and stock markets. David still works four hours a week even though he is no longer the major shareholder of the listed company, and at the same time, he loves leisure travelling and hunting for scrumptious food all around the world. He is always working on the business, not in the business because David knows, a business has its stages and at each level, the money and mindset of people are different. He stated that the most crucial thing in business is to hire the best CFO to regularly update and advise you on your progress. This is all a CEO needs before proceeding to make executive and strategic decisions.
But what actually is business? Your aim in a business is to generate profits in exchange for providing products and services, which acts as a solution to another person’s problem. Generally, business is all about making money and growing people after solving problems for the market.
Business starts from you, or your key partners. With different challenges being faced in every level, a business can be thoroughly defined through the following stages:
- Level 1 Business stage = Seed; People stage = Physiological Survival (Me)
The seed stage of your business lifecycle is when your business is just a thought or an idea.
Money Sources: Early in the business life cycle, with no proven market or customers, the business will highly rely on cash from owners, friends, and family. Other potential sources include suppliers, customers, seed angels, and government grants.
- Level 2 Business stage = Startup; People stage = Clan’s Well-being & Safety (We)
Your business now exists in legal terms. Products or services are in production, and you have your first customers.
Money Sources: Owner, friends, family, suppliers, customers, angels, and grants.
- Level 3 Business stage = Growth; People stage = Raw dominance & Control (Me)
Revenues and customers are increasing with many new opportunities and issues. Profits are strong, but the competition is surfacing.
Money Sources: Banks, profits, partnerships, grants, and leasing options.
- Level 4 Business stage = Establish; People stage = Meaning & Purpose (We)
Your business has now matured into a thriving company with a place in the market and loyal customers. Sales growth is not explosive but manageable. Business life has become more routine.
Money Sources: Profits, banks, investors, and government.
- Level 5 Business stage = Expansion; People stage = Autonomy & Achievements (Me)
This life cycle stage is characterised by a new period of growth into new markets and distribution channels. This stage is often the choice of the SME owner to gain a larger market share and find new revenue and profit channels.
Money Sources: Joint ventures, banks, licensing, new investors, and partners.
- Level 6 Business stage = Decline; People stage = Equality & Community (We)
Changes in the economy, society, or market conditions can decrease sales and profits. It may quickly end many small companies.
Money Sources: Suppliers, customers, and owners.
- Level 7 Business stage = Exit; People stage = Knowledge of Natural Flows (Me)
It is a big opportunity for your business to cash out on all the effort and years of hard work. Or it can mean shutting down the business, or being acquired by other company
Money Sources: Venture capitals and private equity
- Level 8 Business stage = Mature; People stage = Harmony with Living Systems (We)
This stage is a whole new level, whereby you may have successfully listed a company or joined a parent company in everything they do to system and structure.
Money Sources: Equity funds from Stock Market, merchant banks, private debts security, including bonds, notes, loan stocks and commercial papers, whether convertible or redeemable or otherwise.
Could you identify which level are you? Do you know the challenges to move to each level?
Your business would go through various stages of development, facing different challenges throughout its life cycle. What you focus on today may not be of importance tomorrow as your challenges will change from time to time and require different approaches to be successful. You need to anticipate the upcoming challenges and source finances effectively to be able to succeed at each stage of the business life cycle. So, how do you tackle these challenges to ensure you are on the right track of your business?
Challenge: Most seed-stage companies will have to overcome the challenge of market acceptance and pursue one niche opportunity. Do not spread money and time resources too thin.
Focus: At this stage of the business, the focus is on matching the business opportunity with your skills, experience, and passion. Other focal points include deciding on a business ownership structure, finding professional advisors, and business planning.
Challenge: If your business is in the startup life cycle stage, it is likely you may overestimate money needs and time to market. The main challenge is not to burn through the little cash you have. You need to learn what profitable needs your clients have and do a reality check to see if your business is on the right track.
Focus: Startups require establishing a customer base and market presence along with tracking and conserving cash flow.
Challenge: The biggest challenge growing companies face is dealing with the constant range of issues bidding for more time and money. Effective management is required, as well as a possible new business plan. Learn how to train and delegate to conquer this stage of development.
Focus: Businesses in the growth life cycle are focused on running the business in a more formal fashion to deal with increased sales and customers. Better accounting and management systems will have to be set up. New employees will have to be hired to deal with the influx of business.
Challenge: It is far too easy to rest on your laurels during this life stage; the marketplace is relentless and competitive. Stay focused on the bigger picture. Issues like the economy, competitors, or changing customer tastes are able to put an end all you have worked for in a blink of an eye.
Focus: An established life cycle company will be focused on improvement and productivity. To compete in an established market, you will require better business practices along with automation and outsourcing to improve productivity.
Challenge: Moving into new markets requires planning and research. Your focus should be on businesses that complement your existing experience and capabilities. Moving into unrelated areas can be disastrous.
Focus: Add new products or services to existing markets or expand the existing business into new markets and customer types.
Challenge: Businesses in the decline stage of the life cycle will be challenged by dropping sales, profits, and negative cash flows. The biggest issue will be determining how long the business can support negative cash flows. Consider if it may be time to move on to the final life cycle stage — exit.
Focus: Search for new opportunities and business ventures. Cutting costs and finding ways to sustain cash flow is vital for the declining stage.
Challenge: Selling a business requires a realistic valuation. It may have been years of hard work to build the company, but think about the real value in the current marketplace. If you decide to close your business, the challenge is to deal with the financial and psychological aspects of a business loss.
Focus: Get a proper valuation of your company. Look at your business operations, management, and competitive barriers to make the company worth more to the buyer. Set up legal buy-sell agreements along with a business transition plan.
Challenge: The life after a company is being listed on the stock market, you’re no longer a SME, and you have a bunch of stakeholders under your responsibility. The challenges you face include culture, communication, management systems, etc., that spread wide across various countries or regions. With the dramatic changes of global trade, regulation and financial environment, as well as increased experience and enhanced capabilities of listed companies, the outbound mergers and acquisitions (M&A) practices evolve and the challenges are shifted.
Focus: Target search and screening of small and medium-sized, mature or fast-growing companies that are preferred as your strategic partner of M&A. Corporate governance is undoubtedly the focus of after company being listed or integrated with the parent company of a listed stock market.
[WHAT IF 1.1]
In essence, each stage of the business life cycle may not occur in chronological order. Some businesses will be “built to flip,” quickly going from startup to exit. Others will choose to avoid expansion and stay in the established stage, just like David who has never liked Level 8 – he is the new rich that enjoys his success at Level 6.
Whether your business is a glowing success or a dismal failure depends on your ability to adapt to its changing life cycles. What you focus on and overcome today will change in the future. Thus, understanding where your business fits in the life cycle will help you foresee upcoming challenges and help you in making the best business decisions.
Section 1.2: Who is Successful People
[WHY 1.2 you need people to succeed in business]
Do you remember the day you managed to earn so much commission, you could actually start your own business? You stated your purpose and the absolute support from suppliers, friends, and family members turned out unexpectedly positive! Being in the business industry is good for you, as are able to train various salesmen to sell word-for-word, like you. With a clear marketing strategy, it is not impossible for you to finally witness your business boom.
But there is a catch! Yes, you pay the best in the industry, but you wonder why some people still leave? Worst case scenario is that old and underperformed staff trying their very best to remain in the company and there is nothing you could do about it.
Eric, being a top salesman in his company for years, saw potential in his market and believed that the company’s product could generate a high fortune for him and his friends. Therefore, he initiated sourcing and eventually started up his own company with friends. With the support from his existing customers and the trust from suppliers, Eric’s business exploded to the point where he had insufficient time to handle it and the profit was excellent. Over the years, he even achieved creating his own line of products. As his business was good, Eric could afford luxury cars and landed houses, and even invested in condominiums and shophouses.
One fine day, Eric’s friend, a business partner who took care of the company’s operations, went into major dispute with him that both parties could not see eye-to-eye, where they finally decided to go separate ways. Eric’s company market shares were broken to half and he had to rebuild his team. He was no longer able to hire a salesman that was as good as his partner, which in result, he had to execute all the work by himself. He was also concerned of possibilities that his new staff would steal his customers and become his rival in the future.
Despite Eric being good with customers and his authorised dealership, Eric could not manage and trust his own employees regardless in the departments of finance, human resources, or sales. Sales staff would normally work less than a year and he would have the difficulties to re-hire and retrain new staff. In addition to this hurdle, after his friend left him, his finance department was taken care by a new inexperienced staff, who did not know which reports to request for nor what do the figures imply – all he knew were only cash collection and sales. His company’s account was in a major mess, he was having troubles trying to achieve tax savings, and he had to bring in a CFO to sort things out
[WHAT 1.2: Success People]
So, what are the key PEOPLE you need for your business to bring it to the next level?
Persistent in learning: You and your people must have the ability to learn new things and take feedback positively from one another, as well as from others.
Excellent attitude: Having the right skill but lacking the will to use them is not going to solve business challenges and achieve success.
Organisational value: Important for your people to uphold your organisation’s standard of behaviours, and what are acceptable business practices. From a customer’s viewpoint, good values are the kind of service they can expect to get when they deal with your business.
Perform when asked: You feel irritated when you ask someone to do the job but the person does not want to. People who can perform will never hurt productivity and morale, because you will interfere less with their duties.
Leader material: Everyone is a leader, because leadership is an action, not a position, it is about the action of influencing. Influence is the power to change, or the power to affect someone or something.
Exceed expectation: You and your people’s expectations to your customers are strong and believe something good will happen if you go the extra mile and put quality as your priority, with speed being second.
If you can have successful people in your business, wouldn’t that be great? If you are unable to achieve that, then you should create your own people to be successful. What makes people successful in your business? Creating profit and capturing more market shares, and most importantly, to take care of your business when you are not around – freeing up your time and causing lesser headaches for you. Sounds good, right?
Your business level dictates the people’s mindset, therefore it is a good idea to share the value and belief systems. In this way, you could understand yourself and your people better, and what motivates them to determine what needs to be done.
1. Level 1 Business stage = Seed; People stage = Physiological survival (Me)
It is all about “me” at this stage, a life just as much as other animals, but better. You could use deep brain programs and senses. Be distinct to yourself, determine what is most important to you now? Be awakened as a minimalist, and be more less impactful to the business environment
Good idea: “…because I know what I need and my focus is survival”
2. Level 2 Business stage = Startup; People stage = Clan’s Well-being & Safety (We)
It is about “we” as a bond together to endure and guard against business threats. Your clan obeys the mystical spirit being and shows allegiance to elders and customs.
Good idea: “…because OUR honored chieftain says it is so”
3. Level 3 Business stage = Growth; People stage = Raw Dominance & Control (Me)
Everyone will fight to survive in spite of others. Feel no guilt about market competition and be shameless to fight for what is right, even fight to gain control at any cost.
Good idea “…because it suits ME right here, right now”
4. Level 4 Business stage = Establish; People stage = Meaning & Purpose (We)
What is bigger than me, is a guide of singular force bigger than you. Sacrifice oneself for the purpose of business reality, a principle of rightful contribution. This stage brings order, stability, and future rewards.
Good idea “…because it conforms to the rule of Law”
5. Level 5 Business stage = Expansion; People stage = Autonomy & Achievements (Me)
Full of opportunities for you to take control of, and usage of technology could enhance business. If nothing is broken, then break it and make it even better. Progress your people through the best solutions, play to win, and enjoy the competition.
Good idea “…because it serves MY plans and objectives”
6. Level 6 Business stage = Decline; People stage = Equality & Community (We)
It is about us, to promote a sense of community and unity, and share society resources among the industries. It is a natural habitat of all humanity, who refresh spiritually and bring harmony.
Good idea “…because WE have reached consensus on it”
7. Level 7 Business stage = Exit; People stage = Knowledge of Natural Flows (Me)
This stage swings back into a “doing” thing, the action again. Place your focus on functionality and competencies. Your self-interest is important but it will be done without causing any harm to others.
Good idea “…because it is the most functional approach”
8. Level 8 Business stage = Mature; People stage = Harmony with Living Systems (We)
We tend to do more with less, honor and respect all different levels of human beings. Your business becomes a single living interdependent entity.
Good idea “…because the living system ultimately benefits”
In reality, not every boss strives to achieve Level 8, as some are good with Level 3 and will maintain themselves at such. Sometimes, it suits them better, and they can opt to sell off their companies when time is right. It is possible to succeed without achieving a high level. Some founders even hand over their management at Level 2 and move on to start a new company in different industries. As for Eric’s case, his CFO told him that he was in the loop of Level 4 and Level 5, whereby it would be hard for him to move up as he was with the wrong people and it costs him more time to rebuild, rather than money.
Section 1.3: What is SMART Money
You struggle to find funding because you focus too much on getting the money under specific terms and not paying enough attention to who is providing the funds. As not all banks are providing the same offer, you could resort to investors’ money as it is the best way to improve your probability to success.
If you have started a business or find yourself stuck in any of the business stages, here is an alarming statistic for you: up to 85% of businesses fail because they run out of cash. Hence, if you want to be part of the 15% that succeeds, you will need to see yourself on how to be smart about how you handle money. That means money cannot solely be generated from organic profit and you have to raise money from “smart money investors”.
Allen was a smart professional architect who worked for his boss for several years. Client would compliment him for being good at what he was doing. One day, an opportunity came and he decided to take the project for himself. He thought he could execute a better job than his boss and thus, he became his own boss. His journey as an entrepreneur was great for all the money he has made and freedom that he ever wished for.
After a year of learning, he needed to hire people for some of his work, so that he could have time to meet new clients and record expenses to track the profit of each project. He would draw money from the business whenever he needed to, and in result, his company’s bank account sometimes would either have too much money or lack of funds. The accountant he hired had trouble recording his personal money and business funds. To make things worse, Allen was unable to provide an answer for all the ambiguous transactions during the income tax department’s visit. As an impact from that, a penalty equivalent to the cost of a sedan car that he could have bought for his family was imposed onto him.
WHAT IS SMART MONEY?
What exactly is ‘smart money’ to you? It would mean other people’s money (OPM); but a better way to emphasise it, is that money is not lazy. Investors would hate the fact if their money just remains there with nothing being done and results in low returns. OPM generally means money not belonging to you, it could be from the bank, investors or any other people – but smart money tends to be more specific.
In the venture capital world, smart money is an investment term that includes the money that people invest in a business, plus the time, advice and know-how which they put into the company. It is called ‘smart’ because the business receives not only the investors’ funds, but also their wisdom.
By understanding smart money deep enough, you would be able to attract them easily, because you are at the opposite side of the equation. Just have this simple term in mind: SMART = Investors SPOT the MARKET with the ADVICE of knowing your RISK and what the TIMELINE to take.
S = Spot
In the venture capital terminology, when just money is invested without the investors putting in any of their know-how or time, it is called ‘dumb money’. In the betting world, smart money refers to gamblers who know what they are doing and manage to earn a living on their bets. Investors usually identify the trend from others.
M = Market
Smart money is invested by those with a fuller understanding of the market or with information that a regular investor cannot access. As such, smart money is considered to have a much better chance of success when the trading patterns of institutional investors diverge from retail investors.
A = Advice
Smart money investors bring cash to the deal after obtaining advice from experts. But they bring much more than just money to your business. Smart money investors also bring knowledge and relationships that can accelerate the growth of your business and give you a competitive advantage. They are familiar with your customer’s wants and needs, potential sales objections, and market potential. They have a good sense of the best potential channel partners, industry analysts, and probably have insights affecting customer demand that you do not have.
R = Risk
Prior to investment, smart investors would want some reasonable control over their money that exposes them to risks. Most common methods include due diligence study, annual review report, and the appointment of fund managers.
T = Timeline
Return of smart money is expected, maybe within two to seven years, depending on the terms agreed and needs of the business. In the world of capitalism, the funds of smart investors are anytime more abundant than any businesses that need it. Smart money is categorised according to the timeline of each batch that are matured and need to return as a capital gain to the investor.
How important is your business so that you could match the right investor or bank? It does not matter if you are desperate to raise money, or have no interest in taking other people’s money in the near future, it is always a good practice to have a SMART approach towards money. That is how money should appear in a successful business.
Now, determine how the SMART investor matches their SMART investee accordingly:
S = Scalability
Investors invest in a business that could scale from one location to a multiple market segment, with bilities for regional expansion being much preferred. A scalable business is more attractive than profitable business, because the chances of bringing value is much higher than others.
M = Mission
It is very important for you to have a purpose and meaning in the business. A mission-driven business is important not just to keep you motivated, but it will attract investors to join your cause as well.
A = Attainable
Your projection and business goals must be achievable and make sense to bankers and investors. Asking for too much money or too little is not what they are concerned about. They frequently make business judgements, for instance “can you make it with my money?” – they simply want you to succeed.
R = Relevance
Is your pitch of funding related to what you do? The scope of where you use the money must be related to your area of business as well. Your bookkeeper must be able to distinguish your personal money and money that is used for business. This will make it a lot easier when it comes to auditing and future funding.
T = Time bound
When requesting for money, banks will show you a schedule of repayment. If you’re dealing with smart money, investors will want you to state the date for their money returns with gains. Raising money is easy, but the toughest part is being uncertain of when. When you are in need of money, you have to start planning and sourcing at least three months for the most suitable bank; and as for investors, you need at least six months.
Overall, yes, your business is in a SMART condition, but you still struggle to find an investor. You could go to the extent of hiring the smartest consultant to design your business plan and equity offer, and yet the investors do not have a liking or interest towards you – you will still not get funded anyway. After paying heavy tax penalties, Allen had learnt things the hard way, he decided to hire a CFO to plan his money to rebuild his business . He then started a new company with two smart investors, which was more like a partnership than angel investors as Allen gave away a small portion of his equity in exchange of capital and also valuable expertise to expand his business.