Bail, Pivot, or Die

There’s a popular “entrepreneur” on this platform. One day she shared samples of her product, a service, which I found interesting and could afford. I asked her just one question and her response was dismissive…that she will share the info later on her website or something to that effect. She lost me as a potential client that day, and you can be sure if someone were ever to ask me about her (service) I won’t have anything nice to say.

But let’s talk about what is really important to many entrepreneurs. Money, whatever form it takes.

Many of our entrepreneurs avoid private capital injection/investments because they dislike being accountable to shareholders. They want your money, but that’s where it ends. You should leave them to their own devices. I still am traumatised by the lead at this my investee business who told me to stop giving her pressure because afterall it is an equity investment and “sika nö ashi.”

They also often lack the expenditure control discipline it comes with. Too many of our young entrepreneurs are simply looking for showboating opportunities. They want to dress up, travel, fine dine, and generally live it up and live like celebrities on the dime of external investors. They can do without the pressure. So they’ll rather slowly run fledgling businesses to ground than take money from private investors.

Which leaves them two other options: inappropriately using costly, short-term debt in financing long-term growth strategies, and/or, tapping into public sector financing schemes.

Here again, many do not want to even do the work that comes with raising these funds. They often fail to explain to their bankers, in clear terms, what they seek the funds for, nor are able to even work with their bankers to structure the financing appropriately. Most banks will simply slot your request into “products” they have developed, which may not be the most appropriate for your needs. When you understand your business model and your financing needs better than your bankers, you will engage better and work with them to match your needs to their offerings.

The most difficult aspect of raising finance, however, is from public sector schemes. The first “mental block” is that there is no way one can get funding without having to see someone or being aligned to one partisan interest or the other. Once that is your perception, you have disqualified yourself from having a chance as the thousand others who apply for, and obtain financing all the time without “contacts.” Often, it is that attitude alone that drives people to seek out “connection men,” wasting effort and time that yields no results. For example, not entirely unrelated, I know many people who have sat behind a computer and applied for visas to “difficult” countries without connection men. They simply followed the process and obtained the relevant visas. But I digress.

Accessing public sector funding is difficult everywhere. So much so that even big businesses hire boatloads of lobbyists and consultants to facilitate access to government business and incentives. Of course, relationships matter, and there is nothing wrong with cultivating and leveraging relationships to advance your business interests. As long as it is not a corrupt relationship.

Also, and I hope someone will take this up, elsewhere, people set up private entities to help other private companies and individuals access government resources. For a fee. One that readily comes to mind is the one run by Kevin O’Leary. Fact is, unlike private capital/financing, there will always be “millions” applying to public sector schemes. It’s a laborious, labyrinthine process on all sides. You’ll need help, guidance, and advocacy. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs expect to be simply handed wads of crispy cash simply because it is public sector. It doesn’t work like that in real life.

Yet another thing: many of our entrepreneurs do not, in fact will not, accept, that often “money” is not what is retarding your growth but business practices, CRM, lack of personal integrity and/or ethics, and/or bad hiring and training practices. If you invest a million cedis into a business and hire unqualified staff, there will be a price to pay.

Lastly, it is entirely possible that your business model simply isn’t up to scratch. It’s time to bail out, or pivot, or die.