Are you an entrepreneur? I have put together a real kit of the different steps to follow to create, grow and even sell your startup. From recruiting to protecting your brand and financing your innovation, you will find tips and best practices to help you get out of the maze that is entrepreneurship. In this fact sheet: a few tips on how to financially apprehend the key stages of your startup’s growth.
The important thing to remember:
- Don’t leave too quickly. Wait until you have developed a solid (but improvable) product or service. Allow time to analyze your added value, your market, and your target customers.
- Make an inventory of your cash flow, focusing on inventory management, payment of your suppliers and customers. If you don’t have the means to achieve your ambitions, wait.
- Need money? Think about the different solutions available to you: crowd equity, love money, fundraising.
- Make a plan about the goals you set for yourself and determine your KPIs.
- Take time to do good recruitment.
- Don’t neglect your communication.
1. Don’t get too fast in the race.
First of all, make sure you have consolidated your product and your target. There is nothing worse than a defective offer or one that does not perform as well as advertised for your reputation, especially if you are going abroad. You will then have to continue to improve and enrich your services.
In addition to acquiring new customers, the strength of your value proposition will also be a key factor in convincing investors or your banker to lend you the necessary funds if you are short of them.
This will require you to work on your target and acquisition channels. A precise analysis of these two points will also enable you to establish your development plan: channels to be strengthened, channels to be developed/tested, new products to be imagined for another audience… Think then of allocating a small budget to each solution to test it and then to be able to develop, on a large scale, the most profitable one.
To do this work, a real survey must be carried out. Ask your customers by asking them by email or in-store, it is the best way to understand what they expect from you and what they would like to buy tomorrow. You can also call on organizations that specialize in this type of study.
Also, take an interest in your competitors’ strategy and proposals.
2. Always keep an eye on your accounts
A penny is a penny, and that’s all the truer when it comes to growth. Of course, you will have to spend money on equipment or the recruitment of new staff, but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend money without counting, quite the contrary.
First of all, you need to analyze your cash flow, which includes stock management, your debts, analysis of the payment terms of your customers and suppliers. This may be the time to renegotiate certain contracts, to make the competition play, to review your processes by asking for a deposit or even to reduce your stocks (but not too much).
You need to make sure that you have enough money to be able to finance all the needs you will meet and any pivots.
3. Plan your objectives and determine KPIs
You need to draw up a forecast plan of your expenditure and income. Plan broadly to make up for possible errors or new situations. An advertisement may cost more than expected and a legal problem may arise over time.
Before imagining a crazy growth, start with what you have.
At this point, you will need to imagine two scenarios. The first version will be optimistic. Without falling into the Teddy Bear world, assume that your conversion rates will be good and that you will meet your growth goals without encountering major difficulties.
In the second phase, imagine a more pessimistic scenario where you will have to, for example, achieve a pivot or modify your strategy.
This is a difficult exercise but will allow you to set a large budget to overcome difficulties.
Stay realistic and follow the example of your competitors. Look at their strategy and especially their growth and evolution. It is a good way to want to do better while keeping your feet on the ground.
Plan for KPIs to monitor and follow up, at least monthly, whether or not your plan is being carried out. The more reactive you will be, the more you will avoid losing money.
4. Need financing? Explore the different solutions
The loans can help to increase (slightly) its cash flow. Most winnings are in thousands or tens of thousands of euros, so don’t expect to receive a billion once you’ve won. But they can be an opportunity to present your product to future customers, meet mentors or benefit from advantages such as incubation, coaching, coworking space…
Grants, the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and the regions can sometimes subsidize certain projects that are anchored in their territorial attractiveness strategy.
BPI France can also provide financial guarantees.
The Young Innovative Company status benefits companies less than 8 years old that devote at least 15% of their budget to research. The aid linked to this status takes the form of tax and social benefits for the staff carrying out the research. It is limited in time and only applies to the first years of growth of the startup.
The research tax credit corresponds to a deduction from income or corporate tax. Companies can have 30% of the expenses incurred (maximum 100,000 euros) for the research and development of their products financed.
The innovation tax credit follows the same principle as the CIR. The expenses incurred must relate to prototyping, design or pilot installation to test its products in real conditions. The credit corresponds to 20% of the overall budget allocated to innovation.
5. Take the time to recruit and (re)structure your company
Increasing production, expanding services or opening a new office will inevitably require, at some point, the recruitment of new people. Make sure that you have a solid internal base, a well-functioning organization, and an established corporate culture.
Two things should be considered before you start recruiting: internal skills development and outsourcing.
In order to reduce costs, certain positions that are not essential to day-to-day operations can be outsourced to freelancers, for example.
Similarly, internal recruitment, which is often neglected, can be an ideal solution because people already know the company and your strategy. So think about training them.
Also, consider automating tasks that can be automated to focus on skills that are essential and can only be done by people. As a first step, try to find people with multiple skills.
According to Securex, a company specializing in payroll and HR management, the minimum cost of a poor recruitment would cost at least 32,500 euros. Beyond this financial cost, it is also the atmosphere, profitability, and growth that can be impacted by this casting error.
This growth in the workforce will be accompanied, in the short or medium term, by a necessary reorganization of your company. Take the time to work on the processes, why not calling in an external consultant if necessary. If the size of your company becomes very important, the opening of certain positions will also become necessary: the accounting department, the HR department or a management controller.
Don’t forget also the costs of renting your new offices or your new production tools and their handling.
6. Get the word out!
Few companies succeed in winning customers only by word of mouth. If you want to grow, acquire new markets and make yourself better known, a good communication campaign should be considered.
The development of a new website, an “international” version or a blog can also be considered. Content marketing allows you to increase your notoriety and establish your expertise on the web. Moreover, your articles can be easily shared and distributed over time. It is, therefore, an effective medium-term investment.
Again, you can start with a CM and grow the team according to your needs. This pole will also be in charge of monitoring your e-reputation, an essential point to take the pulse of your community and avoid bad buzz. The more you are known, the more you are followed, the more you will be scrutinized.