Factors to Include When Planning to Launch a Business

In a recent 7 day span, I was invited to judge two pitch contests for entrepreneurs who had successfully completed a 13-week business plan writing workshop presented by a woman-centric business incubator and business development center that has operated in New England for 25 years (and is also an SBA affiliate). The entrepreneurs were either in start-up or scaling (i.e., expansion) mode.

I was excited to be a judge and privileged to meet nearly two dozen forward-thinking, focused, resourceful and determined women who expect nothing less than success and are taking decisive steps to bring it about. Based on the business concept pitches I heard, I encourage those who are evaluating whether to launch a business venture to include the following information:

  • Name and describe your product or service and the problem(s) it will solve
  • Identify your best customer groups and explain why those customers will pay for your product or service
  • Identify your primary competitors, list the competitive advantages that your product/ service possesses and explain why customers will prefer your offerings
  • Create a business model that outlines how you’ll acquire customers, where and how the product/service will be delivered and how the business will make money
  • Explain why you are qualified to make the proposed business successful
  • Develop a business strategy and marketing plan that includes:
    • sales and distribution strategy
    • pricing strategy
    • product positioning strategy
    • branding strategy
    • content marketing strategy strategies
    • social media strategy
    • PR and advertising strategy
  • Detail the business pre-launch and launch (start-up) costs
  • If investors or borrowing will sought, present a (realistic) break-even analysis and 24 month revenue projections (P & L and cash-flow)
  • Detail the potential investor return and the loan payback schedule

 

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Launch of the Hubble Space Telescope April 24, 1990

Overcoming Income Inequality

Happy Halloween! Today, we’ll take a look at one of the ultimate Trick or Treat scenarios, the business model known as the Global Economy (the most recent version, that is—trade has been global at least since the glory days of Timbuktu) as well as other factors that will impact your income.  The Global Economy as we know it began about 20 years ago, midwifed by the internet.  There is plenty of evidence to show that the vast majority of the world’s 7.6  billion souls have received only a global Trick, while a fortunate “1% of the 1%” has received a nearly endless supply of economic Treats.  Most of the candy is in the goody bags of the 2,043 billionaires in the world, 233 more than there were in 2016.  In aggregate, they are worth $7.7 trillion USD. (Forbes Magazine, October 2017)

Earning a living isn’t getting any easier for the 99.99%.  In the October 8 and 15, 2017 issues of The New York Times, lengthy articles appeared and told sad tales about blue-collar workers.

From Indiana came the story of skilled factory workers who until recently earned $25/hour.  Those workers have now joined the growing ranks of low-wage and  underemployed workers, in the aftermath of the ball bearing factory’s move to Monterrey, Mexico.

Factory leaders appealed to the Indiana workers to train their Mexican replacements.  Despite significant peer pressure from most of their colleagues a few agreed to do so, primarily to receive the $5000 bonus that was promised to those who cooperated with the transition.  But once the replacements were trained,  factory leaders reneged on the $5000 bonuses.

Workers south of the border are paid less than $6/hour for their skilled labor.  Most of the former ball bearing factory workers in Indiana have secured other employment, but nearly all have seen their wages cut in half.  Financing their housing costs is an issue for many.

From Oslo, Norway, came the story of construction workers whose labor has remade the skyline of that city, capital of a nation that has become wealthy on profits from North Sea oil that was discovered in the 1960s.  Pay for construction workers remains generous, thanks to a strong union, but workers haven’t seen a pay raise in five years or more.  Further, workers from eastern and southern Europe are now being hired by local construction companies and factories at considerably lower wages than Norwegian citizens receive, so that the companies can compete successfully for projects that are put out to bid by national or global firms.

The global economy has caused workers everywhere to get low-balled on wages and benefits, whether we are blue-collar skilled labor or white-collar professionals.  Most companies fear losing a contract to a competitor; their strategy has become to keep internal expenses low, so that project proposals can include not only lower prices for the prospective customer, but also more in-house profit.  To minimize the heft of payroll, which is usually the biggest expense on the P & L statement, companies send jobs off-shore, recruit and hire foreign-born workers who desire a residency visa and are willing to accept a lower salary to obtain one , or clandestinely hire illegal aliens at bargain-basement pay.

Meanwhile, citizens who are employed at well-paying, full-time, benefits paying jobs are loath to complain or quit, because what are the chances of doing better financially at another company? For most, it’s smarter to grin and bear it.  Maybe you can rent out a spare bedroom on Airbnb or drive for Lyft or Uber to make extra money?

Another factor that depresses wages and impedes hiring is what appears to be lingering discrimination against 50% of the population.  Honeybook, a company that provides administrative support to the various specialties that service the special events and conference planning industry, in a 2017 report on the gender pay gap reported that on average, women earn 24% less than men and in the finance and insurance industries, women earn 29% less than their male counterparts.

Female Freelancers in the events and conference planning industry fare even worse. Honeybook analyzed 200,000 of the client invoices they prepare for affiliates from October 2016 – October 2017 and found that women who Freelance earn 32% less than men in the industry.  Female photographers make 40% less than their male counterparts and female event planners make 24% less than their male peers earn.  Regarding annual earnings, 42% of men earn more than $50,000 per year, while only 20% of women are paid at that rate; 20% of men earn at least $80,000 annually, while only 8% of women are able to do so.

Things are even more dismal for women at the top of the self-employment food chain, the venture capital funded start-ups.  The start-up database Crunchbase confirmed that globally, 43,008 venture capital-backed start-up enterprises were founded from 2009 – 1Q2017 and 6,791 (15.8%) of those companies had one or more female founders.

Crunchbase reports that in 2016, start-ups founded by men received a total of $94 billion in seed (angel) investment fundraising, while start-ups that had even one female founder received a total of only $10 billion.  Start-ups with one or more female founders raised 19% of all seed investment rounds, 14% of early-stage venture rounds, 8% of late-stage venture rounds.

Yeah, OK, so do we continue to cry into the champagne, or maybe do something substantive? The Honeybook crew strongly suggests that women (and men) who are Freelancing to negotiate rates and in fact, to come in with a project fee or hourly rate that reflects the quality and value of your work in the marketplace.  This is not exactly easy, however, and requires some courage. No one wants to lose a contract to a competitor, or to be challenged by a prospect.

Regarding negotiation, Freelancers have an advantage over the traditionally employed because fee negotiation is not unusual.  To succeed in a negotiation, it’s necessary to do a bit of research in advance to learn more about the project.  The process is quite simple—talk to your prospect and ask a few basic questions.  If you learn that your work will bring the client a significant ROI, or if a deadline looms, let that be reflected in your project fee or hourly rate.

If the client balks at your pricing, do not lower your fee.  Instead, adjust the scope of the work you’ll do.  If at all possible, avoid allowing a prospect to dictate your pricing terms.  Ask how much has been budgeted for the project and then decide how much work you can afford to perform for the money available.  Address the client’s most urgent needs and make him/her feel good about the value s/he will receive when your superior expertise and work ethic are applied.

Regarding female entrepreneurs, Crunchbase notes that there are now several angel investor networks funded by female investors who welcome women who lead venture capital backed enterprises.  Access to capital when it’s needed is crucial to a start-up venture’s success.  Women helping women is how we can climb the mountain.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

The Fendi sisters (l-r) Alda, Paola, Anna, Carla (who passed in June 2017) and Franca took over the business founded in Rome by their parents Adele and Edoardo in 1925.  Led by Carla, they transformed Fendi into an international brand that is now owned by LVMH.   Photograph: REX (1988)