A winning approach to financing your company

The Funding Game promises to deliver the required tools to launch and develop a high growth enterprise. The one-day workshop covers all the fundamentals and offered a variety of entrepreneurs a straightforward perspective on attracting investment and maintaining a large equity stake.

The event is organised by Paul Grant, associate director of both BA Capital and Bergstrom Capital and was held at Wingrave Yeats near Bond Street in London costing £119 for a standard ticket, details can be found at www.thefundinggame.co.uk.

Paul has wealth of experience behind him, not to mention a host of useful contacts and potential speakers. Having played the funding game both as an entrepreneur and head of the business angel division at Capital Partners, his well-rounded approach makes the event well worth the outlay.

The day was a great opportunity to see what makes a business work. Paul kick started the morning by covering the basics, bringing everyone up to speed and guiding them onto the right tracks. The morning’s session included developing an effective action plan to steer your company clear of the usual, yet always-terminal suspect: lack of clarity.

However, it was not only Paul and his guest speaker that provided insight into the funding game, since the breaks presented an opportunity for some networking; and a biscuit.

The event was host to variety of entrepreneurs, some of which were clearly onto a winner. One business owner was starting a novel company that turns shop shutters into giant adverts, as their slogan states it’s a ‘window of opportunity’. Check out, www.streetskins.co.uk for more details.

The value of networking is something many entrepreneurs wildly underestimate, particularly when it comes to the development stage of a business. This is also a great chance to see what has, or hasn’t worked for others so far.

The highlight of the day was a one-hour talk from Christopher Jenkins, co-founder of Windgrove Yeats on exit strategies and valuating a new company. The talk covered everything from MBOs to the risks of deciding to float on AIM.

Jenkins even found time for a moment of essential banter to break up the day otherwise demanding day. He suggested that the best move would be to sell to a big corporate, the director of which might be more interested in gaining a Knighthood rather than turning £10 into £12.

His most unexpected piece of advice was probably that in the current economic climate company owners should talk to their competitors, trading secrets to gain mutual advantages; a risky tactic some of the business owners in the room seemed to feel.

Jenkins’s approach to valuating a new company was refreshingly simple; “There is no one criteria except the highest price [the buyer] will accept”.

His advice being that a business owner should test their buyer’s limits, putting emphasis on what it will cost them to start the company from scratch (hopefully a few million quid and ton of blood, sweat and tears?).

One crucial technique described was the ability to use a business transfer aget to your advantage.  Such agents know how to generate the impression of a buying frenzy, pushing up the price far beyond that which may be obtainable through a directly-managed sale.  It was one of the most important pieces of advice, and one that I personally will be looking to put into practice when the opportunity arises.

The rest of the day saw the founder of The Funding Game, Paul Grant cover the final topics including: bootstrapping, risk management, retaining ownership and more.

A couple hours after lunch it seemed many in the room were feeling a little worn out, however they remained enthusiastic at the opportunity to absorb further wisdom.

We plunged straight into the commonly mystifying concept of building wealth. However, Paul quickly dissected the fact from the fiction and delivered a straightforward seven-step perspective that dispelled the mystery in instant. In short: keep costs low, acquire the right team, test your market and sell effectively.

The latter part of the day was probably the most informative, asides from advice there was some practical examples incorporated into the day. We were handed a ‘model executive summary’ and given the chance analyse its persuasive power.

A dose of realism didn’t go amiss either, when many of the entrepreneurs began to realise the true likelihood that anyone would read past their summary, was, well, not good.

All in all it was very extensive workshop; if anyone were to leave non-the-wiser I would recommend that they go back to their day job.