No Man’s Land: Outgrowing Your Money

Now that we have discussed outgrowing your business model, it’s time to get down to business and talk about what really causes a business to flourish or flop: capital.

Most companies enter into No Man’s Land without having the capital to leave it. If, and when, they fail, “undercapitalization” is seen as the cause. However, it’s important to note that undercapitalization is only a symptom, rather than the root cause. The true cause is the company’s inability to raise capital because it is perceived as too risky.

In order to raise money, companies must focus on reducing their risk, both perceived and real, by addressing the issues that accompany market misalignment, outgrowing your management and outgrowing your business model. Even with the appropriate measures in place, transition through No Man’s Land is difficult because of institutional barriers that exist in the capital markets, such as a lack of experience among investors regarding sustainability, inefficient communication, and limited human capacity. Although it may be a bumpy journey – hold tight, because you can make it through!

Capital shortfalls are one of the most frustrating and terrifying issues that companies face in No Man’s Land. These shortfalls frequently emerge just as the company is gearing up to grow through No Man’s Land, leaving entrepreneurs in the position of poker players who hold unbeatable hands, yet no longer have any chips to bet. Having a successful business but not having the capital to keep it going is downright scary and can bring the company down, along with the entrepreneur.

Why do growing companies run into money troubles? One of the biggest problems is the confusion of financing. Leaders of growing companies generally underestimate the capital their companies will require to emerge from No Man’s Land. They often fail to realize that growth itself fuels a need for capital!

So what should an entrepreneur do when they realize they are short on capital? Unfortunately, there is no magic trick to navigate and overcome this capital gap. Most entrepreneurs are left in crisis, trying to dig up capital any way they can.

A rule of thumb for financial navigation is that the key to raising money is reducing the real and perceived risk of a company. This rule is important because leaders and equity investors approach the funding decision for a company from the standpoint of how risky it is. These investors don’t care about the upside of the business; they want to understand and be assured they will get their money back. It is important for a company to prove that it can escape from No Man’s Land.

How does a business do this?

  • Market Realignment
  • Get the right people in the right positions
  • Develop a profitable business model

Most entrepreneurs view money as the problem rather than a symptom of other problems. Yes, money is essential to success; however, it is not the main focus. Entrepreneurs have to deal with the other three Ms—market, management and model to bring the business operations onto solid ground in order to go for the money! By focusing on money and not dealing with the other three Ms, you are actually focusing on the symptoms, not the underlying cause.

We have learned that risk will influence an investor’s decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your company’s risk:

  1. Are there any risks in the business that can be eliminated with money?
  2. Knowing all that you know about the business, would you buy it?
  3. What kind of money do you really need to grow the business?
  4. Are you ready for outside equity and to put your business in the hands of others in order to be successful?

The solution is for everyone involved in the business to come together and act as partners, and to assess what is best for the business during this transition period stage of No Man’s Land.

 

 

 

Key Takeaways from the #StateofTech16

By: Kayla Koehmstedt, Marketing Intern

Tuesday, August 16th was a great day in Fargo as the State of Technology 2016 conference took place at the Hilton. Along with good food and conversation, the event was filled with facts and challenges facing today’s technological world. In fact, we learned so much we thought we would share some key takeaways from the conference.

Takeaway #1: Technology is getting smarter and growing faster than ever before.

Jake Joraanstad, CEO of Myriad Mobile, opened the conference by speaking on the idea of exponential “smart” growth, and this theme held true throughout the day. Jake spoke on how not only his company, but many other companies and industry sectors have seen “smart” technologies, such as robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, grow exponentially.

 

Takeaway #2: Thoughts and ideas are coming to life because of technology.

“Inspiring innovation, that’s what we’re all about,” said US Senator John Hoeven during his opening remarks. With the rise of smart technologies, as well as other technological advances, innovation is happening all around us. Whether it be in the form of Mukai Selekwa’s social media managing platform, Neil Bracken’s cloud seeding at Weather Modification Inc. or Dakota Carrier Network’s implementation of internet and Wi-Fi across the state, innovation and growth are happening all around us in North Dakota.

 

Takeaway #3: Technology is going the distance…literally.

The conference also included a keynote from Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft. Smith’s talk focused on technology and the need for accessibility for all, even as the need for technology grows. With today’s technology, Microsoft has been able to bring internet to parts of the world that would have never been able to access it just 5 years ago. In Kenya, Microsoft was able to provide internet in a small shack that doubles as an internet café. Because of this, many Kenyans are able to receive online schooling, job training and access to the world around them.

 

Takeaway #4: Technology is changing the way business is done.

The growth and innovation is not only bringing internet and other technologies to different parts of the world; it is also making information more accessible via the cloud. The idea of cloud computing is becoming increasingly more popular with businesses and individuals alike who have a desire to share and access files from anywhere, not just plugged in to a system internet. This technology has changed the way many companies do business. “We need to help every company transform,” Smith said.

 

Takeaway #5: Technology is saving lives.

Michael Chambers, CEO of Aldevron, spoke on how his company is using biotechnology to make breakthroughs in the medical field, specifically in plasmid DNA and protein production, and antibody development. Through these developments, Aldevron has been able to offer products to pharmaceutical companies to do groundbreaking science that will hopefully save lives. Some of the projects their products have been applied to include malaria and cancer research. Through the use of technology, lives are being enhanced and saved.

The speakers at the conference proved that technology is growing, whether it be that we can now control what happens in the literal clouds or manage what happens in “the cloud”. At the end of the day, Joraanstad and fellow emcee Camille Grade left the crowd with a challenge: What if North Dakota was the number one place to design, develop, and test autonomous technology?

We are excited for our state, and can’t wait to help North Dakota become the State of Technology.

Cyber Security: Are you ready?

By Calvin Weeks & Brett Johnson, Eide Bailly Cyber Forensic Services

Data breaches are a constant threat to any business, regardless of size, industry or length of time in business. All you have to do is pick up the newspaper on an almost daily basis to see new articles about a hack.

Many businesses think it can’t happen to them (and we’re guessing you might be one of them). But the ugly truth is, it can and most businesses are not prepared to handle the costs associated with a data breach. Don’t believe us? Enterprisetech.com estimates the average cost of a data breach will exceed $150 million by 2020.

That’s a tough pill to swallow when you’ve just started, or are just getting going. So what can you do to help manage your cyber security risk? Below are a few recommendations:

Prevention

Let’s start with the true goal of cyber security … to prevent an incident or breach from occurring. Here are a few steps to make that happen:

  • Establish a budget in order to implement security measures. Many of these do not have to break the bank, but are necessary for prevention.
  • Create a culture where there is an awareness of cyber risk, as well as best practices to follow to help prevent it.
  • Have a third party assess your current risks. Sometimes you need to step away and let someone else take a look at your blind spots and ways you can improve. A third party assessment will allow you to prioritize tasks and implement a strategy for prevention.

Detection

You can’t just prevent all cyber security attacks from happening. So it’s important to have a detection plan in place in case there is an attempt on any of your systems. Most incidents begin with events that appear on systems and network logs. If your people learn to identify events from these sources, as well as the necessary steps to take (if need be), you’ll be one step closer to actively preventing a full security breach.

Response

  • Use a third party for incident response assessments, as well as regular compliance.
  • Use internal IT staff for continuity and recovery as the incident occurs.
  • Use a third party to manage the incident response and conduct the investigation.
  • Make sure you’re responding to a cyber security incident in real time.

By applying these steps, you can create a more holistic approach to dealing with cyber security threats. It’s not fun by any means, but it’s necessary to ensure the protection of the business you worked so hard to build.

A version of this article first appeared on Eide Bailly’s website.

No Man’s Land: Outgrowing Your Model

Thanks for joining us as we continue our discussion on No Man’s Land. Last week, we focused on the struggles of outgrowing your management and how to get your management back to tip top shape (look here for a refresher.)

Along with any growth will come change and challenges, and your business venture is no different. The model adopted by your business is likely to face the consequences of these changes, and your business may outgrow this model altogether.

“Most entrepreneurs attract their first customers by running their businesses according to a ‘high performance, cheap labor’ economic model,” says Doug Tatum, author of No Man’s Land. As the company grows, this economic model crumbles as the company must begin to adjust to a normal cost structure and venture away from cheap labor costs. To make it through No Man’s Land, companies need to develop a new business model that allows them to continue to provide their value proposition (what brought customers in the first place), but modified in order to maintain success and continue growth.

Before entrepreneurs are able to secure their companies’ financial stability, they need to understand what lies within the business model, what changing the model would include and what effect this rapid growth and change can have on the company’s financial performance.

Maybe you’re wondering what exactly we mean by “business model.” To be specific, the business model is a financial analysis of how a business makes its money. Analyzing a business model includes considering revenue produced from selling your company’s product offerings, as well as changes in this element of revenue. It also includes cost and capital under different scenarios, as well as capital employment.

In order to perform this business model analysis, there are two helpful accounting tools to guide you through. The first tool is the balance sheet, which acts as a still photo of the business’ assets and liabilities at the end of each month. Accounting is also able to provide a view of how the balance sheet changes over time. This tool is known as the income statement, which provides a glimpse of the new assets gained by the business (revenue), and the assets that have left the business (expenses).

However, neither of these tools give rise to a company’s economic model. This is because both of these tools are actually backward-looking, meaning the information they provide focuses on how the company performed in the past. An economic model is the opposite, forward-looking. It projects to the future, speculating on what a company’s economic picture will look like based on a possible scenario. However, both tools are extremely helpful in predicting future scenarios by measuring where the company has grown, struggled and succeeded in the past.

There are two reasons why it is important to forecast a company’s business model:

  1. It helps entrepreneurs decide if they actually want to commit to the strategy under consideration.
  2. It gives the company a basis for evaluating how the business is actually performing against the projected model once the journey is underway.

It goes without saying that companies stuck in No Man’s Land struggle when their previous business models break down, thus leaving an unclear understanding of the company’s financial health. To get out of this phase of No Man’s Land, companies have two options:

  1. Return to a size where their model works well
  2. Attempt to grown their way out of No Man’s Land

To proceed down the second path, companies must develop an understanding of how their current business model will change as it moves forward. It is important to keep in mind that the business’ value proposition must be scalable to navigate through No Man’s Land.

You’ve laid out an economic model for growth, and you’ve figured out how large you need to grow in order to stay profitable. So what’s the next step on this path through No Man’s land?

  1. Monitor your company’s financials to be sure your company is performing according to the model. The balance sheet and income statement are helpful here – these allow you to see where your business is relative to the model.
  2. Create and assess weekly operational reports that let you know where you are on your path to growth. These reports let you guess with accuracy what the financial state of the business will be at the end of the month. Ask your financial staff this question: What kind of operational report can you create that will allow you to predict, with accuracy of within +/- 10 percent, the company’s net income, prior to creation of the end of the month financial statements?
  3. Create future scenarios based on your company’s business model. Although you can’t run your company looking backwards, you can look to the past to help predict the future.

Creating a business model that is able to grow along with your company is not only important, but also necessary for the success of your business. Following these guidelines for growing your business model will help you smoothly transition out of No Man’s Land.

 

 

Digital Marketing Trends You Should Measure (Pt. 2)

Guest Blog by Tiffanie Honeyman, OpGo Marketing

As a refresher, we’re talking about five essential digital marketing trends your business should be paying attention to. Be sure to check out part one here.

Today we’re talking Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Search Engine Optimization

You’ve probably heard the term SEO many times, along with SEM and PPC etc. To clarify, SEO is “search engine optimization” (organic search) and SEM is “search engine marketing” (paid search). Another common reference for paid search is PPC (pay-per-click). SEO is number two on this list because buyers are in charge of the sales process, taking advantage of Google to help them seek out all options available vs just the ones being pushed out on paid ads. Google has the majority of search share, so Google sets the bar—the chart below was provided by comScore March 2016.

graph

So what do you measure?

  1. Pay attention to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and their one-page SEO Guide. If your web developer doesn’t understand SEO, contact a resource that does. There are several companies doing SEO audits and they can provide your webmaster a list of actions to make your website search engine optimized.
  2. All marketers have heard it, content is king. So how do you measure content? It can be overwhelming when you consider Google determines “relevancy” by over 200 factors, but the best rule of thumb is to just think logically. Put your customers’ “intent” first. How does your site help them accomplish what they are trying to do? (learn, explore, purchase, compare, make contact, sign up for more info, connect on social, etc.) Once you have outlined your website objectives, think about search queries. Put the terms and phrases your prospects will be searching for into your website. Be proactive in answering their questions to save everyone time. You want to pre-qualify your leads and they want to find the right fit for their needs. There are many tools to do keyword analysis; Google’s Key word Planner is one of them. And if you sign up for Google Search Console, you’ll be able to see which terms your site is being shown for organically. If you don’t like what you see, make changes and monitor monthly.
  3. Links. There are on-page and off-page links that play a role in When it comes to optimizing your site from an off-page standpoint, links are important (p.s. Moz has a blog about links with more info here.)

If you have invested in a website, you want Google to be able to find it. If Google can find it, you need Google to make sense of it so they can serve specific pages of your site to their users. Your website is not just a pretty face; it is a marketing investment that can deliver consistent ROI. If Google cannot index your site, they will not be able to process all of the content on your site the way you intended and your competitors’ sites will be served over yours.

Google Paid Search

SEM (search engine marketing) is paid search. When you sign up for Google AdWords, you are able to appear on search engine results pages (Google, Bing, Yahoo). It’s free to set up an AdWords account and it can be a cost effective way to advertise because you are paying for relevant clicks. Paid Search is a great interim solution to show up on Google when your site isn’t ranking organically. Get an expert to manage your SEM campaigns (someone certified with Google) or at least have them do the monthly report to make sure you’re not just paying for clicks, but you are getting relevant conversions (leads).

So what do you measure?

  1. Keyword quality score. Campaign performance is driven by keywords and their associated ads. If your keywords have a low quality score, Google may be serving your ads less and when they do serve them, they are more likely to charge you a higher CPC (cost-per-click). Keyword quality scores are associated with the ads and the landing pages (customer journey). It all ties to search intent and your ability to provide content relevant to each search.
  2. One of the biggest errors is monitoring “clicks” and not “conversions”. Clicks can drain your budget…unless they are converting. If your clicks are converting to transactions, you have a successful campaign. The performance of an AdWords campaign takes time to optimize, but Google offers recommendations that can speed up the process. When measuring success of a paid search campaign, always monitor the cost-per-conversion. As you optimize your campaign, the cost-per-conversion should go down.
  3. Do not forget to check on “search impression share”. If you are seeing the campaign deliver relevant leads, review your budget and bids. By increasing the budget with a campaign that has delivered results, you have an opportunity to increase the volume of leads by increasing the budget. A low percentage of search impression share is an indication there is missed opportunity.
  4. Optimizing an AdWords campaign requires adding negative keywords, testing messaging, recommending updates to landing pages, competitive bidding and knowing the platform settings. When trying to benchmark cost-per-click, cost-per conversion, click-through-rates, and conversion rates, know that bids are contingent upon your target audience and the amount of competitors targeting that same audience with the same content. The best benchmarks are the ones you set after starting your own campaign since each campaign is a custom set-up and performance is tied to your website.

Insights from a paid search campaign give you real-time info on what products and services are most competitive. You can also see which sites are winning search impression share over yours. You’ll also be able to see which locations (geography) are performing the best and which devices (desktop, mobile) so you can start investing in other tactics with more confidence. When you look beyond the “clicks,” you can see better insights that will help you make better marketing decisions.

 

 

 

Fargo Business Women’s Circles: Meet the facilitators

Back in April, we filled you in on something exciting and new coming to the Fargo Moorhead community: The Business Women’s Circle. As a refresher, the BWC is made up of two circles: the Executive Circle, and the Owners Circle. Within each circle, 12 women at most come together once a month to share ideas, gain insight from each other, and form lasting friendships, to name a few.

Well now we’re super excited to tell you more about our Fargo facilitators: Jodi Heilman and Tamara Anderson.

jodiJodi Heilman serves as the facilitator for the Executive Circle. Jodi earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts and sciences at Fergus Falls Community College. Next she earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Minnesota State University Moorhead. From there, the rest is history. Jodi started out in broadcast journalism, holding a handful of positions with news companies in the FM area. She ended up writing commercials and realized it made sense for her to switch to marketing and advertising. Jodi followed this path to Sundog in Fargo, where she worked for 12 years as EVP of Creative. She then moved to a career as the SVP of marketing for Bell State Bank and Trust in Fargo. Fast forward a couple years, and Jodi has her own business, Coach My Brand. Clients come to Coach My Brand for bold ideas, strategic brand and marketing plans, and unique tactics that sell and compel today’s socially-connected audiences to become their advocates. Jodi is also the creative mastermind behind some of the region’s most successful marketing campaigns, including BOB 95 FM, UCodeGirl and Discovery Benefits, to name a few.

tamaraTamara Anderson is the facilitator for the Owners Circle. Tamara attended The University of North Dakota and earned a degree in marketing & retail management. After college, she found herself working for Lakeshirts, where she ran some of the stores. Through this job, she had an opportunity to attend a Dale Carnegie session. She soon realized she had a passion for Dale Carnegie and their mission. She applied for and was hired as a sales person at Dale Carnegie. Fast forward a few years, and Tamara is now a Dale Carnegie franchise owner here in Fargo. In her position, she works on client relationships, business development and consulting, to name a few.

 

 

Eide Bailly: How did you get involved in the BWC?

Jodi: The BWC found me through a common connection through Bell State Bank and Trust in the Twin Cities. I liked the mission of bringing skill and leadership together and combining it with life and home. I also liked the idea of a collaborative environment for women to come together.

Tamara: Jenni Huotari connected me to Lani Basa, the CEO of BWC. I then talked with Lani and got signed up. I was particularly excited to get involved because of the work we could do with small businesses.

 

EB: What role(s) do you play in the BWC?

JH: We get together once a month and during this time, I help the women set goals, hold them accountable, coach them on how to reach goals and make sure everyone is heard. We all get to learn from each other, make suggestions and share experiences.

TA: I facilitate the business owners circle. At our monthly meetings, I help build traction, develop skill building strategies, and make sure discussions stay focused. I am very excited about goals the women set, and enjoy seeing the women reach these goals I make sure they have a venue where they can talk about business and personal life with other women who understand what they are experiencing.

 

EB: What part of the BWC excites you most?

JH: First and foremost, I am most excited that women have the ability to access extra training to be successful. I am excited that women have a confidential yet open place to go to discuss challenging issues. It is great that women can feel safe sharing things they usually wouldn’t share with other people. It offers a place to discuss topics you don’t want to bring home at night and gives them someone to talk to that may be going through the same thing.

TA: I am excited to get to know the women and learn about their businesses and why they do what they do. I am excited to help build groundwork for the businesses and to help layout the road map and how to achieve the success they desire.

 

EB: Do you think that having a small number of participants allowed is beneficial? (Note: 12 is the maximum number of participants per circle.)

JH: I think it is a good number. It allows for enough attention and time. There is more time to focus on achieving goals and getting advice on a one on one basis. Everyone has a chance to speak out and be heard.

TA: There is a large enough amount to provide good dynamic, but it is also small enough to nurture intimacy. It provides women with peers who may understand what each other is going through, but may see it from a different angle and offer unique perspectives. It also allows for the women to form friendships and find cheerleaders and support they be missing.

 

EB: What is your biggest piece of advice to women in business?

JH: Don’t take things too personally. Step back and take a look at the bigger picture when things seem overwhelming and have perspective. If the problem won’t affect you down the road, let it go and give yourself a break. Tomorrow is always a new day; start new.

TA: Don’t be afraid to take a risk. You can’t plan for everything up front, and you won’t be able to think of everything – but don’t let that deter you. The risk can pay off.

 

EB: What do you hope attendees take away from this program?

JH: I hope the women are able to take away lifelong confidence and connections.

TA: I hope attendees become more strategic in thinking about growing their business. I hope they find a leadership style that works for them. Lastly, I hope they find a work/life balance and learn how to surround themselves with people who complement their skills.

 

EB: Why did you want to be involved in BWC?

JH: I would have loved to have an opportunity like this in my own personal career. I’m excited that there will be 3 hours focused on personal growth, mentorship and friends. The bond of women helping women is very appealing to me and I believe it’s very important for women to help other women succeed. I want to help women become successful — whether that’s in the role of president, CEO, etc.

TA: I love the strategy and working on the business. I am excited to see the leadership and individual growth of the women, as well as the different passions each possesses. I want to see women succeed and become business owners. I want to help women see that it’s okay to take a risk.

 

EB: Why do you think there is value in the BWC coming to Fargo?

JH: It will provide advanced training to maintain or gain momentum in their careers and build confidence and connections to move to the next level. It also provides a new option for training opportunities. Fargo has a lot of advancement opportunities, but women may not feel confident enough to apply. BWC can help build that executive presence and confidence.

TA: It provides a venue for women who own businesses and are in senior positions to continue to grow. Fargo is a vibrant business community, but women’s startups are not known of as much in Fargo.

 

EB: What kind of impact do you think it will have on the community?

JH: I am hopeful that it will allow more circles to be formed. I hope to see many friendships formed, and more careers propelled forward. I also think it will raise awareness of women helping women achieve dreams and goals.

TA: I think it will bring about faster ramp up and growth. I think word of mouth will continue to grow the program and encourage other women and help them to know they have a support system of other women behind them to support and guide. It would be great if Fargo could be known as a place for women to go to start a business.

To learn more, join us on August 25 at Eide Bailly.

 

4 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Friend

Have you ever encountered a situation where a friend wants to work for your company? After all, you started this great new thing and now they want to be part of the action. You’re excited – who wouldn’t want to get to spend all day with their friends? You are sure you have something they can do at the company. However, before extending them an offer, take a look at these four very important aspects to consider before hiring a friend.

  1. Is this role necessary? | Although you really want to find a place for your friend to fit into the organization, it is important to take a look at the position he or she will be filling. If the position is necessary to the company, then you’re off to a good start. One way to assess whether or not the position is necessary or if you are just making it up for your friend is to step back and think, “Would I post this position and hire a skilled person who isn’t my friend?” If you realize you are only creating a position specifically for your friend, you are not doing your friend any favors (more on this later).
  2. Does your friend possess the right fit and motivation to match your company? | It is important to step back and try to remember when your friend became interested in your company. Have they always been by your side, maybe helping you with business steps along the way, or did their motivation to support your business come only when they were in need? If you find that they have been a longtime supporter, you can proceed with caution. It is still important to keep in mind that your friend should match with the company culture and values, not just match up with your own personal values. This friend may be excellent to spend time with out of work, but in a business setting they may not have what it takes to fit in with the company.
  3. Are you planning with a clear mind? | As mentioned before, it is important to be sure that this position is actually necessary to your company. You need to consider what the position title is, what the day-to-day activities include, who your friend will report to, what the limits are on decision making and what some signs are that the friend is not making it in the job. Having these planned out and answered before hiring your friend can save a lot of time if he or she doesn’t work out, or if you realize that there may not be an actual position for your friend to occupy. It is important to do this planning with a clear mind, treating the friend as you would any other candidate when answering these questions.
  4. Are you prepared to have a tough conversation? | Having a tough conversation with your friend could come up in many different scenarios. You may have to inform them that they are not working up to par, or that you feel they do not fit with the company and that you will be terminating them. If your friend isn’t a fit for your company, you need to give them the respect of telling them directly, rather than beating around the bush and trying to make something workout. If you are unwilling or unable to have an honest conversation with them, it may be a red flag that having them working at your company will not work out.

Taking into consideration these four ideas will assist you in making the decision to hire a friend or not, and will smooth out the process along the way.