Angel Investors: The Harvesting Strategy

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To wrap up this series on angel investors, I am going to discuss harvesting strategy. Some would say this is the most important step in the process. Knowing how, if and when you will see a return on your investment is crucial. There are seven harvesting methods, five positive and two negative. The positive harvesting methods include:

  • “Walking harvest (This method is unlikely to fail, but there is no potential to get valuation based on someone else’s perceived value of the business… The returns are essentially a cash flow stream…)
  • Partial sale (This method allows the investor to exit an other wise non-liquid investment, but the investor is unlikely to get an outstanding valuation. The return price is based on fairness and other factors.)
  • Initial public offering (The benefit of this method are liquidity for investors and the potential to capture outstanding multiples, but the drawback is that investors will have restricted stock that cannot be sold for six months… There is a high variability on returns, which means there is a risk of selling too soon or too late.)
  • Financial sale (The major benefit of this method is that, if there is cash flow, the likelihood of selling the company is very favorable. The major drawback here is that management cannot count on continued employment. The return on this investment consists of whatever the buyer thinks they can get from the sale.)
  • Strategic sale (Seen as the best harvest strategy, a strategic sale will produce a faster negotiating time and will most likely allow management to keep their positions, but, in doing so, the company may find themselves in a position where they must disclose important details about the company with the public. The return profits range from 10x to 40x.)” (Amis & Stevenson, 2001)

The negative harvesting methods include:

  • Chapter 11 (Filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy is less likely to cause a company to go under than filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy; however, this significantly decreases the chances of seeing a return.)
  • Chapter 7 (Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy is pretty much the end of the road for a company. Most, if not all, of the initial investment is lost and there is no return, figuratively and literally speaking.)

As you can probably tell, it is very important to have a solid exit strategy determined during the planning stages. Doing so will at least soften the blow if things go south. It also helps an angel investor determine whether or not the deal is for them in the first place.

Resources

Amis, D., & Stevenson, H. H. (2001). Winning angels: The seven fundamentals of early-stage investing. London: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

Angel Investors: Participating Roles

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According to the book, “Winning Angels,” by David Amis and Howard Stevens, angel investors “follow participation roles that are a combination of the needs and wants of the entrepreneur, the company, and themselves.” (Amis & Stevenson, 2001) Basically, this means that, sometimes, the role of an angel investor is nothing more than being an investor and, other times, it means an angel will take on more hands on responsibilities.

The five participation roles of an angel investor are: silent investor, reserve force, team member, coach, and controlling investor. Here is a breakdown:

  • The silent investor’s role is to fund the project. Nothing more. Nothing less.
  • The reserve force investor will not only provide funding, this angle will also provide help to the entrepreneur, depending on skill set, as needed.
  • The team member investor will become a member of the team, just as it sounds, helping out with various projects if the need should arise.
  • The coach investor does not have a controlling interest in the company; however, this angel will guide the entrepreneur and team by giving constructive feedback throughout the process.
  • The role of the controlling investor is just as it sounds. This angle takes over and controls the company.

The needs of the entrepreneur and the needs of the investor will determine which role, or roles, the investor will play in the company. Personally, I feel like the coach investor role benefits the entrepreneur the most, because it allows them to maintain control of this, while getting valuable input from the angel investor. In the flip side of that, it seem the angel who takes on the controlling role would have the final say of what goes on in a company, whether or not it turns out to be in the best interest of the entrepreneur. Just a side note, the type of business (product business, service business, retail business, or e-business) also plays a role in this dynamic. It all depends on the strengths and weakness of both parties involved.

Resources

Amis, D., & Stevenson, H. H. (2001). Winning angels: The seven fundamentals of early-stage investing. London: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

11 Questions with Joan Sue West

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Traditionally, I work with entrepreneurs who are well-known subject matter experts (SMEs) in their respective fields. However, not all SMEs are famous. As a matter of fact, my favorite SME, my mentor, is not famous at all, but she has prevailed in her field, nonetheless. Joan Sue West has been a “Jane of all trades” throughout her career. At 70+, she is still going strong as the Account Manager for Mutual Builders, Inc. and continues to hold her own in today’s business market.

 

 

 

You are the account manager for Mutual Builders, Inc. What are your responsibilities in that position?

My beginning responsibilities in 2003 were to set up the general ledger, payroll, plus assist in the setup of the computer system (server/client) and run and maintain the computer system. My ongoing responsibilities consist of maintaining the general ledger (the complete accounting system using The Construction Manager (TCM)), which includes preparing all necessary year-end reports, excel spreadsheets, and any other documentation necessary to be given to the CPA for the yearly tax return. I do and maintain payroll for a 10 to 12 person company using QuickBooks and Excel spreadsheets, including all quarterly and year-end government reporting. As my responsibilities have grown and expanded over time, I now just oversee the computer system with the aid of an outside computer service company.

What did you do prior to working for Mutual Builders, Inc, and how did that prepare you to take on the job of account manager?

I have had many different positions in my career. Data processing:  clerical, key punch operator; finish cloth inspector in manufacturing; worked with my appraiser husband (clerical, key reports, payroll, various general office work), who did ad valorem tax counseling. We would gather a random sample from the register of deeds, collect the corresponding tax data from the tax assessor office, and have the level of assessment statistically proven for that particular county, so our system client(s) (who were assessed at 100% every year) would have recourse to have their level of assessment lowered accordingly. Administrative assistant to the Director of Internal Audit for Golden Corral (home office), learned so much regarding auditing, how systems work and fit together and much, much more. Executive Secretary to the President of Regency Development, learned a lot about people and being in the right place, at the right time!

Mutual Builders, Inc. is a privately owned construction company. Many people would be surprised to know that the company recently owned a restaurant—Bistro on 3rd. How did crunching the numbers for the restaurant differ from crunching the numbers for the parent company?

Crunching the numbers were far easier for our construction company than for the restaurant. The restaurant, because of the type of business, had many more hands “in the till” than the construction business. Which made it more prone to error, harder to control/run and impossible to be profitable. And I am not addressing any thievery; that was not in the picture. It is a much harder business to run that needs daily on-hands expertise. First, the restaurant was bought on a whim! It was bought by owners that being restaurateurs was not their main focus. They just hoped to break even. But the owners were out a certain amount of monies on the personal taxes anyway. They were either going to give the monies to the taxing entities or they could spend the corresponding monies in a restaurant that would never be profitable but would be a really nice place to eat, do all nature of community-oriented activities and community good-will. Which would be good for them and good for their community. So, we had the restaurant business for 6 years. And, just like it was bought, it was sold on a whim, too! Someone approached the owners, and so it was sold. In shutting the restaurant, I called the NC Employment Security to close our unemployment account. The person asked long we had been in business. I said 6 years. She said wonderful. The average restaurant is only 2 years. Interesting tidbit!

Let’s talk spreadsheets. Some would say you are a wiz at creating them. How does using spreadsheets benefit the business?

Spreadsheets help to display the data in a different manner, parse the data so a new perspective can be shown, and a large amount of data can be viewed in a concise usable format. It can also be used as a control measure to make sure that the numbers being used are accurate.

In the current course I am enrolled in, Entrepreneurial Feasibility Analysis, we are learning about income statements, charts of accounts, balance sheets, etc. Do you use these in your current position, and, if so, how do you use them?

Charts of accounts form the backbone of our account system. Each account captures the necessary data that is needed to supply the various individual reports, these accounts roll up to the balance sheet and income statement. The balance sheet and income statement, along with other needed documentation, are used to send to our bonding company, other entities that need to know our financial strengths and the CPA for the year-end tax returns, year-end insurance audit that I do and our mid-term audit that our CPA does for our bonding company. When it is time for the appropriate reporting, I make sure that all the necessary, corresponding documents are sent to the CPA for his review and reporting. As the owners do not believe in borrowing and are extremely savvy in how their business model is run financially, I do not have to do certain in-depth accounting that is necessary in other businesses. I am blessed!

Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about mentors. You have been my go-to person for business advice for many years now. You have a very broad knowledge base about how a business should and should not be run. Can you tell me about your mentor(s) and how working with others helped shape you into the business savvy woman you are today?

I have had many people, both male and female, that have crossed my path and enriched my life and business knowledge base. I have listened to my mentors and taken their pearls of wisdom to heart and applied their knowledge to mine. From this process, you will collect a portfolio of experiences, knowledge and stories that you, in turn, will be able to pass onto others.

What do you view as your greatest setback and what did you learn from that experience?

I view my greatest setbacks were my own ignorance and inexperience. I set about learning and growing from each experience. From each experience, I developed a better, happier more complete life.

What motivates you to keep going when things get tough?

God and those I love! I try to lead by example!

What is non-negotiable for you?

Giving up! Letting go is different from giving up!

If you could go back in time, what would you have done differently as far as your career is concerned?

Nothing! Not everyone can say that they have keyed on a Remington Rand with stops and latches, punch card machine. Hint: It was before IBM key punch machines.

What is the best piece of advice to you have to offer the entrepreneurs of the future?

If you want to be successful, be able to manage your time, self and employees wisely! It is a learned skill. Know, use and apply business accounting practices correctly. When you are developing your skill/specialty, learn and apply standard business practices and rules and accounting.

Angel Investors: To Negotiate or Not to Negotiate

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According to “Winning Angels,” there are “four elements” up for consideration when negotiating a deal—structure, price, the amount of capital that will be invested, and what role, if any, you will play in the development of the company. (Amis & Stevenson, 2001) These angels are also aware that not every deal presents a chance to negotiate and they may choose to walk away if that is the case. Angels who do not negotiate may choose not to negotiate for “three fundamental reasons:

  1. They don’t want to invest the time.
  2. They are concerned about the efficacy of a relationship based on trust that starts with a fight for money and/or control.
  3. Within certain limits, they don’t think the terms or price are that significant.” (Amis & Stevenson, 2001)

Not every entrepreneur is a gem to work with and not every deal is worth negotiating. Essentially, there is a learning curve for angel investors, and knowing when to invest in or pass on an idea  becomes easier with time and experience.

Resources

Amis, D., & Stevenson, H. H. (2001). Winning angels: The seven fundamentals of early-stage investing. London: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

Angel Investors: The Structuring Argument

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Like most arguments, there are also two sides for the structuring dynamic. There are those who advocate for structure and there are those who say it does not matter. Angels who subscribe to the structure logic agree that they investors should pay “close attention” to how the deal is structures, while those who do not put faith in that approach believe that “the deal will be wildly successful or it will fail,” no matter how it is structured. (Amis & Stevenson, 2001) Essentially, the first group needs to see how it looks on paper and the second group does not. Personally, I tend to lean more toward the thought process of the camp that says structure is irrelevant. We all know that just because something looks good on paper does not mean it is going to pan out. Sometimes, you just have to dive in head first and be confident in your decision. That is the true entrepreneurial spirit.

Resources:

Amis, D., & Stevenson, H. H. (2001). Winning angels: The seven fundamentals of early-stage investing. London: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

Angel Investors: The Art of Valuing

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“Valuation is what you are willing to exchange for something else you want.”

This section touches on the value of an investment. While dollar figures are important in determining value, there is another factor that comes into play. According to “Winning Angels,” the “return” on an investment can also include other perks, besides money; for instance, investing in a movie production could allow the investor to “meet movie stars and attend cocktail parties.” (Amis & Stevenson, 2001) Another way to win at investing is knowing exactly how the winners make it happen. On page 173, the authors have provided examples of some historic winning deals. It is not shocking that Apple Computer’s angel investor is at the top of the list. Richard Kramlich was able to turn $22,500 into over $5 million, which was “222 times his investment.” (Amis & Stevenson, 2001) This is not by any means the return on the average investment, however, it does just go to show what can be accomplished with the right deal.

Resources:

Amis, D., & Stevenson, H. H. (2001). Winning angels: The seven fundamentals of early-stage investing. London: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

Angel Investors: The Art of Evaluating

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In the section on Evaluating, in the book “Winning Angels,” authors David Amis and Howard Stevenson tell us there are things to look out for when weeding out the not-so-good investment opportunities. Angel investors have to stay ahead of the game when it comes to choosing the right idea to invest in. Notably, the single most important piece of advice here is knowing what type of entrepreneur you are dealing with. There is the “serial entrepreneur,” the “empire builder,” the “lifestyle builder,” the “high-potential entrepreneur,” the “almost there entrepreneur,” and the “wanna-be entrepreneur.” (Amis & Stevenson, 2001) I feel that one of these stands out as the least risky entrepreneur and one stands out as the most risky. In my opinion, investing in the serial entrepreneur’s idea makes the most sense, because this person has been there and done that and knows what does and does not work. The wanna-be entrepreneur seems like the biggest liability, because their ideas can lack “so many of the fundamentals needed for early-stage success.” (Amis & Stevenson, 2001) What it comes down to is that angels have to be able to distinguish between good and bad ideas and good and bad entrepreneurs.

 

Resources:

 

Amis, D., & Stevenson, H. H. (2001). Winning angels: The seven fundamentals of early-stage investing. London: Financial Times Prentice Hall.