Business model testing (Is it profitable? Is it scalable?)
Regular checks are important for a start-up. Have your previously set goals been reached and if so, can the business be scaled further? We usually measure the scalability by starting with relatively small trial cases that cover a broad range of marketing measures. Can we generate sales through Google Adwords, mailings, e-mail marketing, tele-marketing, direct marketing events or any other method? If there are a couple of measures that allow us to generate sales with a positive return e.g. if we spend 50 cents we can generate 51 cents in revenue we know that this potentially could allow the business to scale. Once we have found a method that seems to work, we scale the test case – if we can generate EUR10,000 in revenue by spending EUR500 through adwords, could we also generate revenue of EUR100,000? As an eCFO you need to push this test case as quickly as possible to make sure that the business model actually is sustainable and has significant revenue potential. If not – kill it quickly.
eCFO Tips: Make sure that management teams can differentiate between expenses and investments. In our company everybody gets a VOIP phone installed on their computer and uses a headset for calls. We do not have actual phones anymore. Nevertheless, the FolienKnecht team requested to spend EUR40 for an actual phone – it took a long discussion for them to convince me that this was a necessary expense and approval took a while. At the same time I suggested that they should get together with the city of Hamburg and sponsor a networking event. Sponsoring fees here were a small 4 digit amount and they asked why I did not have a problem with such a comparatively large amount, versus all the hassle for the EUR40 phone. The answer is easy – for a start-up it is essential to spend money on the RIGHT things not on those that are nice to have. As an eCFO it is your responsibility to ensure that this principal is actually enforced and that every expenditure is measured.
Investments and financing
I admit – this is a special case since FolienKnecht is a services business, a powerpoint designer, which can grow through its own cash flow generation ability. Therefore, I just needed to make sure that I fully understood the cost structure and what was needed to bring the business to break even cash flow generation without raising significant capital. As with most agencies it is possible to grow with this easy formula: “one employee needs to generate enough cash to pay the salary of two, two for four, four for eight and soon growth is possible”. In addition, your cost structure will mostly consist of salaries and some marketing investment but both cost items should quickly generate revenue. What is more important is that you create structures that are highly efficient and streamlined for cash generation.
For any other type of venture that require significant start-up capital I would suggest that you calculate your financial needs, then add 30% of that total to your numbers and you are good to go. Once you have determined your financial needs, raise a little bit of capital yourself and build a prototype. Investors are much more likely to give you money (even for a higher valuation) if you can show them a working prototype vs. a slide presentation with nice ideas on it.
Overall, I hope that these posts provided some operational examples of how to implement the measures I described in previous posts. As always I am looking forward to receive your feedback and comments!