Worst Place #1 – Investors! Why? it’s the most expensive money and it takes more of your time and energy to secure it. Plus they almost never tell you no so you waste a lot of energy pursuing deals that are never going to happen.
Worst Place #2 – Lenders. It’s cheaper than investor money but it’s still hard to get (almost impossible for start-ups). Not only do you have to pay it back with interest but often at the most inconvenient times that don’t account for dips and fits that all businesses (especially young ones) go through.
Worst Place #3 – Friends and Family. Why? It can be easy to get, and if you’re a success you probably won’t mind paying it back. But if you aren’t a success you can mess up some important relationships. Seriously.
THE BEST PLACE? Customers.
Not only are they the best place, customers are actually the only place to get money. Here’s why. Your business is like a car. It has to get a lot of power. Power to go, of course, but also for the power steering, power brakes (did you forget cars didn’t use to power those things?) And you need power for the windows, the AC, the audio system, even the GPS and the DVD player for the kids. All that power has to come from the engine. All of it. There are no solar panels (not yet) no gerbils or even rubber bands under the hood. Every single bit has to come from the engine.
But the engine can’t start itself. In the olden days it was started by muscle power with a crank. In my younger days I had a car that had to be started with a push down a hill. Modern cars get started with power from the battery. But that battery needs to be recharged, and the charge comes from guess where? The engine.
Your business is like that. The customers are the engine. All the money has to come from the customers. Sure you may need a jump start, and you may look to some of those worst case sources I mentioned for that jump start. But if you haven’t built a business model that shows how your customers will ultimately pay your cost of goods, plus all the costs of selling to them, plus the cost of keeping the lights on PLUS paying back the lenders, investors or friends and family your company will sputter and die. In many cases you won’t even get the jump start.
I say this as an ex-entrepreneur who is currently an angel investor. I love it when my investment can jump-start a successful company. But I don’t get to do it enough. Why? Too many entrepreneurs think getting my money is closer to the end not the beginning.
Too often I see pitches from entrepreneurs who don’t really get that my money is just a jump start – and an expensive one at that. So expensive in fact, that there are a lot of good companies who will never get going fast enough to pay me back enough to make me take the risk. Too often they waste so much time trying to pitch to people like me when they could be selling stuff to customers and actually making money.
Many would be much better off to start with a little push, and grow slower but more profitably, with customer’s money.
photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/neubie/2273635564/
[tags] start-up, entrepreneur, financing, investors, VC, angel investor [/tags]