I started a business. It made me want to drink copious quantities, smoke myself into oblivion and hit my head against a brick wall. Instead I wrote a blog.
Site Launch Day: 40
User Count: 63
Going right: Have crystallized plans for employees and started initiating recruiting
Going wrong: Fed up with cooking on this island with no Indian take-aways, or indeed take-aways period.
Comment: Tikka Masala. Fish & Chips. Pizza. Kentucky Fried reconstituted chicken bits. Dim Sum
I have a strange inbetween-y feeling. And not just because it's not-quite-the-weekend, not-the-beginning-of-the-week, either. I feel like I am on the tip of things, waiting for the crest of the wave to break. The pre-funding game. I just hope it doesn't last too long. Anticipation and adrenalin like many things, are only good in small doses.
"The last thing you want to happen is that you fail because you can't handle success" said my new business adviser. As if failing because you were rubbish was okay. Suddenly I have visions of myself shaving my head Britney-style or nakedly frozen in death, artistically cast over satin sheets clutching an empty pill bottle. Although I was faintly encouraged that he was even suggesting that success may be ours for the taking. Clearly that meant he hadn't found any other glaring flaws.
"You have to make sure your business is scalable. And not just the model - the support systems as well. What happens if your servers go down for 36 hours? You'll lose all credibility. What happens if someone sues you? It'll turn into a PR nightmare." That wasn't my first thought on hearing the word "sue" but sure, that too.
The design of our business model is something that has been an amazing puzzle for me and I have immensely enjoyed creating it. Of course it all hinges on whether I can convey to people the absolute joy of having geographical and financial freedom. It's a no-brainer to me - but apparently even this, I have to "market" properly. One friend said "I guess convincing sheep that there's another alternative requires self realization on THEIR part. Maybe they're just not capable." Personally I have more respect for sheep than that; I think they are secretly breeding to take over the world in a Far Side-esque parody.
But the business model isn't the problem and even the legal side not so much (as I do for the sheep, I have quite a lot of trust in human nature and hope that I can work WITH whoever has a problem to sort it out). No - our weakness, if any, is the customer service. You may have noticed my diatribe against PayPal for hiding their customer service number in the depths of the website undergrowth early on in this blog, and I above all want to be accessible to the user base of Investment Impact. But I am only one person. I must sleep. I must eat. And I must spend time with my family.
So in doing my plan for Investment Impact, I have built in a big piece for the customer service team like this:
= No of Users x Frequency of customer service calls/emails x Time Spent dealing with those calls/emails
= Amount of time to spend on customer service (in the last year of the plan this amount was 40,000+ days)
Then I divide these days by working days in a year (that's 220 approximately, minus the amount of holiday and giving some leeway for slack facebook time) to come up with a total number of people needed. Holy crap. That's 30+ people.
30 people need a couple of managers I would imagine, multiply them by their predicted salaries + 20% for social contributions.
Turns out he cost of instant accessibility for customers in my plans is over £0.5 million. Cheap at the price. What value do you put on it?
Site Launch Day: 41
User Count: 64
Going right: Have booked up a week of investor meetings.
Going wrong: Need to quickly swot up on Return on Equity calcs, and corporate structure. Argh.
Comment: Never. NEVER throw away your university text books. You just don't know when they will come in handy.
Earlier this month, like so many other blogs, I quoted Steve Jobs at you. 'Great things in business are not done by one person, they are done by a team of people'. Wouldn't it be great if I could follow my own advice? You see, for me working in finance means two things:
1. Your maths is surprisingly shit because you are so used to using a calculator or excel.
2. You have control issues and if you weren't in finance, you'd probably be doing Tupperware parties because you can put things in nice little boxes.
Finance has traditionally been in a power struggle with Marketing. Why? It's about control. Traditional finance functions like to control spending. Marketing has little regard to budget and cost restraint because THEIR job is to be creative. Who cares whether the new ad campaign costs twice what was planned? It's gonna blow the socks off the consumers. Ideas, are precious. If Finance wants to cut costs, it's like asking Marketing to divide their living child with a sword.
Of course I pride myself that strategic finance - my lovely hybrid discipline - is far more flexible. And although you shouldn't use creative and finance in the same breath, it really is. But today I find myself fighting some fairly powerful control issues. Because opening up Investment Impact to angel investors may mean ...micro management. The biggest fear of any founder. And next week, I so far have four meetings booked with prospective investors starting with two on Monday. Oh yes. Things sure have changed here on Walton's Mountain.
So it appears we may be entering a new phase - something I long ago dreamed of - that Investment Impact will become an operational company in its own right and not simply a financial platform for a few virtual consultants including myself.
"What's angel funding?" asked my boyfriend, clearly hoping it had nothing to do with my mystical side. I draw angel cards every evening because of my absolute belief that the material plane is not the only facet of life and that I must be in some way psychic. God forbid I should be an ORDINARY person....because as much as I love finance and economics, I really hope that there is more to life than that.
"It's commonly seed funding in the pre-venture capital stage - high worth individuals or groups of individuals looking for a bit more risk and a lot more return." I said.
"200K is a lot of money."
"No..I would say opposite." I said. "It is to us, but for a business it's peanuts. Especially with the return that they'll get."
Of course in order for this to happen, I need to decide where I am willing to compromise. Whether its a large sum of money or not, angel investors want to be assured of their return - they are unlikely just to fork over the cash and sod off. It's like Indecent Proposal. What happens to your morals when there's a large wad of cash on the table?
"I won't compromise my vision for my funky nonconformist company that's for sure." I said.
"What if they hand you 2 million and say they want control of the company?" said my boyfriend.
My face was a study. It was a hypothetical situation because of course angel investors won't ever give an unrequested amount off the cuff, but still he managed to smack my moral center. For all that I care about my company, and having invested close on three years and lavished much care on it; I wonder where do my principles succumb when that amount of money can make a huge difference to my life and family. It's a question I'm not sure I'll answer before Monday.
If you want a peek at the business that's driving me insane you can click here.
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