Huma Ejaz who is the Swan Consultants and Advisory Services. A results-driven professional with over 13 years’ experience, Huma is CAF from Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP), certified in Advanced Corporate Finance from LUMS, business graduate from Government College University (GCU), Post graduate diploma in accounting from ICPAP. She has extensive work experience with startups in mentorship and financial planning, micro and small businesses as a consultant. Huma is a specialist in the area of corporate finance, feasibility reporting and financial modeling, budgeting and forecasting, risk management and internal controls, statutory audits and due diligence reporting.
After participating in numerous startups as a finance consultant, mentor and advisor, I’ve seen many startups not focusing on some very important aspects of starting a business, which ultimately leads to cash flow issues in future and becomes one of the most important reasons for startups’ failure. Here are the few tips, which if taken care of, in the beginning will save you costs and unnecessary challenges in the coming future, especially when pitching an idea to potential investors.
Your monetization strategy
Whatever is your reason to work on your own startup, be it finding a marketable solution to some problem, identifying a product/service for any particular segment or streamlining any existing process/product service delivery, always know what your monetization strategy is. This is one of the most important questions investors ask. Have a clear understanding of how pricing works and have a well-defined pricing model.
Costs Involved and Cost Control
A startup has to identify its relevant costs very effectively to understand in order for the idea to be financially feasible. If the costs are too high, it might not be a good idea to invest your time in such an idea, unless you have other ways to reduce costs. Also, keep a good check on cost control, as your contribution margin is what would absorb your expenses and assist you to achieve break even soon.
Financial model and Idea/Company Valuation
Value your idea wisely. Whether you are a pre or post revenue company, carefully prepare your financial model and value it. There are multiple models you should employ to ensure you could make a good estimate of your idea/company, as it strengthens your investor pitch at the same time.
Use the below methods of valuation subject to nature of your business or your startup’s stage:
a) Payback period
b) Discounted cash flow method
c) Earing multiple method
d) By stage valuation
Choose your mentor/Incubator Wisely
There are many incubators working in Pakistan that would incubate and guide you about your business. It gives a very good feeling to be incubated, as your idea gets validation. However, you need to be very careful which incubator to select. Also, an extremely important aspect is to get guidance about your ideas from relevant mentors who know the industry and would give you a direction instead of misguiding you or taking your idea away.
Learn, experience and implement
I hhighly recommend that you research, learn and read as much as you can. Be it online inexpensive courses or e-books; make learning a part of your routine. Know how a business is managed, how to prepare a financial plan, how to market, get insight on sales and so on. If you have a very good product/idea, but you don’t know how to market it or manage your business, someone else will do better than you and game over. Also, I advise all the young students graduating, to join some jobs, gain work experience, make your network of professionals, save some money and meanwhile work on your idea. You must have a game plan for it.
Strategies to Work On
Having a clear strategy at the very beginning helps you identify the stage of work and timelines as well. Have clear strategies for:
– Financial plan with focus on working capital
– Capex and Opex
– Marketing plan including traditional as well as digital
– Exit strategy
Picking the right team for right jobs is very important. Take all of the resources and time needed to discover the ideal match for each role. It is extremely important to have the right team who is committed to work with you, believes in your dream as you do and is keen to learn. Invest in your team, as that’s your biggest asset. Your investors take it very seriously how committed and passionate your team is to make your business idea sustainable and a success story.
The above list is not conclusive. There are many other important factors to be considered, depending on your purpose of the work. Stay motivated, meet the right-minded people, learn, make mistakes and make an impact.