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7 Things that every investor looks for in a winning proposal

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Prepping for your big pitch

There’s an unfortunate reality about getting a startup off the ground: having a promising idea simply isn’t enough to get you funded. If you want to gather the capital necessary to get your business operational, you need to have a good idea as well as a solid bank of statistics, plans, outlines, and documentation to support that idea. Though it would seem like many ideas simply “sell themselves,” this is almost never the case.

The prudence of investors

You’re going to be pitching to potential investors, so remember that investors aren’t looking to give money away for free; they need to get something out of this. This is a risky endeavor, and they need to be assured that this isn’t just a good idea, but that it’s also a practical one with a genuine potential return. That’s the entire reason behind the standard formatting of a “pitch deck,” which theoretically tells investors everything they want to know.

So what is it that investors want to see in a successful proposal?

Ingredients for success

These are the things investors want to see in a winning proposal:

  1. A unique value proposition (UVP). First and foremost, your idea needs a unique value proposition; something that explains exactly what the company does and why it’s valuable, not to mention why it’s different than everything else on the market. This is a strong lead-in for any investor, as most prospective investors will only give ideas a cursory glance before dismissing them or probing for more information. Your UVP will also be useful later down the line, when you’re convincing clients instead of investors to do business with you.
  2. A detailed financial model. Ideas are powerful conceptually, but investors are going to be putting real, countable money into your startup. You need to be able to quantify everything in a detailed financial model; explain how you came up with the exact figure you need to get started, and how that money’s going to be used. Figure out and explain your cost basis, your potential for profits, and how you expect to grow over the coming years. The more detailed you are, the better.
  3. Thorough market research. It’s easy to form a hypothesis about how your idea might sell in a specific target audience, but again, investors like to see numbers here. What is it about your demographics that make your business so necessary? What hard evidence do you have to support your hypothesis? Thorough market research shows you’ve done your homework, and adds a layer of validation to your idea.
  4. Acknowledgment of the competition. You aren’t the only business doing this; chances are, even if your specific niche is unfilled, there are related businesses doing something similar already in play. Ignoring these competitors is a glaring flaw investors will see in your pitch deck immediately, so be sure to list at least a handful of your toughest competitors and explain why your business has an advantage over them.
  5. A reputable leader. Companies may be based on ideas, but they’re built and supported by people. All businesses, no matter how good they are in theory, target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”need strong leadership if they’re going to survive. If you’re the one who’s going to make the decisions, you need to justify your acumen and experience, proving that you have what it takes to lead the business. Otherwise, you’ll need to find partners and employees with niche expertise who can compensate for your weaknesses.
  6. An expectation of return. This should be a part of your financial projections already, but make sure you have a specific callout for how you expect to return on your investors’ contributions. You’re asking them for a hefty sum of money, but what are you going to give back to them when you’re successful?
  7. Challenges and risks. Finally, your pitch deck shouldn’t all be blind optimism and pep talking. Be sure you include a section on the significant risks, challenges, and obstacles your business is going to face. This isn’t pretty, and it may not be fun to think about, but it’s a necessary admission for an all-around strong business plan.

If you can put together a pitch deck that addresses all seven of these items satisfactorily, you’ll be in a good position to convince any investor that your business is worth investing in. These are basic and practical factors that, when presented, show that you’re a competent entrepreneur and that your idea has real merit. The other benefit in including these factors is that they’ll force you to confront the weaknesses of your business early on—when you have time to correct them.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Business Finance

Why you will pay more to live in larger metros: job opportunities

(BUSINESS NEWS) Small to mid-sized metros offer higher adjusted salaries, but don’t pack your bags just yet because your job may not be there

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small metros cheaper house

When I told my parents how much my partner and I would be paying for rent at our new apartment, they quickly pointed out that I could purchase a home for that kind of money in my hometown.

My parents are right, I could literally buy a home for the amount of money I pay in rent every month to live in a large metro area. But the equation that determines where I and many other workers should live, is more complex than salary minus housing.

These areas are cheaper to live in, in part, because they may not offer the kind of job opportunities, and therefore social mobility, you see in larger metro areas. Sure, I could make my money go further in my hometown, but the chances of me finding a job in my industry there are smaller.

Your field of work does matter when considering whether or not the “small-city advantage” could work for you. If you work in tech or finance, two traditionally high-paying fields, then this advantage doesn’t apply.

“Before adjusting for living costs, typical technology salaries are 27% higher in two-million-plus metros than metros with fewer than 250,000 people. Even after adjusting for those costs, tech salaries are still 5% higher in the largest metros than in the smallest ones,” finds Indeed.

If a huge tech company offering thousands of high-paying jobs moved into a smaller city on the map, over time, it would get more expensive to live there.  It’s the hamster wheel that is currently driving income inequality in some of America’s largest major metro areas.

Finding the right place to call home is never going to be a single factor decision. Yes, salary is a huge factor, as is the cost of living, but there are also lifestyle factors to consider. What kind of opportunities would you have in this city? How much will it cost to move there? How will this affect the other members of your household?

It’s nice to play the ‘ditch the corporate world and buy a country house’ fantasy after a long day at work, but the reality is far more complex.

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Business Finance

How to win over investors immediately with a great 1st impression

(BUSINESS FINANCE) First impressions are everything, and it’s no different when it comes to approaching investors. We have the tips to win them over.

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Going in for your first pitch meeting with investors can be nerve-wracking – especially if you haven’t yet met these investors in person. Fortunately, if you land a solid first impression, you can set the right tone for the meeting, and make the rest of the presentation a little easier on yourself.

But why are first impressions so important, and how can you ensure you make one?

Let’s start with a recap of the benefits of a strong first impression:

    • A reputation framework. Our brains are wired to make quick judgments about our surroundings. Accordingly, we tend to judge people based on our first interactions with them, with little opportunity to change those initial judgments later on. If you strike investors as a smart, likeable, and capable person early on, they’ll see your pitch deck in a whole new light.
    • Memorability. First impressions stick with people. If yours stands out from the other entrepreneurs pitching these investors, they’ll be more likely to remember you, specifically, and therefore may be more likely to eventually fund your project.
    • Personal confidence. If you know you’ve nailed the first impression, you’ll feel more confident, and as you already likely know, confidence makes you a better public speaker. You’ll speak more deliberately, more passionately, and with fewer mistakes.

So how can you make sure you land this impression?

    • Arrive in a nice vehicle. Show up in a luxury vehicle, or at least one that’s been recently detailed, sends a message that you’re already successful. This isn’t a strict necessity, but it can speak volumes about what you’ve already achieved, and how you might look when you drive to meet your future clients.
    • Dress for the occasion. Along similar lines, you’ll want to dress nicely. You don’t need to have ridiculously expensive clothes, but you should wear standard business attire that fits you properly and has no signs of wear. It’s also a good idea to get a haircut, shave, wear tasteful makeup, and make other small touches that improve your overall appearance.
    • Smile. Smiling is contagious, and it instantly makes you more likable. Don’t force a grin (or else you’ll look like a robot), but do flash a genuine smile as often as appropriate during the first few minutes you meet your prospective investors.
    • Use your investors’ names. When you speak to your investors, try to address them by name as often as possible. People love to hear the sound of their own names, so it might help you win their favor. As an added bonus, it will help you reinforce your association with their name and face, so you eliminate your risk of calling someone by the wrong name later on.
    • Warm-up with something personal. It’s tempting to get down to business right away, especially because your investors’ time is limited, but in most cases, it’s better to warm up with something personal—even if it’s only a few lines of a conversation. Tell a funny joke you heard earlier in the day, or share an anecdote about how your morning has been going. It makes you seem more personable and charismatic.
    • Find a common link. If you can, try to find something in common with each of your prospective investors. You might comment that you got your tie at the same place they did, or that you use the same type of pen. Look for subtle clues about their personalities, lifestyles, and hobbies, and forge a connection through those channels. People disproportionately like other people like them, so the more commonalities you can find with your prospective investors, the better.
    • Watch your posture. Your posture says more about you than you might think. Keep your back straight with your shoulders back, and walk confidently with your hands out of your pockets. This is crucial for projecting confidence (and feeling it internally as well).

If you can land a great first impression, you’ll set the stage for a killer presentation—but don’t think you’re out of the woods yet. You still need to make sure you have a fantastic pitch deck in place, and enough knowledge on your startup idea to handle the toughest investor questions. If this is your first pitch, don’t worry – it does get easier – but the fundamentals are always going to be important.

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Business Finance

What is financial impostor syndrome and how to fix it

(FINANCE) Financial impostor syndrome is common, but seeing polished people in your industry may make you feel like you’re struggling alone- you aren’t

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financial impostor syndrome

If you’ve ever felt like a fraud when it comes to your success, you’re not alone. Impostor syndrome is recognized as a “a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments.”

Typically, impostor syndrome is discussed as it pertains to your career, but it can manifest in other areas, like with finances.

Financial impostor syndrome has many components. You might feel as if you are bad with money and can’t be any different. Maybe you’ve made some bad decisions in the past.

You let these mistakes define your financial future.

Or maybe you dwell on the endless Instagram posts from people in your industry that depict the glamour of their financial successes (not knowing that they don’t own that jet, their client rented it for the weekend, or that they have a Ferrari but are potentially hiding it from being repossessed).

Some people believe money is bad or that they don’t deserve financial stability. Especially freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Alternatively, you may have money in the bank, but feel like a fake or fraud for earning it. You might think it was just luck that you have any resources, rather than believing in your own capabilities.

Financial impostor syndrome keeps you from reaching your potential.

Most people who have impostor syndrome also have low self-confidence and fear that they’ll fail. This can self-sabotage success. Instead of taking initiative and making positive changes, someone with impostor syndrome may bury themselves in work and avoid taking on extra responsibilities that could prove themselves.

When it comes to money, you might think that you can’t make changes, so why try? This type of thinking limits you.

Overcoming financial impostor syndrome isn’t going to happen overnight, but it is possible with some work.

1. Talk about it. You have to look at the reality of your situation versus your perception. Work with a mentor or mental health professional who can help you get information about impostor syndrome and help you manage your symptoms. You may want to consider getting a financial coach or manager.

2. Make a list of your accomplishments and successes. Celebrate your achievements. Learn to recognize what you contributed to your successes.

3. Create a new script for times when you feel like a failure. “I can improve my finances.” “I am able to stick to my budget.” I deserve financial freedom.”

4. Change your habits. Take small steps towards financial success. Spend cash only. Automate your savings and your bills. Cut up credit cards. Learn your strengths and weaknesses. Stick to your budget.

Additionally, you must forgive yourself for past mistakes.

Everyone has at least one or two regrets when it comes to their money. We don’t always see those mistakes, because we only hear about the person’s success. If you can’t learn to forgive yourself, you restrict your ability to make changes. Blame and shame never help anyone change behavior.

Make a plan to change your financial impostor syndrome. No matter what you’ve done in the past, you can start making small changes to your financial situation to find a way out. You deserve it.

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