Expertise gained from training and experience in sales, sales management, business growth, product and market strategy, international sales and distribution, contract negotiation, and general management. The majority, but not all experience has been related to small business firms.
One of my favorite sayings is: “Begin with the end in mind.” This can mean several things in different circumstances, but the most prevalent is to ask oneself, ‘what am I trying to achieve?’, or ‘what is this supposed to look like when I get to the end?’. It can apply to a multitude of disciplines, be it mechanical, business structure and organization, market or product development, technology, contract arrangements, and internal processes.
Funding, either to start a business or to permit it to seize opportunities for growth or other opportunities can be a huge challenge. It is often the seemingly impossible hurdle.
And, take heart; almost all businesses are looking for funding over the life of the firm. Even successful ones have the same challenges. Expansion is fundamentally no different that starting a business, so as a business owner it is best to learn this and be good at it as quickly as possible.
Experience has taught me that regardless of the source of funding, there are three required questions that one should carefully and fully explain:
-How much money do you need?
-How are you going to use it?
-How do you intend to pay it back?
My experience is that if the business plan explains these three steps fully, with evidence to support the strategies and the assumptions behind them, then the money can be found somewhere and the other structural issues of financing usually can be worked out. But, deficiencies in any of these leaves glaring holes which will cause hesitation on the part of the lender or equity contributor.
My bias is in free markets and to focus on buyer and seller motivations in attempting to make deals or in strategizing to offer product to the markets. This same ‘market based thinking’ or alignment, to my way of thinking applies to all types of business interactions, and relationships, both internal and external.
Experience shows that fear and greed can be found around every corner as motivators of the human interacting to benefit oneself and should not be taken lightly. Find the fear, or find the greed and you can probably predict a buyer’s or seller’s (or employee’s or supervisor’s, or banker’s, or pick your discipline) underlying motivation.
People act more from fear of making the wrong decision than trying to optimize to make the right decision. This is one of the greatest deterrents to change, and also a huge barrier to accepting a new and improved mousetrap (which you may be offering).
If you are interested in how I arrived at some of these beliefs (and there are many more for given situations), feel free to further read the details below. Regardless, my approach in any circumstance is to try and boil it down into workable pieces and parts, and then apply business and economic fundamentals to those pieces.
Upon graduating with degrees in business and marketing, I joined the Peace Corps. After spending 2-1/2 years in El Salvador working with small scale vegetable farmers and small scale fishing operations, specializing in public markets, I obtained a Masters Degree in Resource Economics. This is micro-economics or theory of the firm applied to the development of natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable.
This allowed me to return back to El Salvador with a position with the Inter-American Development Bank to work on an artisan fisheries technological transfer project, assisting fishing cooperatives in obtaining technology and breaking the market restrictions previously held on them. We were successfully achieving our goals until a small thing called a civil war made it just a tad difficult and we had to leave.
After finishing that contract, and upon returning to the USA, I worked approximately 15 years for small steel and concrete fabrication firm making floating dock structures for the marina market. When I joined it was a local regional firm, and during my tenure and grew in my impact of progressing through sales, product development and management we grew into a national firm, expanding from 20 to over 100 employees.
I took a short term position working for my State Department of Economic Development, specializing in assisting minority and women owned businesses. It was there I learned the difficulties and trials of start-ups; the challenges of obtaining financing, and building a business. There is no ‘magic pill’ or panacea of government hand-outs, as much as those folks selling those books on TV want you to believe there is money out there just for the asking. This period required me to develop some skills to help people help themselves.
After that experience, seeking a return to some type of international involvement, I began in the concrete industry, specifically pre-cast concrete and worked with a firm specializing in selling European equipment into the Americas, with a specific responsibility to develop a market in Latin America. We were successful over a 15 year time period, where we grew from representing 2 European companies from two countries to 9 lines of equipment from 6 countries. I successfully placed equipment from Chile to Mexico, along with a few in the Caribbean. Simultaneously I worked the entire USA and Canada. Thus, I have a vast array of experience of coordinating a foreign buyer with a foreign manufacturer; one might call it melding three cultures in one transaction, as the sale went through our USA company.
There is more, but at this point, if this doesn’t seem interesting, nothing more will. I do promise, however, to offer you things to think about, and resources to pursue, even if you as a business aren’t sure as to how they fit for you.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Onward and Upward.