If you're seeking outside funding to fuel growth, make sure you find an investor that's in sync with your business objectives - and brings more than just money to the table.
If you're thinking about private equity as a source of funding for your growing business, it's important to find private equity partnership that will help, not hinder, your growth. That's not as easy as it may sound.
As we talked about in our recent article, "What You Need to Know About Private Equity," most growing companies are dependent on private equity capital, whether it be angel investors, venture funds, or they are looking to buyout funds for an exit opportunity. But finding the right partner can be a challenge, because not every investor shares the same objectives. Here are four tips to building a strong partnership with your investors.
1. Find the right investor.
Angel investors, venture capital funds and large corporations all have different investment profiles. Each has a specific motivation and a process they typically use to create value. Partnering with the wrong investor often means that your business will be asked to meet investor goals that may not align with your goals for the business. Find an investor whose objectives are in sync with the business you are building. Read more about finding the right investor in our column, "3 Characteristics of a Great Investor."
2. Agree to a common view on how to maximize value.
At the outset of your partnership, spend time to align on the facts around the business and its markets, then discuss your strategy and how it will maximize value for the business. Make sure both parties are clear on the roles they will play and the expectations for how the investors will participate and add value to the business. A successful relationship is all about setting and communicating the right expectations and engaging in open communication when events necessitate a change in those expectations.
3. Align on the right incentives and desired outcomes for both parties.
Clearly lay out the personal, professional, and financial goals for both you and your investor. Identify areas where you can work together to help each other reach his or her individual goals. The investor will likely have a specific timeline in mind for an exit and may have expectations about an exit price. This will have a large impact on their view of various strategic decisions. As a CEO and management team, you may also have specific expectations about how to grow the business. Put these all on the table, especially if they may be in conflict, so you can manage expectations upfront and amicably.
4. Leverage your investor's experience, not just their money.
Brainstorm with your investor about ways in which he or she might help push the business forward. In some instances this may be obvious, such as a partnership with a corporate entity, but you may be surprised at other things the investor can offer beyond financial support. Investors typically have seen successes and failures and can share their advice. They may have a wealth of contacts, even potential customer relationships, that could provide value to the business. Don't overlook these intangibles.
A private equity investor will be a key member of your management team, so you need to build a strong, lasting relationship with them-just as you would with any of your key team members. Using your investor to the fullest will be critical to fueling the growth of your business.
Have you built a successful relationship with your private equity investor? Please share your thoughts with us at email@example.com.
KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree. @karlstark