Before an angel investor or venture capital firm will invest in a startup, the business has to prove its viability through a lengthy review process called due diligence. Startups often prepare tens to hundreds of pages of documentation and give presentations to investors, advisors and lawyers on every aspect of their business, from the broad vision and strategy all the way to specific financial projections, in-depth market analysis and more.
And while the due diligence process can be intensive, Yasin Abbak says it's as valuable for the startup as it is for potential investors. "Even if you never plan to raise money, due diligence preparations and documentation can help you build your business more efficiently," he says. Abbak is the CEO of the Fantasy Life App, a mobile community for fantasy sports fans, and he has helped build numerous other early stage startups to profitability, focusing on the importance of teams, communication and effective leadership for startup success.
Here are some of the reasons entrepreneurs and small businesses should consider evaluating their business like an investor would, whether they're seeking investment or not.
Mastering Your Brand Story And Positioning
As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we often trust our gut, moving forward with ideas that may not be fully formed. Documenting and explaining your business vision and strategy for an investor pitch forces you to think deeply about your brand, your story and your sense of purpose. In effect, this type of thinking lets you refine and master your elevator pitch, which is the key to clearly explaining your business to any interested parties.
"Remember, your elevator pitch isn't just for investors," Abbak says. "Ultimately, being able to express your brand story thoroughly and clearly is valuable for finding co-founders, employees, potential customers, advisors and even just making conversation at a networking event."
Validating (And Future-Proofing) Your Business
An analysis of your business by investors will include a detailed look at the marketplace and market size, potential or actual competitors, ideal customer, and the demand for your product or service.
"Understanding your competitive advantage is key to growing your business strategically," Abbak says. Knowing who else is operating in the space you're in is key to finding your place in it, and that knowledge will help you figure out how you can best differentiate yourself, forge effective partnerships, or position yourself for a merger or acquisition.
Having An Honest & Unified Vision
The due diligence process requires the coordination and cooperation of all members and parts of your business, from sales and tech to product and marketing, and beyond. "This type of holistic thinking gives you a better understanding of your overall opportunity and if it's a good use of your time," Abbak says, but it also creates a more effective and connected team.
By including all these functions, individuals or departments in a detailed conversation about possibilities, priorities and realities, you create a much more efficient team. When everyone is on the same page, you move the business forward with a shared goal.
For many entrepreneurs or small business owners, it's passion or skill that drives the founding of a business, but the financial details are often what decides the long term viability of a business. Having an effective strategy, timeline and path for monetization is key, and creating a multi-year business plan with financial projections ensures that that you're on the right track, not just to viability, but profitability.
"With this sort of analysis, you're forced to think through what the next three years will look like, financially," Abbak says. That clarity about finances allows you to make strategic choices about what you need and can afford in terms of staffing, equipment, office space, tech upgrades, marketing and more, and to ensure you stay on track as your situation changes.
As an added bonus, having all these documents and the associated thinking also helps prepare you for that possibility. "If you ever decide you do need to raise money, you'll have a great starting point," Abbak says.
"The idea of a lifetime comes once a week," Abbak says. "But to have a business that lasts a lifetime, you need to think like an investor."