Life After an Investment
You know that saying, “Be careful what you wish for”? Yeah, I get it now. About a year ago, my staffing startup—One-Shift—achieved the biggest win in its short history: We secured a US$5-million deal with Programmed, a local staffing and facility management firm. It felt like the ultimate accomplishment after devoting so much energy into attracting an investor, and we were ready for a long and prosperous future. But after the well-deserved celebrations came to an end, I was left wondering what steps to take next. We landed the investment partner of our dreams … now what?
The hard work, it seemed, was just getting started. As the dust of our victory settled, it dawned on me that finding the investor was actually the easiest part of the equation. Along with their investment, the financiers brought with them an expert knowledge of the industry and opened a lot of doors for us, though I learned they generally prefer not to involve themselves in the day-to-day operations of a startup. It took some time, but I learned how to effectively manage this post-investment relationship. Here are a few of the things I did to get us going:
- Put your updates in writing: When it comes to communicating with our investment partner, we learned early on that written updates are preferable to phone calls or face-to-face meetings. They not only capture essential information to be used for future reference, but they serve as a record to ensure consistent clarity around goals and objectives. Furthermore, they provide a “roadmap” for stakeholders to recommend course corrections if they spot any red flags. In the beginning, we sent updates to Programmed, our advisors and staff. The more relevant expertise we had in the loop, the more help we were able to call upon when it was necessary.
- Commit yourself to transparency: Share the good news and don’t hide the bad. It sounds simple, but keeping investors in the know about the goings-on of your business is essential, especially when it comes to the bigger decisions. Our investors may not be interested in the daily activities of the company, so when reporting to them, we keep the focus on the “big picture,” which includes updates on key factors in the business request. We also consistently use a template so each update that follows builds on the last, and we make it a point to highlight previously set short-term goals and how far along we are. This helps to clarify objectives and timeframes, and manage all expectations.
- Always meet your deadlines: Nobody likes being kept in the dark. Not family and friends, and certainly not banks and venture capitalist investors. When investors expect financial statements or records by a certain time, we make sure we deliver before the deadline. We’ve also found that it helps to remind our investors what we are up to at the moment, and not simply assume they’ve been keeping tabs on all of the major and minor aspects of our business.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance: Your investment partner is not only your ally, but a tremendous resource when it comes to better business. They’ve likely been through it all before and can offer a wealth of advice to help with your company’s development. In true Gestalt fashion, share a strategic problem you may be facing. Your partner may have dealt with similar situations before, and could offer a crucial perspective that you might be overlooking.
Since landing our big investment, OneShift has enjoyed great success due in large part to the above guidelines we established to help us manage our blossoming relationship. All in all, this has been a rewarding journey filled with plenty of les- sons learned, and I now have the tools I need to get ready for our next big financial win.