Written By: Alex Tveit, Morrison Financial Services Ltd, Toronto, Ontario
It’s normal to feel nerves setting in when presenting to financiers or potential investors. However, before making your pitch, you need to make sure that you are able to paint an accurate picture of your business.
The vast majority of entrepreneurs do not know how to proficiently present their business to an investor or financier. In fact, this even goes for brokers whose primary job is to present businesses to financial partners. Some miss the target completely and do not present any relevant material, resorting to forwarding a package mostly meant as a sales presentation for potential customers.
Financial partners are looking to evaluate whether or not to give you their money. They are most likely not interested in seeing the sales pitch that you give to customers, but are looking for you to make them understand why their money would be well invested in you and your business. Too often I see an otherwise good business fail because an opportunity is presented badly, so here are my tips to present to financiers or investors.
I will use an analogy which my partner has used for entrepreneurs on numerous occasions. Imagine that your business is a jungle. Without your guidance, anyone who enters your jungle will be completely lost and your primary job is to help guide them through to the other side. This means that you should not take them on detours, loading your presentation with excess content or fluff and risk losing them along the way. Instead, take the most direct route to get them safely to the other side.
There is some exaggeration in the above, since a lot of financiers may already have relevant experience within your industry. But the truth is that they use this not only as a means to understand your business but also as a means to evaluate you as a potential client or partner. They are trusting you with their money. The more comfort you can give them, the easier time they have believing that you know how to run your business.
I am not naturally extroverted so I fully understand the pressure entrepreneurs go through when presenting to potential financial partners. However, unless you are presenting on the Dragons Den, the party sitting opposite you will not expect perfection, with the only potential caveat being if you are in sales. They are interested in getting to know what makes you tick. Giving them a taste of your personality can be the key to keeping their attention throughout the meeting.
It is very easy to get carried away when taking them through your business. Try to make sure that your presentation, either on paper or in person, is narrow and direct instead of broad and vague. This does not mean you should not have a lot of backup for your numbers. Any funder will appreciate your ability to take them through the minute details of your business, and their due diligence team will need to go through them at a later stage. In your initial meetings with them, present a picture that is concise and to the point.
One of the things that I would discourage more than anything else is the proverbial ‘bait and switch’. When you make your pitch to potential financiers or investors, don’t skirt the facts. Present yourself and your business truthfully and honestly. If you present yourself one way, only for their due diligence team to find out that the picture is significantly different, you will most likely face rejection and lose credibility for any future contact.
At Morrison Financial, we encourage entrepreneurs and businesses who are not suitable during their initial presentation, to try again when they have made some suggested adjustments. It is not uncommon for us to accept a client or partner on a second or third try, after they were initially turned down. Never burn bridges, especially those that can help you access funds.