Own Your Future 2021 has concluded for another year, and it was bigger and better than ever before (if we do say so ourselves!). It was a jam packed day of incredible speakers who are leaders in their fields, top business thinkers, successful entrepreneurs, and innovators and disruptors in the world of digital business.
In case you missed it, or you want a recap from any or all of the sessions, we have the recording available for you in full right here:
No Rules: the Number One Principle to Going Live in 2021.
As a startup, there is only one rule: there are no rules. But there are principles. We joined Fred on the streets of NYC as he was walking into his offices and in true Fred Schebesta style this was an open and frank discussion. “Burning the midnight oil”, Fred is an Australian entrepreneur and founder of Finder, a half a billion-dollar global business with no funding, currently in the midst of launching Finder in the US. He gave a raw and insightful perspective to how he started his entrepreneurial journey and his advice for those looking to start a business. What are his top tips for entrepreneurs starting out?
- Decide what your non-negotiables are
- Make something you understand and make it easy to do
- Build a brand
- Speed is important in business, but speed is different to rushing – “hurry, don’t rush”
- Understand the important of capital allocation
- Be aware of your company outgrowing you – don’t be a blocker!
How does Finder decide where their growth will come from? They listen to the customer. What does the customer want and how can you serve them?
From Dreams to Dollars.
As a counter-balance to Fred, Mike Finger’s presentation was a Zen guide to exiting your business step-by-step. Mike has successfully sold 4 businesses and works with other small business owners who are interested in preparing to exit their business to ensure their business is in the best position for sale. 90% of businesses that exist are small businesses, and Mike reminds all small business owners that because the big business sales are the most publicised, it doesn’t mean you can’t sell at a great price at an optimal multiple. Namaste, Mike.
These are Mike’s steps for preparing to sell your small business:
- Let go of your unicorn dream, unrealistic expectations
- Small business exits are different from big business exits
- Set Aside the Complexity
- Most small businesses that fail to sell is because of some small element of the business
- Our ability to sell isn’t about some “mystical” number, but it’s about a simple approach
- To sell your small business you must have:
- Buyer: every small business that is sold must have a buyer
- Most likely an individual
- Think about yourself as the one buying the business
- They want a long list of wants when buying a business
- Buyer: every small business that is sold must have a buyer
- There are two primary needs that are going to dominate a buyer’s decision
- They need to make a living, they need to be compensated for their time
- They’re going to have to make loan payments, they’re going to have to service the debt from the loan they took out to purchase your business
- If you business can do both of these things, you have increased your chances of successfully selling your business
- “My results buy my business”
- Three key questions to ask yourself
- Are my results desirable?
- Seller’s discretionary earnings; financial benefit you get from owning your business. The higher your SD, the higher your purchase price for the business.
- Am I miserable?
- The owner’s job matters. If your job sucks, who will buy one?
- Create a business that’s attractive to a buyer
- Can a Buyer Duplicate My Results?
- Build a team
- You should be able to transfer a business with the understanding that it does not need to depend on the owner to grow
- Results should exist elsewhere besides the original business owner
- If you create a team and systems, it’s easier for someone to duplicate
- Can I document my results?
- Is the traffic what you said it was?
- Keep clean records to ensure the business is staying whole through the transfer process
- Are my results desirable?
- If you can answer yes to all those three questions, you are much closer to a place where a small business exit can be successfully exited.
Women Founders and the VC Landscape.
Next up we had Sarah Ouellette and Georgie Smallwood whose double-act provided expertise in both funding early-stage businesses and raising funds as an entrepreneur. In a world dominated by men, they gave a unique insight into how they’ve tackled the disparity in VC funding and women-owned businesses. More importantly they touched on some of the resources and advice available to women funders and founders. This includes Auxilia which is a network Georgie founded for women entrepreneurs.
They also discussed that out of all the funding from VC firms, only 2.3% went to female founded businesses globally.
What does that mean for women-owned businesses looking for funding?
While this session focused on women founders and funders, all entrepreneurs can learn how to leverage the best funding networks and the right early stage investors during a capital raise. They discussed the importance of connecting with like-minded people both when looking for funding and more general business advice. They’re biggest tip for women entrepreneurs was to make their pitches hyper-commercialised. This also plays into women often feeling they need to be more conservative with their projections and the amount of funding they ask for. It’s not about being dishonest but selling the potential and the opportunity that you believe in. And it’s proven that women are delivering better returns on every dollar invested compared to male-led companies. The message to all female entrepreneurs – believe in yourself and the opportunity you see!
The final note they left us on was to remind founders that you don’t have to take funding from just anyone. Find funders that you want to do business with, feel ok with saying no to someone if they’re not the right fit for you or your business. And lastly, asked why they want to invest in your company, “if you’re talking to VCs, interview THEM!”.
Making Waves. Growth through Culture.
Coming off a huge round of funding for Thrasio, David Shapiro brought a lot of energy and insight into how to scale, but more importantly how to maintain a great culture as your company grows.
Two days before Own Your Future Thrasio announced a $1 Billion capital raise so there was some good energy for the virtual session. Thrasio are acquiring businesses at a very significant scale, currently, on average, they’re buying about 1.5 Amazon businesses a week. So where did they start and how are they growing?
Thrasio believe in growing with a strong culture and they have developed a unique set of values that resonates with their business:
- No egos. No assholes.
- “Let go of your Legos” – scaling a company involves giving away responsibility
- Data talks
- Don’t be afraid to fail
- LOL! – surround yourself with people you have fun with, you’ll enjoy it and you’ll do better
David then went on to highlight the importance of being honest with yourself and acknowledging what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are. Then hire people who compliment your strengths and weaknesses. This also applies to your business, be transparent with where your company is at, warts and all!
David shared with us the idea of the Paradox of Happiness – if you focus on things you enjoy you’re going to wake up one day and realise you’re happy. The same thing goes for your business. If you’re focused on only making money you may find that it becomes elusive, but if you focus on meeting a customer need, and especially meeting a customer need in an area you’re passionate about you’re more likely to wake up one day and find that you’re successful. If you like what you’re doing you’re more likely to enjoy what you’re doing and therefore more likely to make money.
David then left us with some practical tips for business owners looking to raise capital. Obviously you need to prove your business performance, but in his view the more important factor for him as an investor is the leadership and culture of your business.
The Bounce Back. Owning Your Future after Bad Times.
Lara Morgan was next up and came with a lifetime of experience in starting and building businesses which has meant, along the way, she’s been no stranger to the setbacks faced by entrepreneurs. Joining us from London, Lara jumped in straight away with her lived experiences and discussed how humility was a big part of her hiring the best people she could to help her build the businesses she dreamt of.
Lara’s most recent business challenges have come from COVID-19, similar to many entrepreneurs out there, with businesses in the travel, hotel and events industries COVID has proven to be a real headwind. When it comes to setbacks faced by businesses, Lara says the best thing to understand is where your business can make cuts. Do you know who your best customers are in terms of profits? Do you know which customers you can afford to lose? And more importantly, are you focusing your spending on your best customers?
The next big question Lara says you need to ask is “are your staff really working for you in terms of profitability?” Ask the hard questions about staffing and have the hard conversations if you need to move an employee on. One of her biggest pieces of advice for start-up owners is to put the procedures and structures in place for staff to work so you can be sure they’re focusing on the right areas.
Part of knowing if you’re getting the best out of your staff and your customers, is sales and profit analysis which then drives profit priority. Then allocate your time based on your profit priority.
All of the above comes back to putting your customer at the centre of everything you do and building a customer retention strategy as well as continually analysing your business to know what your customers are doing and where they’re interacting with your business both in sales and engagement.
Scaling Smart – Top Actions Entrepreneurs Must Do after Growth Funding.
Anna Rose joined us from Yardline and gave us actionable advice for how to decide where to use growth capital. When making this decision the biggest metric to be focusing on should be ROI as you’re going to need to pay off the growth capital and you want to ensure that it’s only a small portion of what you make.
Yardline use 5 critical analyses to help businesses scale smart:
- Unit Economics – analysing the cost to revenue ratio
- COGS and Supply Chain – are you optimzing on cost or time?
- Expansion Analysis – expanding through product, product line/category, marketplace, market/geography
- Advertising Optimization – what to look for in your advertising mix
- Partnerships and Staffing – Critically assess these
Learn more about growth and acquisition funding at yardline.com/flippagrowth/
Save $ZERO and Still Retire a Multi-Millionaire.
Don Henig joined us and gave an inspiring and compelling talk on why you shouldn’t save your money, but invest it!
Don shared how he grew up in a household that was fairly fiscally conservative and that his parents expected him to grow up and get a traditional (and secure) job. But this didn’t feel right to Don and quickly found that not only did he enjoy starting businesses and building them, he was good at it.
Don’s advice is to spend on making money, as well as on the things you enjoy (he calls it health insurance!). Don’t spend the money on expensive cars and other assets that depreciate, or at least not until you can really afford to do so.
Don shared his personal perception of what the mindset of an entrepreneur is, why you need to understand leverage and how to use it properly. His golden rule of leverage: only use it when you are profitable, along with a plan to win. Don says this is the mindset of an entrepreneur.
Not sure where to start? Don advises you to just start! Get out of your comfort zone, you’ll come across challenges but you’ll overcome them.
Don has a lot to say. Scoop it up at Accrueme.
Supercharging SEO Performance with Defined Audience Personas.
Diana Richardson gave us a fast-paced masterclass in supercharging your SEO performance through defining your audience personas.
Having clear audience personas will allow you to drive personalized marketing efforts and allow for deeper customer segmentation. Whatever you do, Diana advises that you should not base personas on assumptions. Start with the data you have because that reflect your actual audience.
Your audience persona should inspire the content you create and enable personalized tone throughout content. You’ll also find new opportunities for long-tail keywords and highlight newly discovered, high conversion keywords. Think of creating content in the way you would start a conversation, ideally you want to drive engagement. Keep an eye on the Flippa blog announcing a longer Mastercalss session with Diana. Meantime, browse Flippa’s blog for loads of articles on SEO and Semrush
Growing Your Solo Empire.
Ramon Ray burst into Own Your Future 2021, starting with a very philosophical question: “Why are we here and why are we doing this?”
This is the lense through which Ramon thinks about building businesses and how he makes decisions. He is focused on giving back and building a lasting legacy. Ramon has built a number of small businesses and has sold two of them.
What are the questions Ramon believes you need to ask when building and selling your business?
- Why would anyone want to buy your business?
- Can the buyer plug and play with what you’re offering?
- How tightly is your brand tied with your company?
- Is your name/personas tied to your brand?
- Do you have an A-team in place? Oftentimes, buyers won’t need your team. They want the infracture to scale. Think about this when growing your business.
- Have a star player in place.
- Build for the future and yet act in the present. Pay your taxes, do legal due diligence, and have great customer service. Be clear with who your customer is.
- Understand your demographic – Be able to tell your buyer who the ideal customer is
- Build relationships with your future buyer
- Understand what the buyer really wants – Intellectual property, property, your customer base?
- Understand what you want and don’t let ego get in the way!
NFTs: Fad or Only The Beginning?
This was the last session for Own Your Future 2021 and both Morgan and Richard brought some unique perspectives to the burgeoning space of NFTs.
Starting off by defining Web3 at a high level, Morgan described it as a different way to interact over the internet and there may be a confluence of that with the metaverse where we’re able to interact in a totally different way.
Richard’s start in the Web3 community through a newsletter that rewarded paying subscribers with an NFT badge which gave them access to a private discord, that was the first time he connected an NFT to a discord and then they launched the bankless DAO – a movement to get more people into crypto and become bankless.
The big questions were asked – is it all speculative or are there real world economics in play? Like most things in the digital landscape the answer is not simple, some parts of it are highly speculative, whereas other aren’t. It’s possible that in 10 years 90% of NFTs could be worthless, where as others could grow in value and become a ‘legitimate’ asset class.
For many in the NFT and cryptocurrency space, the uncertainty is what excites them. How can you determine which are speculative and which will become true digital assets. The biggest piece of advice when trying to determine this is how valuable is the community to the members and to you? What is the utility of the NFT? This is essentially the access economy.
The second part of the value of NFT comes from the IP. Unlike owning other pieces of art, you can use your NFT for commercial gain as you have commercial rights. This is very unique and a big part of the Web3 ecosystem that’s forming.