Over half of SMEs do not obtain the funding they need to survive, says Giles Fuchs
It’s estimated that more than 100,000 businesses in the UK are looking for funding at any one time. Yet only a small percentage will secure sufficient funding to enable them to grow and expand into credible businesses that have a real market impact.
Clearly, there’s a problem and it is contributing to the failure of as many as nine in 10 early-stage businesses.
For many young companies, securing the scale-up funding they need is still challenging. The UK has a great reputation for supporting start-ups, it’s ranked third by the OECD, but only 13th for its ability to help companies secure the funding they need to become viable.
Also, the prospect of Brexit currently casts a shadow over the UK economy. Even though the Government has recently pledged to provide up to £200m of additional investment in UK venture capital and growth finance in 2019-20 if the European Investment Bank withdraws its support after Brexit, it is still a small percentage of the funding needed. Recent research from small businesses finance provider Liberis, revealed that over half of UK SMEs are still unable to access the funding they need to grow.
UK SMEs contribute some £200bn to the UK economy, so ensuring they can access the funding they need is vital. In the current uncertain climate, to try and secure such backing, whether from private sources, such as high-net worth individuals or family offices, or institutions, it has never been more important for early-stage companies to plan properly and set out a compelling vision.
Develop a proper plan
One of the most common reasons that early-stage businesses fail to raise further funding is a lack of proper planning. Typically, they have grown with less regard for proper structure and process and more emphasis on entrepreneurial energy and drive. However, to secure serious funding from credible investors, management teams need to put together a comprehensive plan which identifies the type of investor they are targeting, best timing for the approach, the quantum of funding sought, and how the company will cope with the rigour of the questions that investors will ask.
Don’t be shy to show your passion
Investors are more likely to back a business if it’s something they’re inspired by, so be passionate about your company and others will buy into it. Remember, you will be one of hundreds if not thousands of businesses your potential investors will be considering, so bringing enthusiasm and excitement to your pitches and meetings will help you stand out. It will help engage investors and help persuade them that you are genuinely creating a business worth backing. Retaining the passion that first prompted you to set up your business could be key in unlocking the funding to help it grow.
Create a compelling narrative
Given young companies are at an early stage in their growth, they will most likely not have delivered substantial commercial success. So, it’s important that you create a compelling narrative for the company as that is what investors will buy in to and will persuade them to back a business. It’s important to have a clear, concise proposition, which outlines the market potential articulately – and why someone would want to invest in it.
Demonstrate the growth prospects
Showcasing your strategy and proposition is the starting point but practically demonstrating the growth potential of the business is crucial. Anchoring your vision in a clear business plan that outlines in workable, pragmatic steps how the company is going to secure its growth will be what investors are expecting.
Have a strong management team
Having a strong management team that investors can see is capable of delivering on the vision, strategy and business plan that you have put together is essential. Investors might be excited by your plans, but most are hard headed and want to know who will be responsible for delivering on these plans. If you can’t show that you have the management bandwidth in place, then you will struggle to secure funding.
Ensure the timing is right
This is the most intangible of all the factors outlined, but timing really is key. It’s important to only consider seeking investment when the business is in a strong enough position and is performing well enough to support this. It’s vital that your company has the structures in place, the systems, the human resources and IT support to provide a proper foundation for your fundraise. You can still go for funding without all this being in place, however, you will increase your chances of success immeasurably if this has all been thought through and implemented.
Seeking funding may seem daunting, the hurdles may seem high, even insurmountable, but treat this exercise with the same rigour and focus as you have to take your business this far, and it is more than likely that you will be rewarded.
Giles Fuchs is co-founder and CEO of serviced office provider Office Space in Town (OSiT)