Holidays: A waste of time for founders and business owners?

So the kids have broken up from school and the sunshine has put everyone in holiday mode. Perhaps it even feels like you are the only person left at your desk working!

Let’s face it, founders and entrepreneurs are hard workers. Running businesses isn’t easy and we get used to thriving on problem solving and stress. This probably also means we are a group of individuals that most need a holiday. But, perhaps like me, you are thinking “can I really spare the time?”

I asked three founders whether they thought holidays were worth it and what they do to “switch off” when on holiday. All three had a different approach to holidays and offered interesting tips and advice on how to relax. I hope these will give you the break you deserve.

Holidays: A waste of time for founders?

Laura Meehan, Founder of Squijit recognises how hard it can be to take time off, but she also knows it is important. Speaking about holidays, she said

“They give definition to time. When you work for yourself time ‘merges’ into one – by having a ‘holiday’ it forces you to ‘allocate time’ to not working! Or at least trying to not work!”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ildiko Scurr Founder of Life Retuning thinks holidays are vital.

“It is important to give our systems a chance to de-stress from the busy, ‘doing’ lives that many of us lead. Getting away from the overload of information and outside stimuli gives your mind a chance to clear down, which has a direct impact on re-balancing the stress hormones which are likely to be flooding your body in your day-to-day life.”

Ildiko also believes holidays offer you a fresh perspective

“Being in a different environment can give you a chance to reassess what is really important. Getting away from it all, allows you to regenerate, review and relax”

Robert Smallwood, founder of of Job N Part recognises this too but goes further. He believes holidays provide important benefits for your business – as well as for you. Holidays offer

“The chance to recover and think. Often the best ideas come during time off. When you are in the midst of everything, typically you get too close to the nitty gritty – getting a bit of distance creates perspective and opens your eyes to new ideas and provides insight into what previously appeared to be insurmountable problems.”

“Switching off”

If you are anything like me, in the weeks running up to going on holiday you work twice as hard to clear your “To do” list so you can leave things with a clear conscience. The trouble is this can mean you start the holiday exhausted and find it hard to relax and “switch off”. By the time you have finally relaxed it’s time to go back to work!

Laura recognised this behaviour and admitted she found it very hard to “switch off” but was trying to

“Be more ‘mindful’ of the here and now – especially with regards to time with the kids. They’re not kids for very long!”

Robert also finds it hard to do nothing.

“The idea of sitting on a beach is an anathema to my slightly hyper active nature!”

Instead, he looks for displacement activities such as

“site seeing, taking part in some reckless sport or simply spending time with family and doing what they want to do…anything so long as the activity is all consuming.”

Ildiko is strict with herself

“I leave my Mac behind and only look at my phone at designated times that I set for myself. I also make sure that I do not open any emails, files or projects on my phone while I am on holiday and that I focus fully on the people I am with. A great way to make this easier, is to learn how to listen intentionally. That means intending to make any conversation you have with someone, or anything you are reading or watching, the sole focus of your attention. This in itself is a holiday for your mind, which helps your body to relax and switch off too.”

How to make time for  holidays

If you are still wondering whether you can spare the time for a holiday this summer, take heed!

If, like Laura, you find it difficult to take a proper break then, at least, plan is some downtime

“If you really need to, you can plan what work is do-able on holiday. Be careful to select work that won’t affect your enjoyment of the holiday too much.”

Ildiko also recognises how important it is to plan a holiday into your schedule, she recommends

“Book out ‘me time’ for a holiday in your diary and recognise that it is vitally important for your personal maintenance. It is not a luxury. It is a necessity for your well-being in the long term. Most of us consider it important to book our car in for a service, so isn’t it even more important for the driver to be in top shape too?”

Robert is more adamant still

“Nothing is really more important than your health – relaxation and stress relief is key to maintaining your health. A holiday can be a day, a weekend or longer. A successful business is not much use if you are dead or too sick to enjoy it.”

If you are still believe a holiday is not worth having because you won’t be able to switch off, then you could always find out more about Ildiko’s Re-Minding process, and book a “Beyond MindFULLness” masterclass which teaches how to put your thoughts into silence so that you really can “switch off”.

How to find investors for your startup or small business – three founders share what works

You’ve got a great start-up, the businesses is getting traction or – better still – its showing strong growth but you need to find investors to make the most of the opportunity. You’ve written the business plan, you’ve perfected the financial forecast and you are ready to pitch but who are you going to pitch too? Where are you going to find investors and “business angels” to back your investment opportunity? It’s a question almost every founder and entrepreneur will have asked themselves at some stage.

I interviewed three founders who have either recently raised investment or who are currently raising investment for their advice and tips. Jason Kirk of Kirk and Kirk, Dominic Wong of BoRo Experiences  and Shon Alam of Bidweg were generous in sharing their thoughts.

Finding investors is a numbers game
When I was raising investment for my own start-up (Seek & Adore), I remember the best piece of advice I was given was “you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince (or princess)”. This phrase stuck in my mind as I fixed meetings, grabbed a quick cup of coffee or attended pitch meetings with investors.  It certainly helps if you enjoy meeting people and it can sometimes help to think of it as a game – “how many new potential investors did I meet this week?”.

Start with people who know you
All three founders agree that the best place to find investors is to start with people you know.

Shon Alam of BidWeg whose crowdfunding campaign for the community-based currency exchange will launch imminently is clear that it is worth talking to almost everyone you know

“The personal route is very much the first route. People that you know will often give you time and even if they do not invest, you are using the time to get your message in the correct order so others can understand it.”

Jason Kirk of Kirk and Kirk who raised £150,000 for his eyewear design company was a bit more selective in his approach

“We approached people who knew our history and background and had previously expressed an interest in our company.”

Whilst for Dominic Wong of BoRo Experiences who raised £100,000 for his eco-tourism business, an informal meeting with a former colleague he knew well bore unexpected results

“Finding an investor was pure luck. I arranged a meeting with a contact who I have an existing, long-term relationship with. I went into the meeting hoping he would be my mentor, and he believed in the business idea so much he offered the money to me. I was overwhelmed and flabbergasted with the way the meeting turned out!”

Relationships matter
Whilst you will talk to many people whilst raising investment, for those conversations to result in investment they need to be anything but superficial. You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date. Generally, you want to get to know someone, find out what you have in common – and what you don’t – and reach a point where you trust and respect each other before making any lasting commitment. So it is with investors.

Dominic expanded on where the “luck” of finding his investor, seemingly by chance, came from

“I truly believe in long-term relationships. In fact my mentor once told me that the Hindu way of doing things is people first, business second. In other words develop deep relationships and business will sprout from it. It is about being constantly genuine over a long period to gain trust, which in turn makes people know you deeper than what’s on the outside.”

Be open to feedback – and benefit from others experience and knowledge
True relationships are two-sided. You have to give and receive – another useful premise to have in mind as you start finding investors.

Dominic used this as one of his goals when speaking to investors and sought feedback on his business when talking to investors

“Bounce ideas and thoughts off other people. It is really isolating and lonely when you are working on your [business] idea on your own. I found it really useful to take sounding from other ‘can-do’ people to get different perspectives. This helped shape my ideas and crafted the words I used to explain my business”

Shon recognises this too

“People you know will often give you time and, even if they do not invest, you are using the time to get your message in the correct order so others can understand it.”

Jason felt that the best advice came from those he had been talking to for a while, those with whom he had built a strong relationship

“Those with whom we had a relationship of trust gave us honest, open feedback from a potential investment point of view.”

It was a result of asking for feedback that Jason found his investor

“Our investor came quite by chance. I had asked somebody well-placed in finance to read our investment proposal to advise us and he ended up asking to be involved.”

Contact potential investors in a way that is consistent with wanting to build a long term relationship
We’ve all been on the receiving end of “spam” – communications from people who know nothing about us, offering something that we’re not even sure we want to know about. How well do you react to such approaches? Investors feel the same.

Shon was rigorous in trying lots of different routes to find investors and he knows which he would use again

“If I was to do it again, I would be talking to more potential investors, rather than just connecting with them via LinkedIn.”

Jason agrees

“Personal contact by mail or phone is far more effective than blanket, impersonal approaches.”

I’ve written before about the importance of making a good first impression when finding investors, Jason went on to talk about this too. He stressed the importance of standing out – but also of keeping it brief

“We created attractive literature that reflected our brand and our intentions. This helped identify our company and its unique aspects in a sea of companies seeking finance. It is rare that a potential investor will have more than a cursory look at the headlines of your opportunity. Make it simple. If they are interested they will delve deeper.”

Closing a deal requires mutual trust and a fair exchange…
The aim of all your conversations with investors is to create a shared strategic vision, trust and mutual respect. Ideally this should be founded on a sense of equal worth, reciprocal value being offered by the founder and the investor – and yet so often people talk about an imbalance of power between investors and founders. The founders I interviewed certainly felt this.

Jason is very clear on this point

“Finding the right partners and striking the right balance in the relationship from the first meeting is imperative. You are bringing an opportunity and investors are bringing money/strategy so the relationship needs to be balanced or it will not work. Investors try to assume a position of strength from day one to strengthen their negotiation position.”

Shon too is clear that the objectives of both founder and investor need to align

“I set out wanting to put together a team that could give me clear advise as and when I needed it, without holding my hand. Therefore, the people I wanted to work with also had to understand the philosophy behind Bidweg project. That having been said, I also wanted them to have a vested interest – but it was not money at any cost!”

Dominic recognises that reaching a deal with investors is not just about the money

“It wasn’t just the money which would help me, but experience and knowledge in the field. Essentially, I was also identifying strategic and tactical options which would propel the business after the initial capital.”

…and a clear route to exciting financial return
Investors are not altruistic. They expect a commercial return in exchange for their investment. The founders I interviewed felt this was expressed in a range of ways

Jason was clear it boiled down to

““How much money am I going to make from this?” in various forms.”

Shon felt investors were focused on intellectual property (IP) as the basis of value

“Investors wanted to know what IP does it have – but not all opportunities can be protected through IP. It doesn’t mean it’s not a sound business”

Jason felt the best way to close the deal with an investor is to

“Ask the right questions [of investors] and LISTEN to the answers. People invest for all sorts of varied reasons and you need to understand the motivation of the person you are sitting opposite if you are to make your opportunity appeal to them.”

Tips for maintaining your motivation
Raising investment is time-consuming and it can – at times – be soul-destroying. All three founders recognised the need to manage your motivation and energy levels so that you stay positive throughout the process.

Dominic stressed the need to look for positives in every meeting – even if it doesn’t result in an investment

“Hear the positivity in their voice or see their smile when they ‘get it’.”

Jason emphasised the need for focus

“Try to pick and choose where you direct your energies. Make it genuine prospects or people from whom you can learn. Seeking independent help to find finance can be very useful, especially if you are a small business with limited resources.”

And Shon urged resilience

“When you get rejected – and remember investors will find hundreds of reasons to reject – do not take it personally. Move on – if your business is investable someone will invest.”


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Book a place on the online masterclass “How to find and win investors”

A focused, methodical approach to finding, warming up and closing deals with business angels and crowdfunding investors.
Find out more and book a place

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How to find and win investors

A no-nonsense, practical online masterclass which provides inspiration on where to find investors, how to get their attention and outlines a proven process for building relationships with investors that deliver investment commitments.

You will:

  • Identify investors within your existing network and beyond
  • Learn what to say to investors so they have the information they need to back you
  • Develop two different types of pitch that you can use to quickly get the attention of investors
  • Discover how to build relationships with investors focused on delivering investment commitments
  • Receive a proven system for managing relationships with investors
  • Practise different techniques for moving investors to an investment decision

The masterclass is live and interactive so that you can ask specific questions and try out different approaches during practical exercises. You will receive focused and practical feedback which is instrumental in improving your communication approach and in building your confidence in front of investors. Places are limited to ensure a good interactive experience.

What people say about the masterclass
“I have felt quite lost in knowing how and what to pitch to investors, and I now feel far more informed. It’s been so valuable to have the content reflected back for me to see what I am not communicating.”

“It was useful to have a complete overview and specific tips about the crowd fundraising process. It’s helped me create some actionable points along with a good overview for the approach.”

Preparation
In advance of the workshop, you will be asked to prepare a 60 second elevator pitch and come ready to present this. Ideally your pitch should:

  • introduce your business by describing the problem you solve for customer
  • outline who your customers are
  • explain what your business has achieved to date
  • detail how much money you are looking to raise and at what valuation
  • and how you will use this investment to grow your business

Duration: 2.5 hours
Location: Online, using Zoom video conferencing
Presented by: Hatty Fawcett, Focused For Business
Fee: £250
Next masterclass: 19th September, 10-12.30pm

Book your place on the next masterclass Book here

About Hatty
Hatty Fawcett is the founder of Focused For Business. She raised two rounds of investment for her own business venture and now supports others in raising investment, predominately through business angels and crowdfunding. She runs a series of online masterclasses, a Fast Track To Funding coaching programme and Crowdfunding Accelerator all of which are designed to make it quicker and easier to raise investment. Hatty also offers  a range of free webinars and Funding Clinics. Hatty regularly speaks on the topic of raising investment and is an active blogger on the subject.

What people say about working with Hatty
“Hatty is a great teacher! The rich content of the course kept me interested and helped me. This course has given me confidence.” Sue Frost, Co-founder Curamicus

“The webinars from Hatty are great but the best bit is the interaction with the other participants and hearing how they are approaching their journey to investment.” David Toscano, Cin Cin Italian Canteen

“Hatty was a fantastic coach helping us create a short pitch, ensuring the delivery of key investor information in a simple but effective way” Gill Hayward, Co-Founder, YUU World

“Hatty’s content was excellent and I learnt far more than I had imagined. We had a good laugh whilst getting some serious work done.” Sharon Maddy-Patel, Maddy Lou Shoes

“Hatty made the daunting process of accelerating my business a simple, outlined and structured process. As a company we have gained direction, professionalism and valuable information through her insights.” Arun Thangavel, Co-Founder, Hollabox

You can read more recommendations on Hatty’s LinkedIn profile.

Book your place on the next masterclass – Book here

See the full range of Preparing for Investment: Online masterclasses