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Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Deal-Driven Growth

Deal-Making Like a Producer

From Broadway to broadcasting, Dean McFlicker’s unique trajectory gives him a one-of-a-kind perspective, as he combines his creative prowess with business acumen. Dean has produced for NBC, HBO, CNN, E! NewsDaily, Good Morning America and more. As you might imagine, he’s been involved with a lot of phenomenal shows! Dean helped launch countless hits as Senior Vice President of Promotional Programming at NBC as well.  Those include This Is Us, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, The Biggest Loser, Friday Night Lights, and all of NBC’s live musicals. What a resume! (And this is just a glimpse of the work he has done.) If you want to learn about deal-making like a producer, listen in now.

I always love talking with folks who are coming from creative backgrounds. They often offer a new perspective on deal-making. (Also, shout out to former guest Li Hayes for connecting Dean and I!)

The Curved Path to Success

Dean notes that, like most people, he’s been on a curving path to success. 

As his ambitions and opportunities have ebbed and flowed, he’s gotten to experience many elements of the performing and entertaining world. It all started, however, with Dean being what he described as a “ham”. He was one of those kids who just always loved to put on a good show!

Early on Dean would create a script, produce it, and sell tickets. He’d also round up all the neighbor kids to be performers. Apparently he’s always been a director and producer at heart! In addition, he did his own performing. From his backyard start he moved on to Hollywood, singing, dancing, and acting. (He was an original cast member in the Disney musical Newsies. Apparently it’s actually more popular now than it was when he did it!)

Although his early days were in front of the camera, he was eventually happy to make the move to being behind them. It was a slow transition, moving from choreography to directing and working his way up. Part of his success came from being open to many opportunities. Dean often said “yes” to joining new projects and trying new things, including being an assistant writer, director, and producer for various shows.

Early Deal-Making

Dean considers his early backyard theater productions to be his first deal-making experiences. From wrangling neighbor kids and getting them to do what he wanted them to do, including getting them to take on parts and show up for rehearsals, to getting supplies for sets and costumes, Dean was practicing his deal-making savvy early on.

So much of what Dean was doing in his backyard required him to bring together key people and form relationships. In fact, it required many of the same skills that would eventually make him an excellent creative director. 

Now, Dean notes that what he does is really the art of bringing together all of the different disciplines to make one cohesive entertainment package. That’s just like business, where you bring together many disciplines (budgeting, marketing, sales, HR) to move your business forward. For that reason, Dean thinks a good producer is a lot like a CEO, as both are responsible for bringing together all of the different elements of an organization.

The Art of the Creative Deal

Dean notes that deals are definitely an art, and they can come together in many different ways. For example, last year he produced the world’s first Minion’s Holiday Special. This brought together multiple large entities (Universal Pictures, Illumination Studios, and NBC Television). As you can imagine, with that many players involved, deal-making is automatically involved.

Now, Dean also has his own production company, McFlicker Media, where he also produces for businesses. After all, great story telling isn’t limited to entertainment. At the end of the day, it’s also the heart of marketing. When producing for businesses, marketing related deals might include bringing in the perfect celebrity endorsement, or involving the star salesman for a particular division and making them part of what’s happening.

As an example of another sort of marketing deal, Dean shared that when you’re watching a movie, you’ll often see many different “vanity cards” denoting various film and production companies. In exchange for what they’re offering behind the scenes of a film, they’ve made deals that guarantee they’re getting seen and acknowledged as well. All of those sorts of industry norms are based on deal-making, including alliances and endorsements.

Not Just Features and Benefits

Part of marketing and experiencing organic growth revolves around telling the story. It’s not enough to just list features and benefits and expect to make a sale, or to close on a deal. 

Dean says that he sees the act of storytelling in a business capacity as being another form of producing. In business, as in life, you get to produce the story that you want to see unfold. Much like in the movies, this can be done really well, to great success….or really poorly, for a complete flop.

A natural fit that matches the product and audience while tapping into something true and relatable is the most powerful way to experience organic success. When you do this right, you’re able to build meaningful relationships. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I strongly believe in relationships as being an integral part of deal-making!

We are Conscious Creators

Although there are things that happen outside of our control, I very much believe that we are conscious creators in our own lives. We have an exceptional amount of power to consciously create in our own lives.

About 10 years ago I was at a business event and one of the sessions I went to was about living your ideal life now. It was encouragement to stop working so hard now and putting off all these things we are going to enjoy till “later”. Instead, we can find a way to create and live our ideal life now. That was a huge mentality shift for me, and it’s altered my life over the last decade.

Dean’s TED talk, How to Get What you Want: The Producer’s Perspective is very similar! In it, he shares that you can consciously take charge of opportunities and make decisions that allow you to create your best life and business now. One way that Dean does this is by using the narrative perspective, as well as other key film and television points that can be helpful in any situation.

(Listen in for two of his top tips now; you’ll find them around minute 20!)

Integrity is Key

One important note on using narrative and story is that they must be real and authentic. Anyone can create a story….but if that story is used to fool or deceive someone into making a decision or entering into a deal, they won’t want to work with you again.

As he’s moved into working with more corporate clients, Dean has found that assisting them in creating truthful, compelling stories has been a key part of his work with them. In order to have customers return again and again, they need to know that you’re being honest.

If it comes to light that the story you told was really just a story, and that it doesn’t align with the sort of culture or values that you had been presenting, you’re going to have problems! Whether that means losing customers or seeing a deal slip through your fingers, you’ll definitely experience fallout.

Dean has such an amazing background, and his episode is so interesting!

Listen in to the full show to learn more about his work in advertising, and the tips he has for using deals to decrease overhead and uplevel opportunities.

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker. He is deeply passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

Categories
Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Making Deals in the E-Learning Sector

Jon Tota started as a screenwriter, then went to Wall Street and found his way into computers in the late 90’s. He then co-founded Edulence in 2002, and created Knowledgelink as one of the first e-learning video training platforms in 2004. He sold that company in 2020, and is now back to creating original scripted content at his new production studio, Syntax + Motion. In addition, he’s the host of the Learning Life podcast.

He’s truly been able to blend his passion for learning with his dream of creating original, meaningful content. Along the way, he’s been a major deal-maker! Now, one of his major passions is helping the next generation of entrepreneurs learn how to develop and scale their own e-learning solutions.

Early Dreams & Deals

Jon shares that, early on, he had dreams of being a pilot and astronaut. It didn’t take long for him to realize that wasn’t the path! In school, and later in college, however, he found a passion for video production. He really loved the art of screenwriting, and he thought he’d get started with film.

In real life, he found out pretty quickly that he was going to have to find a money making job once he graduated. That kicked off his journey through Wall Street, entrepreneurship, and founding companies that he was later able to sell. Now, he’s in production with Syntax+Motion, which he’s loving.

The earliest deal Jon remembers making is from his senior year of college. He closed the deal on an option to his first screenplay; a major accomplishment! Not knowing anything about deal-making, rights, and other legalities, Jon now realizes he probably screwed up the negotiation piece.  At the end of the day, though, he did get the deal done!

(Jon also noted he hasn’t done a major deal in the last 20 years that my team and I haven’t been a part of — we have a long history together!) 

Planning the Path of Edulence

Jon shared that, when planning a business, you try to envision what it will become. Then when you actually build it, you encounter all sorts of twists and turns along the way. Many of those junctures include deal-making!

The first time Jon and I worked together, he was at a technology consulting company. The deal involved a contract to produce training materials for an insurance company, which is what sparked the seed of an idea. Jon and his co-founders realized that they might be able to create an e-learning business to offer these services. They were planning to create training services and then license it to companies.

Jon was excited to write scripts for the videos and take on the shooting and production elements. This was early enough in the industry that they were burning the training onto discs and mailing them out! (Eventually, the cost of burning and shipping these discs would become too much. It was a starting place though!)

Keep in mind: This was before YouTube hit the market, and video training was not really conceived of yet. It was groundbreaking….and included all sorts of hiccups along the way.

After their first round of production, however, they started to genuinely think there might be a real business in front of them. Shortly following this revelation, they started raising capital. First they did friends and family rounds, and later realized they were going to need even more to reach that critical growth point they needed to reach.

Listen in to learn more about Jon’s fundraising and early experiences.

Subscription-Based Online Learning

As they built through the major boom and bust cycles of the economy (2002 and forward), Jon’s team navigated all sorts of challenges to bring the company to an eventual exit point. These include major market shifts and various access to capital. It didn’t take long to realize they weren’t going to be working with a 3-5 year “unicorn” exit. Instead, they buckled down for the long haul.

When they decided to build a subscription-based online learning system, SaaS wasn’t even developed yet. Everything was new, and they had a lot to work through.

In one of their earliest deals, Jon suggested they move part of the business into New York City. The consulting portion was able to stay put, but it was clear that to generate momentum and reach the next level they needed Jon to be able to really take on the production side. This shift was focused on creating revenue by producing content for companies. Even though they didn’t have their own training content library yet, producing custom content generated much-needed revenue.

Another major step? Charging for the customized content and giving companies the platform for free. Because it was still so new, it wasn’t clear yet how well it do. Rather than put companies in the position of having to take a risk, they got started by integrating them into it free of charge. This allowed them to stop burning DVD’s and start really implementing their online platform.

Once they had major companies invested (and integrated!) into the platform, they were able to leverage that into building the real concept they had envisioned.

Scaling to the Next Level

Eventually, Jon launched Knowledgelink as one of the first subscription-based online training services. For the next 15 years, he focused on growing the software platform to enable experts and corporations to deliver training videos to employees and customers anywhere. Knowledgelink has gone on to deliver tens of thousands of online courses to several hundred thousand users each year. In fact, it’s become the leading video training platform for multiple vertical industries. 

The team at Edulence scaled the Knowledgelink business to earn the company several industry awards over the years, including consecutive years on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in America. In 2020, Edulence was acquired by eLearning Brothers to make Knowledgelink the LMS platform for one of the most trusted brands in the Learning & Development space. 

Jon remembers that at one point, the company hit a point where they weren’t really growing their profits. They were generating more revenue,  but it was all being sucked into growing expenses. They kept growing, but they weren’t seeing the fruits of that in their bottom line numbers. Finally, one of the board members pointed out that it was key they found an exit for their investors. It wasn’t an option to just continue as a lifestyle business that wasn’t truly showing the numbers that were needed for a strong exit.

Being able to show that meaningful profits were being made was key. This realization caused Jon to realize that they needed to pull back on scaling and focus on meaningful growth. Listen in to learn more about Jon’s thoughts on planning for a strategic exit. I also share my thoughts on the value of competitive income as well.

Launching Something New (Again)

This eventual successful exit allowed Jon to launch a new media production company to create innovative client work and a collection of our own episodic shows. 

Syntax + Motion produces online courses, interactive video series and podcast shows of all shapes and sizes. Jon’s small team of highly skilled producers is as adept at producing an interactive video course for a major thought leader as they are at launching an original scripted fiction podcast show.

One major thing he learned from his other endeavors was the strategic business side of creating and running a company. Jon notes that he has had amazing co-founders, partners, investors, and strategic teams surrounding him. Their guidance has been a huge part of his growth, and he continues to leverage past lessons into his current and future business ventures.

Listen in to hear about Jon’s perspectives on having hard conversations, including with investors who might be sitting at the family table looking for answers.

One of my favorite things we talked about was the creative way we worked with investors to get them their money back in a way that worked for everyone. Definitely worth a listen if you hope to eventually exit from your business!

 

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker. He is deeply passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

 

Categories
Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Your Primal Brain & Deal-Making

Tim Ash is an international keynote speaker on evolutionary psychology and digital marketing. He’s also a thought leader, marketing trainer, and founder of strategic conversion rate optimization agency SiteTuners. Tim has written multiple books, and is the bestselling author of Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions. As an industry leader he’s created over a billion dollars in value for massive brands like Google, Expedia, Nestle, Semantic, Costco, and more. He’s the founder and former chair of the worldwide Digital Growth Unleashed conference series. His work has helped him learn how our primal brain impacts businesses and lives.

His latest book is titled Unleash Your Primal Brain: Demystifying How We Think and Why We Act.

Early Experiences

Keynote speaking and becoming a primal brain and marketing expert were not on the list of what Tim imagined for himself as a child! After immigrating from Moscow to the US around age 8, Tim set his sights on becoming a cowboy. (Listen in to hear about the deal this made me think of — it was one of the few cash deals from Russia at the time.)

As Russia opened up in the 90’s, all sorts of creative maneuvers were part of making deals!

When Tim reflects on his earliest deals, he remembers shoveling snow in driveways in New Jersey. Rather than charging by the job, however, he created a subscription model. He would charge $5 per week for the three months of winter, and pledge to shovel all the snow during that time. Even as a teen he was a hustler! This reminded me of Joel Block’s advice on subscription models, which he sees as a current business trend.

Brain Evolution & Deal-Making

Tim notes that marketing subscription models makes sense from an evolutionary psychology perspective. Because the sale goes on auto-pilot and minimizes your need to think about something, it’s much easier to get people to continue paying once you’ve drawn them in.

When I used to do deals in the health industry, I saw the shift away from an annual membership that you had to choose to renew, to a month-by-month subscription that had no hard end date. Even though people “could” cancel anytime, they often didn’t. It’s easier not to; plus, canceling sends a message to yourself that you’re going to do the thing you signed up for. 

Tim shared about a subscription he kept for years without using it — even with all he knows about the brain, the same tricks work on him sometimes.

Neuromarketing and Evolutionary Psychology

Eventually Tim came to believe that the best and highest use of his time was not in providing a service. Now, he focuses on keynote speaking and writing. He also offers some consulting for senior marketing executives looking for a backup CMO who will be on their side and make them look good.

When he started his first agency, Tim’s group focused on performance-based deals. Rather than putting the risk on the client, Tim decided to share it. Client’s paid him when he created results for them. However, this created complex contract issues and other issues. For the first time, Tim fully realized how much human nature played into deal-making!

Eventually he opted to sell his shares of that business to his partners, who have experienced continued growth.

As he’s grown, Tim has also explored various options with distributing stocks in the companies he owns. What he’s found from that is that you need clear guidelines if you’re planning to do this! From becoming joined at the hip, to facing confusion about who gets to make what decisions, Tim has found that clarity  is essential when distributing stocks!

Working With Your Nature

Tim notes that we play many roles in life: you can be a parent, a spouse, a CEO, a speaker all at once. Sometimes those roles will overlap, and sometimes they will conflict with one another.

If he could go back, Tim would focus much earlier on his personality and the things that energized him. He shared his DISC, Enneagram, and Meyers-Briggs all helped him understand important parts of himself. In addition, he’s seen how working with his strengths and nature works much better than fighting against it.

In terms of his personal career transitions, Tim breaks them down into three major phases:

  1. Being someone’s employee. Tim had seen soul-killing enterprises from the inside, and he knew he didn’t want to take that path! He knew he could better himself.
  2. Work for yourself. Once he started an agency, Tim felt like now he was basically hiring his own bosses. Yes, he had more control….but at the end of they day, he was still working for clients and answering to them.
  3. Jettison both of those! Tim was ready to be done being an employee…AND done hiring bosses. 

After transitioning into Phase 3, Tim found that he felt a bit naked. He was so used to being an agency head, and realized that he had been defined by that in many ways. One thing he’s really enjoyed is being able to shift from constantly thinking about what would best for his business, into being able to genuinely think about how he can serve others.

I love this way of thinking, and have done quite a few exercises myself pertaining to establishing personal identity outside of my titles and roles. Certain roles can truly become entwined with who you are as a person!

Unleash Your Primal Brain

Tims’ newest book, Unleash Your Primal Brain: Demystifying How We Think and Why We Act, is a crash course on being human. He covers everything from sleep, chemicals in the brian, storytelling, and more. It’s not dumbed down, but it’s not just a bunch of jargon either. Tim thinks of it as a fast-paced detective story about what makes us tick.

Although I’m not the expert Tim is, I have done some reading on neuroscience and brains. My biggest takeaway: this field is constantly evolving because there is so much to learn about this! Tim is working to unify fields like neuroscience, behavioral economics, anthropology and more by breaking down silos and finding the red thread of evolutionary psychology.

He sees this topic as being what all 8 billion people on the planet have in common!

My question to Tim: from an evolutionary psychology perspective, what makes some people “deal-makers” and others not so much?

We Are Always Negotiating

First off, Tim notes that, as humans, we are always doing deals because we are always negotiating. Being able to engage with negotiating is a useful skill to have across the board.

Tim shares that when things are black and white, we automatically evaluate and accept them for what they are. If something is a sure thing, or is definitely going to fail, we know where we stand. However, once we start bringing in probability, statistics, and chance, things feel much riskier. People pay a premium when risk is reduced.

In fact, Tim notes that guarantees (such as a lifetime guarantee) have a huge impact on sales. All sorts of packaging uses this now; it gives immediate peace of mind that makes the consumer feel good, and the percentage of people who actually exercise it is tiny. 

Creating certainty and minimizing risk is a major deal-making plus!

Next, Tim notes that we all tend to aversive to threats more than we are open to rewards. We’re tuned in to loss and pain avoidance much more than we are to pleasure seeking. Pain is more motivating! For that reason, the way we frame offers in our deals is key. For instance, if a doctor tells you that you have to have a procedure, they could present it in one of two ways: there is a 95% chance you’ll make it through OR there is a 5% chance you’ll die. The former orients you towards the positive, the latter orients you towards the negative.

Most deal-makers can find ways to frame their deals that emphasize the positive and decrease the focus on pain and loss. It makes a difference!

Due Diligence as a Deal-Maker

I always tell people that doing a major due diligence process to prepare for a deal is a key part of preparation. Why? Because the people walking into the deal are highly risk averse. They stand to lose a lot if things go wrong, and they want to avoid any problems.

As such, if they smell smoke during a deal they assume there is a fire.

Rather than letting that happen, you must do your due diligence and ensure that you have your ducks lined up. Tim also noted that, as a deal-maker, you don’t want to let the party you’re deal-making with get too far into their analytical brains. He suggests you diffuse that mindset and refocus on the bigger picture if you want to avoid death by a thousand cuts.

(During the interview, Tim recommends two books: Never Split the Difference and Pitch Anything.)

To learn more about deal-making and the primal brain, listen in to the full episode! Tim shared more amazing thoughts on cold cognition, the role of emotion, and more in this powerful interview!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal-Ready Assessment today!

Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Deal-Driven Growth

Family Business

This week I was honored to interview not one, but two amazing guests. Farida and Ramia El Agamy are sisters with phenomenal backgrounds in family business. They bring a global perspective to deal-making opportunities and family businesses. This episode is worth listening to in full.

LISTEN HERE

About Farida

Farida F. El Agamy is a social entrepreneur by conviction, and a lawyer by passion and profession. Since 2008, she’s been the General Manager of the Tharawat Family Business Forum, the first knowledge resource and networking hub for family-owned companies in the Middle East and North Africa. Farida’s main interests lie in the advancement of corporate and family governance systems, the economic impact of family firms on the economy, and the support of individual family members within the family business context.

About Ramia

Ramia Marielle El Agamy is the Editor-in-Chief of Tharawat Magazine, (@Tharawatmag), a global publication for family businesses that attracts over 3 million readers (online and print) per year. The magazine encompasses a library of over 1000 articles. She is also the host of two podcasts: The Family Business Voice and WiFB. Ramia is also a strategic advisor in the Tharawat Family Business Forum as well as a Director in her family business’ board. Since 2017, Ramia is also CEO of Orbis Terra Media, a content studio and an award-winning publisher that stands for the highest standards in content production and omnichannel strategies. With a data-driven approach to content marketing and distribution, OTM specialises in helping brands achieve a consistent narrative across multiple platforms and to reach their audience.

Early Starts for These Citizens of the World

When I asked the pair what they had wanted to be growing up, Ramia nominated Farida to share first, as the older sister. Laughingly, the sisters noted that family businesses require respect for the family hierarchy. 

Farida shared that, early on, she was interested in societal questions. Her father had studied archeology, and he would bring his children on hikes to old dig sites. In addition, they would visit extended family in Cairo and visit ancient sites. These early experiences grew Farida’s interest in archeology as a possible career when she was a girl.

Ramia noted that, even as a child, she could see herself working in the family business. Seeing her father traveling frequently, and missing his presence, she imagined being able to pack a calculator into a bag and travel with him. She also had a very entrepreneurial spirit, and remembers opening a detective agency, a travel agency, and several shops with her sisters.

(Ramia and Farida also noted that they have a third sister in the family business as well. They thought it might be too much to bring all three of them onto the show!)

The sister’s mother is from the Netherlands and their father is from Egypt; they were raised in rural Switzerland and consider it home. However, their international roots and extensive travel histories, including studying in the UK and living in the UAE, have made the world their oyster in many ways!

First Deal-Making Experiences

Culturally, deal-making is perceived differently in various parts of the world. Looking at their father’s generation and work in the business, the sister’s agreed there were fewer activities that may have been directly considered “deals”.

In fact, the first deal-experienced Farida recalled was assisting a family business in getting out of a deal. A nephew was finding himself in a very bad situation with a possible deal involving his uncle. They could see it going south, and needed to intervene.

Ramia notes that both her sisters are lawyers, and often see deals through the legal and business lens. As an entrepreneur herself, she feels she’s been making deals her whole life. When you start a business with nothing, everything is a barter, a trade, and exchange, or some other way of growing and deal-making. She remembers many skill exchanges that grew in size and significance as revenue grew.

She also shares that she thinks the first deal entrepreneurs make is with themselves. Deciding to go into business requires trading time and energy and capital. 

Negotiations in Family Business 

The family business, as a construct, is a constant negotiation. This is true both internally and externally. Every day you enter into your family business, you’re entering into an emotional negotiation with your family. There is a constant need to recalibrate, adjust behavior, and figure out how to incorporate your personal and professional lives.

Part of this is holding people accountable when they are part of your family. It is challenging to have a parent or sibling that you have to challenge, hold to high standards, and question. Handling these ongoing family business negotiations on a daily basis requires you to truly leave your ego (and childhood patterns) at the door.

(There was an amazing conversation about ego here that’s worth listening to!)

The sisters note that family businesses are often stable and thinking long term. In addition, they are perceived as having “skin in the game”, and are often quite regionally embedded. Attributes such as these make family businesses a popular choice for others looking to make a deal.

In addition, the whole family business as an entity is an ongoing deal.

A Major Myth About Family Business

There are many family businesses in the world….and just as many myths about them! Since I had the experts on the line, I decided to ask their thoughts on a major common myth I often hear.

If You’re Not First Generation, You’re Not an Entrepreneur

Some people question whether someone in a family business can truly consider themselves an “entrepreneur”. Many entrepreneurs in the US are first generation entrepreneurs. Even if their parents were also entrepreneurs, they are often not involved in the same business. Across other parts of the world, however, many entrepreneurs are working within multi-generational family businesses.

The sisters noted that there is a difference between a real family business, or enterprise, and an enterprising family. They consider entrepreneurship to be the force that compels any family business to keep growing. They also encourage each generation to think of themselves as founders of a startup, in terms of needing originality, adaptability, and other entrepreneurial skills.

Being part of an entrepreneurial family doesn’t mean you’re not an entrepreneur. It does mean, however, that you have a heritage of entrepreneurship and usually the support of your family.

(Listen in to why they consider family business an “extreme sport” in the entrepreneurial world! This includes the weight of legacy, which can feel like a “backpack full of stones”, and the “ghosts around the table”.)

Layers of Governance

Imagine the most difficult professional situation you’ve ever been in, in your life. Then, imagine the most difficult family relationship you’re currently experiencing. Now, put those two together every day of your professional life.

That’s family business.

The emotional toll that family situations can take on you, and your business, are much greater than you may expect. That’s why governance in family firms is so vital (and so difficult). There are many, many layers to governance within a family business, and often the laws pertaining to family business are less clear than other legal statutes.

For example, there are rarely laws requiring a family business to utilize a family council to learn to regular their behavior as a family. Some families have waited for too long, growing more and more misaligned. Eventually, it can become too late for change.

Families who have aligned decision making as a result of internal deal-making have a much greater chance of making it in the long term. They are also better equipped to handle unexpected challenges, such as Covid-19.

Ramia and Farida share so much valuable insight on family businesses. Listen in today!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal-Ready Assessment today!

Categories
Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Special Purpose Acquisition Company: Here’s What You Need to Know

The concept of using a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) as a deal-making vehicle has been very hot in 2020. It’s popularity seems to be heading into this year as well! Essentially, this is a popularized approach to doing deals and raising capital. Are you using it? Should you be? Listen in to find out more!

What is a Special Purpose Acquisition Company?

A SPAC is a public company that has no operations whatsoever.

Essentially, a Special Purpose Acquisition Company raises money for the sole purpose of acquiring a company, or multiple companies, at some point in the future. When fundraising starts, no one knows what company is going to actually be acquired. The founder and promoters who put the SPAC together may have a target idea, but also may not. (Sometimes thought of as “blank check” companies because investors don’t know where their money will end up!)

Why would anyone take the risk? Well, it probably helps that Special Purpose Acquisition Companies raised 78 billion in the US in 2020. 45% of all companies that went public were classified as SPAC. This exceeds the former SPAC output from all former years combined! The industry is seeing massive growth, which seems to be a continuing trend.

SPAC Fundamentals

Most investors investing in private offerings (venture capital, angel investors, etc) will say that one of the biggest things they are investing in is management. Now, they do get to vet the company and get a fuller pitch, of course. But ultimately, they do understand that growth and change tend to go hand in hand.

Even though they know the company, management is key. With a SPAC, you know the owners/founders, and your investment is a vote of confidence in their ability to make the right acquisition decisions when the time comes.

Pre-acquisition, the SPAC usually has about two years to make an investment. If no investment is made, the money is typically paid back to investors with interest. (Each individual Special Purpose Acquisition Company has its own contract and legal language, of course, but this is what is typical in the industry.) This minimizes risk of loss, since if there is no company acquired you have at least earned interest. (There may be an opportunity cost since your money has been tied up, of course.)

Ideally, of course, you invest in a SPAC because you want them to make an acquisition. This is where your greatest reward, as well as your greatest risk, lie.

Risks, Rewards, and Special Purpose Acquisition Companies

Will the promoters of the SPAC make an acquisition? And will that acquisition be profitable? Because of their huge surge in popularity, the answers to both those questions might be a resounding YES.

Here are some reasons why SPACs are working so well right now.

  1. Investors are looking for higher returns. In the past, this is money that might have ended up in hedge funds. However, hedge funds aren’t performing as well as they have. Many investors are looking for other ways to leverage growth. SPACs offer that, and many investors are all too happy to take advantage! (Because of their success, competition is rising and we’ll start to see a bit of a squeeze on this.)
  2. There are a lot of big names in SPACs. Citi Group, Goldman Sachs, and other easily recognized names are heavily involved in Special Purpose Acquisition Companies. This has probably helped to increase their legitimacy and popularity. Evaluations are strong as well, so more money can be raised. If the market starts to cool, SPACs will likely become less popular. Rising interest rates might also make safer investments more attractive once again.
  3. Being acquired by a SPAC helps companies “skip” a step. Many companies that are looking to raise that last round of capital find SPAC acquisition very helpful. Going public solo as an operating company is highly complex. However, a SPAC is already public, and by getting acquired by them a company can go public without filing for their own IPO. This can be really helpful and speed things up.

The Future of SPACs

Special Purpose Acquisition Companies are “hot” right now. The level of volume is unprecedented, as noted above. Major players are being attracted to them as vehicles for capital raising.

This might continue into the long term. Or it might be a signal that the market is getting overheated, and we could see SPAC start to fade. The majority of SPAC acquired companies from 2015 and 2016 aren’t yet making money. That’s 4-5 years without bringing in a profit! Depending on industry, turn around times, and technology needs, that may not be a problem. However, it might also be a cautionary sign.

Smaller investors, or those with fewer investable assets, are likely not going to have SPAC access soon.

For the right people, however, a Special Purpose Acquisition Company is a vehicle worth checking out. Investing in one is an investment in the founder’s ability to acquire worthwhile companies. Moving forward in 2021, we’ll be monitoring the success of those unprecedented 2020 SPAC volumes. If we see huge changes, I’ll do my best to keep you updated. I’ll definitely be following along myself!

Listen in to learn more!

 

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Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Curating Quality Investment Opportunities

Marcia Nelson is the Managing Director at ShareNett. This is a members only global network of professional investors offering curated, quality investment opportunities. In addition, Marcia is the founding partner of Triple C Advisory. She’s spent a great part of her career working with family offices as a Family Office Advisor. Also, Marcia has been a board member for multiple boards, including VentureCapital.org. She is the president of ACG-NY.  Marcia is also a speaker with a great passion for impact investing. She was recently named one of the 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A by Mergers & Acquisitions magazine.

You can listen to the full interview HERE.

Marcia Nelson’s Early Deal-Making Experiences

While growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, Marcia would have never guessed she was going to end up in the deal-making world! Her initial degree was in education, and she did teach for a few years. When she moved to New York with her fiance she fell in love with the city. She hasn’t looked back since!

After an initial experience with Conde Naste and the fashion industry publishing, Marcia switched gears when the dot com boom appeared. At that point she went back to graduate school, where she earned her MBA. Returning to the business world after completing her degree kicked off her deal-making career. She’s stayed in the industry ever since!

Most of Marcia’s early deals were in the ESOP ring. She enjoyed learning more about how employee stocks worked, as well as how complicated they could be. This opened a whole new world to her, and she was able to work on many related deals during this time. Early on, she was intensely fascinated by UPS’s use of ESOPs in their business.

Boutique Investment Banking

ShareNett is a boutique investment bank. They do traditional investing, but their niche is finding deals from family offices. Once found, they then partner or club with other families. ShareNett sifts through a lot of “noise” so they can filter the best quality investment opportunities for their clients.

Marcia shares their deals typically start around 10 million. She finds ShareNett can be extremely helpful in the 10-100 million dollar range. She really enjoys working in the family office space, and most often finds herself working in the mid-market arena.

One commonality Marcia is seeing with family offices is having a second or third generation who are actively pushing hard for impact investing. This falls in many spheres, including green energy, sustainability, and other ethically-based fields. She also sees many family offices who have made their mark within a specific field or area; she finds they often prefer to continue working within those same spaces with investments moving forward. If branching out, it often occurs in conjunction with another family office that is more familiar with the space.

Outside of all the political wrangling, there seems to be a demographic shift in which younger generations are inheriting wealth and being given more control over where the money is going.

Marcia believes that investments and philanthropy are beginning to be less mismatched. Younger generations are seeking to decrease the mismatch between where the family office is investing and where they are donating. Quality investments that do good are of great interest.

Making money AND doing good, all without having to rely on investment cycles that tend to fluctuate, is a powerful direction that many businesses may be going. Rather than seeking to become a non-profit, it might become more popular to stay for-profit, but use a percentage of proceeds to fuel social movements.

You no longer have to accept lower returns in order to do good! In fact, you can do good and expect comparable returns.

Other Marketplace Trends & Investment Opportunities

Marcia also notes there seems to be an increased interest in bringing manufacturing back to the US. She attributes this to supply chain disruptions as a result of the pandemic. Covid-19 highlighted just how many products we rely on are being manufactured elsewhere and shipped in.

Many businesses are using repurposing to make this work. They’re finding with small shifts, they can manufacture more of what they need here. Although supply chain issues will never fully go away, adaptations can be made to decrease disruptions.

However, there may be a difference between various types of technology. For instance, there’s a huge difference between bringing steel back, versus producing technological components here. Marcia agrees, noting that manufacturing trends are more manufacturing focused. As a result, many quality investments will likely be made in the US manufacturing markets.

Game makers and recreational manufacturers are also seeing a boom right now, as a result of the pandemic. That might be a short term change, but could also be part of driving deals at the moment. Because people are looking for more ways to spend time outside or engage in private recreation, it won’t be surprising to see continued growth in this area. At least for the time being, recreation is growing!

I noted that Rha and I are in the process of looking around for non-metro-based housing for the future. Based on how things have been going, it seems like it might be a quality investment! We typically split our time between major metros in New York and California, and we’re starting to think somewhere in the mountains might be a better bet. Although that’s not something everyone can do, it may start to become more common in the future. This is especially true for those who are looking at purchasing new properties.

Multi-Generational Investing Families

Older generations may have a desire to make quality investments in businesses that have a solid track history and have been around for awhile. Most technology companies, however, have less of a long term history. Younger generations may often be more excited about making investments with new tech, especially as they often feel more comfortable with the tools. 

However, Marcia notes that if you’ve seen one family office….you’ve seen one family office. They tend to be very unique, and are always composed of individuals with their own interests, desires, and comfort with risk.

One of Marcia’s clients made a lot of money in the gas and oil industry. Although they are glad to have made their money, they are excited to pivot forward by turning their attention to green energy. Tthey recognize that gas and oil were brand new, generations ago, and that they did have many positive impacts in terms of growth and expansion. However, attitudes evolve and shift. Families do to, which is a key point to remember if working with a family office!

As families evolve in their thinking, Marcia also notes that it is vital to remain open to their growth and development. Giving them space to change, and working through what that means for their portfolios, is essential.

Marcia’s interview was incredible. To learn more about her role, including a note on ways in which her job sometimes makes her feel like a therapist, listen in today!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast..

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal-Ready Assessment today!

 

Categories
Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Deal-Driven Growth

A Capital Raising Journey

Sherisse Hawkins is a multi-talented builder, learner, risk taker, motivator, rainmaker, and speaker. She has a strong engineering background. Beyond that, she is the creative minded CEO & founder of Pagedip. Sherisse also has a proven record of meeting impossible deadlines, delighting customers, and re-imagining how things can be done. She believes anything is possible in the digital world, and is passionate about driving innovative content. She’s appeared in Vanity Fair and on Shark Tank. In this interview she shares more about her capital raising journey and other business experiences.

Early Deal-Making Experiences

Sherisse notes that she didn’t think of deals or deal-making until she became an entrepreneur. In her earlier work experience she had thought of decisions and deals pertaining to technology usage as being more technical. You examined which systems were most sound and used those. Pretty clear cut!

Moving into the entrepreneurial world and becoming a founder & CEO revealed how many other factors come into play. There are so many factors beyond “by the book” choices. Even when dealing with the objective facts of technology and science, things weren’t as clear as they had once seemed.

Becoming an Entrepreneur 

Not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship. This isn’t just about having the dream, or being financially set up for success. Instead, there is a necessary personal mindset shift that must be experienced. This shift is what allows some people to make entrepreneurship a reality. 

Having worked in very large organizations, such as Walt Disney Imagineers, Sherisse hadn’t had the experience of working in a small company prior to starting her own. She understood that there were going to be financial risks. But she also knew there were going to be risks of not following her dream. She recognized that she liked starting things, and enjoyed getting things into the state they needed to be. That might be connected to her engineering background.

Sherisse shared that, throughout her life, she’s found that it’s intensely satisfying to take things apart and put them back together. There is a sense of exhilaration when a set of code works, or something comes together for the first time.

She found that same exhilaration in entrepreneurship. Although she had a great title, a corner office, and a bonus system at her role, she had a pull within her heart. She knew she could not deny the call to entrepreneurship. The field of communication and the development of digital tools held huge potential, and Sherisse knew she could make an impact. Finally, she took the leap.

You often hear of people in their young 20’s and even late teens starting companies and becoming millionaires. However, the average entrepreneur starts their business in the 30’s, 40’s, and later. There is no real time in life that it’s too early OR too late to become an entrepreneur.

Seeking a Co-Founder 

With Pagedip, Sherisse shares that she feels they’ve created what Microsoft Word might have been if they had created a word processor in the time of the internet. Essentially, they’ve created an editor that allows the user to marry core content with other elements. This combination creates a narrative flow that compels the reader to actually use the content you create. (Unlike traditional documents or PowerPoints!) Additional information can be added into what you’re sharing, all while allowing readers to stay on one page. 

As a result, materials can be kept up to date. Analytics are possible, so you can see where readers spend the most time, and which addition information mattered to them. Best of all, everything can live in one place. Pagedips are interact-able, measurable, engaging, and secure documents that create experiences for their users.

In terms of raising capital, Sherisse shares that she initially started the company with her own money. She was hoping for a technical co-founder, but had a bit of trouble finding the perfect person. Many of her peers didn’t want to take the risk. Eventually, she found a new graduate who seemed like a good fit.

Shortly after, they headed to an accelerator in Australia to get things moving! (She learned of this from Jen Matthews, who she had connected with after hearing her speak.) With her co-founder, she was able to further incubate the idea and started to understand the role capital raising could play in getting the organization off the ground. Sherisse sees that bootstrapping likely makes sense in some instances. For Pagedip, however, it was clear that bringing in outside capital made the most sense.

Notes on Capital Raising

After their first pitch, there were a number of investors interested in their idea. Not surprisingly, since that initial pitch, Pagedips has pivoted, as most businesses do. That initial interest was a great early start!

Sherisse shares that if she had known everything she knew about how difficult fundraising can be, she might not have taken the leap. (So she’s glad she didn’t know!) Raising money can be really hard. It’s made even more difficult for women and people of color. When she looks back at those early experiences now, she sees that the data supports the experience she had.

The company has now had two rounds of seed investments. Sherisse notes that fundraising takes longer than you think. It really is a full time job. There is a tension between wanting to move the company forward and invest time there, and needing to devote a huge amount of time to actually fundraising.

Along the way she’s had feedback that the company is thinking too small. Some investors have said they should be aiming to be much bigger and larger. She’s also gotten feedback that the idea is too big. This advice is usually paired with a warning that they need to think more reasonably. Between the two, “too small” is most common. Investors want to invest in something that will earn them back the largest possible dividend. That means more income, more markets, and larger numbers. It means casting a bigger vision with more dollar signs.

Want to hear about Sherisse’s appearance on Shark Tank? Curious as to why many companies DON’T need to seek investors? Listen in to the full episode!

Capital Raising as a Woman, a Person of Color, and Engineer

Sherisse shares that she approached this journey as an entrepreneur, a woman, and a person of color. Those identities came into play throughout her business building and fundraising journey. Although you cannot know what your experience would be if you did not possess those identities, she did feel that there were still some stereotypes. This was especially true about what technologists and professionals in the space were expected to look like.

She knew that her company was changing how people would experience information sharing forevermore. That’s a bold statement and huge undertaking! In a five minute pitch for that level of technology, there’s not time to dig into your background, prowess, and ability to pull that off. (And still share about the actual idea you’re presenting).

You don’t have the opportunity to share about the relevant experience you’ve had throughout your 20+ year career. You don’t have time to combat stereotypes AND establish your ability to succeed with a new venture.

Somehow you have to find ways to convey that experience and expertise. You can do this through non-verbal communication to save time. In addition, Sherisse noted that it was essential to bring that background to the forefront. Sometimes that did mean spending a bit more time on those areas than others who more apparently fit the funded founder check-boxes might need to. (Which also means less time to spend on pitching the actual idea itself.)

Sherisse found it was vital that she was able to own the fact that she is a technologist and a visionary in her field. That ownership was a key element in her ability to create a compelling pitch with confidence.

Studies have shown that perceptions about gender and race create huge assumptions about a person’s ability and capability. Everything from music auditions (read about the impact of blind orchestra auditions here), being considered for a Ph.D. program  (read about the impact of name and gender here), to the weight that GPA, professional experience, race, and gender play in hiring (read about the impact of these and other factors here) can be impacted by a person’s perceived race and gender. Appearance can immediately play a role in whether you can even secure the opportunity to show what you’re capable of. (Not only “can”….studies show that it most definitely DOES.)

Personal Growth and the Internal Journey

Sherisse shares that she is tenacious to a fault. Something she’s grappled with in her journey is when (and if) there is a time to say, “This is enough.” She hasn’t found that place yet! Instead, she keeps on pushing forward and growing.

One thing that fuels her is the belief that if you can see it, you can be it. She knows that there aren’t a lot of women, or women of color, within her field. Years ago, Vanity Fair brought Sherisse, as well as other women of color who had raised over a million dollars in capital, together in one place. They all fit in a really small room. There just weren’t that many people in those categories to invite! As someone who knows what it is to be one of the first, Sherisse notes there can be a lot of doubt about what is possible.

She also shares that she would be remiss not to mention that there IS a little part of her brain always processing what is possible in our time and within her industry. There aren’t a lot of people who look like her who have experienced a large amount of success in her industry. That’s a big undertaking, and an interesting journey!

In general, founders raising capital are a small group of entrepreneurs. Capital raising and making over a million dollars, an even smaller group. Among these small groups, white men continue to make up a majority. This means we still have this picture of representation that validates that we belong in the space, and that we can succeed.

As someone who has benefited from some of those privileges and has been committed to use that privilege to promote equity, provide opportunities and stand for representation of people of all backgrounds, I appreciate Sherisse sharing her journey with authenticity. Her commitment and drive to overcome the challenges of not fitting the mold and breakthrough and reshape the mold for her own benefit and that of others inspires me. 

Learn More

To learn more about Sherisse, Pagedip, and the capital raising journey, listen in the full episode! You can connect with Sherisse directly by emailing [email protected].

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.
If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

Categories
Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

Deal-Making Lessons

Jay Hummel is an author, speaker, and financial services executive. He specializes in leading through change and  building strategic relationships internally and externally. Jay also excels at articulating complex items in simple terms. He is the co-founder of Wealth Advisor Growth Network (WAGN), where he strives to bring growth to the independent adviser space. On today’s show, we dive deep to explore Jay’s deal-making lessons and experience.

An Early Start to a Financial Future

Jay shares that he would put on a clip-on tie at the age of 8, bring his calculator to the dining room table, and play with numbers. One of his earliest deals involved asking his grandfather how much it would be to “take that clock off his hands”. Even though he wasn’t able to make that deal, it signaled what was to come. Since then Jay has grown into his interest, pursuing higher education and moving into accounting and later wealth management. 

Now he works with WAGN, which is a consulting and deal-making firm. There, he strives to keep wealth management services connected with new developments in technology. Ultimately, he believes in the value of continual growth in an industry that can easily get a bit stagnant. WAGN specializes in minority stakes, which they acquire in order to become managing partners. From that position, the goal is to create an ecosystem of great people who are serving their clients and staying ahead of the technology curve.

Deal-Making Lessons from a Billionaire 

Jay’s first real job was as an intern for the Lindner’s, a billionaire family. He was able to work for their CFO and witness a lot of deal-making, including the purchase of amusement parks and the rolling up of insurance companies. They told him that as long as he stayed quiet, he was welcome to sit in the room and observe. What a deal for Jay!

He shares that he had a lot of respect for Mr. Lindner’s philosophy that you never take anyone to the wall with a deal. After all, the world is a small place! Even when Jay knew that his side was holding all the cards, he saw that they didn’t always play them all. When he asked about that, Mr. Lindner shared that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. You never know when you’ll be sitting at the table and be the one who doesn’t have the advantage…and you might be sitting across from the very same people you’re making deals with today.

Every negotiation in business is either the start of a new relationship, or the continuation of an old relationship. Just because you could beat someone down and walk away doesn’t mean you can do so without consequences. People build reputations, and you become known for the way you conduct yourself. A massive win that cuts someone else down may benefit you for a moment, but the long term impact of creating a reputation that makes others not want to do deals with you anymore is hard to overcome.

Powerful Deals Done Right

Today’s deal isn’t about tomorrow; it’s about the next 5, 10, 15 years. Take the long view, and think beyond simple financial profits. How can you make deals that are good for everyone: partners, employees, clients, and anyone else?

Jay shares that one reason he’s pleased to be out of the public sector and fully private is because he feels there is more leeway to really consider that long term view.

He also notes that when you sit down at the table to make deals, you need to understand why you’re there. What outcome are you seeking, and for what reason? When you lack clarity, it’s hard to bring a deal to completion. 

Even when he’s been part of a deal that fails, Jay has seen that showing up and being willing to fail is a key part of becoming a successful deal-maker. Know what you want, treat others with respect, and know how to walk away from the table with both success and failure. They are both part of the deal-making process, and you’ll experience them both if you’re serious about making deals throughout your career.

The second principle in my Authentic Negotiating book is detachment for this very reason! Of course you’ll have a preference that the deal gets done; but you also have to be able to release expectations and accept what happens during the negotiation. 

WAGN Deal-Making Lessons & Growth

WAGN started their deal-making with capital formation at the beginning of their company. However, they weren’t looking for only capital. Having the right partners around the table was of more importance than dollar amounts.

Jay and his co-founding partner John believe that the best deal people in the long run are “smaller pieces of the bigger pie” types. Understanding how each element comes together to create something better than any one part is a key part of becoming an expert deal-maker.

This also connects to shared vision. No matter how lucrative a deal appears on the outset, if it is not backed with shared vision, it will not serve the parties involved in the long term. In fact, beyond the capital partner deals, Jay and John founded WAGN by creating a shared vision and building a deal together at the outset. Without that shared view of themselves as smaller pieces in a bigger picture, as well as for where they could take a wealth management group, they would not be seeing the success they’ve seen.

Deal-Making Uncertainty

A lot of deal-making success isn’t about finances or strategy; it’s about timing. Jay shares that once he and John knew what they wanted to build, they could see that the window was closing. They needed to act with certainty to get in, and they did. Since starting last October (2019) they’ve completed four deals and are off to a strong start.

Early on, they invested in a Denver-based firm that they believed in, with plans to build out an entirely new firm. The break date? March 20th, 2020. That was the bottom of the equity market as a result of Covid-19, and things in the market were unstable. However, they knew they had planned and prepared for this. Yes, there was uncertainty. But there was also a great deal of vision and clarity for what could be achieved. 

Ultimately, WAGN was ready and they knew that clients needed what they were going to build. Since then they’ve done three acquisitions and are on their way to building a billion dollar firm. There are only 330 billion dollar independent firms in the country (with 330,000 independent firms in existence), and Jay shares that WAGN may reach that level in less than 10 months.

Deal-Making Lessons From Jay

So many deal-making lessons have fueled WAGN’s growth and drive along the way. 

Jay notes that you never want to chase a bad deal. He also comments that it can be really easy to get tempted into jumping into a bad deal in the “top of the 9th inning” because you feel like you need it. 

He reminds leaders that clarity around what you’re building and why is essential. If you pause a deal, you need to know what factor is going to allow you to reinitiate the process. Is it the stock market? An internal factor? If you hit pause and don’t know when you’ll be restarting, you end up in limbo land, which is painful for everyone.

To hear more about Jay’s thoughts on the future of the deal-making industry in the financial sector, listen in to the full episode!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

 

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Authentic Deal-Making Deal-Driven Growth

Seed Stage Venture Capital Funds

Today’s guest, Nick Adams, has a background in tech companies and deal-making. Now he’s a Managing Partner and co-founder at Differential Ventures, a seed stage venture capital fund. His group invests early in the process, which gives him a bird’s eye view of mistakes and innovations in the field. In addition, Nick’s been part of growth and deals connected to scaling from two million to ten, or ten million to twenty-five. He’s seen how deals and decision making can make or break a business.

Getting Into Venture Capital

Nick shares that, as a kid, he wanted to be a major league baseball shortstop. Although he did play ball throughout college, his career ended there. At age 22 he played his last official game, and moved on with his future.

One of Nick’s earliest memorable deals involved early software sales. He remembers closing the deal with the A&P supermarket chain and being elated. Now he’s in the venture capital field. His focus is in investing in companies in their earliest stages. This is usually a step beyond “idea stages”, but pre-revenue.

Often when companies raise money, early rounds include family and friends. This is also where angel investors might get involved. After this you’ll find seed stage investors, followed by series B, C, D and so on until fundraising is done or the company is placed on the market for public buy ins.

Differential Ventures often comes in with investments between $250,000 and 1.2 million as part of a seed room. In exchange they usually receive a board seat, and work with founders to build out the company. This involves everything from product development to finding those first few customers. Nick finds that each company’s needs vary greatly. Often, his team tends to pick up more technically based founders, so one thing they look for is whether there is going to be an ability for the founder or founding team to build a product all the way out to being saleable.

To learn which is more essential: team, technology, or market, listen to the full episode!

Do Venture Capitalists Eliminate Founders?

Nick notes that his sort of venture capital work isn’t for everyone. First and foremost, founders need to have an awareness of whether their company warrants outside investment at a higher level, as well as what that sort of increase in funds will mean for their organizations. Out of curiosity, I asked him to share more about what happens when VC money comes in, and founders get pushed out.

In my experience, founders and CEOs who leave their companies after investments are granted are usually looked on favorably. The public seems ready to take their side, and venture capitalists can end up looking like the “bad guys”. Although Nick acknowledges that things do go wildly sideways sometimes, that tends to be the exception, not the rule.

He does share that sometimes founders get pushed out, but this can happen for a variety of reasons. Timing, personality, growth needs, or even a founder no longer wanting to be part of the deal. Sometimes technical founders loved creating and building, but have little desire to take on a CEO role. In that case, they may initiate their own transition. However, it’s rare for a VC to come into a business and actually force a founder or CEO out of their role.

In his opinion, Nick finds that most VC’s are pretty good actors. Their funding and outcomes are very much attached to a start-ups success and needs. There are long holding periods, things move slow, and there is a strenuous process involved in really making a profit. In fact, he finds that angel investors can sometimes put more pressure on a young business simply because they don’t understand the nature of the slow game that investing can be.

Is Venture Capital Funding For You?

The percentage of companies that are really right for VC funding is small. For one thing, they need to be ready for massive growth, and to take the market by storm. For another, they should actually need the money as an avenue for growth.

Nick shares that he recently had a potential client who shared that he wouldn’t be bothered with an early exit from the fund if taken on. The rejoinder: Nick knew immediately his company wasn’t interested. In order for VC funding to make sense, there needs to be a large return that can pay off investors and create profit. Although the potential client was shocked to be turned down so quickly, Nicks’ been in VC funding long enough to know that short term thinking doesn’t work well.

He also knows that this kind of long term, high dollar deal isn’t for everybody. Neither is venture capital funding! Unlike angel investors (who are using their own money), a fund mathematically requires a high return to pay back each party involved.

The Ideal Founder

If you’re considering approaching a venture capital fund, Nick suggests that the best founding teams combine leaders who have:

+ Strong technical differential and skills (academic background, work history, etc)
+ Entrepreneurial by nature
+ Experience working with both engineers/creators and customers
+ Product management ability

In addition, Nick shares that their best founders who seem to be most successful are usually in it for some reason larger than just “being” a founder. They often have some deep sense of obligation to a family member, friend, community, or other group that they want to prove themselves to. When someone has believed in you and invested in you, you’re highly motivated to make good in their name.

Having a deeper drive and purpose is a key part of pushing through hardship and delivering the best possible outcome. This is true for any entrepreneurial group, but especially so for founders who want to bring on venture capital funds!

There is a risk calculation here: how far are you willing to go to bring your idea to life? Depending on your savings, your family’s needs, and your ability to handle risk, your answer might be quite different from someone else’s. There are no wrong answers, but it’s vital that you’re honest with yourself about what those answers are for you.

Nick encourages founders to establish the amount of risk they’re willing and able to take on for themselves prior to seeking funding.

Venture Capital Funding and Covid-19

Nick shares that he believes there has been too much capital in too many startups across the market. Leading up to February, the market was fairly overheated, and it contained a number of startups and investors who probably didn’t belong in the market for the long haul.

When Covid-19 broke out and businesses started to close, a great deal of capital either froze or dried up. After a slow March and April and a brutal adjustment period, Nick has seen changes taking place. They completed their first completely remote deal in which they hadn’t known the founder in any capacity beforehand at the end of June.

They negotiated the terms sheet at 6pm, and the founder’s 6-year old was present for the end of the call, staring into the Zoom screen and watching the proceedings. The market is still moving along, and Nick is optimistic about the direction it’s taking.

You can connect with Nick by emailing him at [email protected]. He encourages you to be able to succinctly communicate:

What are you doing?
Why is it important?
Why are you uniquely qualified?
What proof points do you have?

Listen to the full episode here!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

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A Different View of Deals & Negotiations

My guest today is Zoltan Istvan, who is a world leader in the field of Transhumanism. He’s also a vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 2020. I’m excited to have Zoltan on. He brings a different view of deals and negotiations, and how that plays out in the political realm.

More About Transhumanism

Transhumanism is a social movement. It contains many millions of people around the world that want to use science and technology to radically modify humans and the human experience. This can include anything from exoskeleton suits that will allow elderly or disabled people who have lost mobility to walk again, or chips implanted in either your brain or in your hand.

It can also include things like genetic editing, where we try to eliminate cancer through radical types of genetic therapies. Transhumanism is about applying radical science to human beings and our lives.

In 2016, Zoltan was nominated to run for as a Transhumansim presidential candidate. Zoltan believes that America actually received a science-based candidate really well. Although he acknowledges that the party never had a chance to win, they did get their message out, with over 100 million views of their content, 6th best of all candidates.

Deals & Negotiating in Politics & Journalism

Zoltan shares that he has several businesses and has been an entrepreneur for years. However, politics takes the cake in terms of deal-making. There are constant divisions, factions, and differences in opinion. If you want to be nominated as a candidate, you have to be able to combine factions, make deals, and bring people together.

The complexity of political deal-making in today’s divisive social atmosphere is intense. Zoltan noted that political deals often differ from business deals in that they tend to be less directly about money. Instead, they are about positioning and leverage.

The person who best masters compromise often ends up the winner.

Zoltan’s work in journalism required similar negotiation skills. When a journalist wants to create a story based on a certain person or group, it’s necessary to find ways to help people feel safe in revealing their truest selves. It really comes down to trust, and your ability to build trust with the other person as part of creating a deal together.

Building Trust as Part of Deal-Making

Because deals always involve people at some level, the power of trust cannot be overstated. No matter how amazing a deal might seem, it’s incredibly hard to get someone to put their signature on something if they don’t trust you.

In journalism, you have to be able to show someone that opening up to you and sharing their story is going to be better for them and their lives in the long run. And that can be a hard sell if trust has not been established.

So, politics and business share the same truth: Without some level of trust, it’s really hard to get a deal done.

Zoltan’s background includes reporting in a lot of war zones. As a result, he’s seen that generals and military commanders are very hesitant to speak with reporters. He had to prove that he would report the facts and create stories that were accurate. The modern, “click-bait” style reports that are common on social sites today do the exact opposite. They may be entertaining and compelling — but they do not build the sort of trust necessary to get to a deeper, bigger story.

Existential Risk & Transhumansim

Zoltan shares that transhumanism focuses quite strongly on the reality of existential risks in the world. There are plagues, health problems, and nuclear threats. He believes that reallocating government money into researching and addressing these existential threats is vital. In addition, it would be a foundational role for transhumanist political leaders in the future. This would clearly require a great deal of political deal-making. This would also involve the boundary-pushing science transhumanism is known for. Because of this, there are likely going to be conflicts with more conservative or traditional religious leaders.

For example, artificial wombs are reaching a place of viability that means they will be an option in the upcoming years. The Catholic Church has long held a position against abortion. Their perspective here will be interesting. What if they could see artificial wombs as an abortion alternative that allows a woman to opt-out of pregnancy while also protecting the babies life and making it possible for the child to be born full term and adopted?

Zoltan points out that innovations in science and technology almost always signal new deals on the horizon. From what will be accepted, to how something will be funded, produced, marketed, and used: deals are a necessity.

Building trust will continue to be a key element of allowing various sectors and factions to come together. This is necessary in order to create the best world for us all.

Listen in to the full episode here!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

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