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Jeff Werner: Top 10 for 2020 – A New Year’s checklist for entrepreneurs and early startups

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A new year ushers in myriad opportunities to review, refresh and reprioritize. While it’s difficult to plan and chart a precise course for the future, given the uncertainty it holds, there are ways to be more resourceful. As the owner, you know your business. Here are 10 simple and clever ways to help you mind your business.

1) Build and honor relationships
Your business and advisory networks can be invaluable resources in helping you on your business journey. Keep networking and meeting people and nurture these relationships. Manage your time well and note that someone who might not be a great fit for your business today may be an important contact in the future.

2) Be honest and open with investors and advisers
Your investors and advisers are there to help you. They believe in you and your business and have a vested interest in your success. Keep them informed, not only of your successes, but of any issues you are experiencing or could potentially face in the near future. Your supporters may be able to help you avert bigger problems down the road, so keep them in the know.

3) Maintain an online data room
This is an easy and time-saving way to share information with potential investors and other interested parties. An organized and up-to-date data room shows you’re on top of your business affairs and value your own time, as well as your investor’s. Your data room should include a pitch deck (brief presentation), company documents, financials, board materials and members, term sheets, market research, marketing, sales, operational team members, technology, product, information on money raised, and intellectual property. You might want to design the “room” for various levels of access, depending on necessary levels of security.

4) Refresh your deck
Update your pitch deck periodically as your business grows and becomes more defined. Always keep your presentation current, refined and ready for a potential investor. You never know when you’ll be asked to show your deck.

5) Know your numbers
Be vigilant about your books. Keeping them organized will give you a clear picture of your business’s health and alert you in advance of fundraising needs. Having a concise set of books and an updated financial model will give potential investors a transparent and honest view of your company’s “runway” – how long it can survive if income and expenses remain constant – and its outlook. Also, be able to speak to your monthly revenue and burn. Have these figures on the “tip of your tongue”.

6) Update compliance documents
As your company grows and becomes more defined, update and adjust any legal or insurance compliances. Protect your business entity at all times. At a minimum, do an annual review of your legal compliance matters and insurance needs. Utilize your legal and insurance professionals. They are a worthy investment.

7) Love your business more than your product/service
See what’s working and what isn’t. Be objective and willing to respond to what the market is telling you. Pivot and revise if necessary. The key point is you’re in business – your product/service is important, but the survival and growth of the company is paramount. If the market or other external sources are telling you that you’ve got something wrong, listen up!

8) Be of good cheer and character
Love what you do, and do what you love. Be pleasant, agreeable and open to constructive criticism. Own your mistakes, keep your word, and show reliability and consistency. In the grand scheme of life, nothing is worth doing if you can’t have good experiences along the way.

9) Let go of the need to be perfect
Entrepreneurs do the impossible – every day. It takes courage and faith to operate a startup business. Have respect for yourself and the process, and when you fall short of expectations, acknowledge the shortfall while treating yourself gently. Tomorrow is another day.

10) Find balance in your life
If you’re in the day-to-day throes of an early startup, it’s easy to push yourself to work 24/7. While you’ll need to work many days and long hours, never lose sight of the larger picture. This is a chapter in your life. Give it your absolute best, but always remember you are more important than what you are doing.

Jeff Werner, CEO of The Field Group in Beacon, is a business adviser, investor and mentor who focuses on capital acquisition, expansion strategies and resource allocation. He is a founding partner of Cheerity, a social media-based technology company in New York, and his portfolio includes a select group of Hudson Valley startups, including Loliware, the edible bioplastics company. Werner sits on advisory and director boards of Our.News and Orto Foods Inc., and is a managing member of the Hudson Valley Startup Fund, a member-managed seed capital fund. He can be reached at jeff@fieldholding.com.

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