I started an Oklahoma business, I need more money . . . what do I do?

You started a new Oklahoma business, you made it through the rocky first months or perhaps even years. 

Your business is starting to gain some traction; growth is happening, but . . . you need something more.  You need money.  Money to invest in inventory, research, and development, marketing, or perhaps to hire new employees.  Or maybe you access – to new markets, new customers, new talent to hire.

You need that extra spark to take your business to the next level.  What are the options for bringing the extra spark into your business?

Well, there are essentially two options for bringing additional money and talent into your company:

  1. Debt

Debt is just as it sounds: Someone or some business is going to lend your business money, money which your business will have to pay back, likely at a healthy interest rate.  But if cash is what you need, then perhaps a loan is the right solution for you.  There is another, more robust option that opens new possibilities.

  1. Equity

Equity is giving someone or some business an ownership interest in your company in exchange for payment, usually but not exclusively cash invested in the company.  You essentially are adding a business partner who will have some level of control over the business.

The questions to ask before doling out equity in your business including the following:

How much money do you need?

The answer to this question needs to be based on your business plan, projections, and actual performance of the company.  Being able to accurately determine how much additional funding is necessary allows you to negotiate with the new investor coming into the company accurately.

How much control in the company are you willing to give up?

Let’s assume that right now you are the sole owner of the business; you call all the shots, you make all the rules, the buck stops with you.  Bringing on a business partner will permanently change the dynamic of your company. 

  • Do you want to allow the investor to have decision-making authority in the company at any level? What types of issues and decisions are you comfortable giving up control over?  Or Do you want a silent partner?

 

  • Do you want to use a mix of voting interest and non-voting interest to structure the control in the company the investor/partner has? In a corporation, this would usually be referred to as using preferred shares of stock versus common shares of stock.

 

  • Are you willing to provide the investor with the option to purchase a more significant interest in your company in the future? Using, for instance, a time-based option or performance-based option?

 

What intangible value is the investor bringing to the company?

Can you bring on an investor who has experience moving businesses like yours from point A to point B or even further?  How about an investor with contacts with potential suppliers and customers in your industry with whom you do not have contact?  Or an investor who is willing to get into the trenches with you and help grow the business?

 

How will you value your company?

To properly bring investment money into your company, you need to know what your company is worth to value the equity you provide to the investor accurately.

 

How will you and your investor separate if one of you wants to leave the company?

Obviously, you are planning on your relationship with the investor being successful, and hopefully, it will be.  However, if it is not successful or one of you simply decides you want to leave the company, you need a written plan for how the exit can happen and how the person leaving the company will be compensated for their equity ownership interest in the company.  This type of plan can usually be addressed in the operating agreement if the company is a limited liability company.

Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Cazes Roberts, PLLC in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with wife Amy and my two children, Sam (17) and David (9). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."