Proving your credentials to investors

People don't invest in ideas: they invest in people. You can have the world's best business plan with a truly original idea that is guaranteed to make a fortune, but you could fail to attract investment if the people behind the idea do not inspire confidence.

Finding investors is rarely easy. No-one invests unless they consider certain they can gain a return from their investment. In a recovering economy investors may be more optimistic but they will still look carefully at those requiring the investment, the product/service and the marketplace. What is their potential gain may be a question they will wish to discuss and evaluate but they will almost certainly have a clear understanding of that they might lose.

Investors and banks look more closely at the individuals behind the business than at the business itself. Ask any investor to choose between a mediocre idea with a brilliant management team and a great idea with an inexperienced management team and they will choose the former.

It may not seem fair, but when you are trying to start a business you need more than a good idea; you need business skills - a flair for marketing, an ability to manage and motivate people, operational nous and, particularly, financial acumen and discipline.

No one person can hope to have all these skills. Investors are actually impressed if you are prepared to acknowledge your shortcomings. Indeed it adds credibility if you can say you have identified others who can fill in your skills gaps and that they have expressed an interest in being involved.

So be honest, identify your weaknesses, and think about who you could bring on board to beef up your management team. If Richard Branson is your uncle, ask him. If not, a friend or relative who already runs a business will be a good alternative.

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