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Businesses become more valuable when they have certain characteristics that add up to strategic advantages in the marketplace. Regardless of a company's ultimate objective--growth, acquisition or IPO--its owners can create, maximize and sustain value by driving it toward those characteristics. A management consultant explains the tools of his trade and reminds readers that price and value are not identical. Some factors, such as growth, are industry-specific, which is why new-economy companies and their stocks are fetching such extraordinary prices.
Founding a business was so much fun for three Harvard juniors that they did it several times--until they found something that worked. They begged, bartered and borrowed resources, with a little help from their folks. And, because they knew their industry and added value as managers, they grew their temp agency for Web professionals into a permanent, international leader.
When Frieda Caplan went into business for herself, she was the only woman in the produce industry. That gave her a national presence, but the real reason for her success was that her company filled an important niche. Now it's the leading distributor of specialty fruits and vegetables. Along the way, the founder learned some important lessons about financing. And she's still going to work every day-with her daughters.
Sue Hesse left a corporate career and started her own business so she could cut down on her travel schedule and raise her children. By the time she sold it to spend more time with them, she had learned that even in an old-fashioned industry, numbers could outweigh gender. Performance-based incentive compensation turned out to be the strategy that propelled her and other women forward. Getting support from other entrepreneurs, male or female, is her other key to success.
When cash flow turned positive and profits started coming in, the co-founder of an Internet start-up sought his advisory board's approval for new expenses. What he got was a barrage of questions: "Where are next year's projections? What's your mission statement?" As the business grew, the board made sure it stayed on track financially, raising prices as well as morale. And when the company was acquired, everybody cashed in.
Financiers decode business plans, looking for the secrets of probable success. If yours shows a customer-driven opportunity that your company's talent, passion and skin in the game can actually pull off, they're more likely to be impressed.
Two hardworking entrepreneurs start an online publishing venture as a virtual company. They think they can communicate because they're wired. So, why are they always meeting at the local coffee shop? Profitable but inefficient, their business needs office space in order to grow beyond the launch phase--and, like parents, the founders have to get out of its way.
Entrepreneurs can create a company culture that reflects their values and motivates employees by experimenting with unusual events and activities in the workplace. Here are some ideas to jump-start your thinking.
One plus one equals millions when you combine two business models that work into a wildly popular Web site. It also helps to have high-powered investors and a built-in formula for building customer loyalty. As these business-school buddies discovered, advertisers love an affluent audience, so you can actually make money by giving it away.
Even on the Internet, says the founder of a company that provides online directories for e-businesses, most new business models are really variants or hybrids of the three basic old ones. To gain competitive advantage in the new economy, what entrepreneurs really need is a low-cost customer-acquisition strategy. And, they face increasing pressure from investors to be right the first time.
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