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When you get out there thinking you're the most important member of the team, you're headed for failure, says Wally Amos. The founder of Famous Amos Cookies found out the hard way that you can't just indulge your whims and let the chocolate chips fall where they may. How he developed a spiritual understanding, recovered his good name and started a new, more successful company serves as a great recipe for other entrepreneurs.
The founder of a software development business had already agreed to be acquired by one company and was ready to sign the documents. Then another company came calling with a better offer. Loyal employees and a working partnership with the buyer turned out to be the crucial assets constituting the value of the business. The author concludes that you need to shop around and negotiate to find out what your company is really worth.
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.
A cutting-edge biotech company using transgenic mice to produce treatments for life-threatening diseases can spend years working hard toward a sensible business goal before seeing real profits. Still, when its stock soars 4000 percent in one year, investors sit up and take notice. Under the circumstances, a strategic plan and statistical models go a long way toward keeping the real value of the business in perspective.
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.
Kay Koplovitz saw few peers in broadcasting when she negotiated national cable rights to major-league sports as the founder of USA Networks. Today, as chair of the National Women's Business Council, she's working to help other entrepreneurial women form the networks they need to gain access to financing. To make sure more doors open wider, women's venture-capital forums and investment clubs are building strategic connections, providing money and changing the way lenders keep score. Still, says Koplovitz, there's more to accomplish in the coming years.
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.
Everything a computer person needs to learn for her business, she can get from her mentors--when they become members of her advisory board. First they provide expertise in sales, marketing, management and money matters. Then, morphing into a board of directors, they keep her on budget, on time and focused on her exit strategy. But perhaps their best lesson is that learning should be passed along to others.
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