Developing a Domain into a Business – The Financial Plan - Part 3

Developing a Domain into a Business – The Financial Plan - Part 3

Most people know that the finances of a business are a critical in understanding the performance and sustainability of the enterprise. The problem with reports like the profit and loss and balance sheet is that they are all historical. In order to really understand how a business will perform you need to be able to develop a future projecting cashflow.

A number of years ago I was approached to invest in an online business. I was interested enough to show up to the meeting and hear the founders talk about what the business had been doing. I then asked to view the financial projections moving forward….they looked back at me blankly and asked, “What’s that?”

Developing a cashflows in Excel is a great way to help you really come to grips with what is really driving your business forward. Surprisingly, I’ve found that many business owners don’t actually appreciate the underlying metrics which underpin their businesses performance.

For example, I was looking into a business that after doing some quick analysis I concluded that the more it sold the greater the losses! This was obviously not a good situation! The margins were all wrong, the costs out of control and the business was being funded by client prepayments with no thought of delivery. This business was doomed unless drastic action was taken…..sadly, like 80% of start-ups it eventually failed.

So you have your domain name and you’re wanting to develop it into a business. After pondering about the concept for a while I typically send a “flag up the pole” with a few people. In other words, I share the idea of the service and gauge the reaction.

I’m not just interested in what the response is, I’m also interested in the emotional reaction. Is it, “I’ve seen this idea before” or “That is brilliant!”

I then test out a number of different pricing strategies. Should I have a joining fee, cost plus, subscription, advertising etc. Everyone will want something for free but is that sustainable? In some cases it is, because the revenue comes from other sources but most of the time a business has real costs that it needs revenue to offset.

In these discussions I’m constantly gathering information and trying to ascertain whether the business will be sustainable or not. I’m also trying to work out whether the venture is worth my time….more on this in another article.

At some point in the process I begin to develop the first cut at the cashflow. So what does this look like? Seeing that a cashflow is typically forward looking, each column represents a month and the far left column are the items. This then allows me to add a revenue number for each month plus the associated costs.

I personally build a spreadsheet with four different areas:

Assumptions
These are all of the numbers that you are typically making a good educated guess. There will always be assumptions but a good entrepreneur will recognise what the assumptions are and then assess the risk to the business if they are wrong.

For instance, one assumption that I find myself quite often making is the exchange rate. The last time I checked the relationship between the US and Australian dollar was quite dynamic but in my financial model I need to pick a number. In my sensitivity analysis I can then alter the exchange rate to view the impact on the bottom line. In my experience, it’s very easy to think that you are in one type of business only to discover that you’re actually a sophisticated foreign exchange dealer!

Drivers
Drivers are things such as how many subscriptions you are going to sell each month, the total number of subscribers, drop-off rates, marketing channels for new business etc. All of these are non-dollar values and directly impact the monthly revenue and expense lines

Revenue
There can be multiple revenue sources for a business.  For example, you could have multiple types of subscriptions, advertising and content licensing for a quality content based website. All of these figures directly influenced by the drivers.

Expenses
There are two main categories of expenses, those that are directly related to selling (commonly called cost of goods sold) and fixed overheads (offices, hosting etc.). I like to separate these two types of expenses out in my cashflow so that I can then quickly calculate my gross and net margins.

As a general rule, be really careful of fixed overheads. These are often business killing and need to be eliminated everywhere possible. For instance, prior to signing a lease ask yourself the question, “Do I need that office?” You’ll be surprised at how often the answer is actually “no”.

In the next article I will build a cashflow for the sale of my book, “Battleframe”.

---------------------------------------------------

Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face.

Tags:
1860 Hits