Katie and Esther interview the founder and CEO of Cap Resources, a business development services company. Cap Resources helps technology start-ups leverage their strengths, build their team and establish their credibility while developing a business plan, working to obtain financing or even increase their market valuation. Capper offers some powerful guidance and “real world” expertise for start-up entrepreneurs. (“You really have to be committed to your vision.”)
Esther: Welcome back to the BusinessMakers Overtime Show, heard here and online at theBusinessMakers.com. Our guest today is Laura Capper, founder and CEO of Cap Resources. Laura, welcome to The BusinessMakers Overtime Show.
Laura: Thank you. Good to be here.
Esther: What is Cap Resources?
Laura: We're a consulting company and we specialize in launching new ventures. So when you hear about startups, we start up startups.
Laura: We work with founders and help them get the company bootstrapped and get it up and running.
Esther: Oh, cool.
Katie: Now are you focusing on particular industries or what kind of companies are you working with?
Laura: Oh, typically we're focused on technology companies. That's really our passion. So we do a lot of alternative energy, energy technologies, oil field, more conventional type technologies. We love, like, battery deals and material sciences. We had a lot of fun working on some new therapeutics that are coming out. So it's all pretty much across the board but technology is the common denominator.
Esther: That is so cool.
Katie: Not only are you beautiful smart but you're geeky, too. I really like you.
Laura: Oh you are so good.
Laura: There is that.
Katie: We really like geeks here. I'm sorry.
Laura: There is that. Most definitely.
Esther: And how many companies have you worked with, exactly?
Laura: We've been at this about 15 years.
Laura: And you'd probably get a kick outta this. I ran it on my own for about eight years.
Esther: Oh my gosh.
Laura: And at one time, I think I had 12 customers going and I thought, "I just can't do this on my own and that was right before the dot com era and then companies were flying out of the woodwork, so I staffed up quite a bit and typically have up to seven or eight people working for me since then but that was a interesting era. I think we worked with 40 companies in kinda that peak year.
Esther: Oh my gosh.
Katie: So now, do you only work with startup companies?
Laura: The answer is yes. We do only work with startup companies but more and more, we're doing startup divisions of very big companies. So we've got Fortune 500 companies that have had product lines in a particular area and now they've decided to go into a new area. And so from their perspective it really is a startup. They're kinda starting from scratch, coming up with new products or new services and there's actually a lot of analogies even between getting something started at a big company versus something that's truly from the ground up.
Esther: Very, very cool. Because you work in the field, you talk to these entrepreneurs all day, every day - what skills do they possess? What does an entrepreneur need?
Laura: You know, I'm obviously biased from my own experiences but I would say perseverance is very high on the list, 'cause it's rough going. You know, you really have to be committed to your vision. That old saying that you really have to have passion about what you're doing, I think, is very, very true. There's no way you and your family can survive the effort if you don't have passion for what you're doing.
Esther: Uh huh.
Laura: And I'd probably put number three on the list is a willingness to learn. To keep an open mind. When you start any venture, you have this exact vision of where you wanna go, and I can almost guarantee you that may not be the optimal path.
Esther: Uh huh.
Laura: And the only way you find the best path is if you're willing to listen to others and factor that into your plan. So openness and a willingness to learn is really high on the list.
Esther: That is very cool and I'm actually curious: all these CEOs you talked to, what are kind of the things that they have to watch out for?
Laura: I would say one is kinda getting lost in minutiae. You know there's a lot of little things that you have to do to run a business that could just eat your lunch and keeping focused on those three or four really critical things is key. The other is that you can't be too enamored with your technology. I call it founderitis, where you think you've got the Holy Grail and you're so convinced you've got it right, you don't factor in all these outside influences. So it's equally important, even if you are an inventor and have a great technology, it's perhaps more important that you understand what the markets are for it. What the market thinks are important may not be what you think are important. You, frankly, could be smarter than the market but the market's the one with the money.
Katie: Exactly! You can be too smart. And too forward-thinking.
Laura: So you have to learn how your customer base thinks and what's important to them and for a lot of very sharp people; that in itself is kind of a difficult task. What if I have to compromise my ideal design because the market wants a cheaper product or wants a product that will do something else? I have to learn to compromise to kinda meet their needs.
Laura: And that can be kind of tough for a founder of an idea.
Katie: What are some things that you do to help them identify the needs out there; help guide them in the right direction?
Laura: Well we really have a process we go through that even in very, very different fields, we pretty much stick to the same overall process and step one is learn everything we can from the founder. That they've obviously been at this a while and have compiled a great deal of information. The only challenge is half the time 80 percent of it's in their head, so you gotta -
Katie: Pull it out, yeah.
Laura: And then once we've done that and have kind of synched up with what their vision is and understand it, then we typically kinda back off and do some independent validation and we always start by researching the market and researching the competition. So that those are always the first things we do and then we kinda meld our vision to what we think the market needs and how we can be differentiated from the competition. So we have a very disciplined approach in looking at the market and being very realistic about the competition and also you can learn a great deal from the competition. You know you find out how they were funded. How they're distributing. Understanding how their packaging their products and pricing it, as opposed to looking at them as the enemy, you can actually learn a great deal and if you take the idea even further, you know you may be ultimately billing to sell to a competitor, too. So -
Esther: Uh huh.
Laura: - that's usually where we start is - and we try to help the founder step back from their forest (Laughter) and look at this larger world, everything else that's going on with the market and how that might influence their plans and designs.
Katie: Do you have any suggestions for maybe a budding entrepreneur that's really wanting to get out there, on their own for now, and look at what the competition has going?
Laura: The obvious is you try to pull everything you can from the web. So that's obviously a place to start. The challenge is keeping the information organized so that you really learn from it. So we're big fans of sticking stuff into Excel spreadsheets. You can keep nice, neat little categories. You might wanna understand who your competitors' major clients are. That might be a way to do that. So finding a way to organize what you find always makes it, later, much easier to analyze it. So you get through the web, so you're not stupid.
Laura: And that you learn the basics.
Katie: The foundation. That's right.
Laura: But you know, there's a lot of goofy stuff out there, too. So you have to be careful to not get too colored by that. The other thing we really recommend is picking up periodicals in the industry or looking at what the issues are with trade associations. And probably the most important step after you've done that is to get out there and talk to people because where you - you really find the distilled knowledge about a particular industry or a particular segment of the market is from the people that have been there a long time.
Esther: Uh huh.
Laura: And they're gonna know nuances that you're not gonna find in print.
Esther: Why does one need a business plan?
Laura: I see that as a means to establish your credibility. You know you could argue on one hand and say very few business plans are what actually ends up happening to the company -
Esther: And that would be the argument against them.
Laura: - if you look. Right. Five years from now I can guarantee you, (Laughter) whatever you're doing is not gonna comply with that business plan.
Laura: But if you look at it as an operating guideline for yourself. You set some milestones. You set some goals. You've thought about what kind of team you need to build, which is critically important - and then also it's - in a sense it's a marketing tool, so the investor gets to know how you think. Essentially, you want to establish credibility. They have to have faith that if they give you this money that you're gonna do something with it and so building that confidence and that credibility, you somehow have to document that and that's really what comes into a business plan. Also the disciplined approach in the business plan kind of forces you to think of these different aspects. You know if you're, say a scientist and you might have a brilliant idea, you might just focus on the technology. You might not think about manufacturing costs. You might not think about the market - what the competitive response might be to your product.
Laura: And just by going through the standard elements of the business plan, you're gonna find holes and exposures. Things aren't gonna work - but that'll help you tighten up your plan. It's just - I hate to say this being in the business - it's kind of a necessary evil. If I'm writing a business plan with a client to raise money, I may have it look a little more cosmetically appealing but successful companies will typically lay out their next year. They have an operating plan. They have a budget. They have a hiring plan. So it's kind of a way of keeping your eye on the ball as well.
Esther: I'm very curious. What would you say is your best advice to a budding entrepreneur?
Laura: A supportive and understanding family is a good thing. A personal situation which will allow you to fully commit yourself to the business is a good thing. Number one, I think, is keep an open mind and be willing to learn. I put that very high on the list. You have to be able to learn and adapt to be successful in business, period.
Esther: Yeah, adapting, I think, is really important. The market changes.
Esther: Every market changes constantly. You never know where it's gonna go and to believe that your business model can survive in any market, no matter what the climate is, just seems a little egotistic and short-sighted.
Laura: Well and if I - yeah, I thought of another important thing that I'd put as number one. I think I've got four number ones.
Laura: So is that right?
Katie: We'll take 'em. (Laughter)
Laura: The other is learn to appreciate the value that others can provide to you. If a super strong manager comes along or a super strong sales guy, don't be intimidated by their skills. Think about them as far as how their skills can make you stronger, make your company stronger. So a willingness to bring on really good people, in fact people that may have higher capabilities than your own is also the mark of a very good manager and that's just critical. Companies don't get going by luck. They get going by people working hard. (Laughter)
Katie: Ahh. Good quote.
Laura: So having good quality people surrounding you is just critical to getting the business going.
Esther: Well thank you so much. This has been super informative to me, know.
Katie: Thank you. Ah, me too. (Laughter)
Esther: I think our listeners are gonna love it.
Laura: Oh, it's been delightful. Thank you.
Esther: Thanks for taking the time. Well that wraps up our chat with Laura Capper founder and CEO of Cap Resources. And now stay tuned in for another Business Survival Tip with Carl Kleimann.
Carl: Hello business owners this is Carl Kleimann from Odyssey One Source with another Business Survival Tip. Each year, from February 1st through April 30th, employers are required to post Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Form 300A. This form is a summary of all job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred during the prior calendar year and were posted, in greater detail, on OSHA Form 300. If you have ten or fewer employees, or fall within one of the industries which are normally excused from OSHA recordkeeping requirements, you have no duty to post this information. For a complete list of exempt industries within the retail, services, finance, insurance, and real estate sectors, click here.
The OSHA Form 300A must be posted in an area that is accessible to employees, such as an employee break room. Form 300A must also include information about your annual average number of employees and total hours they worked during the calendar year in order to help OSHA calculate incidence rates. Even if you had no recordable injuries or illnesses during the year, you still must post OSHA Form 300A, listing zeros on the total line. Form 300A must be certified by a company executive.
You can find copies of OSHA Form 300, 300A, along with OSHA's recordkeeping handbook here. And even if you're excused from the recordkeeping requirements, all employers must orally report to the nearest OSHA office, within eight hours, all fatalities and accidents involving the inpatient hospitalization of three or more employees.
I am Carl Kleimann and this has been another Business Survival Tip by Odyssey One Source, ranked as the number one Professional Employer Organization three years running by the Black Book of Outsourcing. For more information on this and other issues affecting employers, please visit www.odysseyonesource.com
Esther: You are listening to the BusinessMakers Overtime Show, heard here and online at theBusinessMakers.com.