Diploma in Financial Strategy
Back when I was choosing my postgraduate qualification, it was tempting to choose a topic that was trending at that moment. Selecting the right programme that would boost my career wasn’t easy, especially with a background in management, finance, accounting and consulting. Did I really want a consulting career? Or would joining an investment fund be the right next step? With several ‘’C’’ level roles under my belt, which qualification would positively impact my management style and competences?
Too many questions and no obvious answer until I started a business of my own. All of a sudden I needed to develop a strategy for every step and complement this with an execution plan. No big teams to delegate to or lucrative budgets to rely on.
In the early days, most entrepreneurs are on their own and the ability to develop a sound strategy is vital for the success of their business. Even if an entrepreneur has years of experience managing P&L and building successful teams, this experience is not enough to build a new business from scratch. It is so easy to focus on one aspect only and completely overlook the rest.
The more I thought about my new business, the more blurred the picture became. On top of that, I needed to choose a programme… The University of Oxford has been my dream since I was a kid, I couldn’t miss the opportunity. Going through the syllabuses, the Diploma in Financial Strategy captured my attention. It was the right roadmap and would give me skills that could be applied practically to my business straight away.
“Transformify Recruitment CRM helps businesses to hire diverse workforce, run CSR programs and transfer secure payments worldwide.”
First I set out my vision stating what I wanted to achieve, this involved plotting key milestones and analysing possible pitfalls. This was followed by a series of questions, “Do I need to raise funding?” and perhaps most importantly “There is a beaten path, but what if I step aside?”
Yeah right, I did step aside and bootstrapped Transformify! It takes a very good understanding of where you stand and what the risks and opportunities are to fund a business on your own. Having all the figures and the ability to analyse them is fundamental if an informed decision is to be made.
There is always a ‘’What if?’’ question that bothers the entrepreneurs day and night. What if more money is needed to launch the product? What if the pilot customers are unhappy? What if they are not ready to pay? What if no revenue is generated in the first year on the contrary to what has been forecasted? What if the competitors respond to lowering their prices? What if…
So what if all these questions are not addressed and you, the entrepreneur, have no plan ‘’B’’ when things go wrong?
No doubt, growth brings pains. It’s clients demanding something that you haven’t thought of, technology falling apart as too many users are excited about trying that new cool recruitment site, the need to attract even more clients… the list goes on forever. Add to that a tight budget and it is easy to lose direction. I lost it a few times and it was the high-level strategic plan I’d developed using my skills gained on the diploma that always brought me back on track. Each time, I was reading the executive summary and asking myself:
What makes Trasformify different? Why would someone love to buy from us? Who are our potential customers? Where do they hang around? What articles do they read and share? How does our social mission and vision make them feel? Do we communicate our values well?
But the question that helped to develop a growth strategy is‘’Who has my clients?’’
In our case, these were companies offering complementary products and services that had a big number of business clients who needed to hire staff from time to time. Transformify offered a Market Entry Pack for startups and SME so they could hire freelancers abroad and enter new markets on a tight budget. Logically, to offer a complete service, we needed to offer an office as well. It takes 3-6 months to validate a new market but the standard lease agreements are for at least 12 months. So, it was the coworking office providers who were the obvious partner.
After the potential partners are profiled, the next question to ask is ‘’What is there for them?’’
Why shall someone help you grow by offering access to their own clients unless there is something for them too? ‘’Something’’ could be cross-referencing customers to each other, paying a referral fee for each referred client or a revenue share scheme. If the reward is compelling enough and communicated well enough, the potential partners will start approaching you instead of you struggling to get access to their decision makers.
This strategy helped Transformify to scale up by expanding to 150+ countries without raising external funding.
Starting a business is exciting, then it is so fast-paced that the exit strategy becomes the last thing to worry about. Not that it can’t be parked for later but this is likely to result in steering the company in the wrong direction even if the achieved growth exceeds your expectations.
‘’Who would buy this business and why?’’ is not a question that naturally comes to mind when an entrepreneur struggles to acquire market share and boost brand awareness. It may be a competitor who is interested in the user base, a business having a complementary product that is interested in adding value to its customers, an investment fund specializing in acquiring undervalued businesses having big potential and selling them at a premium…There are many options and if the intention is to sell the business in the future, it is advisable to define the ‘’buyer persona’’ early on.
‘’What is the valuation of this business? Shall I accept this offer?’’ come next. Knowing how the potential investors come up with their numbers is a big step ahead during a negotiation process and there are very few entrepreneurs who understand the underlying principles without some form of further education.
Many successful entrepreneurs don’t go to University, it is not necessary to have a degree or a postgraduate qualification to start a business or sell one, but having a Diploma in Financial Strategy definitely helped me to expand my business globally and continues to help me plan for the future.
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