Managing Your Cash Flow

Raising finance: think local

3 min read

07 August 2011

What do The Alchemist and raising finance have in common?

In Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist, Santiago, a simple shepherd boy from Spain, has a dream that he will find his fortune if he travels to the Pyramids. 

So he leaves home in pursuit of this dream, which takes him all over the world. After numerous mishaps, and meeting some amazing people including Fatima (who becomes the love of his life) and the alchemist, he then meets a soldier who says he, too, had a dream about treasure – but under a tree inside the ruins of a church in Spain, where Santiago, coincidentally, started his journey.

The book is a classic fable, which has sold more than 65 million copies. It is also a great allegorical story for business and raising finance.

  • The importance of following your dreams – and how the journey is never quite the one you planned.
  • All good business ideas are often just repackaging old ideas (some say The Alchemist is a reinterpretation of a previous fable). 
  • When it comes to raising finance, the answer – especially for early-stage businesses – is often on your doorstep.

Someone recently asked my advice on how to raise money. They had spent nearly £10,000 with so-called advisers who had, over the year, failed to produce any kind of plan or a single investor meeting. 

These advisers weren’t obvious cowboys but prosperous-looking retired company executives.

He wasn’t going anywhere fast so I gave him a few pointers:

  1. Do the plan yourself (which he did using one of my templates).
  2. Buy a packet of Post-It notes and write out 108 names of people who you know – or would like to know.
  3. Start ringing them up.
  4. Get last year’s accounts ready.
  5. Get this year’s management accounts ready with a budget.
  6. Do a nine-month “barebones/emergency” cash flow plan.

Last week, he had his first successful meeting with a potential investor who lives four miles away and who he had known, indirectly, for ten years. 

Next step: the investor wants his accountant to go through the numbers.

So, you see? Think local.

Johnny Martin is an experienced finance director who has turned around and sold three businesses on behalf of Baring Venture Partners, JO Hambro and Monument Trust. He has prepared business plans that have raised over £25m, including $3m TV production finance for award-winning Icon Films.