By Kent Oyler
Just raised $1 million? Congratulations! You’re a crowdfunding rock star! You created a compelling campaign with your great idea, witty way with words and great-looking videos and photos. You’ve tapped your vast social network and your friends’ vast social networks.
You offered attractive rewards – What? An engraved version of your new widget? And you happily deposited some serious coin in your account.
So now what?
This is no time to rest, Mr. or Ms. Moneybags. Don’t just take the funds and run.
You have an opportunity here to strengthen your trust and ties with those who’ve supported you – those willing to give you their money. You owe them. You owe them big.
Now is when the real fun – and the real work – begins.
Once you’ve completed your crowdfunding campaign, consider working through these 10 Top (Post-Funding) To-Dos to ensure you serve your friends, fans, supporters and investors well – so much so that they’ll want to continue their support of you in the future and tell their friends.
For the love of money, THANK PEOPLE. Thank them personally. If you can’t pick up the phone to make 100 calls or handwrite 100 notes, at least take the time to send personalized emails.
Throw an appreciation party. Show some love on their social media. DO SOMETHING. Make sure they know you are as excited about their investing as they are.
If you don’t, they’ll notice – and they’ll remember. And they won’t invest in you again in the future, nor will they be particularly excited about your future success. You’ve just blown everything you worked so hard for – not to mention the fact that they could have become your very best customers and fans.
Your supporters did a big thing for you. Do a big thing back.
Get your house in order. You’ve taken a big step forward with your new idea/product/service.
If your breakthrough is patentable, secure your patent. The best place to start? The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website will walk you through the steps.
This is your intellectual property – protect it before someone swipes it.
If you intend to generate revenue, hire a lawyer and file your LLC papers – especially if you’re working with partners.
Now is the time to button up your legal coat. Don’t shortchange the importance of lining up the legal aspects of your business.
Secure the proper insurance policy. You’ll need Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance, Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance, casualty insurance and probably key man insurance.
Ready to hire? Head back to ye ol’ attorney and hammer out proper employment agreements.
This is a good time to think through job descriptions, measurements and how your review process will work. You’ll need separate agreements if you plan to work with independent contractors – you don’t want any legal confusion later over employee vs. freelancer.
And be sure to know and follow the rules associated with engaging contractors and freelancers lest you receive a surprise bill for back taxes.
It’s also important to determine how to end relationships if they’re not working. Even if you live in a “hire at will” state, you don’t want to be a bad breaker-upper. Have your lawyer file documents covering fire for cause, unemployment and other types of required forms.
Now that you’re drenched in new money, you’ve got to track it before it disappears. If numbers aren’t your thing, secure the services of an accounting firm – gold star if you pick one that specializes in working with entrepreneurs. Ask around. You’ll likely find a team well versed in working with start-ups – one that has earned trust and respect.
A good accounting team will set you up with an easy-to-use system to track money coming in and money going out. (Hint: You want more money coming in than out.) They’ll also have documented internal controls to deter the bad guys.
If you aren’t a trained accountant or you lack experience managing an accounting office, you might find it more beneficial to outsource your accounting, freeing your big bad brain to focus on other aspects of your burgeoning business.
Now that you’ve got “stakeholders,” regular stakeholder communication is key. Picture yourself as Warren Buffett at his eagerly anticipated and jam-packed annual shareholders meeting. Hey, that could be you one of these days!
Those who’ve invested in you want to know how you’re doing and they want to help celebrate your success. Keep them informed through “flash reports” – monthly or quarterly emails of all your great news. And share your struggles, too – you may be surprised by how much your support base can help. Go ahead and get your email list started. Add your investors and anyone you think might be interested in what you’re doing. Keep building your community.
Make it easy for stakeholders to reach you, or one of your key staff members, with inquiries.
Respond promptly. You never know where these connections can lead.
Uh-oh. One of your “investors” is UNhappy with you and where you’re headed. Take a deep breath. It’s OK. Your informed stakeholders will expect problems. This kind of thing comes with the territory. Have a plan in place for how you’ll handle disappointments and complaints.
Missed deadlines, quality issues, a bad review – unfortunate news can spin out of control very fast. That’s why numero To-Do 6, above, is so key. The stronger your stakeholder communications efforts are, the better able you’ll be to apologize, share your plan for improvement, re-secure stakeholder support and move forward.
Never go dark. Unless you’re in the grave. In that case, be sure to email out your obit beforehand. You’re building a multibillion-dollar corporation, for heaven’s sake! Eat properly, too, and exercise. Your stakeholders need you to stay healthy, drive revenue and deliver your product or service.
Expand your reach. While you’re busy wooing your current stakeholders, if you haven’t committed to an exclusive relationship, keep an eye out for others. Leverage your success with angel investors or venture capitalists. Expand your social media base. Add your new connections to your email list. You’re successful, you’re growing – don’t cut yourself off from others who could benefit from being a part of your world, too. Your successful crowdfunding got you fans, but you’ll likely need more conventional green to complete your plan.
You’ve got your plan, people and pennies. Now execute. Earn that CEO title. And remember: You’re ALWAYS in fund-raise mode. Don’t stop now. You’re just getting started!
And finally, THANK PEOPLE. Wait, what? Are we coming full circle? Yeah, we are.
You have successfully attracted friends, fans and funders – with many falling into all three categories. You have a unique opportunity to manage and celebrate your new community.
Appreciate what you have, work hard for your community and thank them on a very regular basis. And, as we mention in To-Do 1, return the love – help publicize and contribute to THEIR campaigns and businesses in some form or fashion. You know full well that what you put out comes back to you in spades – otherwise, you probably wouldn’t have been so successful with crowdfunding in the first place.
You’ve built a community that you can go back to time and again. Take care of your community and your community will take care of you.
Congratulations. You’ve built a crowd. Now keep at it and grow.
Kent Oyler is managing director of OPM Financial and chairman of CommonWealth Crowdfunding. Follow @kentoyler on Twitter.