Business Development Companies – Should They Be a Part of Retirement Planning?

VCs, Angels, BDCs, what are they? How are they different? How can an ordinary investor get involved? Do they offer an opportunity for high yield dividend payouts during retirement? These are all questions that anyone planning for retirement should know the answers to in order to have the opportunity to include one of the least understood, and highest dividend paying, categories into their portfolio as part of a diversified plan for retirement.

Venture Capitalists (VCs), Angels (accredited investors), and Business Development Companies (BDCs) essentially fulfill the same role: to help small and medium sized companies obtain financing when more traditional means of funding (bank loans) are unavailable. Bank financing almost always requires a certain amount of guarantees such as accounts receivable, inventory, buildings or equipment or other assets that can be held as collateral for a loan or line of credit. Smaller companies, start-ups, or even individuals with an idea for a business, or medium sized companies that don’t have sufficient funds to grow their business often don’t have the capital required, nor do they have the requisite assets or accounts receivable required by traditional banks to meet their strict loan requirements. This is where Angels, VCs, and BDCs come in. Angels are regulated by the SEC and must be “accredited investors” with a net worth of at least $1,000,000 in order to get involved with a private placement of stock which means that they provide funds for a smaller company and in return own a percentage of the business. VCs are generally partnerships of accredited investors that provide the same type of funding. In addition, they often offer other “incubator” type services to help their portfolio companies to prosper, frequently including the placement of their own management personnel on the board of directors or on the management team. In the case of both Angels and private VC firms these activities are, by regulation, the realm of wealthy investors and beyond the reach of most individuals.

As part of a broad base attempt to level the playing field and give smaller investors an opportunity to become involved in growing smaller businesses, congress passed The Investment Company Act of 1940 which, among other things, created a new class of business called Business Development Companies. While similar to VCs in function, unlike VCs, Shares of BDCs are traded on the major exchanges, and anyone can own them. Similar to Real Estate Investment Trusts, BDCs do not pay income tax on their profits as long as they pass along at least 90% of their profits to their shareholders who then pay tax at their individual tax rates. Since they are required to pay out nearly all of their profits to stock holders, BDCs often fund their growth by issuing additional shares. When this occurs, a stockholder, or potential stock holder, must determine whether or not dilution, caused by the sale of the new shares, will be more than made up by the new business that the incoming money will fund. Generally a BDC will announce, at least in broad terms, how the proceeds from the new offering of stock will be used. Additionally, it is important to evaluate how successful the company has been in the past, how leveraged they are, and how management has reacted to changing market conditions. In other words, like any other investment, doing the proper due diligence, and knowing and understanding the company prior to investing is critical in making the right investment choices.

Because of the pass through tax structure as well as the inherent risk in this type of venture, BDCs typically pay significantly higher dividends than the average company. For that reason it makes good sense to consider them as a part of a diversified retirement portfolio. If you are building up a nest egg for retirement, dollar cost averaging into quality BDCs is an excellent way of creating a high yield position as part of your overall mix. If you are in retirement already, quality BDCs can provide an excellent income stream that will continue to payout regardless of market fluctuations.

A word of caution, BDCs should not be bought and forgotten, like most investments, past performance is no guarantee of future results. By the very nature of the business, BDCs frequently change their portfolio of businesses, may change their risk tolerance levels, may change their leverage, may be impacted by changes in interest rates, etc. Fortunately all of this type of information is readily available in annual and quarterly reports, and BDCs are required to publish any material changes in their business. With the proper due diligence, and appropriate vigilance, BDCs make sense for anyone interested in boosting their retirement income through higher dividends. They are especially valuable in IRAs and other tax free venues where the higher yields can compound free of taxation.

The Benefits of Business Development Coaching

Business development coaching is essential for companies who wish to maximize their profit margins and grow as a whole. This can be useful for organisations of all sizes. It aids management in learning the key skills required to expand a business and increase its chances of success.

Professional coaching companies which provide the services of well-trained, experienced coaches are certainly not in short supply. Some of the best coaching companies are world leaders in the field, with businesses having significantly benefited from their considerable experience.

What is professional development coaching?

Any activity that aids in improving an organization or individual is referred to as business coaching. Individuals who provide business development coaching run classes with the purpose of directing, instructing and training business leaders to achieve a specific goal or to develop business management skills that may aid them in achieving business development.

What do coaching companies do?

Professional coaching companies impart knowledge, skills and training to current or prospective entrepreneurs, individuals or groups of individuals from pre-existing businesses to aid them in improving the effectiveness of their business.

The job of the coach is to work to improve leadership, enhance teamwork, ensure employees realise the importance of accountability, improve sales, facilitate effective communication, and aid businesses in the setting of goals. Professional trainers also provide advice on strategic planning in addition to a variety of other business development skills.

Business coaches can aid business leaders in promoting their businesses both online and offline, regardless of the type of business being operated.

How is coaching different from mentoring?
Business coaches typically have little direct experience of an individual’s formal occupational role, except where coaching focuses on specific skills. Business mentoring, on the other hand, is typically provided by experienced colleagues who are able to pass on industry knowledge and experience in order for an individual to open up opportunities not otherwise in reach.

How do business coaching companies operate?

Depending on the task to hand, a business coaching company may impart business development support in a variety of ways. Business coaching education may take the form of motivational speaking, seminars and lectures, and workshops. It may comprise a single coaching method or several. Coaching may be provided on a one-to-one or group basis.

Business coaches often specialize in different areas of development coaching. They may therefore engage in executive coaching, corporate coaching, or leadership coaching, for example. Existing organisations can capitalize on business coaching specialization by only paying for the coaching they require. New businesses, meanwhile may benefit from more general coaching. It is essential that any business requiring coaching determines their needs to ensure that they are supplied with an adequate level of service.

7 Business Development Marketing Tips For Social Media

You would have heard so many marketing experts telling everyone to use social media as part of their promotional marketing mix. The Internet is flooded with information on using Facebook, Twitter and other social sites. Numerous articles have been written on how using social media can help promote your brand image and how it can generate web traffic for your main business website.

Keep in mind that that social networking is a marketing tool and it is only effective when used properly to promote your business.

The key question for a business is “How is social media harnessed to generate real revenue and customers?” In today’s digitally connected society your customers regardless of their age, gender or economic status will be active on social networking sites.

Here are some of the latest usage statistics on social media use that will make a business take notice:

  • 68% of small businesses will increase their social networking marketing efforts in the next year
  • 56% of Twitter users say they use the micro blogging site for business or work related purposes
  • Over 40% of people have become ‘friends’ with or ‘like’ a brand/company on Facebook or MySpace
  • 20% of tweets are about business products
  • 46% of Facebook users say they would talk about or recommend a product on Facebook
  • 44% of Twitter users have recommended a product
  • Social media played a major role in holiday shopping – 28% of shoppers say social media has influenced their purchases

On the Facebook site alone:

  • More than 400 million active users
  • 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook
  • There are over 160 million pages, groups and events that people interact with
  • Average user is connected to 60 pages, groups and events
  • Average user creates 70 pieces of content each month
  • Males and females almost equally use social sites (47% vs. 53%)
  • 61% of Facebook users are middle aged or older, with the average age being 37
  • 18- to 24-year-olds don’t dominate any particular social networking site; they’re spread out all over
  • More than 25 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each month

The participation of your business in social networking should be self-evident, however, many businesses will go on to set-up social media sites and make no effort to participate and engage in the groups that their potential customers use.

To be successful in using social networking your business must find out where your potential customers spend time on these sites so that you can engage with them where they prefer and not where you prefer or are comfortable with. Participation and engagement with their social networks will form a platform from which to build relationships with communities of interest. This in turn will provide a new customer acquisition channel using the share and like capabilities of the social networking world. This “sharing” is the equivalent of word of mouth in traditional marketing.

Here are the 7 Business Development Marketing Tips for using Social Media:

1. Go where your customers are and not where you are comfortable

To find your customers on social networking sites consider the following:

  • Conduct a survey among your customers or potential customers.
  • Analyse and monitor traffic on social sites to discover how and where customers are sharing information about your business and your competitors.
  • Review marketing research or statistical information on the usage and demographics of the different social media sites.

2. Engage and interact

Social-media engagement is a conversation and your participation in the social network groups and communities is core to building relationships. Your value as a participant is judged by the value that you provide to the community as a whole. You can achieve this by freely sharing relevant, interesting and useful information

3. Research your competitors’ activities

You need to gather competitive information that can help your efforts. Conduct a competitive analysis of your top five competitors’ use of social media for the following:

  • The social networking sites that they actively participate
  • The type of content they publish
  • The number and type of followers, fans and views
  • The products, programs or events promoted

4. Release offers and programs that are exclusive to your social networking channels

You must give importance to your social media with exclusive offers for these promotional channels. This will entice potential customers to share with their networks the offer that is not available from other marketing channels.

As an example, provide offer an exclusive offer for your social media channel, such as discount coupon or voucher.

5. Social media participation requires authenticity and transparency

The words “authenticity” and “transparency” are a bit overused today, however, these are cornerstones to be successful with social networking. Be a real human being in your interactions. This is the foundation to build trust and connections with real people on social media groups and networks.

6. Look for value opportunities in selling through social networking

Take the opportunity to leverage social media in selling your products and/or services by offering relevant items that are of value to your followers. Make it easy for them to make the purchase from these social media channels.

7. Always test and refine based on results generated

Social media programs as a marketing channel are not exempt from testing and refining your messages and offers. You must make the effort to test, gather results and analyse how it can be improved before launching the program to the entire channel.

Apply these 7 Marketing Tips for using Social Media to give you the foundation for success building and growing your business using these communication channels.

Business Development – The Priority That Often Isn’t and 3 Keys to Fixing This

Often it seems that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Although this is a problem that most can relate to, it is especially costly for business owners. For those who write their own paycheck, the situation is like a catch 22. Without investing time in pursuit of business development, things will stay as they are. However, although business development takes time and won’t immediately contribute to your bank account, it is essential for being in control of the direction your business is going and proactively creating your future. Let’s look at 3 keys for making progress in your own business development, even when your schedule is full.

Schedule Blocks of time

The first step is to set aside time to focus on the fundamental task of shaping the future of your business. Even an hour a week will be a step in the right direction. Ideally you’re investing 4 – 8 hours each week in business development, but you’ve got to walk before you run, so start by picking a number that is realistic for you and your situation. Even more important than the number of hours you devote, is the consistency with which you do this. Don’t put this off until the end of the day when your energy is low and your mind is tired; schedule this business development time for when you will be fresh and alert.

Develop a business development plan

During your first scheduled time reserved for business development, create your game plan. It doesn’t have to be perfect – there will be lots of opportunity to tweak it as you go along. The most important thing here is that you have something you are working toward. This gives your effort focus and direction, which when coupled with the consistency from step one, will give you momentum.

Delegate / outsource the routine

The key to increasing your business is that you take a proactive approach to creating your future. As you devote more time to business development, you will gain momentum. Devoting more time is not about just adding more hours of work into your day – chances are you’re already close to maxed out. Investing increasing amounts of time in developing your business is about delegating and outsourcing the routine tasks that you are performing now, but that someone else can do for you. By reallocating your time from doing the easy to delegate tasks, to doing the development work that only you can do, your business will grow to match your vision for it.

Investing time regularly in pursuit of developing your business is essential to creating a future that is better than today. There are many Business Development activities out there. Which ones will you pursue first? What block of time in your schedule will you set aside to work on this? What have you done previously (or currently) that worked that you will do more of?