New Jersey is a magnet for high-tech entrepreneurs and start-up companies, and many of these entrepreneurs are experts in computer programming and software development. But when it comes to raising money from venture capitalists and angel investors, the best way to impress may come from two much more humble pieces of software: Quickbooks and Microsoft Excel.
“The standard reports that can be developed using these two pieces of software are a potent tool to use when talking to potential investors,” says Jaime Campbell, a CPA and certified expert in Quickbooks and a number of other software programs. “Understanding how to use these tools will help an entrepreneur show investors that he understands his product and has a grasp of the business financials needed to run a successful company.”
Campbell and Douglas C. Smith, both of Bartolomei Pucciarelli in Lawrenceville, will present “Essential Capital-Raising Tools: Quickbooks and Excel” at the next meeting of the New Jersey Entreprenuer’s Forum on Thursday, May 12, at 5 p.m. at the Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies in North Brunswick. Cost: $40. For reservations, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smith, a partner at Bartolomei Pucciarelli, joined the accounting firm in 1994 after two years in industry accounting with an international company. He graduated from Bentley College in 1992 with a bachelor’s in accounting and became a CPA in 1995.
Teaching others how to better use programs such as Quickbooks and Excel is right up Campbell’s alley. In fact, teaching is her first passion. “I was born to teach,” she says. Accounting is her second career; her first was as an elementary music teacher.
A Florida native, she earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Florida State University in 1997 and taught for 10 years. She began her study of accounting “to exercise the left side of my brain,” she says, but in fact, both music and numbers have always been her two passions. “I began taking piano lessons when I was five and I was in the accelerated math program since fifth grade,” she says.
Her parents were both surprised, however, when she switched careers mid-stream. “My father was an accountant,” Campbell says. “He was surprised when I left teaching for accounting, but he was pleased. My mother was also surprised, but she wasn’t as pleased. She had seen me teach and knew that I am a gifted teacher. But, no matter what my career, I will always be teaching.”
After moving to New Jersey she went back to school and received an MBA in accounting from Rutgers in 2003. She obtained her CPA accreditation in 2005. At Bartolomei Pucciarelli she assists with team training and coaching clients through QuickBooks issues. She is a Certified QuickBooks Professional Advisor as well as a Microsoft Certified Master.
Validate your statements. “The elegance and simplicity of using the tools available through Quickbooks and Excel really excites investors,” says Campbell. The software allows business owners and entrepreneurs the ability to easily set up balance sheets, cash flow and income statements, and reports, such as sales summaries and payroll charts. They also show the relationships between the various aspects of a business.
Together the two software programs can give a complete picture of a company. “Quickbooks is historical,” Campbell says. “It shows what the company has done in the past. It is particularly good for an existing company that is looking for investors to help with expansion.”
Excel, on the other hand, is the tool to use when illustrating future predictions for business growth.
Set up assumptions, then change them. The “assumptions” that can be made are the heart and soul of the two tools, Campbell says. “You can use these programs to set up assumptions about your business, then link everything so that your investors can easily change those assumptions and instantly see the new results.”
For example, a start-up company might be predicting a sales growth rate of 25 percent per year over five years in its presentation to a group of venture capitalists. All of the company’s financial forecasts will then be based on that assumption. “Obviously, if your business is growing that quickly you will need additional employees, additional supplies, and additional marketing to sustain that growth,” says Campbell. With the tools in these two software programs, charts, statistics and graphs can be set up to interconnect and show the additional revenue and the additional expenses needed each year as the company grows.
While this 25 percent growth rate may look great in a PowerPoint presentation, what if the potential investors question the company’s numbers? What if they think a 15 or 10 percent growth rate is more realistic? “That’s where the beauty of the programs comes in,” says Campbell. “Everything can be set up to interconnect. You change one assumption in the program and your statistics instantly change.”
Obviously, if you have slower sales, you will need a smaller staff. The change in payroll from additional staff will instantly change on your computer screen so that your investors can see the new predictions. “The ability to make these changes on the fly and instantly come up with new statistics is what will wow your investors,” says Campbell. “Financial people love the ability to make new assumptions, change the models, and see the new numbers.”
There are even more “bells and whistles” in both of the software programs that can take a financial presentation from boring to wow. “You can express things visually in charts and graphs. You can have arrows and dropdown boxes. You can connect to websites. Not everyone can quickly and easily comprehend statistics from just a spreadsheet,” she says.
Campbell continues: “When I do this type of presentation I call people up to the computer and let them make the changes themselves. They show up on the big screen for everyone to see.” She says this gives entrepreneurs a feel for how this type of presentation can impress their investors and makes them comfortable using the tools themselves.
“You can’t launch into the future without knowing the past,” Campbell says. “These two tools let businesses do just that.”