Running a company can be a lonely job. Sure, you have a management team, investors, perhaps a few friends you talk to.
But when a really tough question comes up, who has to make the final judgment call? You do!
Never mind that you're not an expert in every aspect of business management, the buck stops on your desk. You have to come
up with an answer -- an answer that very often affects your company's long-term success.
Wouldn't you love to have a trusted advisor who can help answer these questions? Well, I'd like to offer you something
pretty close--a new book that I've written titled Ask Mike.
Ask Mike is a collection of 136 questions about tough issues of management and finance. The questions
all come from actual problems I've encountered in 30 years as an advisor to high-tech startups and small companies. The answers--which
one reader describes as "no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase, and actionable"--reflect years of experience, technical savvy, and
a heavy dose of common sense.
You probably won't agree with every answer in the book. But you'll always get a straight answer. I never hide behind advice
like "it depends" or "let's appoint a committee.” My goal is to help untangle the issues and point you toward a solution.
Let me tell you a little more about what you'll find in Ask Mike.
I'm a CPA and financial advisor by training, so many of the questions I encounter deal with the occasionally-confusing
world of financial reports, investor relationships, and cash management. For instance, Ask Mike
will give you useful answers to questions like these:
“We have huge quarter-to-quarter revenue swings that drive me crazy. My sales reps insist all the deals in their
pipeline are genuine, but our sales cycle is long—an average of six months—and they say there’s no way to
predict exactly when a customer will decide to sign on the dotted line. Is the situation hopeless?”
“I joined a small startup team as chief technology officer (mostly unpaid) in return for 15% of the company.
Now, after six months, the company has brought in investors and new employees, who are all getting lots of new shares. I’m
now left with less than 5% of the company. Shouldn’t the founders give me the percentage I was promised?”
“The collections department of our former printer has been calling just about everyone in my company about our
past-due account. We really don’t have the cash to pay him right now, but his relentless nagging has been terrible for
morale and I’d do almost anything to make him lay off. Your advice?”
“Over the past few years, I’ve been a board member of three companies and invested in a dozen more, all
of which claim that their accounting is ‘conservative.’ Is there a simple test—a balance sheet ratio, say,
or a revenue recognition method—that indicates conservative vs. aggressive accounting? Or is this just hot air?”
I've also been involved as an advisor with a good many companies that have negotiated successful merger and acquisition
deals, and I have answers to a lot of questions that somehow never show up in the textbooks:
“I gave a potential buyer for my company the resumes for all of my employees—20 people altogether. I just
found out he’s had several conversations with my vice president of sales. The buyer says this is a standard due diligence
practice, but I’m worried that he’ll decide it’s cheaper to steal my best people. How do I protect myself?”
“I’ve been asked to leave part of the purchase price of my company in escrow, to guarantee that my receivables
are collectible. That seems reasonable in theory, but how do I know if the buyer will aggressively pursue slow accounts if
he can just tap the escrow any time there are difficulties?”
“Our investors just pulled the plug on our financing, leaving us with a more-or-less finished product we can’t
afford to launch. We don’t have any debt on the books, but we also don’t have any revenues. I think I know people
who’d pay a fair price to acquire the work we’ve done, and I’m willing to invest a few more months trying
to put together a deal. However, I don’t want to waste my time if buyers are just going to offer me a dollar ‘to
take the business off my hands.’ Your advice?”
You'll also find advice in Ask Mike about common problems of managing employees:
“This isn’t a big deal, but I have a couple of engineers who always get parking tickets when they visit
a downtown client. They put the tickets on their expense accounts, and they’ve suggested that I bill the client for
these ‘expenses.’ Would this be proper?”
“An upcoming layoff will require me to cut 25% of my accounting department’s headcount. I’m trying
to figure out who to keep—people who fill the most ‘indispensable’ jobs or my most talented staff members.
These are surprisingly different lists. Your advice?”
“What should I do when sales people in my company submit expense reports that are six to nine months late? This
is a delicate question, because our CEO does the same thing—in fact, I just wrote him a check for more than $20,000,
right after I closed the books on our fiscal year.”
Plus tips for dealing with partners and investors...
“I have a partner who no longer plays any active role in the business and doesn’t collect a paycheck. However,
he does use a company credit card very freely for personal expenses. He says he doesn’t want the rest of us to buy him
out—this is just a ‘dividend’ for his equity. Is there any way we can resolve this situation without a legal
“Our executive team has set up a very generous benefits plan for itself—luxury car leases, open-ended expense
accounts, fancy office furniture, etc. I’m trying to put together a business plan to attract some expansion capital,
and I’m worried what investors will think about our high standard of living. ‘It’s a sign of success,’
my boss says, but I’m skeptical. Your opinion?”
“I’m one of three partners who set up a company that’s become very profitable. We each put in equal
working capital, and we’ve each taken the same small salary for the past three years. But now my two partners, who mostly
handle sales, are lobbying for big raises based on ‘market comparables.’ That leaves me holding the short end
of the stick, because I’m the inside guy who handles operations and finance stuff—which usually isn’t as
highly paid as sales. What do you think is fair here?”
And difficult customers...
“I quoted a new client a $10,000 fee for redesigning their Web site, and I thought I made it clear that the price
was an ‘estimate.’ The actual job came in at $14,100, based on my hourly rate. Now the client says he thought
I was quoting a fixed price, and he refuses to budge on paying for the extra hours. Can he do this?”
“We have a standard contract when we sell software, but our customers routinely tinker with the terms. It’s
never anything substantial, but the endless legal reviews cost us a lot of money, and it’s a huge hassle trying to keep
track of special pricing, oddball deadlines, and other non-standard terms. Does everyone have this problem?”
”We have a chance to license one of our software tools to a company that will embed it in their own product.
My lawyer has been great about identifying all the little points we have to negotiate about royalties, customization, support,
etc. But he admits he’s not sure which issues deserve the most attention and which ones are probably unimportant. Are
there two or three critical success factors you feel we should focus on?”
In all, Ask Mike covers 136 topics like these--seventeen chapters on the whole entrepreneurial
lifecycle, from raising money to building a business to making a graceful exit.
If you're thinking about starting a company, read this book and you won't be caught by surprise.
If you're an angel investor, read this book and you'll become one of the smartest people on the board.
If you're a CFO, read this book and you might just become a corporate hero.
But don't just take my word for it. Listen to what entrepreneurs themselves say about Ask Mike:
“Mike Gonnerman is an understated hero to the world of entrepreneurs," says Shari
Agatstein, co-founder and CEO, Skelmir LLC "He's a true expert tied into the different communities that make up the business
experience from board members to executives, financiers to accountants, employees to investors.”
"A must-read for executives in new companies as well as established companies,"
says Tom Marmen, former CEO, RaidCore.
"Every question in the book is one that people running high-growth companies are likely
to face," remarks Drew Hannah, founder & partner, Drew Partners. "Mike's answers are reasonable, refreshing and clear...with
no BS or management double-speak.”
"Mike has an uncanny ability to ask the right questions and then offer insightful answers.
I plan to keep this book close at hand, right next to my cash flow forecast," says Paul Baudisch, co-founder, NetMarquee Online
Curious about why so many entrepreneurs love this book? It's easy to find out for yourself -- just click here to reach a secure order form for a print copy or an immediate electronic download.
And the next time a really tough question crosses your desk, reach for your copy of Ask Mike.
Odds are, you'll discover an answer that helps you make a much smarter, better-informed decision.
60 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE
PS: I’m so confident that you’ll enjoy (and even treasure) your copy of Ask Mike
that I offer this hassle-free guarantee: If for any reason you’re not satisfied with the book, just mail your copy back
to me within 30 days from receipt and I’ll promptly send you a refund for the purchase price. No questions asked.
QUESTIONS? EMAIL MIKE