Ventura Partners Hits the $1 Million Revenue Threshold

This article is written by Kim Frentz Edmonds, CEO of Ventura Partners

I have an addiction to reading business books. Girl’s Guide to Building a Million Dollar Business by Susan Wilson Solovic was always high on my list. However, the idea of MY own business hitting a million dollars in revenue seemed as fantastical as aspiring to become the next Oprah. Through my work with Darlene Crane and the PROPEL Small Business Growth Program*, I was able to modify this perspective. My new mantra – hit a million dollars in revenue and employ 10 or more people to move the business to the next level.

Ventura Partners is an organization with a mission. Our work creates opportunities for equitable ownership of community assets in real estate. It hasn’t been easy to center the financial growth of my own company within this framework. Darlene helped me internalize the view that growing businesses owned by women and people of color is vital in shifting the power dynamic in our society. This opened my mind to include my own business growth as a meaningful act.

In 2021, we reached the $1 million revenue and staffing threshold (10 employees). My company changed from being an extension of me to being an entity of its own. Our business structure allows others to grow and assume critical roles. We have established a Leadership Team to take on planning and strategic decisions. We have measurable financial goals and a specific plan for meeting them. We have metrics to make sure our pricing supports the value of our work and have streamlined our billing system to capture revenue and manage cashflow. We are outsourcing parts of our overhead that don’t yet warrant in-house staff.

I am still adapting to decision making through this new lens. I am allowing myself to delegate relentlessly. And, while I am still a bit uncomfortable that there are projects at Ventura Partners that I know very little about (because someone else is in charge of them), I remind myself constantly that this is not only fine, but important to the growth of the company.

One of my proudest moves recently was hiring someone who was an independent consultant and “competition” in our field. Not quite rising to the level of “mergers and acquisitions” (except in my own mind). It was instrumental in my ability to hand off high level projects that previously could only be accomplished by me, and it has expanded our network of clients.

I attribute our increased velocity of growth over the past four years to my shift in focus and mindset and implementing important organizational structures. I am enjoying the prospect of winnowing my role in the company to activities that hyper leverage my strengths and feed my interests … and I’ve adjusted my reading list, too.

Additional questions from Darlene:

What strategies did you use to get through the pandemic?
We shifted sales efforts when the forces on revenue shifted. We have a wide range of commercial property related services. So we shifted in the 2008 recession and through the pandemic. We shift to development projects, property management or strategic projects. Right now, non-profits are investing funds in the future.

What is the future direction for Ventura Partners?
Not doing things that are distracting to our primary mission. Being hyper focused on things we do well. We stick to a 30-day on-boarding process for new projects, developed better systems, and pay employees well.

*PROPEL Small Business Growth Program by Alliance for Community Development. The program’s focus is to build capacity in local community members, training local entrepreneurs who identified as women, people of color and veterans to bring their vision to fruition. The program was delivered in Oakland, California from 2013 – 2015.

The CraneWork’s Approach to Value Creation

When I ask business owners what they want in the future the answer I frequently hear is, “I want more money!” My response is, “The value of a business can be way more than money in checking and saving accounts.” Value is not one number. Value is a perception by industry professionals or an emotion customers feel about a product or a company. I looked up the definition of value on Visual Thesaurus which uses visual maps to define words.

The range of words included in the visual definition of value were:

  • Appraise – Measure – Evaluate
  • Worth – Economic value – Treasure
  • Prize – Esteem — Respect

Value of a business can refer to the sales prices of a business. Valuing a company for sale is a complex process. The customer base, annual sales, customer lists, profit, physical assets, products, intellectual property, location and local household incomes are considered in estimating the sales price of a business. Companies specialize in evaluating these tangible and intangible value elements.

The CraneWorks looks at value as a creative process across the whole company. Efficient operations with low costs are important to aim for. But what must the company invest in products and quality to satisfy customer needs and quality? To answer these questions understanding the emotional elements of building a value creation mindset across a company is important. In the current environment, consumer purchases are emotional and shifting rapidly.

Consider the desires of customers below. Which product do you think will have the highest loyalty and demand?

  • I want a pizza NOW – The nearest pizza joint will do
  • I spend money to get things I treasure – I only buy Rolex watches
  • I come back to my neighborhood restaurant — It reminds me of home

To answer those questions, look at how the whole company responds to customer’s desire to buy. The effort reveals ways to reduce costs and where to invest funds and resources to improve customers’ decisions to buy. Right now, holding customer attention is key to improving the revenue line, the life blood of all companies.

Waste Prevention Grant Opportunities from StopWaste

StopWaste is offering Waste Prevention Grant Opportunities with a total of $700,000 available in funding. They are available for non-profits, businesses, and institutions for projects aimed on preventing waste in Alameda County and supporting local communities in these categories:

  • Reuse & Repair (up to $20,000)
  • Food Waste Prevention & Recovery (up to $20,000)
  • Reusable Foodware Pilot Projects ($5,000 to $50,000)
  • Surplus Food Donation Equipment (nonprofits only, up to $10,000)
  • Reusable Transport Packaging (up to $10,000)

For more details visit www.StopWaste.org/Grants. Application deadline is February 25, 2022.

The Waste Prevention Grant Opportunities is searching for innovative and creative ways to reduce and eliminate waste, which is a change from grants primarily replenishing cash flow of small businesses.

The full description package explains each of the categories of grants with examples of previous grant awardees.

I find the Reusable Foodware Pilot Projects with grants ranging from $5,000 – $50,000 to be very interesting. The planet is really suffering from all the take-out food packaging and plastic utensils and dishes. This large grant range is trying to draw out creative minds and outstanding solutions. Now is the time to be creative.

The grant application requires a plan and budget. This is not an overnight application, so start now. Consider that a great idea with a plan can lead to a whole new product, business line or business.

Do take advantage of the offer of advising services by the StopWaste staff overseeing each grant category.

Do not get overwhelmed by all the options this grant offering makes. You can only apply for one grant in one of the categories. Prioritization and evaluation of your ideas will be critical.

Why is the $1 Million in Gross Revenue Important for Small Businesses?

Crossing the $1 Million gross revenue level is a key indicator that a small business is becoming established in its industry, local business sector or a prospective contractor or with larger corporations, public sector organizations. Being an established business is more than hitting financial benchmarks. The owner has matured into an experienced business decision maker who manages about five to ten staff members. The business is operating with processes and practices to sustain itself and take growth steps.

The key benefits to business owners of hitting the $1 million gross revenue level it that corporations frequently prefer this minimum business size to qualify as a contractor. Business bankers are also more receptive to doing business with companies of this size.

It takes an investment in growth planning, ongoing operations improvement and financing to reach this established business milestone. The patterns of success of client businesses who crossed the $1 million milestone are:

  • Commit to working toward the $1 Million milestone.
  • Understand the investment in time and money as benefit to the business long-term.
  • Have realistic time frames to cross and sustain growth beyond $1 Million.
  • Learning from this early revenue growth effort is practice for future growth to achieve long-term goals
  • Do all the homework necessary before you seek funding in any form.

The most frequent errors we have observed with clients as they aim for any growth step are:

  • Selling more product than they can produce
  • Producing more product than they can sell
  • Inadequate planning, funding, and operations to build and sustain a larger company

Once your company is beyond the $1 Million gross revenue level, there is even more to consider in reaching for higher levels of revenue. Mid-Market revenue levels now range from $40 Million to $3 Billion! You can grow your business to generate multi-generational wealth when the processes for planning, operations and funding are well thought-out, fine tuned and managed.

Intangible Value May Be More Than We Think

McKinsey & Company does research for decision makers in policy and business. Once in a while they sneak in an interesting sidebar of research that could actually address some major social and economic issues. In mid-November they issued a research report on the value of the Global Balance Sheet. The major statement from the report was, 68 percent of global net worth is stored in real estate — and the balance is held in such things as infrastructure, machinery, and equipment and, to a much lesser extent, so-called intangibles like intellectual property and patents. (Source: Rise and Rise of the Global Balance Sheet, McKinsey and Company)

Low Interest rates have accelerated the prices of real property. However, the low interest rates increased real estate prices and the wealth gap for low income population segments.

The McKinsey report included a fascinating side bar on accounting for the value of intellectual property (IP) held in companies. They referred to a paper published in 2016 by Ryan Peters and Lucian Taylor which calculated potential increases in value of IP on Balance Sheets for corporations. The McKinsey research paper went on to say that there should be more investment in intellectual property and innovation because people produce products and services. Investing in development of human capital, innovative products, brands and patents adds to the value of companies and the economy over the long-term. Accounting rules that amortize (deduct) the costs of developing valuable IP, intellectual property on Balance Sheets at 20% per year may be excessive.

This shift in looking for value from work by people is important to small and mid-size businesses where the performance and talents of owners are critical to question, What is the value of small and mid-size businesses? Intangible assets are described as human capital (meaning talents), innovative products, brands, patents, software, customer relationships, databases, and distribution systems.

This expanded view of value does open doors for increasing the value of small companies. Business owners can add value to their companies by publishing content, creating distinctive new products and adding whole business lines. The pandemic environment may be wobbly, but keep working on new ideas and innovations.

Here are links to commentary on the research on the value of IP and the Global Balance Sheet
Intangible capital and the investment-q relation – ScienceDirect