||Advises small-business clients on how to write a business plan and get funding.
Michael Makropoulos, CEO of Atlanta-based Agean Technologies and president of The Funding Game Seminars, advises small-business clients on how to write a business plan and get funding.
Q. Why did you choose your profession?
A. I started writing business plans for my own ventures. When we got in front of investors, they always loved our business plans and presentations and they'd ask if I could help some of their clients. Eventually, I turned that into full-time consulting work. Most recently, I developed a series of seminars on business plan writing and small business funding.
Q. How did you get started?
A. My first job was doing technical programming overseas. When I came back to this country I called a guy at Compaq, which was just starting, and convinced him to hire me in marketing and sales. I didn't know anything about marketing but, as it turned out, I was natively good at marketing writing. After that, I started a hardware company in Europe. Then I came back to this country and went to work for Xerox.
Q. What did you do right before starting your current business?
A. Five years ago I decided to start an Internet company. We ended up funding it mostly through our work with startups, developing business plans and other consulting. That work was so successful, I ended up focusing on it. But I had to travel a lot, and after a few years I decided to find a way to use my expertise without being on the road 80 hours a week. That's why I started the Winning the Funding Game series.
Q. What have been the biggest challenges?
A. There are a lot of bad consultants and bad information out there. A lot of times clients have already been burned by someone. So, you have to get past their distrust. Also, a lot of entrepreneurs... don't always want to hear that someone else might have a better idea.
Q. What are your favorite resources?
A. I use the Web more than anything else for finding out about investment trends. A few years ago, I bought tons of books on business plan writing, but I don't find them useful.
Q. What are your most useful gadgets?
A. I am a gadget freak. I have a pocket PC and I can sit outside on a sunny day and use my wireless network. It used to be I took my laptop everywhere. Now, I take my iPAQTM instead. Then of course I live on my cell phone.
Q. What advice would you give someone starting out in your line of work?
A. A lot of people would say you need a consulting background. I think you need a strong business sense and a creative mind. You have to know how to get investors excited.
Q. What's the best and worst part of your job?
A. The best part is working with entrepreneurs and helping take them to the next step. The worst is the process of educating them on why they have to pay for your services. A lot of times I'll take sweat equity in a company, but it only goes so far: The mortgage company won't take that.
Q. What are the key changes happening in your profession?
A. Getting the interest of investors is much more difficult now. They're choosing later-stage companies, because they think they're safer.
Q. What is the secret to writing a business plan?
A. A business plan is really a marketing document meant to get people excited. That's the bottom line.