How Investor Has Fun in Business and Technology

When John B. Dimmer talks, people listen. Mr. Dimmer is the managing member in a Tacoma, Washington-based private investment company, FIRS Management LLC.

He also serves on the board of directors at three companies:

  • Idaho Trust Bancorp, a bank holding company based in Boise, Idaho
  • Konnects Software, a firm that provides business networking applications harnessing internet technologies
  • PBJ Holdings, an automobile dealership holding company

John B. Dimmer

His community service includes the Business Advisory Council for the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon and he serves as the Entrepreneur on Campus at the school’s Business Center for Entrepreneurship.

At FIRS, he’s invested in projects for the last nine years with his father, John C. Dimmer, who is also well-regarded. He has served as a director at KeyCorp, Multicare Health System, Stellar Industrial Supply Company, and others. He’s also a Trustee for the Museum of Flight, and a member of the Advisory Board for the University of Washington Tacoma.

The younger Dimmer is also a co-founder of the Tacoma Angel Network,, a non-profit organization that brings together accredited investors with companies seeking to raise private equity capital.

Mr. Dimmer had a rich background prior to FIRS. He was a director of two technology companies and was president of Free Range Media, a successful internet company.

He was the manager of commercial surety at Reliance Surety Company, where he worked for nine years. “It was quite an education in financial analysis, management analysis and legal – I learned how to read contracts.”

Right out of college and armed with a B.S. in Finance from the University of Oregon, Dimmer began learning his craft at Puget Sound Bank, which included consumer lending and credit collection.

At Clover Park High School in Lakewood, WA, he was an All American in golf

Today, as a scratch golfer, he plans his putts like intricate business deals.

But his passion is racing.

He races in international historic racing events in his “ex-Jackie Stewart 1971 Tyrrell Ford 004 Formula 1 car.”

The circuit’s vintage 1966-1983 models reach 200 miles per hour,

So Mr. Dimmer, married with three children, is an interesting businessperson.

Here’s an excerpt of some of his answers to other questions:

Q: What business philosophies drive you?

A: I’ve always believed that if you want something badly enough, with hard work and commitment you can achieve your objective.

I believe that integrity is everything. You must be honest and deal fairly with your customers as they are your lifeblood. You must also be honest and deal fairly with your employees. If you try to spin certain situations your employees will immediately recognize it and you will slowly erode their trust and thus lose your ability to lead.

We get involved with a lot of different activities at FIRS, but the overriding requirement is that it has got to be fun.

“The greatest joy in life is doing what others say you cannot do.”

Q: What’s been the key to success for you? 

A: Hmm, well, I certainly feel that I’ve worked hard, and I also feel that I’ve been lucky. I really think the key, however, is that I have always had an objective and a plan for meeting that objective. It is very difficult to achieve success when you don’t know where you are going, or know where you want to be but don’t have any idea how to get there.

Q: What, if any, are your favorite business quotes?

A: My favorite quote actually comes from a fortune cookie I got at lunch one day when I was deep in the throes of trying to build Free Range Media into a successful business. It said, “The greatest joy in life is doing what others say you cannot do.” I am a very competitive person and like it when people underestimate my capabilities. Proving them wrong is such fun!

Q: What were your family’s underwater ventures involving the salvaging of historic shipwrecks?

A: The short version is that my dad got involved in funding a treasure hunting expedition off the coast of Uruguay. After a few years of operations, with little in the way of results, my dad asked me to go check everything out. I can promise you that there was more than enough sunken treasure to make a salver very, very wealthy. Unfortunately, Uruguay would not let us export our recoveries. Without the ability to export and sell the recoveries, we had no way to make a return on our investment or fund future operations. So I shut the whole thing down.

We had a salvage vessel that was specifically built for our operation that we were returning to the U.S. for sale.  During the return voyage, it ran into a hurricane off the coast of Columbia. The bad news is that the vessel sank (no loss of life in the sinking). The good news is that we had it insured for twice the value, so we almost recovered all of the money we put into the whole operation. In terms of what was accomplished, our operation discovered the wreck of the Agamemnon in Maldonado Bay in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

The Agamemnon was Lord Nelson’s first ship-of-the-line command, and participated in the Battle of Trafalgar. We recovered a cannon that has been documented as the only cannon known to be in existence that was fired at the Battle of Trafalgar. Needless to say, the British were very interested in acquiring the cannon.  Unfortunately, given Uruguay’s refusal to allow us to export the cannon, it is sitting in some warehouse in Montevideo.

Q: How did you get involved in racing?

A: I first became involved as a result of the Tacoma Grand Prix held in 1986. I met a driver by the name of Parker Johnstone, and we became friends. I was interested in driving cars, and he helped me navigate the requirements for licensing.

Q: Who is your car-dealer partner in Oregon?

A: My partner in the Honda dealership is Parker Johnstone, which is probably a good thing since the dealership is called, ‘Parker Johnstone’s Wilsonville Honda!’ Parker and I have continued to remain good friends since that chance meeting at the 1986 Tacoma Grand Prix. Parker went on to have a very successful professional racing career with Honda during which time I was his business manager. He is an individual of the highest moral character, and is doing a terrific job of running the dealership.

Q: What do you read or what are your favorite sources of information?

A: I spend a bit of time surfing the web, and pick up quite a bit of information there. I subscribe to BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal. And I talk to a lot of folks. I enjoy getting different people’s insights into companies and opportunities.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more tips from Mr. Dimmer:

“Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.”

-W. Clement Stone


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

What No One Tells You about Raising Investment Capital

Investment capital is available during all economic cycles, according to leading consultant Joey Tamer. Ms. Tamer has proven approaches for raising money.

“In good times, risk capital is available from all sources, and they compete and sometimes share hot deals with each other; the practice is termed syndication,” said Ms. Tamer.

“In downturns, venture money is available from venture capitalists who have raised their funds recently, in the past year or so, and have not yet deployed all the capital,” explained Ms. Tamer. “In bad times, funds that are near the end of their seven to 10-year cycle will use their capital to safeguard existing portfolio companies and will commit to fewer, if any, new investments.”

Joey Tamer  Joey Tamer,

Ms. Tamer has helped to capitalize start ups and in-house ventures within the Fortune 500 to launch, build and expand technology companies. She advises product and service companies on their growth and profitability.

She has consulted since the early days of the PC through to her Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 clients of today. Her clients have included: J.P. Morgan Capital, Sony, IBM, Apple, Hearst, Blockbuster, Technicolor, Harper Collins, NEC, Time-Warner, Agfa and Scitex, and many early-stage ventures. As you might expect, she’s regularly invited to chair venture and investment panels in technology sectors.

“Capital strategies allow the CEO to know what kind of money – private, angel, VC, strategic corporate – to take at what time to drive up the company’s valuation, and to keep control of the board,” she said. “These strategies are sensitive to economic times as well.  I do not find capital for companies – that’s the job of the CEO. Another major strategy I prefer involves identifying sources of non-equity capital – strategic alliances and alternative revenue sources, bringing in early revenue rather than giving up equity at a low valuation.”

She graciously answered questions about raising funds:

Q: Regarding your five strategies for raising investment capital, you suggest creating a “unique product or service in an empty space.”

A:I often help my clients define and present their unique value proposition (UVP) – the special technology or service offering or business model that makes their company different, more valuable, and more likely to succeed than their competitors.  CEOs are often too close to the business to do this easily.

During one “down” year, I defined one company’s UVP and wrote its pitch piece for its first round of outside capital, and with these documents they sold the company within eight months during a difficult investment year. Sometimes the right pitch to the right audience works regardless of the economic conditions.

Q: You warn about defensibility.

A: The product or service must be defensible from “copy cats.”  Companies must beware of “proving the market,” only to have a large company duplicate their efforts and take away their market share.

Q: What do you mean about scalability?

A: The product or service must grow quickly enough (scale) to offer institutional investors a 10-times return on their investment in the first five years.  Private investors are sometimes more patient or expect a bit less of a multiplier.

Q: What is your thinking about management?

A:Investors trust management teams with a proven track record of prior successes. First-time entrepreneurs should gain commitments from experienced players and advisors.

Q: How much capital should be requested?

A:Companies asking for too-little capital often are dismissed as naïve. Capital strategies should define the current round and the subsequent round that will be needed to reach break-even and to predict profitability. Also, CEOs must understand the criteria required by each kind of investor – private, angel, boutique VCs, tier-one VCs, corporate strategic money, and when it is best to engage each kind.

Q: What do you recommend to get investors’ attention?

A: Here are four strategies:

  1. CEOs must master a 30-second sound bite of their unique value proposition and the potential return on investment (ROI) for investors. CEOs must be able to speak and write this sound bite in one or two sentences. For investors, this is the uniqueness that will result in a significant return on investment.
  2. Write a pitch piece – a business plan in sound bites. The secret sauce of this pitch piece is to tell the story addressing the investors’ interests in clear powerful language.  Use text (3 pages maximum) or PowerPoint (10 slides maximum).  Tell the value story to the investors, not the whole story.  Have full financials prepared.  Investors read a summary, then the financials.  Then, if they are interested, they read more or ask more. Long business plans are rarely read these days. Even 10-page executive summaries can be ignored.
  3. Don’t apologize. Tell the plain truth. CEOs should not aggrandize their company or UVP. An investor will discard the offer if he or she needs to verify the truth of the presentation.
  4. Take a power position when asking for the investment. Don’t be shy. CEOs should say what they have, why it is unique, why it will create an ROI, and what they need for capital, simply and with confidence.

Q: What techniques are best for presenting an opportunity?

 A: I suggest three:

1. CEOs should explain the amount of the raise they are seeking at the beginning.  Investors want to know this as soon as they understand the opportunity.  This should be part of the 30-second sound bite, and stated in the first couple of slides or paragraphs of the presentation.

2. Early in the presentation, the CEO should define the projected ROI, to keep the attention of the investor.

3. CEOs should then back up their request with their pitch, in positive language and a slow, confident tempo. In the first few minutes, the CEO should define the UVP, the amount of the raise and projected ROI, and the company’s defensibility and scalability.  Then, be ready to back up these assertions. At this point the investor may ask questions rather than listen to the pitch.  Often CEOs get only a few minutes before being interrupted – these minutes need to make the company’s case.

(Disclosure: I write with utmost confidence about Ms. TamerI’ve had the opportunity observe her and her expertise on numerous occasions.)

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more of Ms. Tamer’s insights:

10 Characteristics of a Successful CEO — This is a 10-part series on CEO leadership by Joey Tamer, She is a consultant to experienced consultants in all fields to maximize their practices. She has also been a strategic consultant to entrepreneurs in technology and digital media.

The 6 Values for Your Financial Protection — Debt is the catalyst of all financial woes, says esteemed associate Joey Tamer. Here are her six values to avoid financial traps.

Funding Options to Navigate This Marketplace Bedlam — Uncertainties regarding Wall Street, actions by the Federal Reserve, and funding often set off alarm bells. But if you’re looking for capital, there are reasons to hope, according to leading consultant Joey Tamer.

8 Strategies to Consider Before Starting A Tech Business — Before you launch a tech business, here are eight salient strategies to remember.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

 -Benjamin Franklin


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.