Raise money. Keep control. If you're like many entrepreneurs, you're grudgingly considering the first and desperately hoping for the latter. After all, it's bad enough to go asking for money. It's worse to consider who could end up running your company if your fund-raising is successful. That's why we're showcasing a few clever ways to get some serious dough without having to sell yourself in the process. Consider Jan Van Den Top, president of Anchorage's Superior Plumbing & Heating, a mechanical contractor. Van Den Top put all his shares into an employee share ownership plan late in 2003. Yes, the employees now own the company. But Van Den Top still has full control of it, and the tax advantages mean that Superior could see an extra $150,000 in cash every year. Van Den Top's route isn't for everybody. For others, becoming a limited liability company is a good way to free up money and allow foreign investors in, as Bruce Vereecken (pictured) did with Valley View (Ohio)-based Nanofilm. An llc's different classes of ownership mean entrepreneurs can accept investments without necessarily giving the moneymen a say in how the company is run. Then there are private equity investments, which have persuaded even skeptics such as GoldenGate Software's Eric Fish, who built his business without recourse to either bank loans or venture capital. GoldenGate accepted $23 million in a private equity investment in May. So far, Fish is convinced he made the right choice. GoldenGate is still his, but financially, it's a whole lot stronger. He raised money, and he kept control. Read on to see how you can, too.
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