Let's face it, nobody confuses writing or reading a Business Plan with a Bruce Willis action movie or a Tom Clancy novel. A Business Plan is a serious presentation that details an economic opportunity being offered for funding, licensing or sales consideration. Detail, research, financials and harvest options, key elements of any plan, can be dry, less than electric stuff. However, Business Plans that achieve success invariably are written with an air of urgency, excitement and color that separates them from the usual, boring template-based submissions.
I write business plans, teach business school students to write plans and read plan submissions daily in my consulting business. The plans that have success potential are different, beginning with the first paragraph of the Executive Summary. A great product or service opportunity, mated to a boring, non-creative document, is dead on arrival. And, this is a shame, because many potentially valuable commercial opportunities are lost, not discovered, abandoned, when funding or license options close.
A powerful Executive Summary is the key to getting any document fully read. Investors, venture capital, angel investors or potential partners are typically inundated with new offering submissions. There is simply not enough time to read, cover to cover every plan. In many firms a relatively low-level reader is tasked with reading and choosing which opportunities are passed on for full consideration. A dull presentation of an exciting product will not make the cut.
Make your plan submission stand out with an exciting, brisk, well- constructed Executive Summary. The old adage: "you only get one chance to make a great first impression", is never more true than when presenting a business proposition. There is always more opportunity in the marketplace than capital or placement possibilities, too much supply and limited demand. Give your product every possible chance for success by presenting the item as an exciting, needed advance, not being addressed in a growth category.
Here are some basic tips to consider when creating the document you will present as a blueprint for your new opportunity.
Paint a word picture in the Executive Summary. Visualize the story you must synopsize in this crucial section. Tell briefly, the unique features and benefits of the project. Explain and quantify the size of the opportunity. Explain the research conducted to support assumptions. Outline management and specific qualifications of the team. State, and be able to support later in financials, investment monies needed and use of funds. Finally, detail very briefly Return on Investment and Harvest goals. All of this must be accomplished in only two full pages.
There are many outlines or templates acceptable to format the plan. There is no one, single, absolute format for a successful plan. An original product, with a beautifully crafted plan will succeed in any number of style formats.
Keep the actual Business Plan short. Do not confuse a lot of pages with success. It is much more important to be on-point, quick paced, creative than lengthy in the narrative. Financials need to be very well constructed and narrated, line by line. I try to never go over 20 to 24 pages.
Extensive Exhibits, placed behind the actual Business Plan, are always excellent tools. If the document is well received by the reader, and by the investor, a full set of Exhibits will reinforce the strength of your opportunity and confirm that this is a product to be seriously considered.
If you are seeking to raise capital to self-market your product or service you will need a successful, very experienced management team in hand, or available, and able to fully commit to the project. No investor will consider any new opportunity that purports to have a carpenter (by experience) serve as Chief Financial Officer. We see this all the time and it is a non-starter.
Have passion for your product or opportunity. Passion overcomes and trumps a lot of shortcomings. Do not be a dreamer with passion, however. Passion needs to come from the knowledge that you have not taken shortcuts, have really and extensively researched and identified the market and your product's place in this competitive maelstrom. Knowledge leads to confidence and this will lead to a passionate belief that success will be achieved.
Successful Business Plans open doors. A fill-in-the-blank template is a waste of postage. An exciting Business Plan fully details an exciting offering for full, serious commercial consideration. Anything less, any document containing obvious shortcuts, will not get past a junior reader's quick scan. Give your product every chance to succeed. Craft a Titanic (the movie), not Titanic (the ship).