One of the biggest headaches for a startup or small business owner is the dreaded business plan (Executive Summary). As a B-plan consultant, who the money people often ask to rework their favored candidates’ plans, I can tell you that planning need not be painful. In fact it helps you visualize what you have and may not have to do. Here is a guideline for what you you need to include and how to do it.
The first tip is to keep the plan short! Funders get hundreds of submissions per week and don’t have time to read 30+ page missives. Those days are over. Period.
The Company – Tell what your company really will do, no boring mission statements. You can also include a synopsis of financial needs and progress here as well. Get the reader’s attention right away.
Executive Team – Introduce the players in one or two sentences each. If you don’t have all the positions filled, explain that you are looking for candidates to add later. Is this section important? Years ago when I got $500,000 for an online translation company, the money man said, “I don’t bet on the horse, I bet on the jockey.”
The Market – Do your research and give a short overview of why customers need your product or service.
Marketing Strategy – This is a good section for bullet points. Think big and introduce your ideas prefaced with ‘include but are not limited too’.
Competition – Do not say that you have no competition! Given today’s business world, that’s impossible. Be honest about what you are up against.
Competitive Advantage – Think Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). Address them all.
Social Impact – Is your business ‘Green’? How many direct/indirect jobs will be created? What will be your monthly dollar contribution to the local economy? Will you include any community outreach programs?
Legal & Permissions – Explain what permissions are needed and where you are in the process of getting them.
Exit Strategy – This one is crucial as it is one of the first things looked at. Give at least three options if you can. The first option should be repay the money in full at terms.
Financials – These are usually presented in spread-sheet format. How detailed these are is up to you. It always looks good if they are prepared by an acceptable CPA or other financial expert.
Here is the final secret. Everyone on the financial side knows that your business plan is based on a ‘best guess’ scenario. If they have questions, they will ask. They may even send in their experts to work with you on the details. What this means to you is that it is senseless to try to get your plan perfect, doesn’t exist. Do what you can do and get your plan in front of someone who may believe in you ASAP.
That’s it. Get started and good luck.
By Dennis Dean Smith
dennis.dean.smith @ gmail.com