Showing posts with label Planning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Planning. Show all posts

Questions That Must be Answered in a Business Model

  1. Who are the target customers for this business venture?
  2. How will this venture create and deliver value for these customers?
  3. What, who, where is the primary competition for this venture?
  4. How is the enterprise different and better than the competition?
  5. What are the primary core competencies of this venture?
  6. What is the scope of products, processes, and activities of this venture?
  7. How is this venture organization structured?
  8. How will this venture capture value for profit?
  9. How will this venture grow, and over what time period?
  10. How will this venture attract and retain talent?

Operations Planning Checklist

  1. Key operational objectives and strategies
  2. Location and facilities
  3. Equipment and technology
  4. Labor requirements
  5. Inventory management
  6. Supply channels
  7. Distribution channels
  8. Research and development
  9. Legal Requirements
  10. Order fulfillment and customer service
  11. Capacity utilization
  12. Critical processes
  13. Quality control
  14. Safety, health, and environmental concerns
  15. Management information systems
  16. Other operational concerns
  17. Start-up budget
  18. Operating budget

How to Write an Executive Summary

The purpose of the executive summary of the business plan is to provide your readers with an overview of the business plan. Think of it as an introduction to your business. Therefore, your business plan's executive summary will include summaries of ...
  1. a description of your company, including your product and/or service solutions
  2. your management
  3. the market and your customers including basic quantitative information
  4. marketing and sales strategies
  5. your primary competition
  6. your competitive advantage
  7. your operational strategies
  8. financial projections and plans
  9. contact information
The executive summary will end with a summary statement, a "last kick at the can" sentence or two designed to persuade the readers of your business plan that your business is a winner.

To write the executive summary of the business plan, start by following the list above and writing one to three sentences about each topic. (No more!)

If you have trouble crafting these summary sentences from scratch, review your business plan to get you going. In fact, one approach to writing the executive summary of the business plan is to take a summary sentence or two from each of the business plan sections you've already written. (If you compare the list above to the sections outlined in the Business Plan Outline, you'll see that this could work very well.)

Then finish your business plan's executive summary with a clinching closing sentence or two that answers the reader's question "Why is this a winning business?"

Tips for Writing the Business Plan's Executive Summary
  1. Focus on providing a summary. The business plan itself will provide the details and whether bank managers or investors, the readers of your business plan don't want to have their time wasted.
  2. Keep your language strong and positive. Don't weaken the executive summary of your business plan with weak language. Instead of writing, "Dogstar Industries might be in an excellent position to win government contracts", write "Dogstar Industries will be in an excellent position..."
  3. The executive summary should be no more than two pages long ... one page is probably better. Resist the tempation to pad your business plan's executive summary with details (or pleas). The job of the executive summary is to present the facts and entice your reader to read the rest of the business plan, not tell him everything.
  4. Polish your executive summary. Read it aloud. Does it flow or does it sound choppy? Is it clear and succinct? Once it sounds good to you, have someone else who knows nothing about your business read it and make suggestions for improvement.
  5. Tailor the executive summary of your business plan to your audience. If the purpose of your business plan is to entice investors, for instance, your executive summary should focus on the opportunity your business provides investors and why the opportunity is special.
  6. Put yourself in your readers' place... and read your executive summary again. Does this executive summary generate interest or excitement in the reader? If not, why?
Remember, the executive summary of the business plan will be the first thing the readers of the business plan read. If your executive summary is poorly written, it will also be the last, as they will set the rest of your business plan aside unread!

[Thank you, Susan Ward]

Easier Way to Create a Venture Plan

A good approach to creating a business plan to present to prospective investors and collaborators is to start with a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation.  

Creating individual slides for each topic tends to force clarity in thinking. 

One interesting "trick" ... use the "speaker notes" in a PowerPoint business plan slide deck to transform the slides into a more formal written business plan.

It is very common for prospective investors to ask for a copy of the slides before, during, and after a presentation. The down-side is that not all of the pertinent information is on the slides. The speaker for each slide is providing that information. However, there is a easy and fairly elegant solution. Instead of just printing the slide deck, print the slide deck with the accompanying speaker notes. But not just any ordinary speaker notes ...

Use the "Speaker Notes" feature of PowerPoint to write sentences and paragraphs as needed to help the reader understand what is on the slide (since the actual speaker is not there to tell them in person). Just like writing a "formal" document except with the added benefit here of coordinating with the venture plan slide deck and graphics.

There are typically 10 to 20 slides in a business venture plan slide deck (a suggested base outline is below).

From the PowerPoint slide deck with the sentences and paragraphs, the slides with "speaker notes" can be printed one or two slides per page. The results is a "written" business plan that coordinates perfectly with the slide presentation, and has more details than simply printing the slides alone.

Base (but likely not all elements) of an outline for a business plan/presentation ...
1] Title ... name of your venture, logo, tag line, contact information ... a billboard executive summary of the venture
2] Problem/Opportunity ... pain your alleviating or the pleasure you're providing
3] Value Proposition ... benefits versus price
4] Underlying "Magic" ... your solution, marketing brochure, the "secret sauce" behind your venture ... photos, pictures, diagrams,
actual prototype?
5] Business Model ... how you make money ... business model canvas is a good graphic
6] Go-to-Market Plan ... customer NWD profile and how you will fill the holes ... buyer, decision maker, influencer, user, et al
7] Competitive Analysis ... key competitors and perhaps a SWOT(T)
8] Management Team ... you, key advisors
9] Financial Objectives ... first week, month, quarter, year ... how you will meet these objectives ... key metrics
10] Timeline and Status ... Past 6 months, status now, next 6 months ...

While these 10 slides are fundamental, 10 slides alone are often not enough for some base business venture plan presentations. Add as needed but resist the urge to have more than about 18 slides for a 10 to 15 minute presentation.

Venture Hypothesis Outline

  1. Title slide or page ... venture concept name, team members, 3-word concept summary
  2. Opportunity ... the problem, market research and analysis, first customer(s) beachhead
  3. Solution and venture concept ... products and services, competitive advantage
  4. Business model ... how the venture will earn money (or self-sustain)
  5. Marketing and sales strategies ... how the venture will attract and retain customers, tactical marketing
  6. Product development and operations strategies ... how the venture will develop and deliver solutions to customers
  7. Team and organization ... the current team and what do they do, advisors, team members to be added
  8. Risks and variations ... downside and upside risks, timeline, and tolerances
  9. Financial model ... estimate of units sold, average selling price, revenue, expenses, and EBITDA for first 5 years; key assumptions; significant startup expenses
  10. Validation plan ... how the hypothesis will be validated

An 18-slide Venture Plan Presentation

Slide 1: "Billboard"
Slide 2: Core Team ... who, what
Slide 3: Problem / Customer / Opportunity ... scale and scope of problem, SOM/SAM/TAM
Slide 4: Solution ... brochure
Slide 5: Value Proposition ... Customer NWD Profile, Benefits, FFFF
Slide 6: "Underlying Magic"... differentiation, competitive advantages, core competencies
Slide 7: Industry and Environment ... Who, What, SWOT
Slide 8: Competitive Analysis ... Who, What, SWOT
Slide 9: Business Model ... BM canvas
Slide 10: Go-to-Market Plan ... Strategies
Slide 11: Sales Plan ... Objectives
Slide 12: Operations ... Production, distribution, delivery, margin objectives
Slide 13: Growth Strategies ... Scale and Scope
Slide 14: Timeline ... What, when, where
Slide 15: Financial Objectives and Key Metrics ...
Slide 16: Use of Funds ...
Slide 17: Funding Proposal ... Equity, debt, grants, gifts
Slide 18: "Billboard"

Slides 19 to 100+ will have all the gory details!! Lists of 100: customers, prospective customers, target markets, competitors, prospective collaborators, suppliers, prospective investors, ...

These 18 slides also form the foundation for a formal written business plan and an executive summary.

How to Start a New Venture

Go on a DXpedition ...

The Desire Phase ...
Determine why you (and your teammates) want to start a new venture

The Discover Phase ...
Form initial core entrepreneurial team
Identify problems or opportunities

The Define Phase ...
Screen problems or opportunities
Define the value proposition

The Design Phase ...
Generate potential solutions
Create a business venture hypothesis
Design a business venture plan

The Deploy Phase ...
Acquire needed resources
Launch the venture

The Develop Phase ...
Test, validate, and refine the venture hypothesis
Develop and iterate the venture based on real customer experiences

Highlights of an Effective Venture Plan

  1. Start with a clear, concise executive summary of your venture. Think of it like an elevator pitch. In no more than two pages, billboard all the important stuff. At the top, communicate your value proposition: what your venture does, how it will make money, and why customers will want to pay for your product or service. If you are sending your plan to investors, include the amount of money you need and how you plan to use it. You have to know the whole picture before you can boil things down, so tackle the summary after finishing the rest of your plan.
  2. Next, establish the market opportunity. Answer questions like: How large is your target market? How fast is it growing? Where are the opportunities and threats, and how will you deal with them? Again, highlight your value proposition. Most of this market information can be found through industry associations, chambers of commerce, census data or even from other business owners. (Be sure to source all of your information in case you are asked to back up your claims or need to update your business plan.)
  3. While you may have convinced yourself that your product or service is unique, don't fall into that trap. Instead, get real and size up the competition: Who are they? What do they sell? How much market share do they have? Why will customers choose your product or service instead of theirs? What are the barriers to entry? Remember to include indirect competitors--those with similar capabilities that currently cater to a different market but could choose to challenge you down the road.
  4. Now that you've established your idea, start addressing the execution ... specifically, your team. Include profiles of each of your business's founders, partners or officers and what kinds of skills, qualifications and accomplishments they bring to the table. (Include resumes in an appendix.)
  5. If potential investors have read this far, it's time to give them the nuts and bolts of your business model. This includes a detailed description of all revenue streams (product sales, advertising, services, licensing) and the company's cost structure (salaries, rent, inventory, maintenance). Be sure to list all assumptions and provide a justification for them. Also, include names of key suppliers or distribution partners.
  6. After all of that, one big question still remains: Exactly how much money will your venture earn? More important, when will the cash come in the door? That's why you need a section containing past financial performance (if your company is a going concern) and financial projections.
  7. Three-year forward-looking profit-and-loss, balance sheet and cash-flow statements are a must ... as is a break-even analysis that shows how much revenue you need to cover your initial investment.
  8. For early stage companies with only so much in the bank, the cash-flow statement comparing quarterly receivables to payables is most critical. "Everyone misunderstands cash flow," says Tim Berry, president of business-plan software company Palo Alto Software. "People think that if they plan for [accounting] profits, they'll have cash flow. But many companies that go under are profitable when they die, because profits aren't cash."
  9. After you've buffed your plan to a shine, don't file it away to gather dust. "A business plan is the beginning of a process," says Berry. "Planning is like steering, and steering means constantly correcting errors. The plan itself holds just a piece of the value; it's the going back and seeing where you were wrong and why that matters."
[Thank you, Mary Crane]


Waterfall Veture Planning

  1. Vision ... "We will change the way someone does something!" [Be specific, 100 words or less: Who is someone? What is the something? Why are you going to change the way it is being done now? How?]
  2. Mission ... "We will earn a profit solving customer problems better than the competition!" [Be specific, 100 words or less: Who are the target customers? What are their problems? How will you solve them? What is the competition? How are you better? What will you do to earn the business? How will you make a profit? How much?]
  3. Goals ... "In five years, we will ..." [What are your three most important goals?]
  4. Objectives ... "To reach our goals, we must accomplish these objectives ..." [What are the three most important objectives for each goal that must be accomplished in the next six months?]
  5. Strategies ... "To accomplish our objectives, we will do this better than our competition ..." [What methods will you use to reach your objectives?]
  6. Tactics ... "To implement our strategies, we will do these things ..." [What three procedures will you use to carry out your strategies?]
  7. Tasks ... "To execute our tactics, we will ... " [What three things must be done to realize your tactics?]
  8. Assignments ... "Here's who is going to do what and when ... " [Who are the best people for each task?]

Ten Entrepreneurship Myths

  1. It takes a lot of money to finance a new business. Not true. The typical start-up only requires about $25,000 to get going. The successful entrepreneurs who don’t believe the myth design their businesses to work with little cash. They borrow instead of paying for things. They rent instead of buy. And they turn fixed costs into variable costs by, say, paying people commissions instead of salaries.
  2. Venture capitalists are a good place to go for start-up money. Not unless you start a computer or biotech company. Computer hardware and software, semiconductors, communication, and biotechnology account for 81 percent of all venture capital dollars, and seventy-two percent of the companies that got VC money over the past fifteen or so years. VCs only fund about 3,000 companies per year and only about one quarter of those companies are in the seed or start-up stage. In fact, the odds that a start-up company will get VC money are about one in 4,000. That’s worse than the odds that you will die from a fall in the shower.
  3. Most business angels are rich. If rich means being an accredited investor –a person with a net worth of more than $1 million or an annual income of $200,000 per year if single and $300,000 if married – then the answer is “no.” Almost three quarters of the people who provide capital to fund the start-ups of other people who are not friends, neighbors, co-workers, or family don’t meet SEC accreditation requirements. In fact, thirty-two percent have a household income of $40,000 per year or less and seventeen percent have a negative net worth.
  4. Start-ups can’t be financed with debt. Actually, debt is more common than equity. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Small Business Finances, fifty-three percent of the financing of companies that are two years old or younger comes from debt and only forty-seven percent comes from equity. So a lot of entrepreneurs out there are using debt rather than equity to fund their companies.
  5. Banks don’t lend money to start-ups. This is another myth. Again, the Federal Reserve data shows that banks account for sixteen percent of all the financing provided to companies that are two years old or younger. While sixteen percent might not seem that high, it is three percent higher than the amount of money provided by the next highest source – trade creditors – and is higher than a bunch of other sources that everyone talks about going to: friends and family, business angels, venture capitalists, strategic investors, and government agencies.
  6. Most entrepreneurs start businesses in attractive industries. Sadly, the opposite is true. Most entrepreneurs head right for the worst industries for start-ups. The correlation between the number of entrepreneurs starting businesses in an industry and the number of companies failing in the industry is 0.77. That means that most entrepreneurs are picking industries in which they are most likely to fail.
  7. The growth of a start-up depends more on an entrepreneur’s talent than on the business he chooses. Sorry to deflate some egos here, but the industry you choose to start your company has a huge effect on the odds that it will grow. Over the past twenty years or so, about 4.2 percent of all start-ups in the computer and office equipment industry made the Inc 500 list of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. 0.005 percent of start-ups in the hotel and motel industry and 0.007 percent of start-up eating and drinking establishments made the Inc. 500. That means the odds that you will make the Inc 500 are 840 times higher if you start a computer company than if you start a hotel or motel. There is nothing anyone has discovered about the effects of entrepreneurial talent that has a similar magnitude effect on the growth of new businesses.
  8. Most entrepreneurs are successful financially. Sorry, this is another myth. Entrepreneurship creates a lot of wealth, but it is very unevenly distributed. The typical profit of an owner-managed business is $39,000 per year. Only the top ten percent of entrepreneurs earn more money than employees. And the typical entrepreneur earns less money than he otherwise would have earned working for someone else.
  9. Many start-ups achieve the sales growth projections that equity investors are looking for. Not even close. Of the 590,000 or so new businesses with at least one employee founded in this country every year, data from the U.S. Census shows that less than 200 reach the $100 million in sales in six years that venture capitalists talk about looking for. About 500 firms reach the $50 million in sales that the sophisticated angels, like the ones at Tech Coast Angels and the Band of Angels talk about. In fact, only about 9,500 companies reach $5 million in sales in that amount of time.
  10. Starting a business is easy. Actually it isn’t, and most people who begin the process of starting a company fail to get one up and running. Seven years after beginning the process of starting a business, only one-third of people have a new company with positive cash flow greater than the salary and expenses of the owner for more than three consecutive months.
[Thank you, Scott Shane]

Elements of a Vision Statement

A Vision Statement is essentially a high-level summary of what the venture team wants to accomplish, typically within the next five years.

Everyone in the organization should be able to connect their activities to making this vision a reality.

A vision statement should be ...
... clear, focused, easily understood, and easy to remember.
... consistent, constant over a period of time, but adjustable as conditions warrant.
... unique and special to the venture.
... purposeful, providing a reason for being and for others to care.

Vision Statement seed: "We will [change the way] [our customers ... who?] [do something ... what?] because [we have something new and better ... what?]."

Sometimes the terms "Vision" and "Mission" are reversed ... personally, I am set on a Vision Statement being a long-term goal, and the Mission Statement being day-to-day guideline for achieving the Vision.

Neither the Vision or the Mission statements should be fluff. They should be well-thought-out and act as solid anchors for the venture. No BS!  No "wink and smile" when we read them, especially when we read them aloud!


Business Plan Guidelines

Here's an outline for a venture plan. It does a good job of identifying the key information that the venture team needs address.

A typical first-round investor-grade business plan is usually about 20 - 25 pages, plus separate appendices.

There are many possible outlines for a business plan ... remember, a key purpose of a business plan is to mitigate risk ... we are selling our venture concept here and need to show the reader that we know our stuff!

A. Cover Page ... Company name, company location, contact information, legal statements (proprietary information, copyright, etc.) ...

B. Executive Summary ... independent one page document ... the exact same executive summary that you used to entice the prospective investor or corporate executive to want to read this plan

C. Table of Contents ... one page.

D. Opportunity ... tell a story here!  Engage the reader!  Two to four pages. 
  1. Problem / Opportunity: The problem your venture will solve, the significance of the problem, the opportunity this offers your venture, quality of the opportunity, growth potential ...
  2. Product and/or Service Solution Description: Essential product/service idea, category of product/service, proprietary protection, entry strategies ...
  3. Customers and Target Markets: Target market characteristics, size, why this market is the best for your venture, market validation research ...
E. Environment and Competition ... three to five pages.
  1. Environment and Context: Industry overview, research results and analysis, major competitors, benchmark ventures, timeliness, regulations ...
  2. Innovation: what your venture does that is new and better
  3. Competitive Advantages: Market focus, value proposition, core competencies, barriers to entry, competitive validation, how your venture will position itself to meet the competition, ...
F. Goals and Strategies ... critical and key information as appropriate to your venture ... three to five pages.
  1. Goals, vision, mission.
  2. Value Proposition.
  3. Business Model: How your venture will earn a profit, expected margins, sources of recurring revenue ...
  4. Organization: Management team, relevant domain knowledge of the team, commitment, advisers, directors, management to be added, culture, talent ...
  5. Product Development Strategies
  6. Marketing and Sales Strategies: Pricing strategies, distribution model, partnering, promotional strategies ...
  7. Technology Strategies: Technology, product development ...
  8. Operational Strategies: Production methodologies, manpower requirements, equipment requirements, material management, flow diagram of key processes ...
  9. Intellectual Property and Legal Issues Strategies: Patents, trademarks, trade names, copyrights, trade secrets, operating and other agreements, legal structure ...
  10. Development Plan: Current company status, number of employees, development stage, early revenue, number of customers, relevant historical information, long-term venture goals, growth strategies, timeline ...
  11. Risks and Contingencies: Downside risks and contingency plans, upside risks and expansion plans ...
G. Financial Projections ... Key assumptions, historical financial statements (if available), pro forma statements ... four or five pages.

H. Funding Proposal ... independent one or two page document.
  1. Resource Requirements: Short summary of financial projections; total investment funding and resources being sought, use of funds in 4 or 5 general categories, any unusual use of funds, return on investment to investors and entrepreneurs, harvest strategy ...
  2. Call to Action: What do you want the reader to do ... join your team, invest, meet with you to learn more ... ?
I. Summary ... A brief summary (sales pitch) of the opportunity, environment and competition, goals and strategies, financial projections ... The final who, what, where, when, why, and how ... one page.

J. List of Available Appendices ... Variety of support information ... resumes, product data sheet, marketing brochure, research data, etc.

Elements of a Mission Statement

A mission statement is a description of how the team will achieve the vision for the venture. A mission statement should include a summary of ...
... Core values
... Target customers
... Stakeholders
... Products
... Competitive advantage
... Values provided to customer
... Markets served
... Industry

Mission statement seed: "We will earn a profit solving customer problems better than the competition."

Elements of a Marketing and Sales Plan

  1. Market research and analysis ... customers, problem, solutions, competition, risk and reward, resources, feasibility ...
  2. Opportunity
  3. Mission
  4. Business model
  5. Marketing objectives
  6. Sales goals
  7. Competitive advantage strategies
  8. Positioning strategies
  9. Target market and customer segments
  10. Product and service offerings
  11. Value proposition
  12. Pricing strategies
  13. Sales strategies and tactics
  14. Distribution strategies
  15. Promotional strategies
  16. Customer relationship management

What We Need to Know About Our Competition

  1. Who are our primary competitors?
  2. On what basis do we compete?
  3. What are our competitive positions?
  4. What are our respective market shares?
  5. What are their strengths?
  6. What are their weaknesses?
  7. What are their primary opportunities?
  8. How are they a threat to our venture?
  9. How do you compare to our competitors?
  10. Who are our future competitors?
  11. What strategic opportunities exist in the market?
  12. Can we collaborate rather than compete?
  13. What are the barriers to future competition?
  14. Who are the most likely future competitors?

Characteristics of a Great Venture Plan

  1. Presents a clear explanation of why the venture concept is a significant opportunity.
  2. Provides a concise description of the venture's products or services.
  3. Provides a clear, rational explanation of why the venture idea is better than anything else already available.
  4. Succinctly explains customer benefits in qualitative and quantitative terms.
  5. Provides a clear explanation of the one or two things the company does best.
  6. Focuses on market-driven opportunities.
  7. Provides evidence of customer acceptance of the venture's products and services.
  8. Presents evidence of the marketability of the products and services.
  9. Presents a quality, sophisticated, experienced management team, advisors, and board of directors with complementary and encompassing business skills.
  10. Gives a clear sense of what the founders expect to accomplish in 3 to 7 years.
  11. Provides a rational explanation of why the investor should trust the management team to do what they say they are going to do.
  12. Identifies all the alternatives available to prospective customers.
  13. Addresses how the venture will develop and sustain a distinct competitive advantage.
  14. Addresses how the venture will develop and sustain a proprietary position.
  15. Contains reasonable financial projections with key data explained and justified.
  16. hows how and when the venture will generate sustainable positive cash flow streams.
  17. Describes the manufacturing and/or service delivery processes and associated costs in appropriate detail.
  18. Explains and justifies the level of product development required.
  19. Justifies financially the means chosen to sell the products and services.
  20. Supports credible growth projections.
  21. Provides a clear explanation of how the money invested in the venture will be used.
  22. Shows how and when the venture will generate sustainable profit.
  23. Shows an appreciation of investor needs.
  24. Shows how investors can cash out in three to seven years, with an appropriate return on their investment.
  25. Provides a clear explanation of what the investor will get for their investment.
  26. Identifies significant risks and proposes rational contingencies.
  27. Has the right appearance...not too fancy, not too plain.
  28. Is arranged properly with the executive summary, table of contents, and chapters in right order.
  29. Is the "right length"...not too long, not too convey all the pertinent information.
  30. Is plausible throughout.
  31. Has facts rather than opinions
  32. Is quantitative rather than qualitative
  33. Stresses specifics rather than generalities
  34. Reads like a combination of the Wall Street Journal, a model of good business writing, and USA Today, a model of good story-telling

Common Venture Plan Mistakes

1] Vagueness ... We see this a lot when people are afraid that someone will steal their idea. Lenders and investors are not interested in going into business themselves. They’re looking for places to put their money where they can get a desired return. If your business plan is too vague, they won’t understand what you’re doing, and they’ll put their money elsewhere.

2] Broad, Unsubstantiated Statements ... "Everyone loves ________________ …" Everyone? Fill the space with anything – chocolate, puppies, May flowers – and there is someone out there that just hates it, guaranteed. How about "There is a dire need for …" Dire? Are people dying in the streets because they don’t have your product or service? Not likely. Or "It is a known fact…" Known? By who? Don’t make broad, general statements you can’t substantiate.

3] Overly Optimistic Financial Projections ... You’ve got to have a positive attitude. But don’t be so positive that the reader will wonder if you realize that no one can predict the future with complete accuracy. Run scenarios that take various possibilities into account. You want to show lenders that you can pay back their loans or investors that you can pay dividends even if problems do crop up.

4] No Discussion of Risk ... Overly optimistic projections are usually accompanied by an absence of any discussion of risk. It is really important that you think about what can go wrong with your business and what you’re going to do if that happens. You can be absolutely sure that your reader will figure out what your risks are. You’d better assure them that you’ve thought about risk and have plans for dealing with it.

5] Inconsistency ... Does your marketing plan include tv advertising but your projections show only $200/month in advertising expenditures? That’s a real disconnect that any savvy reader will pick up right away. Chapters in a business plan are not separate, stand alone pieces. They all have to weave together to show that you know what you are doing.

6] Unrealistic Financial Assumptions ... Imagine 5-year projections with energy bills remaining constant over the entire five years. Or gross profit margins of 35% in the first year and 60% in the third. These things just don’t happen very often in real life. Make sure your numbers reflect the real world.

7] Sloppiness ... Spell-checker is a great tool but if your typo is another perfectly good English word it won’t get flagged. Not only should you proofread your business plan, but have one or more people who haven’t seen it before read it, too. We all have a tendency to see what we intended to write rather than what we actually typed. Fresh eyes are invaluable. And make sure you’ve double and triple-checked your numbers. Numbers that don’t add up correctly make a very bad impression.

8] Doesn’t Know the Market ... You really need to show that you know and understand your market(s). That means you’ve got to do some serious research. Here is where an outside consultant may be helpful. But with all the information available on the internet, you can do a good job by yourself if you put in the time and effort. See the Internet Resources page for some good websites.

9] Doesn’t Know the Competition ... No matter how unique your product or service, there’s always competition. Suppose, for example, that you were thinking of opening a bowling facility in a location where there isn’t another within a 25 mile radius – or even a 50 mile radius. You may think you have a monopoly. But that’s because you don’t recognize what your market really is. It isn’t the bowling market – it’s the recreation and entertainment market. Your competitors are movie theaters, amusement parks, miniature golf ranges, etc. If you don’t recognize this then how are you going to compete effectively?

10] Knocks the Competition ... People dismiss their competition too easily. First of all, if they’ve been in business for any length of time they must be doing something right. Ignore that at your own peril. If your widgets are better than theirs, then maybe their prices are lower or their service is superior or their advertising is more effective or their location is better. It’s not enough to know what’s wrong with your competition. If you’re going to succeed you’ve got to know what they do well and be prepared to compete with that.

11] Doesn’t Focus on the Reader ... Who are your readers and what do they want? Here’s a brief rundown:
  • Bankers: They want to know how you’re going to repay the loan.
  • Investors: They want to know if you’re going to be profitable enough to give them a high return either through dividends or by taking the business public.
  • Strategic Allies: They’re going to have to spend a lot of time and money to do joint business with you. They want to know if it will be worth the investment.
  • Major Clients (for Preferred Vendor Status): They’re going to invest time and money to bring you into the fold. The want to be sure you can deliver what they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford....AND that you're strong enough to be around for the long haul.
[Thanks, Victoria Posner]