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Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts

Tips for Writing a Venture Plan

  1. Tell your story, tell it quickly, and tell the truth.
  2. Make sure that on every page the reader gets the information you want them to get.
  3. Creativity helps, but scale it back and be traditional with your headings and your formatting.
  4. Use talking headings to send the reader in the desired direction.
  5. Brand your pages; use appropriate colors; use images and charts and graphs to help reader understand key points; write short paragraphs; use headings that help the reader follow the story you are telling; caption your charts/graphs; use graphics to highlight your sentences and use sentences to explain the graphics. 
  6. Avoid fluff.
  7. Cite your sources. 
  8. Every paragraph should represent a discrete chunk of information. Every paragraph needs a thesis sentence. This is normally the first sentence. The middle of the paragraph should add important information to elaborate on the main point. The last sentence of each paragraph should tie up the specific chunk of information and direct the reader to the next chunk of information in the next paragraph. The reader should know all of your main points by 'reading the first and last sentence of every paragraph.
  9. When using bullets or other formatting maneuvers, decide what you want to emphasize, then use the appropriate marking words or graphics. To emphasize importance, for example, use words or phrases that indicate value; if you emphasize time, then use words that indicate chronology. Make sure that the mixture of bullets and numbers you choose conveys the right tone.
  10. To proofread, print a copy and go through it out loud. Look for any place the reader stumbles out loud. Read it backwards if necessary. Have a friend outside of your team read it out loud and see where they get confused. Read slowly to catch basic errors. Allow adequate time to do all this ... it is time-consuming, so give yourself the time to become perfect.
  11. When in doubt, check for rules of grammar and usage with a handbook. [Jim's 2 cents: Save Swing Jazz, Pelicans, and the Oxford Comma! ... Strunk and White, the Chicago Manual of Style, and the US Government agree!]
[Thank you, Randy Accetta]

[2.05]

Tips for Writing

  1. Be ruthless when proofreading ... look for what you can cut.
  2. Remember stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  3. Use "talking headings" to convey meaning.
  4. When in doubt, check for rules of grammar and usage with a handbook.
  5. Place the subject and main verb near each other and use strong verb.
  6. Avoid the "to be" verb when a stronger verb carriers a more specific meaning.
  7. Use the passive voice sparingly (It was decided to change the Company name for the sake of enhancing the effect.) vs. (We changed the company name to make it more powerful.)
  8. Make sure the "ing" form is necessary: (We were working on a prototype) vs. (We developed ... ) Note: often a question of verb tense.
  9. Make sure words ending in "'ion" are necessary; are they verbs masquerading as nouns? (The decision to acknowledge receipt of the letter was made.) vs. (We acknowledge receipt of the letter.)
  10. Make certain the prepositional phrase is helpful ... cut wasted prepositional phrases
  11. To tighten: circle the "to be" verbs, the "ing" words, the "ion' words, and prepositions. Then read out loud, and check to see what else you can cut.
  12. Put old information first, new information second (OLD >> NEW)
  13. Put easy-to-understand information first, complicated material second
  14. When building transitions, use repetition of key terms, synonyms for key terms, appropriate pronoun reference, and the appropriate collocation chain
  15. Make sure your pronoun usage is clear to the reader
  16. Choose the best word, but avoid using thoughtless thesaurus words
  17. When quoting, introduce the author, the text, and the concept; then provide the quotation with proper citation format; then provide the reader with your interpretation.
  18. Keep your writing simple ... cut to the chase.
  19. Avoid cliches and trite phrases.
  20. Use strong verbs.
  21. Use consistent verb tenses, and find the single most correct word.
  22. Always look for what you can throwaway and always make it easier on your audience.
[Thank you, Randy Accetta]

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.

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]

Venture Plan Guideline

Here are some guidelines for a venture plan.
A typical "first round" investor-grade venture plan is usually about 20 - 25 pages plus separate appendices.
There are many possible outlines for a venture plan ... the following is pretty standard.
Remember, the purpose of a venture plan is to mitigate risk ... you are selling your concept here and need to show the reader that you know your stuff! It's not so much the plan as the planning (and learning and testing and explaining and ...)

A. Cover Page ... Company/venture/business 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. What is this venture about? Where is the market? What is the innovation and competitive advantage? Who is on the venture team? Why is this a good venture concept (ie, financial projections, et al)? When are the key development milestones? How will this venture come to fruition?

C. Table of Contents ... one page.

D. Opportunity ... tell a story here! Engage the reader! What is the hook, the story, the "grabber"? 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 ...
  4. Innovation: What does this venture do that is new and better?
E. Environment and Competition ... Industry overview, research results and analysis, major competitors, benchmark ventures, timeliness, regulations ... three to five pages.

F. Goals and Strategies ... critical and key information as appropriate to your venture ... three to five pages.
  1. Goals, vision, mission. 
  2. Competitive Advantages: Market focus, value proposition, core competencies, barriers to entry, competitive validation, how your venture will position itself to meet the competition, ...
  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 statement summaries ... 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, resource requirements, return on investment ...

J. List of Available Appendices ... Variety of support information ... resumes, detailed financial statements, product data sheet, marketing brochure, research data, technology information,detailed competitive analysis, etc.