The business plan is an essential component of the fund raising process. It is the underlying blueprint for your business and reflects the major selling points of your ideas, strategy, and team. A good business plan is concise, persuasive, and realistic. In addition, the best business plan is expected to be a fluid document – it will change and adapt as your business evolves to meet the demands of reality.
The objective of your plan is not to raise money, that is a far longer process. It’s also not to explain every detail of your operating plans. The purpose of your business plan is to generate enough interest in prospective investors to make them want to take the next step and meet with you. You should bear that in mind as you write each sentence. Like with bathing suits, what’s most appealing is often not what’s revealed but what remains concealed. The takeaway impression you want to leave the readers with, whether they read every word or just skim the Executive Summary is “I really want to meet these people.”
Since everyone is busy, an Executive Summary should be short, compelling, and complete enough so that if that is all someone reads, they will “get it.” The high points are who you are, what the customers’ pain is, what you plan to do to relieve it, why your team is ideal for the job, where you are in the process of building your company, and how much capital you need.
The body of the plan should go into greater detail on the Big Four: Management, Market, Product, Finance. Provide the backgrounds of key management members with detailed resumes. Discuss the market need more than the market size. Explain how you know. Frequently, the most successful companies are started by frustrated customers. Intimate familiarity with the problem space, stemming from personal business experience, is the most convincing. The product discussion should explain the product and its benefits from a customer’s perspective, not from the designer’s.
Financials need not include eight years of monthly projection of travel expenses. The income statement should show projection by month for the next six months, by quarter for the following six quarters, and then by year for another three years. Balance sheets are not critical for start-ups but funds flow statements are. Use the “Sources and Uses” format rather than the format that begins with earnings and adds back changes in receivables (a format incomprehensible in its goal). An appendix of relevant articles or analyst reports can sometimes be very helpful.
Remember, the plan’s sole purpose is to get you invited to a meeting. You’re trying to get a first date, no need to lay out where you plan to send your third child to college. Wherever possible, make it brief and compelling – short and sweet.
Business/Career Plan Competition FAQ
When is the Business/Career Plan due?
The last date for the submission of your final Business Plan or Career Plan will be by end of October 9, 2006.
Can I submit both a business plan as well as a career plan?
Yes, each person is allowed to send both a business plan and a career plan. However, you may not submit two business plans or two career plans.
How should I submit my documents?
Please email your documents to firstname.lastname@example.org . You will receive the confirmation via an email. If you do not get a reply within 24 hours, please contact us.
What is the common evaluation criteria for business plan and the career plan?
Your Venture or Career Plan will be evaluated by the following criteria (Note that there is no particular minimum or maximum page limit):
- How clear are future goals identified?
– Goals must lead to a significant change from current situation
– The bigger the net change the better
- How complete and feasible is the plan?
– Is the plan realistic – achievable
– Does the plan communicate that the author has thought deeply about their project (it should be convincing and not just a dream)
- Does the submission have a detailed implementation plan?
– Factoring in the initial condition does the plan reveal how the applicant will achieve their goals
– Milestones should be identified