Next month at the OPEN Expo will be hosting our second Lions’ Den. (The Lion’s Den is the OPEN Network’s version of Dragons’ Den or Shark Tank. If you missed the first one, $135,000 was invested in 5 businesses). At the OPEN Expo in North Carolina, several OPEN workers (we call them the martyrs) will be going into the Lions’ Den to sell their businesses to the Lions with the hope of departing alive with a wallet full of investment monies. Whether you are facing the Lions or ordinary investors; writing a business plan is the first step to getting the attention of those with money. A well written plan can raise money, recruit team members, map out your marketing strategy, and perhaps best of all, clarify your own thinking. A plan riddled with errors will certainly lead to martyrdom.
With some help from some OPEN coaches, here are 7 “B Attitudes” for B4Ters when drawing up a business plan.
1. Be Coached.
Invite coaches who know you and/or your product to review your business plan before sharing it with investors. Despite what you think, you do not know it all. Solomon teaches that wisdom comes with many counsellors. Presenting a business plan, even a draft plan, to investors that contains simple errors or gaps in logic is worse than presenting no plan at all. Have others read and edit your plan, including someone who is experienced in vetting business plans, before you begin to share it with potential investors.
2. Be Concise.
Avoid repeating yourself too much. Don’t use catch phrases or restate what’s already been said. Nobody wants to hear the same thing over and over again. Be sure to keep your plan’s fundamental message consistent throughout, and employ concise yet appealing imagery to flesh out your ideas.
3. Be Consistent.
Eliminate contradictions. Check that the information in your plan is consistent. For example, make sure that a financial chart deep within the plan does not undermine a fact used earlier in the plan. Make absolutely certain that every fact about your industry, the market, and key competitors is accurate and readily verifiable.
4. Be Creative.
Successful business plans come in all shapes, sizes and formats, so don’t worry about writing one that looks and reads exactly like all the other plans that are out there. Your goal isn’t to fit in; you want your business plan to stand out. Create a proposal that spotlights your idea and expresses your personality, so that you will be more comfortable and confident when you are called on to present it.
5. Be Focused.
Know your audience. Your business cannot be all things to all people. Know your market and craft your business plan to target that market. No business plan can appeal to every possible audience. Prayerfully pick one industry or one product or one problem and solve it. Otherwise, you risk spreading yourself too thin.
6. Be Humble.
Exhibit confidence in your product and your ability to take it to market but in your effort to portray confidence, do not ignore the competition your new business will face. Doing so betrays a lack of sophistication. Clearly and objectively point out your business’ weaknesses. Every business has competition, even if it is from overseas. And if your concept is completely original, you still should account for different ways that customers might choose to spend their money, the risks of doing business in your city, and the current business climate in the local marketplace.
7. Be Real.
Yes, there are some things you must guesstimate in your plan, but be sure your guesses are founded upon some research and logical thinking. Beware of being too optimistic in measuring your margins, the power of your competition and the size of the market. Although it may seem impressive to project big numbers and the potential for earning huge sums of revenue, overstating financial estimates often appears gimmicky to investors. Worse, big numbers can make you sound as if you don’t know what you’re doing or how difficult it will be to take market share from your competitors.