- Writing a Business Plan
- Financial Statements
- Business Forecasting
- Business Checklist
TIPS ON PRESENTING YOUR BUSINESS PLAN
Uses of a Business Plan:
The purpose of the business plan is to help keep the organization focussed on its mission, goals and strategies. It also shows bankers, creditors, and investors all necessary steps have been carefully planned and that the desired objectives have the best possible chance of being achieved.
The most common reason for loan applications being rejected is due to the entrepreneur's inability to instill confidence in the money lender. Often a poorly written business plan will make a venture appear very risky, even if it has great market potential. The entrepreneur has to be able to confidently answer every possible question that could be asked. Confidence will suggest, to the banker, that every possible detail of every functional area of the business has been considered.
The business plan also serves as a means of setting guidelines with respect to corporate culture and philosophy, which hopefully everyone in the organization will believe in and be a part of. With the business plan acting as a guideline, the entrepreneur can see to it that everyone in the organization is working toward the same goal. The business plan can also help create a team atmosphere, if key people in the organization are allowed to participate in writing it.
The business plan can also be used in the solicitation of potential customers and clients for projects or contracts. If it is going to be used in this manner, the entrepreneur may want or need to present only certain sections of the business plan. Such a presentation would probably be limited to the sections of the plan that really highlight the organization's strengths. Obviously some parts of a plan are going to be very private, and the material chosen to be presented will depend on the nature of the relationship with the person, prospect, customer, or supplier it is being shown to. A well written business plan can illustrate that the entrepreneur has the resources and expertise to do the job right, provide whatever customer service will be required, or do whatever else is important or relevant, given the nature of the work being done.
Presenting a Winning Business Plan:
The key to a successful presentation is preparation and practice. Nervousness beforehand is a common reaction, but will not prevent an entrepreneur from putting on an effective presentation. Here are some things to consider when preparing to present a business plan.
As an introduction, the entrepreneur's own qualifications, education, work experience, and background should be offered at the beginning of the presentation. The extent to which the entrepreneur conveys competency to the "panel" is just as important as the market potential of the business and the quality of the business plan. The people who ultimately invest in the business, will do so because they believe in the character and competency of the entrepreneur as much as they do in the business itself. The objective of the presentation is to make the audience believe that the entrepreneurial vision can and will be realized.
The business plan presentation should also be visually appealing. This can be achieved through the use of charts and graphs that might be created from research results or from financial data and forecasts. Charts illustrating the relevance of statistics, for example, are known to have more impact on an audience than a column of numbers. The numbers themselves seem to lack significance because they do not give the audience a point of reference from which to make an interpretation or judgment.
If the business plan is being presented to a group, visual aids such as overheads are an effective means of keeping the audience's attention. If some of the material is technical in nature, it should be simplified as much as possible, for the benefit of those who do not have firsthand experience with that subject matter. If people do not understand, they are not going to listen. If they don't listen, they are not going to hear something that they really should have heard.
The entrepreneur should also be careful to not let the presentation go on for too long. After an hour or so people start to get tired and the result may be that the presentation ends off at a lower point than it could have, if it had ended sooner. Given this time constraint, the entrepreneur must fully address the most important issues, give the audience members a complete picture of the proposed venture, with which to make a decision and keep their undivided attention throughout.
Prepare a list of the most important points of the business plan. Explain what the business concept is and the reasons why it is going to be successful. For example, make a connection between market potential and a trend in the marketing environment. Or point out that survey results show that a certain percentage of respondents said they would purchase in the very near future, if the product or service was currently available.
Avoid heavy reliance on notes, so that a relatively continuous amount of eye contact with the audience, can be made. Try not to speak as if reading aloud from a book, instead convey enthusiasm through the use of inflection, or the changing of the pitch and tempo of one's voice and speech. In addition, the entrepreneur should try to entice the involvement of the audience, for a number of reasons. The willingness to answer questions will illustrate that the entrepreneur has confidence in the proposal, and will at the same time instill confidence in the audience. It will also peak the audience's interest and give an indication of how enthusiastic or impressed they are with the business concept and presentation. If they have concerns that are going to result in the rejection of a loan application, for example, the entrepreneur is better off knowing that during the presentation. Those concerns can then be immediately addressed, and a weakness can hopefully be turned into a strength.
Audience participation might be gained by using examples of how the product, service, or business can benefit the people in the audience, or at least people who have similar interests or occupations. In other words, put things in terms people can relate to in their everyday lives. If the audience can be won over in this manner, they will be more likely to trust the entrepreneur and think of the business as a good investment.