I am always looking for good venture presentation ideas. The other day an email from Harvard Business Review caught my eye. It was for a book titled How to Write a Great Business Plan, which looks like a pretty reasonable book. What really got me thinking, though, were the wise words in the blurb:
Judging by all the hoopla surrounding business plans, you’d think the only things standing between would-be entrepreneurs and spectacular success are glossy five-color charts, bundles of meticulous-looking spreadsheets, and decades of month-by-month financial projections. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, often the more elaborately crafted a business plan, the more likely the venture is to flop. Why? Most plans waste too much ink on numbers and devote too little to information that really matters to investors. The result? Investors discount them.
If you read nothing else about business plans, read the above paragraph again. It is loaded with truth – particularly the last three words.
Business Plan Don’ts
- Don’t make your business plan look like a magazine or a promotional brochure for a resort. Too many graphics and pretty pictures detract from the desired image of serious business savvy and conservative financial management. Include graphs that illustrate important facts and, if you include pictures, they should be of your invention, facilities, equipment or founders.
- Don’t put your business plan on a PowerPoint. A business plan should be a Word doc or Mac equivalent that can be opened on a PC. Convert it to a .pdf file so it looks good and doesn’t get corrupted through email. Many investors won’t open a huge PPT file and others just don’t want to look at a PPT or are concerned about what tracking devices it might contain. A PowerPoint is a presentation tool that is used to highlight important points of a verbal presentation a la the theory that people better retain information that they both see and hear. It is not a business plan tool.
- Don’t attempt to entertain your target audience. They don’t want to be entertained. They want to make profits from investing in businesses.
- Don’t show financial projections into the billion$ or hundreds of million$ during your first three years – even if your figures delude you into thinking it is possible to reach those kinds of revenues. Nobody will believe you even if your figures are correct, and you will come off looking sadly naive.
- Don’t omit a detailed description of your production sequence, launch plans, marketing plans, and build-out plans. This is what investors want to see and many of the business plans that come across my desk are lacking in these details.