Secrets and tips for a successful business plan
A business plan is a written, official document that includes business objectives, methods and planning when these objectives can and must be achieved, meant to convince a decision maker to invest in an entrepreneurial project.
Writing a business plan is also highly recommended when starting a business. Indeed, the preparation of the financial forecast, and especially the analysis of the break-even point, makes it possible to know whether or not an activity has the potential to generate long-term profits.
A bussines plan should answer the following questions:
- Who are you (legal structure, shareholders, location, etc.)?
- What do you sell (product, service)?
- Who are the customers (clients)?
- How (distribution network, business plan)?
- Who are your competitors?
- What is the timeline (key milestones)?
- How is the product made (manufacturing process, suppliers, technology, etc.)?
- What are the financial needs (amount, type of financing)?
- What is the return on investment?
- What is the typical structure of a business plan?
The drafting order is very important and generally has the following order:
- Company (who are we?)
- Products and services (what do we sell?)
- Market research (to whom?)
- Strategy (how ?, Who are our competitors ?, What is the schedule?)
- Operations (how is the product produced?)
- Financial plan (what are the financial needs ?, What is the return on investment?)
Although there is a typical structure of the business plan, it is important to remember that the plan must be adapted to both the reader and the project.
Some elements must be included: description of the offer and its advantages, market, competitors, economic model (or business model), team and financial forecasts.
The business plan tells a story that must always be adjusted and improved. It is not a static story, it should tell something new every year. Its construction generally follows logical reasoning. For example, we can demonstrate step by step that:
- the product or service offered will be very successful because:
– there is a strong and unmet need,
– the innovative solution considered responds to this need much better than anything there is,
– the product or service offered is very attractive and offers customers benefits that largely justify its price,
- the team is excellent, it has complementary profiles that bring together:
– all the technical, commercial and financial skills necessary for the project,
– experience and contacts on the target market and the technologies used,
– ability to run a business,
- the company will have a significant and sustainable market share, insofar as:
– actual or potential competitors are well identified,
– the company benefits from significant competitive advantages (technological advance, know-how, patents, contracts, partnerships, etc.),
– competitors are penalized by barriers to entry (development durations and costs, patents, exclusivity, skills, etc.),
- the activity will be quickly profitable and will generate large profits, because:
– potential customers are very numerous and the market is growing rapidly,
– the company knows how to sell their products or services,
– in the relatively short term, the turnover generated will be significant,
– the costs are understood and controlled and leave a comfortable margin,
- and, finally, a short / medium term “exit” is very likely and will allow investors to perform an excellent operation
SUCCESS OF THE BUSINESS PLAN: PRESENTATION OF THE PROJECT
Because the first impression is always the right one, the financiers will have an idea about you from this first part.
Presenting your project, founding team, CV’s, experiences and motivations becomes a real style exercise.
All partners and financiers will tell you that the choice is made on the quality of the project, but also especially on the quality of the team that carries out the project.
Most of the time, a partner relies more on people than on the project. For a successful presentation, you must:
– control the file,
– you know the interests of the people you talk to,
– you know how to talk about the essential elements to arouse interest,
– you know exactly what you need and what you ask for (financing, networks, assistance, skills, logistics, visibility, accommodation, etc.),
– shows the coherence, determination and good understanding of the management team.
As you can see, I did not mention the business plan, because it is just one of the tools that make it possible to present the significance of the project, its interest, the resources necessary for its success and, finally, the prospects it offers.
It remains to make a good impression, for that, there is nothing like sincerity! Do not hesitate to tell the story of your project, to think outside the box of the traditional CV.
To define the project, avoid technical jargon!
Everyone should instantly understand your offer and competitive advantage.
It requires a vision.
Like Steve Jobs, change the world! Beyond the strategic aspects, explain to the reader the global vision of your project and your deep ambitions.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF THE BUSINESS PLAN
The trailer makes you want to see the movie. The executive summary will make you want to read it!
The summary is the business card of your business plan (maximum 2 pages). It is cleverly placed on the first page and approaches the key elements in a synthetic way. Few readers are keen on an entire business plan. Many are content to read diagonally. The executive summary is therefore timely.
In conversations by emails, the executive summary serves as the first attachment. The impressed investor can contact you to get the complete business plan.
RESULT OF THE BUSINESS PLAN: MARKET STUDY
Successful market research is a field study! How many entrepreneurs outsource the performance of their market research to a specialized company or a junior company without being involved in the field to find out the futurs clients opinions ? To make a difference, it’s up to you to show real knowledge about the sector.
Nothing compares to a study, maybe imperfect, but done from inside! You can always complete it with a more in-depth study conducted by a professional.
Administering / Distributing a questionnaire is a very popular process for investor.
RESULT OF THE BUSINESS PLAN: SWOT
SWOT for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, is a tool that contributes to the development of the company’s positioning strategy on its future market. SWOT is in the form of a matrix that summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of the entrepreneur-led project, as well as the opportunities and threats in its sector.
Neglecting the negative aspects of the project would be a big mistake, this is a trend found at many business creators who are carried away by their enthusiasm and the prospects of their project. But this approach often penalizes them because investors are not fooled.
Be realistic, list your weaknesses and threats! The business plan should not hide anything. On the contrary, it serves to anticipate solutions.
A SUCCESSFUL MARKET STUDY: FINANCIAL FORECASTS
The financing plan budgets for your needs in the beginning, as well as the consummed resources. To be convincing, the table must meet the requirements of the various credit institutions consulted. There are levers to finance your business! Study, know the maximum values and award criteria at hand.
Provisional “income statement”
The provisional financial plan summarizes your projected annual turnover and expenses, for a period of 3 years.
A “good” turnover (CA) is a turnover justified by your implemented means and your strategy.
A complete interim financial plan includes interim management reports.
A statement of profit and a profitable forecast should ? show an annual net self-funding capacity (capacité d’auto-financement) of at least half of the loan capital to be repaid during the year.
Self-funding capacity (capacité d’auto-financement) is a management balance that shows the annual wealth created by the company and its ability to reinvest in itself, pay attention to this fact, because investors are sensitive to it.
Provisional balance sheet
The balance sheet is a statement of a company’s assets, liabilities and equity at one time. The provisional balance sheet allows the financier to to make future projections and to evaluate the company’s assets in 1, 2 or 3 years’ time.
The assets will identify all the company’s resources (what it will have) and the liabilities will summarize the company’s debts. In addition, the provisional balance sheet provides an idea about the financing cycles of the company’s activity, as well as about the evolution of its cash flow.
Financial indicators, such as working capital (WC), working capital requirement (WCR), cash flow, debt ratio, return on investment (ROI), … are important elements that are taken from the balance sheet and will be considered by potential investors.
Cash flow at the beginning
A business plan is attractive when it realistically demonstrates the profitability of a business. No business can grow without money. Do not neglect the monthly cash flow or the assessment of the need for working capital.
Business plan: how to write it?
The business plan can be written by the entrepreneur or with the help of dedicated professionals and / or tools. Here are the terms generally used:
– the contractor is completely independent in its drafting,
– the entrepreneur writes it himself/herself, but requests the assistance of a certified accountant, a professional accustomed to this type of document, in order to enrich it and ensure its coherence,
– the entrepreneur uses software dedicated to business plans, some of which are free and can be used online,
– the entrepreneur turns to a professional specialized in making business plans.
DON’T FORGET THE CONCLUSION!
Like any good book, your business plan should end at the top of the page. Remember the objectives of your document (fundraising, an associate, a business partner, etc.). Finally, a long-term vision of your project is an excellent grand finale .
Secrets to succeeding in the financial part of your business plan
Don’t be scared, although it seems complex, it requires a dose of logic and common sense.
Secret 01. Make realistic predictions
Your figures must be translated so as to reflect reality, do not overestimate your raw materials or other key items of expenditure, communicate their fair market value.
The biggest pitfalls of a project carrier are:
– overestimating the turnover (CA), by positioning yourself above the competition and not taking into account the characteristics of the market or those of your niche. First try to cover all your expenses, reach that break-even point, and then align yourself with the average of commercial excess in your industry,
– Underestimating the required working capital (Net Working Capital), a key figure in your plan, which poorly valued leads to bankruptcy. In this sense, it carefully studies the terms of collection and payment of suppliers, the costs of start-up stocks, as well as their rotation speed.
Tips: Contact as many suppliers as possible and get as many offers as possible, so you will have your own image of supply costs, staff costs, purchase of fixed assets. If you work with partners abroad, the help of a lawyer can be a real help.
A market study helps you stay connected to the reality of your sector of activity, to the constantly transforming needs of your target audience, to the competition that also invents new needs.
Secret 02. It also creates a pessimistic scenario
Yes, pessimistic! Due to our nature as social beings, especially when we are at the beginning and full of enthusiasm, we tend to think of the most optimistic and unrealistic course for our business.
For a moment, be pessimistic and see a figure 20 or 25% lower than the normal option so you can analyze the impact that only a small decrease in income can have. You will be surprised.
There will be categories of very high expenses that force you to find alternatives, a new working method, or other partners who can negotiate more, without making a remarkable compromise on the quality of your offer. The results and profitability of the project must be maintained, even if they are lower.
Secret 03. Keep a financial balance
It’s one thing to build a good plan and another to follow some balanced financial rules and indicators.
In terms of maintaining balance, here are some rules to follow:
– Durable goods – fixed and current assets will be financed by resources of the same nature, ie long-term investments are financed by equity, long-term loans, stocks are financed by supplier loans, by negotiating a longer payment term, discounts or faster payment of your customer bills,
– Banks generally do not accept full financing of your project needs and require a contribution of 10% or 20%, depending on the bank and the project, which will make the project more credible and show that you believe in your success.
Regarding the rules:
– Repayment capacity (capacité de rembourssement) = net debt (endettement net) / self-funded capacity (capacité d’autofinancement) must be below 3 or 4,
– The indicator of financial independence = indebtedness (loan repayment) / net cash flow (capacité d’autofinancement), must be less than 0.5,
– The level of your margin must be related to the one applicable in your sector of activity (there may be a legitimate gap).
Secret 04. Mold your business plan on the interlocutor
Sounds good, doesn’t it? more work, more effort, but most forget that personalizing it communicates different information of maximum interest to convince each target interlocutor.
For example: your bank will not look at your brilliant idea, but at your ability to pay the loan, your ability to be self-financing and yout level of indebtedness. Instead, a business angel or investor will rely in his evaluation o your brilliant idea and some financial notions such as the net result, the break-even point, the net dividends, etc.
Secret 05. A care presentation
The financial part of your plan will include a set of financial tables whose presentation is impeccable. You can use software in this regard, or an Excel spreadsheet, an online application, but you must show increased attention to their quality.
If you are interested, here are all the financial tables and forecasts for 3 years: cash flow for 12 months, budgets and indicators, everything automated, you just have to fill in the first sheet.
Simple, fast, no hassle and you will know everything in seconds. Only at the modest price of 30 euros instead of 80 euros) as a sign of appreciation of your work and as a small contribution to your success. Hurry up, the price can change at any time!
Secret 06. Choose the annexes carefully
Any document proving the veracity of the financial statements must be in the annexes.
This is the case of the results of the market study, customer letters, possible signed contracts and some tables such as summary of investments, summary of financing sources, VAT table, summary of overheads, staff costs, loan repayment details, etc.
Tips for successfully writing your plan
Tip 01. Avoid spelling mistakes
Writing is essential. Avoid all spelling and grammar mistakes. This will fuel the seriousness of the project. You can rely on your associates, family members, your counselor, or your accountant. Also, familiar language is not desirable.
Better take a break, relax so you can later dedicate yourself to a rigorous lecture.
Tip 02. Write an airy text
Avoid text blocks at all costs, without beginning a paragraph or spaces between them . The drafting of a plan must be airy, with images, graphics, numbered pages and a table of contents. All this will focus on the ease of reading, when time has become such a scarce resource.
Tip 03. Keep it simple
It is useless to go into the technical depths of the project, making an aggressive use of specific jargon. Be precise, but generally speaking. Aim for the essential, present the strengths and recognize the weak points.
Tip 04. Be consistent
The editorial part will highlight a coherence between the company’s objectives, the means it will use, the target market and the position of the competitors.
If you want to deepen some aspects of your plan, below you have some indications.
Many investors consider that the presentation of the team is the most interesting part of the business plan, the rest often having a déjà vu taste.
Therefore, the business plan must present for the project leader and the key people of the company, a short summary of their CV, highlighting the relevant points for the project (training, experience, network, etc.) and the concrete role in the team.
The business plan must demonstrate that these profiles are complementary, that the team is solid and experienced, that it operates efficiently and that it brings together all the skills necessary for the company’s success: managerial, technical or scientific, commercial and financial. Optionally, it can indicate if one or more missing profiles are searched.
Ideally, the business plan should demonstrate that this team is the best possible to complete the project and that it has unique strengths that competitors do not have.
Advice. Most project leaders start on their own, and a quick environment with a good team becomes essential to the success of the project. Being alone is a serious handicap when it comes to raising funds and then carrying out your project.
But how do you attract talent to your team before you get funding and be able to pay for it? Is it possible to attract a high level profile, who can really increase the chances of success of the project and whose name will facilitate obtaining funding?
Even with a very good project, it is not easy to convince such a star to work for free for a full time for an unknown company, very young, without financing, without clients and without income.
However, it is much easier to persuade this person to dedicate one day a month to the project (offer some advice or contacts, correct a document, attend a meeting) and, in exchange for including their name on the team, become the counselor or as one of the future leaders “ready to join which will be recruited and remunerated after fundraising.
This also allows you to meet potential partners and test them before offering them shares, stock options or an employment contract. In addition, partnering with another contractor or combining the project with a competing project can greatly increase your chances of success and speed of execution.
It is often more convincing to start by presenting the need satisfied by the proposed product or service, without anticipating the solution, denouncing it.
The action plan
The business plan must outline the path to success, the company’s strategy and the main success factors identified. It can cover, for example, the next three years, presenting more details about the first year.
It presents the main actions planned by the company, especially all those that will generate income or costs. Therefore, this paper lays the foundations for the financial forecasts that will follow.
The most important thing is to show that the company will be able to sell its products / services and will develop its turnover (a good knowledge of the target customers and the sales process, existing contracts or letters of intent, recruitment of experienced sales agents, distribution partnerships, etc.).
We can describe, for example :
- the planned organization and the main processes of the company, with their key performance indicators (key performance indicators or performance indicators), the quantified objectives to be achieved and the planned data for the major stages (“benchmarks”). For example, for a social network, it must be indicated how the members will be recruited and when the company will reach 1 million members ;
- research and development (R&D) plan : R&D axes, product development planning, planned versions, investments and necessary resources,
- production : places of production, recourse to subcontracting, production costs of products or services, necessary material and human investments,
- marketing and communication plan : communication budget, objectives, targets, messages, media, marketing budget, planned campaigns, measurement method and planned performance (for example, acquisition cost, conversion rate, etc.),
- commercial action plan: commercial objectives, organization and animation of sales teams, sales process,
- human resources management : organization, headquarters, key positions, recruitment plan, remuneration policy (expected salaries, variable portion, etc.), external resources (subcontractors, consultants, lawyers),
- international development plan : target countries, units abroad, local partnerships, external growth, etc.
The business plan must demonstrate the financial profitability of the business over time. It usually provides annual forecasts for three to five years, up to ten years for biotechnology companies or until the next important stage.
Presents figures resulting from a simulation performed using a spreadsheet or a specialized tool, these figures are rounded or displayed in thousands or millions for better readability.
The financial forecast should include at least the following elements:
- income estimation: in accordance with the income model described above, based on prudent, detailed and justified assumptions,
- cost estimation: in accordance with the action plan described above,
- margin evolution: when will the equilibrium point be reached? How many customers, sales or monthly turnover will be needed,
- projected operating result (profit or loss),
- adequacy report,
- financing plan: financial needs and anticipated sources of financing, equity, self-financing, aid, etc.,
- cash flow plan (for the first year, monthly).
The business plan usually ends with this part, which indicates the amount of funds sought and how they will be used. It is good to give an idea of when and how investors will win.
We can specify, for example:
- the name and legal form of the company, its directors, the date of its creation, the date of launch of the products / services,
- the current shareholders and the distribution of capital (“table Table”), the roles and degrees of involvement in each project, present in the capital or in the business council known angels or technological angels (technical experts, scientific advisers) will bring much credibility to the project,
- the organization of the company and its governance, the frequency of the “board meeting”, the means of reporting, etc .; ,
- the potential of the project, the identified risks to be monitored, the reasons why the team will be successful,
- the capital necessary for the development of the project, the amount sought, the use of funds,
- the proposed valuation of the company and the arguments justifying this valuation,
- planned exit scenarios, potential buyers, expected earnings for investors.
Now you can make your business plan, hoping that the proposed tips are helpful.
In the comments, please ask us your questions and tell us what ideas you have. We wish you much success!
Disclaimers: This is an example of a business plan. A business plan can vary from project to project. So use it wisely and adapt it to your situation. In addition, downloading this plan implies full acceptance of T&Cs and intellectual property rights.