10 tips for scoring 'big' with your business plan
By Marc Kneepkens

1. Deal with ‘Risk’

On the first read of any business plan, investors are looking for quick reasons not to invest, rather than reasons to invest. Think realistically about the risks of your business. Eliminate or reduce them.

The first priority of a business plan reviewer is to make sure that there is minimal or no risk for the investor. It that is not done right, the screener's job becomes obsolete.

If you succeed at dealing with this risk factor, you have created an opening for your business. When you start to write a business plan, the first question is: What is the worst case scenario for an investor? What matters to investors is more important than what matters to you.


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2. Candid risk disclosure

Risk disclosure does not discourage investors but actually helps investors assess the management’s level of “realism”. That can be used to your advantage.

Most entrepreneurs think risk disclosure in the business plan is a threat... they might not get the investment. However, the opposite is true: risk disclosure can be used to portray the image that the entrepreneur is trustworthy, reliable and that his business works.

The business plan combines many factors, or should I say ‘ingredients’, for the right recipe. Show the investor that you are a good 'cook'.


3. The management team looks very qualified for the job

An experienced management team really turns the heads of investors. Prove that no one else can do this job better than you and your management team.


4. Have an accurate plan for using the requested investment money

Explain exactly why you need this amount of money and how it will be used. Show clearly that you value the investor’s money more than your own. Your business projections need to be accurate and clear.


5. 'Excel' proficiency and accuracy

Everybody knows that Excel sheets have a lot of formulas. This poses a reasonable chance for mistakes. Clever investors do not trust Excel sheets, just like auditors.

Check your formulas and double check your calculations. Business plan reviewers make sure that the calculations are correct, if not, they reject your plan immediately.


6. Leave out any hint of arrogance. This includes your presentation and you.

There is no room for arrogance. The real entrepreneur is open to constructive criticism.

Ask yourself: “What did I miss? Where are my strengths?” In order to find this information the entrepreneur needs to ask a ‘third party’ to have a look at his/her business plan, not a spouse, family member, or ‘best friend’.




7. Respect and understand your competition

You have analyzed the competition, admitted their strengths, pointed out their weaknesses and used that to your advantage in your plan. This is an important part of your strategic planning process.


8. Explain your projections effortlessly

Knowing your stuff will allow you to explain your projections in detail. Every CEO is expected to have some reasonable knowledge about accounting for his/her business.

You can NOT just copy and paste some balance sheets with good looking numbers in your business plan. The investor sees through that and will grill you at his convenience. You will have to explain every detail at some point in time. At that stage of the process, you’ll just end up on the wrong pile.

Your job is to enhance your accounting, illustrate the strategic planning process, tell the story, and back it up with numbers.



9. Your presentation is ‘clean. It has 'INTEGRITY' written all over it.

That includes your information, logic and presenting style. The cover letter or ‘teaser’ are clear and succinct. The plan has a look and feel of professionalism. It’s not too long, but with sufficient information. For more examples on how to fail: See “16 reasons why your investment proposal won't get read” (new window)

And remember, be real: dreamers get spotted immediately. Know what you’re standing for, with both feet firmly on the ground.

Present with integrity, in every aspect. You’ll keep the attention going.


10. Existing sales and/or contracts

Your financial business projections are conservative and backed up by existing sales or contracts.

Show the mechanism that makes your sale move into an ever-growing upward spiral. Show how your product or service appeals to your public, how you get the sale and how ‘the sale’ grows into a permanent stream of happy clients, referrals or more sales. Make your strategic planning process look logical, easy and natural. But, above all, get it started. Get out of dreamland, make it happen.



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Integrity is vital 
It seems I've spent half a lifetime writing about integrity or fighting for it. I believe integrity should be built into any business from the planning …

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