What Not To Say In a Business Plan

Guest Post by: Barry Moltz

The following is an excerpt from his e-book entitled, Growing Through Rants and Raves. Barry Moltz is also the writer of a book entitled You Have to Be a Little Crazy, which delivers irreverent, straight talk about the complex intersection of start-up business, financial health, physical well-being, spiritual wholeness and family life. This title and other publications by Barry can be viewed at his website, http://www.barrymoltz.com.

Sometimes I find that the company’s founder is so far ‘outside the box’ that they ‘stretch the envelope.’ As an angel investor, I review more than 500 business plans each year. Unfortunately, many are so riddled with economy lingo, business jargon and clichés, that they do not communicate any real business value. In my opinion, terminology, such as disintermediation, sweet spot, ASP, best of breed, and win-win should be outlawed for the next 100 years. For building a real business, these terms are meaningless. Another challenge when reviewing business plans is that the introductory sentences sometimes stretch for an entire paragraph as the entrepreneur looks for that all-encompassing way to describe their business. Forget it! There isn’t one. Many times I want to strangle the writer to simply tell me what they do in five words or less. Poor choice of words: This business makes mechanical gasoline fueled devices, used for transportation, more efficient by periodically sending them through an applied for patent machine to loosen the terra firma from these vehicles to make them more conducive at performing their task. Solid choice of words: We run a car wash. Another frequently used practice is to create a business plan using template software or by working from an existing plan. I do not recommend this practice and like to refer to William Sahlman in his Harvard Business case study “Some Thoughts on Business Plans.” This case study has continuously inspired me to see beyond clichés and catchphrases and better interpret misleading statements within business plans.

If the plan says: “Our numbers are conservative.” I read: “I know I better show a growing profitable company. This is my best-case scenario. Is it good enough?” Since all numbers are based on assumptions, projections in business plans are by their very nature a guess and are not conservative.

If the plan says: “We’ll give you a 100 percent internal rate of return on your money.” I read: “If everything goes perfectly right, the planets align, and we get lucky, you might get your money back. Actually, we have no idea if this idea will even work.” No one can predict what an investor’s return will be. Let them decide.

If the plan says: “We project a 10 percent margin.” I read: “We kept the same assumptions that the business plan software template came with and did not change a thing. Should we make any changes?” Ensure you have developed your financial projections from the ground up.

If the plan says: “We only need a 5 percent market share to make our conservative projections.” I read: “We were too lazy to figure out exactly how our business will ramp up.” Know what it will cost to acquire customers. Gaining 5 percent market share is not an easy task in a large market.

If the plan says: “Customers really need our product.” I read: ” We haven’t yet asked anyone to pay for it.” or “All our current customers are our relatives” or “We paid for an expensive survey and the people we interviewed said they needed our product.” The definition of a business is when people pay you money to solve their problems. This is the only way to prove people “need it.”

If the plan says: “We have no competition.” I read: Actually … I stop reading the plan. Always beware of entrepreneurs that claim they have no competitors. If they are right, it’s a problem and if they are wrong, it is also a problem. Every business has competitors or else there is a current solution to this customer need. If there are no competitors for what the entrepreneur wants to do, there is a good chance there also is no business. So what should an entrepreneur do? Write the plan in plain and proper English. Please understand that the reader comes to the plan with no knowledge of your business. No fancy words, clichés or graphs will make them want to invest. Understand every part of your plan and be able to defend it. Use your own passion to describe your plan. Make your plan your own.

The 11 things that matter in a business plan:

  • What problem exists that your business is trying to solve. Where is the pain?
  • What does it cost to solve that problem now? How deep and compelling is the pain?
  • What solutions does your business have that solve this problem?
  • What will the customer pay you to solve this problem? How solving this problem will make the company a lot of money.
  • What alliances can you leverage with other companies to help your company?
  • How big can this business get if given the right capital?
  • How much cash do you need to find a path to profitability?
  • How the skills of your management team, their domain knowledge, and track record of execution will make this happen.

Please remember, the business plan is basically an “argument” where you need to state the problem and pain, then provide your solution with supporting data and analogies.

Private Equity Firms with Health Care Investments Should Protect Themselves from Potential False Claims Act Liability Following Medrano Settlement

Guest post by Susan M. Hendrickson of Dechert LLP

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) on September 18, 2019, announced a $21.36 million settlement with compounding pharmacy Patient Care America (“PCA”), two PCA executives, and private equity firm Riordan, Lewis & Haden, Inc. (“RLH”), controlling owner of PCA. The settlement resolves the government’s False Claims Act (“FCA”) and Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) allegations against the parties, and, significantly, marks the first time the government has named a private equity firm as a defendant in an FCA matter.

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Private Equity in Franchising

Guest post by Nick Jones, R. James Straus and Jason C. Williams of Frost Brown Todd LLC

Private equity (“PE”) involvement in the franchising world has increased in recent years. Though historically PE firms have focused primarily on investment in franchisors, PE firms have in recent years increased their focus on franchisee-side investment. Understanding the franchisor’s perspective on PE investment into its franchisee community can help PE firms more effectively negotiate their relationship with the franchisor.

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How to assure a successful physician practice investment or acquisition

Guest post by Patricia S. Hofstra of Duane Morris LLP

As physician practices, health care entities, private equity and venture capital firms consider physician practice investments and acquisitions, the players need to address the unique nature of physicians and physician practices in order to assure a successful deal. Peter Drucker is quoted as saying that “Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.” With respect to physician practice investments and acquisitions, communication is key to the ultimate success of the transaction.

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Pension Plan Withdrawal Liability Presents A “Risky Gambit” to Private Equity Funds

Guest post by Michael T. Bindner of Frost Brown Todd LLC

A Federal District Court recently called investments in private companies that participate in a multiemployer pension plan (MPP) a “risky gambit” because of the potential for exposing the MMP’s investors to withdrawal liability[1]. This type of liability is sometimes referred to as a “hidden liability” because, in some situations, investors may have exposure for the liability even if they did not affirmatively assume the liability under a purchase agreement.

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10 Tips to Help Companies Prepare for and Manage a PE Investment

Guest post by Angela Humphreys and Michael Geldart from Bass, Berry & Sims PLC and Excellere Partners

In an article published in the ACC Docket, the official publication of the Association of Corporate Counsel, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Angela Humphreys and co-author Michael Geldart, Chief Compliance Officer and Partner at Denver-based private equity investment firm Excellere Partners, provided 10 tips on how companies can prepare for private equity investment and manage the private equity relationship post-transaction.

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