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.

As Investment Firms Continue to Be Targeted by Email Intruders, Authorities Release Tips to Prevent Intrusions and Mitigate Harm

Guest post by Kristen J. Mathews and Tiffany Quach – Morrison & Foerster LLP

Investment firms, such as private equity firms, venture capital firms and hedge funds, are an attractive target for cyber criminals because they regularly send and receive wire transfers of funds for investments. As a result, they are increasingly being targeted by “business email compromises,” that is, legitimate-seeming phishing emails that are used to gain access to usernames and passwords for the email accounts of firm employees. Once a criminal logs into  an email account using the stolen credentials, the intruder searches for emails about wire transfers, sets up rules for auto-forwarding and auto-deleting emails that meet certain criteria, and leverages delegate and administrator rights to access other email accounts at the same firm for the same nefarious purposes. 

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Recent Trends in Shareholder Activism

Guest post by Richard J. Grossman and Alexander J. Berg of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates

Shareholder activism remains pervasive in the corporate landscape, as many companies continue to face new, and sometimes more sophisticated, activist situations. Recent activism-related trends indicate that the landscape is continually shifting, and companies’ strategies for dealing with activism should therefore also evolve and adapt.

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High Quality Deal Flow: The Secret Sauce of Great Venture Investing

Guest post by Guest post by Paul A. Jones of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP

Quality deal flow – the insiders call it “proprietary deal flow” – is the lifeblood of venture capital investing. You can’t do the best deals if you don’t see them until after someone else does them. Quantity may have its own quality on the battlefield: not so in the venture investing world.

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Highlights from the Currently Stalled Small Business Administration Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2019

Guest post by Damien Specht and Ali Young of Morrison & Foerster LLP

Last month, Senator Marco Rubio, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, released the Chairman’s mark to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2019 (the “SBA Reauthorization Act”).  This legislation aims to modernize and streamline SBA programs, and would be the first comprehensive reauthorization of the Small Business Act in nearly twenty years.  Although the legislation appears stalled, it is likely that many of these initiatives will find their way into future policy initiatives. Here are a few potential changes to track in the SBA Reauthorization Act:

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Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs: The Same – Only Different

Guest post by Paul A. Jones of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP

Venture Capitalists (VCs) and entrepreneurs are a poster child couple for the notion of the love-hate relationship. Any VCs who have been around the block more than a time or two is certain to have their stories of inept, dishonest, and/or overwrought entrepreneurs. Ditto any entrepreneurs who have spent any serious time courting or managing relationships with VCs. And yet, the VC/Entrepreneur nexus is the greatest innovation engine the world has ever seen. Go figure.

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