By Garrett Sutton, Esq.
Business plans are meant to be seen. Whether you wrote your plan to attract funding or to help with management, you will need to show the plan to someone.
If you wrote your business plan in order to attract funding and/or investment, you will need to get the plan into the hands of the people who can decide whether or not to give you money.
Most of us are uncomfortable when it comes to talking about money. Many of us were taught that it is rude to talk about something so crass. But if you want someone to give you a loan or invest in your company, you will have to get over your upbringing because you can’t just mail out your plan and hope for the best.
If you want loan or investment approval you will need to take meetings and present your plan. Don’t think that just having the meeting and leaving the plan for the decision-makers to read will cut it. Don’t leave something as important as your business’ future to chance. Decision-makers may promise to read your plan and give it consideration, but you can’t be sure they actually will. The only way to be sure that your potential investors or lenders get your message is to present it.
The presentation of your business plan should be a business meeting, a formal presentation. Even if the potential investors are your parents and your little brother, you want to present your plan in a serious and professional manner. (Remember, although the law may change, you can’t advertise for people to come to this meeting.) But for your pre-existing audience, your friends and family and any professionals you’ve been in touch with, you may want to use a conference room. This room can be at the potential investor or lender’s office. If not and you lack the facilities, try borrowing space from a friend or renting a conference room. You may want to use presentation equipment, such as a computer/projector for your PowerPoint presentation. You should give your audience hard copies of your plan as well. When is up to you.
You can have the plan delivered before the meeting so that your audience will have time to formulate questions, though you run the risk of them making a negative decision before you have a chance to highlight all your positive points. Try having the plan delivered just the day before the meeting so your audience can become familiar with the plan, but it unlikely to make a decision. Or you can hand out the plan at the beginning of the meeting, though you run the risk of your audience reading while you are trying to present. Either way, have copies of your presentation slides to hand out so your audience can follow along.
Your slides and their corresponding handouts should be short, ideally bullet-points, and be in the same visual style as your plan. Your presentation should be less formal than your plan in that you don’t want to just sound like you are reading. Try to make it as much like a story as you possibly can. Practice your presentation and get feedback from people you trust to give you honest opinions before you go before people who can make or break your business. Keep in mind that your audience can read – your slides and your handouts – so you don’t have to. Let your slides be reminders for your talk. Let them remind you what points you want to make and then expand from there.
If you wrote your business plan to aid in management, who sees the plan will depend on your business, your style and your goals. Obviously, if the whole business is comprised of you and your spouse, there don’t need to be a lot of secrets. But if yours is a business with a rigid hierarchy with decisions made only at the top level, you may want to limit access. You may choose to share your plan with management only or show employees on a need-to-know basis. You might distribute a version of the plan (say, a version without financial detail, but perhaps with graphs and percentages instead) or you could include sections of the plan in your employee manual. It is entirely up to you. Odds are you will need to consider the twin needs of protecting sensitive information and building a sense of ownership and only you know how to do so.
While people involved with money will have a pretty good idea why you are showing them your business plan, employees might not. You might include your business plan presentation as part of a company retreat or have a special meeting just for the plan. Maybe you want to introduce the plan to everyone at once or department by department. Wherever you choose to have your plan unveiled, be sure you are present. You may choose to deliver the entire message yourself or you might be better served using a team approach with appropriate managers discussing different sections. Again, it comes down to your particular approach and your particular business. Regardless, be sure to explain what a business plan is and how it should be used, why you are showing it and what you expect listeners to do with it. Similarly, if you use the plan as part of your training program for new employees, be sure that they are not just handed the plan cold, but are given the same message you gave the others.
As your business and your business knowledge grows, take some time to check back in with employees to see how the plan is being used and how employees feel it is working. Get suggestions and comments from employees and then use that input to improve the plan. Let the plan work as a road map, a checkpoint and a management tool. For more information on this topic, please read my book Writing Winning Business Plans.
To win in business requires a winning business plan. To write a winning business plan requires reading Garrett Sutton’s dynamic book on the topic. Writing Winning Business Plans provides the insights and the direction on how to do it well and do it right.
Rich Dad/Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki says, “The first step in business is a great business plan. It must be a page turner that hooks and holds a potential investor. Garrett Sutton’s Writing Winning Business Plans is THE book for key strategies on preparing winning plans for both business and real estate ventures.”