The One Page Business Plan Series No. 2: “How to Speak Your Business Plan”
Once you have written a business plan, what do you, as the business leader, do with it and how does the plan benefit you? Ideally it will crystallize your thinking on a variety of key issues that are central to the success of your business.
A business plan will frame discussions for you with customers, suppliers, bankers, investors and alliance partners. You need to be able to converse easily and hit the salient points when talking with various stake holders. The first step is to get your talking points down for what is in the plan. This is where the one page business plan that we described earlier can be invaluable. You need to be able to present it in a compelling way, in the so-called “elevator speech” where you articulate your business vision in the time it takes to go three or four floors on an elevator, typically under 30 seconds. It needs to be natural so that you can say it as you would in normal conversation yet also intrigue the listener to say “Tell me more.”
Beyond the “elevator speech” you also have to be able to answer detailed questions from possible investors or lenders when you meet with them. This audience wants to see how adaptable you are to new business circumstances and how flexible you are in crafting solutions to problems that arise. Your answers will tell them how thoroughly you have thought out your business and will tell them a lot about how you overcome obstacles and solve problems. List out the various circumstances that you anticipate you will encounter and prepare answers for how you would respond. These are the selling points you have to master in order to communicate successfully with those people and organizations your business touches day to day and who will ultimately determine how successful you are. Stake holders who touch your business want to understand whether you have a broad enough view of your business and its potential but also want to know that you know the details well and clearly enough to be able to be both leader and operational chief of your enterprise.
Part of what they need to see and understand is not only the plan, but how well you as an executive can lead. Are you a leader who can steadfastly execute on the objectives laid out in your business plan every business day, solve the problems that arise, recognize changing circumstances and adapt to them and continue to pursue your dream? Then you need to articulate that in way that is clear, concise and tangible. Find examples of where you have achieved this already and share those stories to illustrate how you will accomplish the future objectives. Execution is critical to success of any venture, whether you have the latest social media innovation or you simply want to open a gift shop on the corner. Formulating the idea, planning for its success, getting it financed while understanding the obstacles and threats to success and then executing daily toward goals are the imperatives of the business leader.
Speaking your business plan persuasively with stake holders of all types is the next step that a leader needs to master in order to obtain funding from those who can supply the capital to enable you to take the next step in the path to business success.
Ed O’Dea is a former CFO/COO with significant experience in general and financial management, debt & equity financing, mergers and acquisitions and strategic and financial planning with particular emphasis in the start-up environment. He has a solid understanding of all corporate functions from sales and marketing, to human resources and accounting and reporting which he adeptly applies to the solutions and counsel that he provides his clients. Ed serves as the Valuations and 409A Practice Lead.