Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Musings from Stepping Up to Business Conference

I conducted a workshop earlier today at the Stepping Up to Business Conference. It was targeted at small businesses and business start-ups seeking financing.  I thought my workshop went well after a slow start due to A/V issues (and a restroom port of call). My topic: Writing a Business Plan / Financing Proposal. I received some really good feedback. I number of attendees told me "Great job!" or that they really enjoyed the session. I'm glad. I aim to please. Finance can be fun, or at least interesting and I try to make it so. If any of the attendees/participants read this, thank you for coming.

In conducting the workshop I took the top-down approach. (I mean, I do consider myself a strategic advisor and highly strategic so this makes sense, right?) There are a number of websites offering business plan templates and a number of software programs out there that purport to help you write your business plan. However, I've had a number of business owners tell me they couldn't get started or the plan they wrote using these seemed too perfunctory. These plans templates are good. Some are great. But it's like many things. Garbage in, garbage out. If you spend time down in the weeds focused on the details, you miss the whole point of a business plan which is to view your business from on high...and all the things that influence and impact your business.

I focused on writing an Executive Summary. Honestly, no lender or investor wants to see your 20, 30, or 40-page business plan UNTIL they've decided that they will seriously consider lending to or investing in your business. And even then, if you are pursuing smaller sums of financing, they may not wish to see it believing the Executive Summary sufficient. You want to interest an investor in your business? Give him or her a copy of your 1-page company profile. If they express further interest, then provide them with an Executive Summary 3-5 pages in length. Give them an in-depth business plan before they are sure of their interest and you will likely run them off. Or they'll take it and get back to you when they finally get around to reading it. Which will be....a looonnnggg time from now. (Again, all this assumes you didn't know the investor from Adam. If you were introduced by a source credible to the investor, he or she will be much more receptive to your long business plan. But leading with the Executive Summary is still optimal.)

I will spend the next few blogs responding to some of the questions posed by the attendees. I assume that if one person has the question, others have the same or very similar questions.

You'll also be happy to know (for all my adoring fans out there - Hah!), that the conference organizers video-taped all the workshops, panels, and keynote address. They will make the video of my workshop available to me. And I will then make it available to you. Until then, stay tuned for more.

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