First Steps: Writing the Management Section of Your Business Plan
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
In their book Write Your Business Plan, the staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. offer an in-depth understanding of what’s essential to any business plan, what’s appropriate for your venture, and what it takes to ensure success. In this edited excerpt, the authors discuss what type of information you should include in the management section of your business plan.
In the management section of your business plan, you describe who'll run the company. This may be no more than a simple paragraph noting that you’ll be the only executive and describing your background. Or it may be a major section in the plan, consisting of an organizational chart outlining interrelationships among every department and manager in the company, plus bios of all key executives.
Time and again, financiers utter some variation of the following statement: “I don’t invest in ideas; I invest in people.” Whether this is the whole story—investors certainly prefer capable people with good ideas to inept people with good ideas—there’s no doubt that you, and the people who run your company, will receive considerable scrutiny from financiers as well as from customers, suppliers and anyone else with an interest in your plan. People are, after all, a company’s most important asset. Not adequately addressing this issue in a business plan is a serious failing. Luckily, it’s one of the easiest parts.
Be sure to include all of the following parts, where applicable:
You. Before you can impress people with your management team, it’s important to let your readers know who's at the helm and who's selecting the management team. You, therefore, have to let them know your background, including your vision, your credentials, and why you chose the management team you did. You need to briefly explain what's expected of this management team and the role you see them playing in the future of this business.
Your managers. Identifying your managers is about presenting what they bring to the table. You can provide this by describing them in terms of the following characteristics:
Education. Impressive educational credentials among company managers provide strong reasons for an investor or other plan reader to feel good about your company. Use your judgment in deciding what educational background to include and how to emphasize it.
Employment. Prior work experience in a related field is something many investors look for. If you’ve spent ten years in management in the retail men’s apparel business before opening a tuxedo outlet, an investor can feel confident that you know what you’re doing. Likewise, you’ll want to explain the key, appropriate positions of your team members. Describe any relevant jobs in terms of job title, years of experience, names of employers, etc. Feel free to omit any irrelevant experience.
Skills. In addition to pointing out that you were a district sales manager for a stereo-equipment wholesaler, you should describe your responsibilities and the skills you honed while fulfilling them. Again, list the skills that your management team has that pertain to this business. Each time you mention skills that you or a member of your management team has spent years acquiring at another company, it will be another reason for an investor to believe you can do it at your own company.
Accomplishments. If you or one of your team members has been awarded patents, achieved record sales gains or once opened an unbelievable number of new stores in the space of a year, now’s the time to tell about it. And don’t brag: Just be factual and remember to quantify. If, for example, you have 12 patents or your sales manager had five years of 30 percent annual sales gains, this is the stuff investors and others reading your business plan will want to see.
Personal. Investors want to know with whom they’re dealing in terms of the personal side, too. Personal information on each member of your management team may include age, city of residence, notable charitable or community activities and, last but far from least, personal motivation for joining the company. Investors like to see vigorous, committed, involved people in the companies they back. Mentioning one or two relevant personal details of your key managers may help investors feel they know what they’re getting into, especially in today’s increasingly transparent business climate.
In a longer plan, when you give your management team’s background and describe their titles, go on and tell readers exactly what each member of the management team will be expected to do in the company. This may be especially important in a startup, in which not every position is filled from the start. If your marketing work is going to be handled by the CFO until you get a little further down the road, let readers know this up front. You certainly can’t expect them to figure that out on their own.
Board members. Your board members, and their reasons for being included, should be a brief part of your business plan. A board of directors gives you access to expertise, provided you choose them wisely, but at the cost of giving up control of the business to them. Technically, the officers of a corporation report to the board of directors, who bear the ultimate responsibility for the proper management of the company.
A board of advisors is a less-formal entity. You can have the same kind of people on an advisory board but you don’t report to them nor do they have the same power as a board of directors. Your board should be able to challenge your thinking, help you solve knotty problems, and even change management if necessary.
Outside professionals. Some of the most important people who’ll do work for you won’t work for you. Your attorney, your accountant and your insurance broker are all crucial members of your team. Your business plan should reassure readers that you have your bases covered in these important professional positions.
Investors want profit. They don’t just give money to people they like or admire. But it’s also true that if they don’t like, admire or at least respect the people running your company, they’re likely to look elsewhere. The management section of your plan is where you tell them about the human side of the equation. You can’t control your readers’ responses to that, but you owe it to them to provide the information.