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Write Your Business Plan

6 Tips for Making a Winning Business Presentation How to ensure your business plan will make an impact.

By Eric Butow

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This is part 9 / 12 of Write Your Business Plan: Section 1: The Foundation of a Business Plan series.

So you've looked over different types of business plans. Which one is best for you? Odds are that you'll need more than one variety. If you want to get maximum impact from your plan, you'll need to tailor it to address the particular needs of each potential audience. Here are some tips to make your presentation stand out from the pack.

Target Your Audience

The potential readers of a business plan are varied, ranging from bankers and venture capitalists to employees. Although this is a diverse group, it is also a finite one. Each type of reader does have certain typical interests. If you know these interests up front, you can consider them when preparing a plan for that particular audience.

Active venture capitalists see hundreds of plans in a year. Most plans probably receive no more than a glance from a given venture capitalist before being rejected; others get just a cursory inspection. Even if your plan excites initial interest, it may receive only a few minutes of attention. When courting these harried investors, it's essential that you make the right impression fast.

Related: 4 Business Plan Strategies For Attracting Investors

Be Concise

The key is to emphasize a compelling, succinct summary and explanation of the primary business concept and not stint on the details about the impressive backgrounds of your management team. That said, make it concise and to the point. Remember, time is of the essence to venture capitalists and other investors. Bankers tend to be more formal than venture capitalists and more concerned with financial strength than with exciting concepts and impressive resumes. For these readers, you'll want to give extra attention to balance sheets and cash flow statements. Ensure they're fully detailed and come with notes to explain any anomalies or possible points of confusion.

Angel investors may not insist on seeing a plan at all, but your responsibilities as a businessperson require you to show them one anyway. For such an informal investor, prepare a less formal plan. Rather than going for impressive bulk, seek brevity. An angel investor used to playing her hunches might be put off by an imposing plan rather than impressed with your thoroughness. If you were thinking about becoming a partner in a firm, you'd no doubt be very concerned with the responsibilities you would have, the authority you would carry, and the ownership you would receive in the enterprise.

Naturally, anyone who is considering partnering with you is going to have similar concerns. So ensure that any plan presented to a potential partner deals comprehensively with the ownership structure and clearly spells out matters of control and accountability.

Related: Why You Shouldn't Send Your Business Plan To Investors

Customers looking at your business plan probably do so because they are contemplating building a long-term relationship with you. They will certainly be more concerned about your relationships with your other customers and, possibly, suppliers than most of your readers. So deal with these sections of your plan in greater depth, but you can be more concise in other areas. Customers rarely read a company's business plan, so you'll probably have your mini-plan available for these occasions.

Suppliers have many of the same concerns as customers, except they're in the other direction on the supply chain. They'll want, above all, to make sure you can pay your bills, so be sure to include adequate cash flow forecasts and other financial reports. Suppliers, who naturally would like their customers to order more and more, are likely to be quite interested in your growth.

If you can show you're growing a lot, you may be in a better position to negotiate terms with your suppliers. Like customers, most suppliers do not take the time to read lengthy business plans, so again, focus on the shorter version for such purposes. Strategic allies usually come to you for something specific—technology,

distribution, complementary customer sets, etc. So, any plan you show to a potential ally will stress this aspect of your operation. Sometimes potential strategic partners may also be potential competitors, so you may want to present your plan in stages, saving sensitive information such as financials and marketing strategies for later in the process when trust has been established.

Related: How To Use Your Business Plan

Managers in your company use the plan primarily to remind themselves of objectives, keep strategies clear, and monitor company performance and market conditions. You'll want to stress such things as corporate mission and vision statements and analyses of current industry and economic factors. The most important part of a plan intended for management consumption is probably in the financials. You'll want to take special care to make it easy for managers to compare sales revenue, profitability, and other key financial measures against planned performance.

There's one caution to the plan-customization exercise. Limit your alterations from one plan to another. Don't show one set of numbers to a banker you're trying to borrow money from and another to a partner you're trying to lure on board. It's one thing to stress one aspect of your operation over another for presentation purposes and entirely another to distort the truth.

Proofread Your Plan

Just as fine dining locales offer finer sensory experiences than coffee shops or fast-food eateries, your presentation will differ from a working plan. A working plan should be free from major errors, but a presentation plan must be proofread carefully several times by several people so that it is definitely free of grammatical errors or typos. You also may find inconsistencies in a working plan that you need to address as you move forward with your business planning. These must not exist in a plan ready for presentation.

Related: How To Craft A Business Plan That Will Turn Investors Heads

Include investments

If you are already invested in the stock market, bonds, or even more directly in other businesses, you should let this be clearly known in your business plan. This provides readers with:

  • an understanding that you are somewhat versed in matters of investing your level of risk tolerance based on your investments
  • your plans for growth, or ability to raise capital depending on your choices of investments

Investing indicates that you are planning ahead and looking to make profits through long-term growth, dividends, and other income-producing investment vehicles. Personal and business investments are essential to readers as they paint a picture of how you will handle financing.

Related: How To Create A Business Plan Investors Will Love

Consider a Modular Plan

Instead of writing a whole new plan for each audience, construct a modular plan with interchangeable sections. Pull out the resume section for internal use, for example, and plug it back in for presentation to an investor. A modular, mix-and-match plan saves time and effort while preserving flexibility. Many people do this with resumes: They have sections that they include or take out depending on the job for which they are applying.

It's also essential that a presentation plan be accurate. A mistake here could be construed as a misrepresentation by an unsympathetic outsider. At best, it will make you look less than careful. If the plan's summary describes a need for $40,000 in financing, but the cash flow projection shows $50,000 in financing during the first year, you might think, "Oops! Forgot to update that summary to show the new numbers." The investor you're asking to pony up the cash, however, is unlikely to be so charitable.

Related: 4 Strategies For Crafting A Business Plan That Attracts

Think Visually

From infographics to YouTube, embrace the power of visuals to communicate your story. Depending on your industry and the software you are using, it may be in your best interest to utilize graphics to enhance the presentation of any business plan.

If, for example, you are in the fashion, food, or design industry or you are creating a new product, your visual image will certainly be worth a thousand words. The key is to choose the best graphics and insert them appropriately—remember that any visual must fit into the plan. Don't overdo it. Consider the impact visuals have in marketing, where studies show that people are much more likely to remember any presentation or advertisement with visuals than those without.

"Not only does our brain process visual information so much more effectively than text, but visuals are also simply more persuasive, says Noah Parsons, a Silicon Valley product development veteran. "A 3M-sponsored study found that presenters who use visual aids are 43 percent more effective in getting people to do what they want."

Related: The Main Objectives Of A Business Plan

He continues, "Imagine that you're trying to get funding for your business and that your presentation could be more effective if it presents data visually instead of with text. I'll bet that any entrepreneur would take advantage of that fact if they knew the statistics were that much in their favor."

You can also provide plan readers with information and even apps to look at what it is you are proposing. Having everyone in the room on the same page, literally, can allow them to utilize interactive features and help you display any new technology that factors into your business operations.

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