If you are creating a short business plan to enter in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge or to send to an investor, how do you make your plan stand out from the pack?
With the March 11 deadline for the Challenge looming, our judges, all very experienced in business planning and capital-raising, have some advice for you on writing a plan, whether you are starting your very first business or are a serial entrepreneur. “You have a short space, we get a stack of these, you have to grab our attention from the start,” Melissa Krinzman told the audience Tuesday night at our Business Plan Bootcamp at Miami Dade College. So let’s get started.
Krinzman, a veteran Challenge judge and managing director of Venture Architects, which helps companies with business planning and the capital-raising process, moderated a panel that included Richard Ginsburg, a former CEO of electronic security companies and co-founder of G3 Capital Partners, a mid-market and early stage investment company; Steven McKean, founder and CEO of Acceller, a 13-year-old Miami-based tech company in the business of customer acquisition for phone, cable and satellite companies, and a Challenge judge; and Mike Tomas, CEO of Miami-based Bioheart, president of ASTRI Group, an early-stage private equity investment group in the healthcare space, and a Challenge judge in the FIU Track.
According to the panel, a short business plan should always include:
• A strong opening statement: “We want to know what it is you actually do. If we have to keep guessing we don’t want to keep reading. Action verbs are important: Do you manufacture, do you sell, do you create. Be specific,” said Krinzman.
• The problem you are solving in the marketplace: Also include how your solution is better than the competition. And don’t say you don’t have any competition; directly or indirectly, there is always competition.
• How you plan to make money: This may seem obvious but it is surprising how many entries expend all their space on explaining their product or service and its awesome features and forget to include this. Are you a subscription-based model, are you selling a product nationally or locally. Tell us.
• Sales and marketing: If you are already on the market, briefly tell us your marketing strategy and your customers. If you don’t have customers yet, who do you think they will be and how will you market to them?
• Team: No need for long bios here — include relevant experience for you and members of your team.
“Include why you have the right management team and why we should bet on you,” said Tomas. What particularly impresses an investor, he said: relevant industry experience, if you’re a serial entrepreneur and been there before and if you have people around you that are stronger than you are.
The panelists also talked about their vast capital-raising experiences, as both entrepreneurs and investors. “I have been raising money my entire life, you never stop,” said Tomas. “To me the most important component is networking — go to as many events as you can and get to know folks… Some of the best leads I got for raising funds were from folks who have never written a check.”
All mentioned looking for investors that can offer more than a check — expertise in your industry, connections, management experience. There’s value even if the answer is no.