It doesn’t have to be fancy and bound in leather, but your completed Venture Plan should look professionally prepared and be ready for serious review by potential investors. Here’s how to make sure it looks right and does the job.
When you sit down to write your plan, think of who will be reading it and put yourself into their shoes as much as possible. In most cases, the people who will read your plan are going to be potential investors, bankers, and/or potential partners. Your readers have likely seen dozens, and perhaps even hundreds, of plans. These people do not often have a great deal of time, so prepare your Venture Plan accordingly.
In general you should:
- Write the plan yourself. Get help if you need it, but do not let your accountant, bookkeeper, or other professional write your plan for you. You may let them help you with the Financial Plan, for example (which is usually the best idea), but you need to know your plan inside and out-and the best way to ensure that is to write it yourself.
- Back up every claim you make with supporting evidence. Include surveys and detailed market research as an addendum or appendix to your plan.
- Ensure that your writing is error-free and edited for proper form and syntax.
- Choose a simple, common font such as Times New Roman, and stick with it throughout the document.
- Use professionally produced drawings, photographs, and graphs. Unless you are a professional, your own attempts at art will look amateurish. The same is true for videos, if you’re using them, or a computer-based demo.
- Bind the pages simply (and bear in mind the more professional investors may wish to scan the document into their computer system).
- Make sure you include your contact information right on the cover. This is one of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make.
Sections of the Plan: The first two sections should appear at the beginning of your Venture Plan. It is not as critical that the others follow in the order given, but this sequence will likely work well:
This is by far the most important part of your plan. It should be no more than two – four pages in length. State the idea, the opportunity, how much money you need, where you hope to get it, how it will be spent, and how much equity you are offering in return. Importantly there should be a number of exit strategies detailed to show the prospective investor you have thought seriously about how and when they might get a return on their investment. Readers who are interested may then go on to read the rest of your plan. The Executive Briefing should be a stand-alone ‘Equity Marketing’ document that you can email to prospective investors to whet their appetite for the Venture Plan proper.
YOUR PLANNED VENTURE
Describe your idea as clearly as possible, with diagrams, photographs or any other medium necessary to communicate it to the reader. Back up the idea with a description of the target market. Tell why the opportunity exists and why your idea will capture that market.
Explain how you determined the product or service was appropriate to the market. Include explanations of the ‘four Ps’ (price, product, promotion, placement).
BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
Tell who you are, what experience and skills you bring to this venture, and whether or not you’ve run your own businesses in the past. Describe and explain their successes or failures. Include your own, short, biography here. Don’t fall into the trap of including a full length resume – a short, concise snap shot of your background and relevant experience is what’s required.
Provide the names, and short bios, of the people you will use to fill the key positions in the business.
Tell when and where you plan to start the business and why you chose this time frame and location.
Describe, in detail, how your business will operate. Include diagrams of production or service areas if appropriate.
Describe, in detail, how you will attract and keep customers or clients and how you will deliver your product or service to them.
Provide a detailed financial plan, including a cashflow projection, which accounts for the money you will need and the planned return on investment to investors.
Detail the likely strategy that will be followed to effect an exit in the form of what’s called a ‘Significant Liquidity Event’. While listing on the stock exchange is one option, it’s a rare outcome. Exits are more usually achieved by way of a Trade Sale to a strategic buyer or a Management Buy Out, where existing management raise the funds to buy out other investors.
Include your own and your team’s detailed biographies here as well as additional market research and any other information that is too detailed to be included in the body of the plan.
Crafting a Venture Plan is no easy task and it is usually worthwhile to get guidance and advice from professionals who prepare equity marketing documentation for a living. That being said the entrepreneur needs to take the time to write the document, as the ability to communicate the venture is the first test of the equity investor.