Kawasaki is going to burn out on his blogging soonner or later, but I hope he keeps his work online. At the moment his is among the best entrepreneurial writing online. (Joel Spolsky and Paul Graham are two other favorites.)
Let the Good Times Roll by Guy Kawasaki: The Zen of Business Plans:
... "# Pitch, then plan. Most people create a business plan, and it's a piece of crap: sixty pages long, fifty-page appendix, full of buzzwords, acronyms, and superficialities like, “All we need is one percent of the market.” Then they create a PowerPoint pitch from it. Is it any wonder why that the plans are lousy when they are based on crappy pitches? The correct sequence is to perfect a pitch (10/20/30), and then write the plan from it. Write this down: A good business plan is an elaboration of a good pitch; a good pitch is not the distillation of good business plan. Why? Because it's much easier to revise a pitch than to revise a plan. Give the pitch a few times, see what works and what doesn't, change the pitch, and then write the plan. Think of your pitch as your outline, and your plan as the full text. How many people write the full text and then write the outline?
# Put in the right stuff. Here's what a business plan should address: Executive Summary (1), Problem (1), Solution (1), Business Model (1), Underlying Magic (1), Marketing and Sales (1), Competition (1), Team (1), Projections (1), Status and Timeline (1), and Conclusion (1). Essentially, this is the same list of topics as a PowerPoint pitch. Those numbers in parenthesis are the ideal lengths for each section; note that they add up to eleven. As you'll see in a few paragraphs, the ideal length of a business plan is twenty pages, so I've given you nine pages extra as a fudge factor.
# Focus on the executive summary. True or false: The most important part of a business plan is the section about the management team. The answer is False.* The executive summary, all one page of it, is the most important part of a business plan. If it isn't fantastic, eyeball-sucking, and pulse-altering, people won't read beyond it to find out who's on your great team, what's your business model, and why your product is curve jumping, paradigm shifting, and revolutionary. You should spend eighty percent of your effort on writing a great executive summary. Most people spend eighty percent of their effort on crafty a one million cell Excel spreadsheet that no one believes.
# Keep it clean. The ideal length of a business plan is twenty pages or less, and this includes the appendix. For every ten pages over twenty pages, you decrease the likelihood that the plan will be read, much less funded, by twenty-five percent. When it comes to business plans, less is more. Many people believe that the purpose of a business plan is to create such shock and awe that investors are begging for wiring instructions; the reality is that the purpose of a a business plan is to get to the next step: continued due diligence with activities such as checking personal and customer references. The tighter the thinking, the shorter the plan; the shorter the plan, the faster it will get read.
# Provide a one-page financial projection plus key metrics. Many business plans contain five year projections with a $100 million top line and such minute levels of detail that the budget for pencils is a line item. Everyone knows that you're pulling numbers out of the air that you think are large enough to be interesting, but not so large as to render urine drug-testing unnecessary. Do everyone a favor: Reduce your Excel hallucinations to one page and provide a forecast of the key metrics of your business--for example, the number of paying customers. These key metrics provide insight into your assumptions. For example, if you're assuming that you'll get twenty percent of the Fortune 500 to buy your product in the first year, I would suggest checking into a rehab program.
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