Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The 5-Page Business Plan

It's 4AM and I just sent out copies of my 5-page business plan for the Northwest Entrepreneurs' Network's First Look Forum to a bunch of advisors, plus a few extra people who I haven't previously solicited advice from. It's so easy to wait to finish something until right before the deadline, so I deliberately set my own deadline three days early so I'd be able to get some feedback before I have to submit it.

If you're still working on your own plan, here are some thoughts from my process:

  • I've been pitching my business concept and long-term vision to people for months now, but where does that go? Strictly speaking, it's not an answer to any of the five questions they're asking. I ended up putting parts of it in each of the first three sections (Market/Opportunity, Novelty/Concept, and Scalability of the Business Model).
  • Similarly, in discussions with people, a decent amount of technology has been discussed -- what I'm using, why, what's good about it, what were the alternatives, etc. Almost none of that made it into the document. Investors want confidence that you'll make the right technical decisions. They don't need details on those decisions.
  • The addressable market, funding needs, sales projections -- if I was a business person, these probably would have been trivial. I think I did a reasonable job and, in this document, a lot of detail isn't required.
  • Competitors -- there's an often discussed trap of saying you have no competitors. It's like a catch-22, though. If you have exact competitors, you probably don't have a viable business. I pointed out competitors and how none of them are doing exactly what Groupthink is. I did not have room for one of those market charts, but, when I do one, I'm thinking of putting Groupthink in the middle -- Papa Bear's on one side, Mama Bear's on the other side, and Groupthink is in the middle, just right.
  • Scalability -- don't confuse scalable technology with a scalable business. I wrote about both.
  • The Team -- gee, it's just me right now. I wrote about both my own skills and experience as well as my search for a CEO.
  • Even if you're not applying to the First Look Forum, this is a great exercise. I put a lot of stuff down on paper that I've been saying over and over again. Now I have the opportunity to really refine it.
All in all, I'm pretty happy with the version I sent out, but I also fully expect that I'll be making major surgery on it once I get some feedback. And, of course, when I wake up, I'll have at least half a dozen things I've realized on my own while I slept. I predict I'll be busy until Friday.


Unknown said...

hey, i'm about to right my 5page business plan, can you help by sending me a sample please?


Roy Leban said...

@Fatima: if you search on the web, you can find lots of sample business plans.

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