What is it that makes a business plan compelling for investors? My name is Barry Horowitz, and I’m a growth strategy consultant.
I want to talk to you about the key things in a business plan that will make it important and exciting for potential investors, central team members, and anyone else who will be reading your plan. The most important thing they want to see is a big problem or a big opportunity (meaning something that can only be done now in a way that’s never been done before). But it really needs to be a big problem that they can recognize right away or that you can explain with great examples.
What is the Need for Your Solution?
Really talk about this in terms of whether this is an aspirin or vitamin: is this something that your market needs to have or is it just something nice to have? These days it’s very difficult to get funding for something that’s just a nice-to-have.
Who has that Problem?
Then the question is: who has that problem? Have you identified exactly who the audience is? Can we identify why they really want that problem solved? How are they dealing with it now? Why is it clear that they should pay you to solve that problem for them? So those are the critical things, and that market segment needs to be pretty large.
Why are You The Solution?
And then of course, why are you the right people to do this? Why are you the ones that are going to win in this market? What experience do you have in this market? If there are gaps in your team (as there often are in early stage companies), how are you going to fill those gaps?
Maybe you have a great set of advisors. If you put advisors in there, make sure that they really are working with you because any investor looking at that will probably call them all and just find out how involved they are with the company. If you have the team, a problem, and a great market then they also want to understand if you have a sensible business model. How is it that you’re going to get to those customers?
Finally, they’ll look at financial projections. We know that nobody can really predict the future, so financial projections are often wrong and often will be discounted by investors looking at a plan. But the thing they want to know is if you really thought this through. Have you done the work for thinking through your assumptions? How’s this going to get built? How are you going to get to that point?
So again, a big problem, a large audience that cares deeply about that problem, and a team that really understands the market and the problem well enough to deliver. Those are the things that investors are looking to see in a business plan.
About Barry Horwitz
Barry established Horwitz & Co. to help senior management teams grow their businesses in a strategic and sustainable way. He leverages his experience from a career focused on growth initiatives in a broad range of industries in his work with early-stage and middle market companies. At the Boston Consulting Group, he helped Fortune 500 companies assess competitive situations and develop growth strategies. As a co-founder and COO of a venture-backed Internet startup, he raised over $12 million in funding and led the company’s growth for three years. As VP of marketing and strategy for a billion-dollar retail chain, he developed the growth strategy for the core business while also initiating the launch of a new business unit that was later sold off successfully.
In addition to his consulting work, Barry teaches courses in strategy and entrepreneurship at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. He earned his MBA at Harvard Business School and his Bachelor’s degree in economics at Colby College.