What consists of a business plan
What should be in a business plan?
What is a business plan?
Writing is precise thinking
The business plan is a written representation of the entire planned development of a commercial enterprise. Consequently, all aspects of the business plan should be dealt with which influence the future development of the company. This also includes historical data from which important assumptions can be derived. In any case, a business plan should be formulated briefly, concisely and precisely. However, it is not and should not look like a scientific working paper.
By definition, an early stage company does not have a long and therefore meaningful history. But the previous professional life paths of the founders as well as the histories of competitors and target markets are interesting and should be taken into account.
There are no standards for the structure, order and naming of the individual chapters. Depending on the target group of the business plan, they have proven certain structures.
What are the purposes of the business plan?
Planning basis and advertising
A business plan serves different purposes. On the one hand, it is the written anticipation of the founder's own planning, which he can use to plan his use of resources and as a controlling instrument. On the other hand, the business plan is an advertising document addressed to the capital market in order to attract funds and shareholders.
In addition to the person of the founder, the business plan for an early stage investor is one of the most important points of reference when assessing an investment opportunity. This is the only purpose that will be discussed further below.
There are also business plans that are written, for example, to apply for funding, loans or to participate in business plan competitions. These business plans do not necessarily have to be different from the investor plans. For the success of a business plan, however, it is helpful if the author takes into account how the addressee reads the business plan and which information has which meaning for him.
The target group of the early stage business plan
Always think of the reader!
Investors receive a large number of spontaneous investment inquiries every day. The relatively small teams in the investor's house have to form an initial opinion in a very short time. The situation can be compared with the assessment of applications for a job, where the first lines can decide. It is therefore important that the author of a business plan accommodates the reader through design, structure and expression and enables him to quickly get an overview of essential aspects of the business plan.
Also make sure that the investor can read the language in which you are writing the business plan. Internationally active investors prefer the business plan in English, even if the investment team is made up of Germans. At the latest, the members of the higher-level decision-making bodies are mostly international and an investor has no resources whatsoever to translate their business plan into another language.
The key role of the business plan is assigned to the first chapter, the so-called executive summary. In the worst case only this chapter is read. Try to summarize the entire business plan here in a nutshell, without using lurid adjectives. Put yourself in the position of the reader and first of all answer the question of what the investor gets when he invests in your company. Knowledge of the business model and the interests of the investor helps a lot. You are welcome to assume that he is first interested in a return that is commensurate with the risk and only secondarily in your industry, a trend, working with you or improving the world.
Lastly, a piece of advice on dealing with investors: give your contact details on the cover sheet so that you can be reached directly. Do not make it too difficult for him and do not put up barriers between you and him, such as waiting room ladies, office services, lawyers or financial advisors. The early stage investor expects direct access to the company's founder. Give him time to review your business plan before you ask him about the current state of affairs. Many investors proceed according to the motto: "Don't call me, I call you."
Typical structure of a business plan
Varies by industry
The following structure example is largely self-explanatory and goes into further important capital of a business plan to the address of early stage investors. It is not intended to be a blueprint, but rather to encourage you to consider certain aspects in your own business plan.
- Including "SWOT analysis" (strengths / weaknesses of your own project and opportunities / risks of the market)
- What business is the company in?
- What strategy is the company pursuing (the vision)?
- What is the company's immediate business purpose (mission)?
- History and shareholder structure of the company?
- Milestone planning
- Historical and future market development (qualitative and quantitative)
- Past and future trends
- Relevant market segments for your own project?
Offer of the company
- What products / services does the company offer?
- What problem is this supposed to solve? What is its value to the customer?
- Manufacturing process?
- Schedule for development and sales launch?
- Distinguishing features of the products / services offered?
- How does the company earn money with it?
- Description of the service and maintenance activities as well as the quality assurance system
- Who are the customers, target group analysis?
- How do you get customers?
- Do you form partnerships to acquire customers?
- What channels do you use to reach customers and deliver products / services?
- Share of sales of the respective products / services
- Planned sales prices (with details of the basis for price determination) and profit margin
- How are reference customers won?
- Who are competitors and why? How do you compare with the competition?
- Who can become a competitor in the short term?
- How are they superior to the competition (how sustainable are these USBs)?
- How did you reach barriers against competition?
- Which influences / factors are decisive for success?
- What are the roles and responsibilities?
- What are the professional and private backgrounds of the team members (CVs, references)?
- Who are the members of your supervisory board / advisory board and what can the members contribute?
- Personal intention to found the company?
- In which areas is there additional need (experience, skills), how and by which person (s) should these be remedied?
- Current financial status
- Future planning over 5 years (income statement, balance sheet, cash flow)
- Personnel plan
- Investment plan
- Company funding schedule
The deal - investment in the company
- Amount of investment sought
- Assumed company value
- What do you expect from the investor besides money?
- Potential opportunities for the sale of the company (exit)
- Product brochures
- Press releases
- Annual accounts
Reader service and other resources
From: Prof. Dr. Stefan Jugel, What can be done right and wrong when creating a business plan, presentation slides
Criteria for rejected projects (in order of frequency)
- The product or service already exists with an impressive presence in the targeted market
- Break-even can only be achieved in the very long term
- Utopian assumption for sales / earnings development
- Without any recognizable long-term customer benefit
- No venture capital industry
- The project has no exit story (neither an IPO nor a trade sale)
- Low market entry barriers for competition, innovation can be copied quickly
- Important people are intensively involved in other projects, no real commitment
- Financial needs primarily due to marketing expenses
- The product or service does not allow for scalability
- Team without industry knowledge
- Many venture capital companies approached prematurely and unsuccessfully
- Financial requirement of the project falls below (or exceeds) the critical venture capital size
Identifier of further pursued projects (in order of frequency)
- Customer benefit is clearly understandable
- Team with high technical and management competence
- Product or service innovation with a clear unique selling point
- Team has already formed strategic alliances
- Team has an excellent network
- Product or service with high defense capability
- "Proof-of-concept" (prototype) available
- Realistic break-even possible in the medium term
We would like to thank the BVK members for creating the article:
- Hasso Plattner Ventures Management GmbH (Head),
- Leonardo Venture GmbH & Co. KGaA,
- Siemens Financial Services GmbH,
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