By James Harris at February 19 2020 23:06:11
Every entrepreneur has been there. You need to write a business plan to get your idea off the ground and have no idea how to approach it. The first thing most people do is Google, "Sample business proposal." Why? Well, it's quite simple really. They want to get a head start on the process by looking at what someone else has written. It is an understandable position to take if you are under pressure and need a boost. What people don't realise is that there are inherent dangers in using a sample business proposal.
How Will The Audience Know That I have Used A Sample? This is a common question we get asked and while we cannot speak for the entire investment community we can refer to our own experience as investors and former bankers. Here is a list of the top ten reasons why it is obvious that a sample has been used: Executive Summary is dull and formulaic without communicating why we should invest. Market information doesn't align with the specific demographics relating to the proposal or is obsolete. Entrepreneur's knowledge of the market dynamics is sketchy under questioning and it is clear that what they have written in the proposal is the sum total of their knowledge on the subject.
They lead to entrepreneurs skimming over the research component leading to a proposal that is disjointed and fails to make a cohesive business case. Having a sample business proposal as a guide detracts from the entrepreneur engaging fully in the business planning process in that they will have only a cursory understanding of the finer details of their proposal. It will not prepare the entrepreneur for detailed questioning around their business strategy and by association their financial projections. We have seen this all too often in presentations for equity finance. It is glaringly obvious when someone does not understand the proposal intimately and this devastates credibility and trust, virtually nullifying your chances of convincing an investor to part with their cash.
Information around target customers is not based in empirical fact, more observational opinion. Competitor Analysis is obsolete and doesn't track minor competitors or industry trends that could present opportunities. The business strategy doesn't intuitively line up with the financial projections of the business. Financial anomalies are frequent. The level of analysis in the financial section is low. Elevator analysis (only observational comments) is a glaring sign that no detailed analysis has been undertaken. The language style in the business proposal is inconsistent and in different tenses. The structure of the business proposal in terms of the content lay out does not flow intuitively. Think trying to fit a square peg into a circle! The proposal doesn't make a definite conclusion or sound argument to invest (or lend). The lack of analysis leads to inadequate risk mitigation leaving many questions unasnwered.