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What's the Best Way to Write a Business Plan?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the show-me-the-opportunity-cost dept.

Businesses 139

ohyeahohare asks: "I've got an idea that I want to start up in Australia. The business store front will be a .NET web application, however any business requires money to start up and I'm looking for some Venture Capitalists to help fund mine. As the saying goes, 'Businesses that fail to plan, plan to fail.' I need some advice on how to write up a killer business plan, everyone involved knows exactly where the business is heading. Does Slashdot have suggestions or recommendations from personal experience to offer?"

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well, it's obvious (2, Funny)

nxtw (866177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685016)

1. Ask Slashdot 2. ??? 3. Profit!

Re:well, it's obvious (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14685043)

This is a classic Slashdot joke, not a troll. Mod +1 Funny!

Re:well, it's obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14686229)

When I was young, jokes would imply some kind of, you know, funnyness. So you would, like, you known, have to actually laugh. Laughing is like coughing, only a bit more different.

Re:well, it's obvious (0)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686310)

A first post is modded redundant. Moderators sure are smart.

Re:well, it's obvious (1)

(1+-sqrt(5))*(2**-1) (868173) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686345)

A first post is modded redundant.
I've seen this on a few occasions; it implies, I believe, that the context is larger than the given thread, or the post redunds ex post facto.

From Experience (4, Insightful)

kvsnut (68323) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685048)

I recently started a business and a partnership. I googled for business plans and you can get samples for the SBA (Small Business Administration - US) probably au as well.

However after the rubber hit the road the document meant very little. That may not be the case for you since you will be looking for funding but until you have done it - it is difficult to know what you are doing.

I would suggest before you take on money and perhaps before you start your business that you read "The Partnership Charter".
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0738208981/102-97 56474-8088941?v=glance&n=283155 [amazon.com]

It raises some good questions whether your partner is your brother (my case) or a vc company (your case).

Good Luck

Re:From Experience (2, Informative)

eyepeepackets (33477) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685151)

"...after the rubber hit the road the document meant very little..."

A good business plan is a working document, you keep it updated to reflect where the business is at currently, where it's been and where you want it to go.

Think of it as your master planning document and it will serve you well.

Cheers.

Re:From Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14686598)

Um- asking the people on slashdot how to write a biz plan is a lot like asking business people to set up your network..... Sorry, but someone has to say it...

Re:well, it's obvious (2, Interesting)

3770 (560838) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685072)

You need to enthuse your investors.

I wrote a business plan and people didn't care much for it. I don't suck at writing (in my native language) but I still couldn't make it interesting enough.

I made a powerpoint presentation instead, with the same subject and almost got a standing ovation from a board of directors.

I'm no expert on this subject. But whatever your business plan is, I think a great presentation is more important. Learn from Steve Jobs.

Re:well, it's obvious (1)

Steinfiend (700505) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686287)

And I would argue it the other way. I made a presentation to some potential investors about 3 years ago, I was dynamic, energetic, motivated, had flashy things on screens and was all around a great Steve Jobs type speaker. The response was, "well you've got a great personality, but where is the real business plan?"

I think if you are trying to get people motivated towards a project then PowerPoints work, but if you want real money, then a business plan is the only way.

Re:well, it's obvious (3, Funny)

LoztInSpace (593234) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685107)

1. Ask Slashdot
2. Give away source code
3. Oh shit....

Go on - flame away & mod me down. Then go onto the next post about how there are no development jobs left.

Re:well, it's obvious (1)

kclittle (625128) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685379)

Oh, come on! Who modded this 'troll'? It's the funniest FP I've seen here on /. in weeks.

The Best Way (3, Funny)

vettemph (540399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685028)

What's the Best Way to Write a Business Plan?

  With a pencil... ...so you can erase your mistakes!

Ask an accountant! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14685092)

Don't take business advice from amateurs, you have a lot to lose.

Re:Ask an accountant! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14685764)

Don't take advice from lawyers either, for the same reason.

Skip the MS-dot NET part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14686006)

Skip the MS-dot NET part unless you have money to burn and can tolerate poor performance and lots of down time. There are lots and lots of existing storefront software already set to go, even the PHP stuff is polished now.

Re:The Best Way (2, Informative)

b4k3d b34nz (900066) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686444)

While writing a business plan is important, I suggest that you concentrate on developing a marketing plan and a strategy for just startup. Things like how to do accounting, business structure, long-term growth and other elements of your business will fall into place. Just don't get behind because your business is doing well.

Your business plan serves 3 main purposes: finding out if our business will actually work, getting you and others inside your business on the same track, and getting money from the SBA or a VC. As others have said, you should look to alternate sources of income other than VC's, as they will want a large share of the company for a small amount of effort on their part. Money's obviously important in starting a business, but you can probably get much further on much less money than you thought if you're willing to budget correctly and put things that aren't necessary on the back burner. Chances are good, since you're a technology company, that your main initial investment is going to be time. If that's the case, work, work, work, work until your business is in place. You won't really need a ton of money. Since you said everyone understands the company on the inside, you really only have one good reason to do it: finding out if your business will be profitable.

Answer these questions honesty: is there any competition? If not, is there any demand for my product? If not, how will I create it? If there is competition, will I differentiate because I'm faster, cheaper, or higher quality? As a side note: contrary to what you might think, price is usually not the #1 reason people buy things. It's trust. If you are trying to compete on price, you're going for the most fickle market: the people who will flip and go to a different product or service in a heartbeat as long as it's cheaper.

I suggest buying Guerrilla Marketing from Jay Conrad Levinson--it has a lot of excellent insight.

Mortgage your house... (5, Insightful)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685036)

If you have any equity on your house, use that first.
If you have rich relatives, use them first.
If you can get a bank loan, use that first.
If you can sell a kidney, do that first.

Unless you need big bucks to start your company, you should avoid VC firms. They'll want too much control, and too much money. Hell, I bet VISA and Mastercard have better interest rates.

Re:Mortgage your house... (4, Funny)

damsa (840364) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685056)

Parent is mistaken. VC firms don't charge interest. All they ask for is your soul and maybe your first born son.

Re:Mortgage your house... (1)

codegen (103601) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685164)

All they ask for is your soul and maybe your first born son

maybe?

Re:Mortgage your house... (5, Funny)

Imsdal (930595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686549)

maybe?

Yes. Sometimes two daughters will do. That's why it's so important to ask these fee questions up front.

Re:Mortgage your house... (3, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686694)

Moderated as funny, but this is actually insightful.
Too many business try to start off "big" with everything the customer wants. That's just a horrible idea, because if it bombs it's only more wasted time and money. Start small, with a small budget, and build according to what the customers ask for. And Don't use VC's unless you want them to sell your company after a couple years screwing you over in the process. VC's only talk about "exit strategy", can you guess what that means?

As for business plans, There are several examples and tutorials on google. I went to a "business plan seminar" once, and they said basically go look on google and copy one.

The best way is to ... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14685047)

use vi.

no, emacs!!

arrrggh!!

SCORE (2, Informative)

thinkliberty (593776) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685053)

You should be asking SCORE, not slashdot. See: http://www.score.org/ [score.org]
SCORE's 1,200 email counselors are ready to assist you.
Counseling is:
Confidential Counselors abide by a code of ethics and honor confidentiality.
Fast Ask questions 24/7; get answers in 48 hours. Receive advice straight to your email.
Free Offered free-of-charge, as a public service.

Re:SCORE (3, Informative)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685091)

I've tried using SCORE on four separate occasions, and found the information completely worthless. When asked about how to write a business plan, I was told I should write a business plan. When looking for information about how to handle pay for company owners, two different former HR people had no clue how to handle it. Finally, when asking about depreciation and asking for some pointers, all I got was a brief e-mail advising that I talk to an accountant, without even suggesting that the topic was too complex.

Re:SCORE (4, Insightful)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685159)

I've tried using SCORE on four separate occasions

Alot of SCORE types are retired business execs who have little computer sense or ability. Which makes them horrible for evaluating business ideas.

This also is seen in the banking culture in different parts of the country. Shop one in in the Ozarks and you may get one result, vs shopping it in Silicon Valley. Some advisors only know a certain type of industry, so you want an advisor with experience in the area you are interested in. And even then....

The retired former owner of a car wash chain might not be the right person to advise you on your web startup.

Re:SCORE (2, Informative)

cenonce (597067) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686435)

If you would seriously ignore the advice to go to SCORE for free counseling because of the negative posts to this one, you are crazy.

SCORE is comprised of many retired executives, but if you ask them when you set up an appointment, they will try to put you with at least one counselor who worked in your field of interest (and since computers have been mainstream since the advent of the PC, that is really not that hard to find at SCORE). Now, you may not get a .NET expert, but that is not why you go to SCORE. SCORE helps you with all of the stuff you don't know about running a business like, corporate formation, employees, taxes, start-up money, and yes, business plans.

Our SCORE chapter (so yeah, I'm a (young) member plugging SCORE) offers a six session business start-up seminar which includes writing a business plan for something like 50 bucks. You can then have SCORE members review your plan before pitching it to venture capitalists or the bank. The SCORE members who review business plans in our chapter are all ex-bankers, accountants or lawyers who have dealt with business plans regularly. They will be far more helpful BECAUSE they don't care what your business is. They only care about making you look as good as possible to your investors. Your job is to pitch the techy stuff.

Like everything else in life, people have obviously left a SCORE counseling session disappointed. But that's hardly a reason to not at least make an hour appointment for FREE advice. Or, you can always call a lawyer and an accountant and pay them hourly to review your plan with you (IAAL, but I counsel for free at SCORE).

Business plan writer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14685064)

http://www.biz-ewomen.com/homebizideas/hotbiz_busi ness_plan.htm [biz-ewomen.com]


  B U S I N E S S P L A N W R I T E R:

Every business no matter how small should begin with a well-defined plan - otherwise known as a "business plan". A business plan writer is an expert in communicating the formal plan of a business. Many times the excitement and haste of getting the business going take precedence over this important step. It is up to the business plan writer to educate the entrepreneur/small business person on the methods of defining and uncovering some unforeseen bumps in the road ahead. Until a business fully defines their business both current and future goals they haven't spent the time realistically understanding the business that they are in.

Books (the stuff ath the library) (2, Informative)

CMiYC (6473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685067)

There literally hundreds if not thousands of books on how to write a business plan.

Given my short attention span, I found "Business Plan in a Day" by Rhonda Abrams a great start. While I don't 100% agree with its format, I found it got my mind thinking in the right direction. It also allowed me to select other books based on their suggestions and formats.

Self learning (1)

michelcultivo (524114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685654)

You need to study books about business management and stay plugged with the market to known where the ideas are going to start or die. It's the hard and the best way to make your own business without help.

no .Net (2, Insightful)

temojen (678985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685068)

issues like .NET vs PHP vs Servlets, etc should be way in the back. it's an implementation issue. Your plan should concentrate much more on marketing and finance, unless you're doing something very unique.

Here's a start. (4, Informative)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685071)

Here's [sba.gov] a [businesstown.com] start. [rbcroyalbank.com] You [business-plan-help.com] don't [bplans.com] need [planware.org] slashdot's [inc.com] help! [soyouwanna.com]

this is what I would use... (3, Insightful)

kelceylehrich (600264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685083)

S.M.A.R.T.

Specific: explain exactly what you want to develope and how you will do it

Measurable: set measurable goals including revenue and profit

Atainable: this should be fairly straight forward

Realistic: similar to above

Time frame: be realistic but push yourself

Q: What's the Best Way to Write a Business Plan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14685116)

A: Don't ask Slashdot.

Avoid VCs + Read Kawasaki (5, Informative)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685156)

Unless you really need a lot of capital to start out with (and probably even then) avoid VCs like the plague. They will f*ck you and not even say thanks. Seriously, their job is to let someone else take all the risks, then jump in and make a metric buttload of money off of an idea that has already been proven. They are very seldom risk-takers, and they are generally ruthless. There are somne exceptions, but if you must find a VC, do your homework first. Talk to entrepreneurs who have worked with VCs. Get first-hand info from people who've been through a VC experience and survived to tell the tale.

When writing a business plan, cut through the crap. Read Guy Kawasaki's stuff. He knows what he's talking about. His piece on business plans [guykawasaki.com] is brief and to the point, which is how your business plan should be.

Good luck to you!

Re:Avoid VCs + Read Kawasaki (2, Insightful)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685210)

I'll second your advice on Kawasaki. His book Art of the Start is definitely a must read. While you may be right that most VCs are assholes, you are wrong in saying they aren't risk takers. Investing in startups is probably the most risky investing job there is. They say you aren't a real VC until you have lost at least 20 million dollars of your own money.

Re:Avoid VCs + Read Kawasaki (1)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685268)

They say you aren't a real VC until you have lost at least 20 million dollars of your own money.

Except that most VCs don't actually lose their own money, and they get paid even when their investments are not successful [sfgate.com] . It's quite a racket. Although people tend to write bad things about you [paulgraham.com] .

Re:Avoid VCs + Read Kawasaki (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685297)

True for general partners but not limited partners. Both can be considered to be VCs IIRC.

Re:Avoid VCs + Read Kawasaki (1)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685418)

Third the advice on Art of the Start. There's a copy 24 inches left of my head right now. It's not just the business plan, it's all the "ok, go from zero to real business as fast as the business has to happen" advice.

Re:Avoid VCs + Read Kawasaki (2, Informative)

Centurix (249778) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685415)

Totally agree with this. VC's are in the business of purely making money from your idea without a care about how you do it, and when you don't follow their advice on any issues it becomes a major thing, even if you're fighting for your own business ethics they just bully you into submission.

There are people called Business Angels who are similar to VC's in terms of investment, but they are totally willing to guide the business in accordance to your wishes.

And the business plan is a must. Spend plenty of time on it, even after it's been accepted by an investor because it can become the guiding light when things become stuck in a rut or you become disinterested for some reason or another. I update mine all the time, and it includes everything, yacht, car, house, investments etc.

Re:Avoid VCs + Read Kawasaki (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686834)

VC's are in the business of purely making money from your idea without a care about how you do it, and when you don't follow their advice on any issues it becomes a major thing

Yeah, go figure. You come begging to some guy for a few million bucks and he thinks he has a say in how you spend it ...

Read Kawasaki, VCs is another matter (1)

ThinWhiteDuke (464916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686747)

I disagree.

VCs are businessmen. They're not in the business of funding ideas but businesses. This is a critical difference. Ideas are cheap, money is cheap, what is hard to find is people who can execute. If what you have is just an idea, my advice is "don't talk to VCs" and more "don't start a business".

Saying that VCs don't take risks is pure nonsense. When they fund a company, all the money they put in is at risk. Millions of things can happen. The product bugs or development takes longer than expected, customers don't want it or not presented that way or not at this price, sales process is too long or too costly, competitors take your biggest customer, a new technology emerges that renders your product obsolete... But most problems are people-related : you hire the wrong person, some key person quits or gets ill, your co-founder slacks or just can't handle the pressure, YOU slack or just can't handle the pressure... If any of these happen, your company can fail and the VCs can lose their money.

Now, that doesn't mean VCs are nice guys. They ARE ruthless. One could argue that they make more money than they deserve. All their efforts are directed towards maximizing profits and minimizing risks. Like everybody else. If your VC thinks that you've become a liability, he will do whatever he can to get rid of you.

But once again, if you fear VCs, you should not start a business. Because VCs are angels compared to customers. Nobody is worse than customers. Customers are ruthless. They are the epitome of ruthlessness. They don't care about you, they don't care about your business, they don't care about your product. They only care about themselves. They will ditch you in a second if they think they can get a cheaper alternative, or if your competitor's sales rep has bigger tits. Your VC has put money in your company, he will always try to protect that investment. A customer just doesn't care.

Don't vilify VCs. They're tough businessmen, nothing more. If you have to deal with one, get yourself a good and experienced lawyer, and make sure you are in a strong negotiating position. And ask yourself this question : "Is the value of the money VCs put in my company (in terms of reduced risk, accelerated growth...) worth the value and control they demand in return? Only you can answer that question.

Best business plan ever (0, Redundant)

c0d3h4x0r (604141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685158)

1. Ask slashdot for business plan.
2. ....?
3. PROFIT!

Spring Into Technical Writing (1)

knipknap (769880) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685182)

You want to read this [slashdot.org] . Seriously, it's good. It also includes a chapter with helpful information to keep in mind when writing a business plan, specifically for writers that come from a technical background.

Some advice, don't use the SBA (0, Troll)

hsmith (818216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685184)

For anything. They demand control into your business, especially when you get loans from them. Avoid them like the plague. inc.com [inc.com] is a good place to start

Re:Some advice, don't use the SBA (1)

BrockH01 (914945) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686723)

I disagree with this. I work at a community bank in Georgia and often the only way we can help start ups is to get the SBA involved. Granted, there is a ton of paperwork involved and they generally like to see covenants in the loan agreement (liquidity, no change in ownership, debt to worth, etc.). The trade off is you get a much lower interest rate than most banks will give start ups and very favorable terms. As far as controlling the business, I haven't known any SBA clients that have made that statement. They will try to help you organize your business plan before coming to a bank for primary financing. In my (limited) experience I have seen the SBA 504 program do wonders for companies that normally would not qualify for financing.

Has anybody noticed (1)

ProfFalcon (628305) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686754)

that posts that put part of the first sentence in the subject rarely get scored above a 2? Personally, they irritate me so I refuse to mod them up. Maybe it's just coincidence that the people who put part of the sentence in the subject write posts with content that deserve mods of 2 or less.

The parent post seems to offer some good advice about the SBA though with nothing to back it up. There is also a new link that I hadn't noticed in other posts for a resource at inc.com. I would have thought it would warrant a 2+ mod. Perhaps there is something to my theory about the subject line.

So I'm kind of going through the same process (4, Informative)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685185)

So having just written a business plan, it should roughly follow the format:

1. Executive Summary (your elevator pitch, no more than 3 paragraphs)
2. Investor Relations (What you want from other people)
3. Description of Business (about 1 page)
4. Sustainable Competitve Advantage (The only thing anyone will read other than the executive summary)
5. Description of Competition (a full page is about right)
6. A list of competitors with a the strengths and weaknesses of each in about a paragraph per.
7. A timeline for what you want to do and when
8. SWOT chart (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
9. Financials (make up some numbers and use them to make excel graphs)

The thing that gets most people is the financials. Obviously there is no way to know so you just have to make something up that seems reasonable. This isn't cheating or being unethical, it's the only way to do it and it is expected of you. Some people feel bad about this anyway. Don't.

Also, here is my Squidoo Lens [squidoo.com] on the subject if it helps. It is mostly just a recommended reading list. That being said, there really are fifteen or twenty Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect 200 dollar books. Everyone agrees on this, but of course they will all give you a slightly different list of what these books are.

That being said, you won't get any money from a VC until you have partners and a board of directors. The first step is to go around and talk to as many people as are willing to listen. Once you have told fifty or so people your idea and gotten all the feedback you can handle (mostly people telling you how stupid you are), then circle back and ask those people to advise you, be on your board, or invest. Most of them will offer without you having to ask if you are talking to the right people, i.e. people who have experience as serial entrepreneurs. Also before you can get VC funding you will probably need to show traction. The correct order of doing things is 1) Sell the product 2) Design the product 3) build the product. It's counterintuitive, but so is the idea of dropping out of college to make more money. :-)

Re:So I'm kind of going through the same process (1)

cogg (864885) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685974)

Parent is bang on about the business plan. One thing I would add was told to me by a prof. back in college:
1. Present the plan to VCs.
2. Find out why they don't like it (and they won't the first few times at least), and adjust the plan accordingly.
3. GOTO 1
4. Eventually, one of the VCs will have enough confidence in your plan to offer cash.
5. Run like hell, and find someone who doesn't require that contracts be signed in your blood.
oblig 6. ???
            7. Profit!

Essentially, use VC's to validate and proof read your plan and have nothing else to do with them. Note though that you may have to move fast to get to market after a VC likes it, or they may fund competition (there's not a chance in hell of getting a VC to sign an NDA to see a business plan.

Re:So I'm kind of going through the same process (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686878)

One thing I would add was told to me by a prof. back in college: ... Essentially, use VC's to validate and proof read your plan and have nothing else to do with them.

A brilliant example of those who can't do, teach

A VC is not there to hold your hand for free - the world is full of good ideas, and full of money. Marrying the two along with the third of someone hungry enough and smart enough and humble enough and confident enough to spend it the right way to succeed where the vast majority fail is not as easy as the academic world would lead you to believe. VCs are well rewarded for their successes, and well punished for their failures - because the guy putting up the money won't use 'em again.

The Art of the Start (1)

ritRadical (770569) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685186)

Read The Art of the Start [amazon.com] by Guy Kawasaki. It's a really good book about starting up a company from writing a business plan to recruiting to raising capital. I just read it because I'm in the process of starting up my own company. It's a great guide and a good read.

Colleges (2, Informative)

Mike570 (884414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685215)

Assuming that you have no experience in business at all, one possible place you could try is colleges in your area. In the US, many colleges offer help to people interested in starting businesses. The seniors (in college, not senior citizens) will help you develop a business plan and anything else you may need. They often do this as an internship. Most of the time it's free or if there is a fee, it's small. Anyway, if you don't have a great deal of money to start out with, this is a good place to start.

Business Plan Guide and Templates (2, Informative)

gabruce (881518) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685232)

I'm in the middle of doing this myself. I found a package from Jian Software [jian.com] which I found great and definitely recommend. It is a comprehensive set of word (open office works fine) and excel templates fronted with a bit of software. It comes with a video, an e-book, and lot's of explanations about the process. Check it out and see for yourself.

Angel Investors (1)

lw54 (73409) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685237)

Once you have used up all available equity of your own, the next step is to bring in Angel Investors. After that comes the Venture Capitalists.

Best Resource (1)

webplay (903555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685241)

Your top resource should be the Business Plans Handbook [referenceforbusiness.com] . Those are real business plans that got their authors financing for their businesses.

My sister does it for a living (1)

montgomery (176658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685253)

She wrote a pamphlet called "Business Plan Bootcamp".

Check out her information.

http://strategic-capital.com/ [strategic-capital.com]

People have done it and have been funded.

It sounded to me like the how to be a rock band book, but that worked too.

Backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14685263)

You say you want to write a .NET web app. Sounds like a solution looking for a problem, which means you're really on shaky ground, IMO. You certainly don't sound like you really noticed a niche that hasn't been scratched and are now looking for a technological solution. Do the people involved really know what direction they are going, or are they suffering from start-up fever? (E.G.: Yeah!!! We gonna go to the Superbowl!!! ...year passes... Uh, yes, ma'am, I just sign here for my unemployment benefits?)

Tip: Don't lie on your business plan. (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685274)

The VCs will be so shocked to meet somebody with a vestige of ethics that you'll be able to rob them blind before they recover.

Seriously, writing a business plan for VCs is the least of your problems (the largest of your problems being the VCs themselves).

Re:Tip: Don't lie on your business plan. (1)

arethuza (737069) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685996)

Another reason not to lie in a business plan is that you will be expected to warranty that what you say in it is true. Believe me, having to personal warranties (i.e. making you personally liable) makes you read every single letter of your business plan in a new light.

It has to be said... (1)

dcapel (913969) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685282)

Business Plan:

1. Start an dot com business with a buzzword technology.
2. ???
3. PROFIT! :)

I think Cryptonomicon gets it right. (5, Funny)

shobadobs (264600) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685290)

MISSION: At [name of company] it is our conviction that [to do the stuff we want to do] and to increase shareholder value are not merely complementary activities--they are inextricably linked.

PURPOSE: To increase shareholder value by [doing stuff]

EXTREMELY SERIOUS WARNING (printed on a separate page, in red letters on a yellow background): Unless you are as smart as Johann Karl Friedrich Gauss, savvy as a half-blind Calcutta bootblack, tough as General William Tecumseh Sherman, rich as the Queen of England, emotionally resilient as a Red Sox fan, and as generally able to take care of yourself as the average nuclear missile submarine commander, you should never have been allowed near this document. Please dispose of it as you would any piece of high-level radioactive waste and then arrange with a qualified surgeon to amputate your arms at the elbows and gouge your eyes from their sockets. This warning is necessary because once, a hundred years ago, a little old lady in Kentucky put a hundred dollars into a dry goods company which went belly-up and only returned her ninety-nine dollars. Ever since then the government has been on our asses. If you ignore this warning, read on at your peril-- you are dead certain to lose everything you've got and live out your final decades beating back waves of termites in a Mississippi Delta leper colony. Still reading? Great. Now that we've scared off the lightweights, let's get down to business.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: We will raise [some money], then [do some stuff] and increase shareholder value. Want details? Read on.

INTRODUCTION: [This trend], which everyone knows about, and [that trend], which is so incredibly arcane that you probably didn't know about it until just now, and [this other trend over here] which might seem, at first blush, to be completely unrelated, when all taken together, lead us to the (proprietary, secret, heavily patented, trademarked, and NDAed) insight that we could increase shareholder value by [doing stuff]. We will need $ [a large number] and after [not too long] we will be able to realize an increase in value to $ [an even larger number], unless [hell freezes over in midsummer].

DETAILS: Phase 1: After taking vows of celibacy and abstinence and forgoing all
of our material possessions for homespun robes, we (viz, appended resumes) will move into a modest complex of scavenged refrigerator boxes in the central Gobi Desert, where real estate is so cheap that we are actually being paid to occupy it, thereby enhancing shareholder value even before we have actually done anything. On a daily ration consisting of a handful of uncooked rice and a ladleful of water, we will [begin to do stuff]. Phase 2, 3, 4, . . . , n-1: We will [do more stuff, steadily enhancing shareholder value in the process] unless [the earth is struck by an asteroid a thousand miles in diameter, in which case certain assumptions will have to be readjusted; refer to Spreadsheets 397-413]. Phase n: before the ink on our Nobel Prize certificates is dry, we will confiscate the property of our competitors, including anyone foolish enough to have invested in their pathetic companies. We will sell all of these people into slavery. All proceeds will be redistributed among our shareholders, who will hardly notice, since Spreadsheet 265 demonstrates that, by this time, the company will be larger than the British Empire at its zenith.

SPREADSHEETS: [Pages and pages of numbers in tiny print, conveniently summarized by graphs that all seem to be exponential curves screaming heavenward, albeit with enough pseudo-random noise in them to lend plausibility].

RESUMES: Just recall the opening reel of The Magnificent Seven and you won't have to bother with this part; you should crawl to us on hands and knees and beg us for the privilege of paying our salaries.

Expect to deviate from your plan (1)

discontinuity (792010) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685295)

Not sure this is exactly what you're looking for, but the one thing I have heard pretty universally from successful entrepreneurs is that something will always throw off your plan. Maybe this isn't necessarily something you should put into a formal business plan, but you should have some idea about how you'll adjust when your assumptions don't pan out.

On a related note, you should ask yourself whether you're in it for just that one idea that you have or if you want to run a business and this idea is just something to get you going. If you're too tightly married to that one idea you might fail to adjust to realities in time. Agility is the new stability!

Re:Expect to deviate from your plan (1)

puppetman (131489) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685318)

Someone said (some Greek or Roman), "Its a poor plan that can't be changed."

I think a business plan is an excellent example of a living document (though you might not have time to update it).

Business SA (2, Informative)

JuzzFunky (796384) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685334)

I'm in South Australia and have found the Business SA http://www.business-sa.com/ [business-sa.com] site quite useful. They also have a Young Entrepreneur Scheme http://www.business-sa.com/Content.aspx?p=32 [business-sa.com] . I'm not sure what other states offer but it would be worth your while checking it out.
Good luck and hope you can make it work.

What do you do? (1)

SkiifGeek (702936) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685991)

Interesting comment. I wasn't aware of any other South Australian based business owners / entrepreneurs who lurked on /.. Contact me via my company's site (in the comment or above) if you want to touch base, swap notes, see what we can do for each other.

The *competentest* business book I've ever found.. (1)

NOPteron (838244) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685356)

The Definitive Business Plan ( Richard Stutely ) [amazon.com]

That link has its "previous-history" tracking information ripped-out, BTW

The amazon.com "registry" link of this post has other books of similar excellence listed, as well as why I'm recommending 'em ( no address is attached to it, so no-one can buy 'em for me via the thing, it's posted there for everyone's information ),
but the book you NEED is Richard Stutely's.
I'd also recommend "Thinking Visually" and "The Power of the 2x2 Matrix", but immediate-need means I'm posting this now, not after working-over additions for hours. Cheerses, eh?

Re:The *competentest* business book I've ever foun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14685862)

I second that. An excellent book, written from a practical perspective. Helps you to build a plan who's usefullness actually extends beyond the initial funding of the business to ensure that you don't piss it all up against the wall!

First you need a plan for creating a business plan (1)

Steven Reddie (237450) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685358)

And instead of that plan being "Ask Slashdot" I'd try "Ask Google". If you don't get anything useable on the first page of search results then try searching on something ingenius like "business plan". ;-)

find a money pool (1)

Norny (9940) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685392)

I've used Business Plan Pro [paloalto.com] . I was bugged at first that it really just seemed to be all open ended questions with big text blocks to fill in the answers to questions, but it was at least good at asking some tough questions that scared me out of my business idea.

I figured the most important part of starting a business is having way more money available than you need. Everyone has their optimal ideas of how money will flow in for great ideas, but you need to be able for that not to happen for longer than you expect and cover your cost overruns along the way, because there's always going to be unexpected expenses.

If you are in South Australia... (1)

riprjak (158717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685397)

...the state government offers training and assistance; particularly to IT firms in this area. If you are in this state, try chasing down the appropriate contacts at the Department of Trade and Economic Development.

Several of my colleagues have had their assistance in getting business plans to run down v.c.'s and such...

Why VCs? (2, Interesting)

Wiseleo (15092) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685448)

I run a fairly successful company.

It has a specific and complicated business plan, and some of it is written down. You can easily write a business plan once you actively start working on stuff and have some prospects or customers.

VCs are not faceless creatures. Sooner or later you'll actually get to know some as your personal network grows. I probably could get some financing right now if I really wanted to. I'd say VC hunting is like job hunting - tedious and time-consuming, unless you have the inside track where some lunches can turn up to be quite profitable.

If you want to run a company, you need to figure out what exactly your product will do and who needs it. I know that it seems like everyone needs it, but that's not the case.

With regards to storefronts, you may be better off selling someone else's established product as a channel partner. What do you bring that no other storefront product has done so far? Shopping carts were new in 1997. I worked for a company that developed one of these first successful shopping carts. That means that you are catching up on NINE YEARS of development.

Now, if you want to do .Net, find a partner with Microsoft who has a good solution and sell that. The profits you'll make from these sales and customizing these products will eventually fund your own niche product. Some products are more profitable than others - I have a 40% margin on some stuff I sell.

If you can't describe at least one relevant aspect what you are doing in less than 30 seconds, you need more focus.

I find formal business plans to be a nuisance, but it may help you clarify your vision. As long as my key assumptions are on the paper, that's good. My vision is very simple and seemingly unattainable, yet I am exactly at the point I wanted to achieve by this stage now.

I just ran a search for storefronts written in .Net through Microsoft Partner channel - there are quite a few.

The perfect plan (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685449)

Your company will find stuff people will pay a lot for. Do something to get some of that money. Work hard. Work effectively. Spend wisely. Not be sued. Not compete (as in don't do what others are doing). You'll stop spending all day on slashdot. And you'll forget all you learned about right and wrong, and accept that moral_value=personal_benefit-risk*personal_consequ ence, as the market intended (though replace "personal" with "shareholder" when explaining to the investors).

Disclaimer: I may be full of **it.

bplan (3, Insightful)

humbads (240455) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685491)

I wrote my first business plan without ever looking for guidance on how to write a business plan. In hindsight, my plan turned out to be highly accurate. You basically need to think about your strategy, and write down whatever is relevant in complete sentences. Ask someone else to punch holes in it, and then go about collecting the missing information and performing the revisions. The only reason to read sample b-plans is to get the terminology for the headings. Samples and templates are not going to help you do the critical thinking that is required. On the other hand, doing as much reading as possible in your field helps a lot.

Start first, fund later (3, Insightful)

Jivha (842251) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685493)

From the brief description about the business the idea doesn't sound too radical for a VC(who typically stay away from risky early stage investments), and neither does it sound as something that requires VC money(typically in millions, not thousands). So I wonder why you need VC money?

As other commenters have already pointed out, first get your own skin in the game by investing your own money. Remember the golden order of early stage funding, founder->family->friends->fools. Only after you've exhausted these should you start looking at venture capital. VC money typically helps you scale up/expand rather than bootstrap.

Of course exceptions will always be there...but those are typically when you've got either a great idea(eg. Riya [redherring.com] ) or a great startup team or both. Simple ideas with unknown management teams don't even register in the eyes of VCs.

right (1)

hitchhacker (122525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685509)


sign this guy up for the B-Ark

First, challenge your assumptions... (4, Insightful)

darnok (650458) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685544)

You say "any business needs money" like it's a "people need air to breathe"-type fact.

I'm in the process of starting my 3rd Australian business now and none of them have required any significant money. Computers are close to free these days, or free if you can use a 3yo one that someone's throwing out; FOSS is free (and, yes, you can develop in .NET with FOSS); hosting services are nearly free. What isn't free is your own time, and that's the tradeoff you make.

Some suggestions:
- live off your savings. If you don't have any, then get some. If you can't save any money, then you won't be in business long anyway so you may as well get a job
- spend as little money as you possibly can. Really. If you need particular expertise, scour your personal network to see who's got that expertise; once you find someone, offer your skills in exchange for theirs. Work from your own house, and live on coffee and sandwiches if you have to. If you eventually have to go to a VC for money, they'll want/expect to see that you're tight with your money before they give you some of theirs
- call in favours from friends and family. Visit your parents at mealtimes, if you have to. Track down that teenage cousin who wants to build Web sites for a living, and have him build yours; if you can't pay him, tell him he can put it in his portfolio and you'll refer people to him later. Pick the brains of people you know who've run their own businesses; in particular, find those who've *failed* because they'll probably have insights into how they went wrong, and you can learn from their mistakes
- when opportunity permits, seed the idea of what your business is with people who have money, but *don't ask for their money* and *don't* give them enough info so they could get someone else to build it for them. Go to networking seminars, if you don't know these sort of people and want to track them down. Show them your business plan, but don't go with your hand held out for cash. At some point, you may want to sell your business to these people, but you want them to be coming to you begging to buy, not you going to them begging for cash

Re:First, challenge your assumptions... (1)

hobbes75 (245657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686479)

>I'm in the process of starting my 3rd Australian business now

what happened to the first two ? ;-)

Hisrich says... (3, Insightful)

Grayden (137336) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685556)

I had a class with Bob Hisrich, one of the leading professors in the field of Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation. Any of his textbooks are a good start.

He said once in a not-entirely-joking way that "every business plan must have at least ONE chart with a line going up and left". It sounds silly, but there's some merit to the psychological impact a nice graphic can have.

There are of course plenty of other more useful tips that others have already offered - I just found this amusing.

You mean "up and *right*"? (2, Funny)

Jivha (842251) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686317)

"every business plan must have at least ONE chart with a line going up and left".

You're right, it does sound silly. Probably because a line going up and left would essentially mean dropping sales/profits/market share.

Yeah, that kind of graphic would not have too great a psychological impact with VCs ;-)

You asked for it (4, Funny)

ceeam (39911) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685601)

1. Borrow a shitload of money
2. ???
3. Profit!

Well, maybe /. is not the best place for this question...

Re:You asked for it (1)

aurb (674003) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686401)

You forgot underpants.

Crayons (4, Funny)

joecm (16636) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685626)

But stay away from the orange shades as they may make you appear less professional.

Re:Crayons (1)

Dausha (546002) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686397)

"But stay away from the orange shades as they may make you appear less professional."

I have to agree with parent poster. Orange does tend to detract from the professional feel. You should also avoid Green, unless it's Hunter Green. Generally speaking, a good charcoal gray or dark blue will convey a sense of conservative business values. If you're wanting to strike out boldly, then "Brick Red" is the way to go.

Also, keep the crayons sharp--nobody likes a dull business plan.

Riot On! (1)

TheArtfulTodger (879073) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685765)

Hi, this is very timely. Three days before this ask slashdot was posted, the RIOT-E documentary Riot On! [imdb.com] was aired on Aussie TV.

If you haven't had a chance to watch it, (amonst other things) it discusses how to get mega VC bucks using a sketchy business plan and a lot of creative truths.

It's simple. (1)

solios (53048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685774)

Fill in that ????? bit between $thing and Profit!. :P

Seriously, this is /., not Harvard Business College or whatever.

Don't do a formal plan just yet (2, Informative)

xtal (49134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14685977)

Some advice from someone who's done this.. two or three times now.

Get your prototype or demo working (well). That's phase 1.

Write up a ~5-10 page document that explains;

- Who you are;
- What you've done before;
- What you want to do;
- How you plan to do what you want to do;
- How you plan to make money and..
- how much money you can make;

To see if the idea is even worth pursuing. Once you've convinced yourself of that, go talk to some local investors. You're not going to get the attention of a VC unless you have connections, and if you had those connections, you wouldn't be asking on slashdot.

If you can't convince the local investment community to risk a few bucks, then your idea is probably not as good as you think it is. Most communities of any size have some (usually wealthy) people who will risk some money on local firms. You need to network with those people and see what they think. Once you get that far, THEN you need to think about a business plan. Until you get to that point, that basic document I described above is all you need.

Good luck!

Start Writing (1)

SkiifGeek (702936) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686017)

The best way to write a business plan is to sit down and start writing. Work out what you want to do, how you want to do it, and why. Write that down. Then throw it out and start again. Even though I followed a basic template, it still took four goes before I had a business plan that was suitable to put in front of people with big buckets of money. You might find that there are no VC firms in Australia who will be interested in funding you, but if you want to try, look at the member list for AVCAL [avcal.com.au]

Other important factors include where you are setting up. If you are not on the East Coast, then forget about funding. The Australian VC market is extremely risk averse, as they are reinvesting superannuation funds more often than not.

Brush up on your interpersonal selling skills. If you don't have any, you won't get any money, and you won't get any interest. You will also find that the business administration and building efforts will tend to push any coding efforts out of the way from time to time (some analysts suggest 80% of your time might be on business tasks, not coding / developing).

Ensure that you have the appropriate legal and tax setups in place, and that you have a solid plan on how to protect any Intellectual Property that you have developed. No, Australia does not have software patents, but you can patent software if you follow very specific guidelines. Be aware of what the FTA means to you, as well.

Other people who have been through the process before tend to recommend against seeking VC funding for software companies, but I have also seen some fairly stupid VC funding decisions made, so be prepared to take and make risks.

If you haven't already, seek out your regional / state NUG (.Net Users Group), they should be able to put you in reach of people who can help you out.

Finally, good luck!

development tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14686064)

Right now I am starting a buzzword .com biz, and are currently writing down the plan, evalutating it, drawing database schemes, programming test-versions etc.

Earlier I wrote version 0.1 of the site and thrown it away, and are starting version 0.2 now because I noticed some stupid mistakes in my own design and planning.

My guess it is going to take several months before version 1.0 is launched and I will throw away much code and schemes in that time.

Here's one more tip
What I've learned in all this years is to write small applications if it is intended for the intarweb.

Do not create one big bloated thingie that handles 120 different functions. Not only the code gets unreadable, if there is a fatal error in 1 function, it wil crash the remaining 119 functions...

HTH

My experience with this sort of thing... (2, Informative)

CurlyG (8268) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686212)

Having just this very day finally resigned from the startup some friends and I founded about 5 years ago (in Australia) when our previous employers fell victim to the burst dot.com bubble, some of my experiences may be relevant:

- There's some good advice in eariler posts on composing the business plan itself, but don't get too attached to it. Depending on your investors, partners, and clients, it will change. Once you get the VCs involved, they will write the business plans.

- Don't get the VCs in until you absolutely have to. They will screw you for everything they can get, eventually. That's just what they do, even the relatively benign ones.

- Don't give up your day job unless you can take a really hard, pessimistic look in the mirror and be confident that you can raise enough seed capital from family, friends, etc., to do at least a convincing proof of concept. It will put you in a much better position when you do have to talk to VCs.

- Australian VCs and seed-funders are almost absurdly conservative. Many talk big about supporting local innovation, but the reality is very different in my experience if you need more than about $100k to get your idea off the ground. Expect to fight over every last cent - you won't be fitting the office out with Aeron chairs.

- For this reason, when you do get VCs in, get them in big the first time. You do not want to be in the position of needing another 6 months funds to get your product ready when you've already given the VCs a big chunk of the company. Once you lose your majority share holding (and they have more directors on the board than you do), you're completely in their power.

As a postscript, the reason I'm leaving my startup is that it is, at last, in a position where it can almost afford to hire someone to replace me. I'm taking an entry level position at one of our clients that is almost exactly double my salary at the startup.

Finally, good luck!

Wrong idea about b-plans.. (1)

IAAP (937607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686276)

I need some advice on how to write up a killer business plan, everyone involved knows exactly where the business is heading.

The point of a business is to so that it shows that you thought of how to start, operate and exit the business - NOT how to operate the business. When you start, you'll find that things WILL change and you have to make adjustments. So, when an investor sees the B-plan, they'll know that you investigated the business thouroughly (or not) and that you are the expert.

Which leads me to another thing: DON'T BE (TOO) PARANOID ABOUT INVESTORS STEALING YOUR IDEA. Nothing will stop the works faster than demanding a NDA. For one thing, the investors are into investing, they don't want to be bothered with starting a biz. Prefessionals, like accoutnants, lawyers, etc... are doing their thing and they don't want to implement you idea and blabbing your idea all over will hurt them more than you - they don't want to have the reputation of blabbing people's ideas all over the place. Also, this is hard to take, I know, your idea is probably NOT that unique. Serendipity has its affect. Someone else has had your idea but just didn't have your guts to implemnt it. I know an entrepreneur who says that he can publish any of his ideas on the web for all to see and it wouldn't matter because it's the implemntation that's key. And he's a master.

That's right, I also said exit plan. An exit plan is necessary, because, one day, you WILL be leaving that business (death, retirement, or the most likely selling). The VCs will want to get out of your business after about 3 to 5 years. They have to in order to get the ROI that they demand.

Also, if you have MS Office, there's plenty of FREE startup templates on their site. here [microsoft.com] I don't know if Open Office and other FOSS can use those.

Oh! I almost forgot, the book, "The Portable MBA in ENTREPRENEURSHIP" , Bygrave and Zacharakis is an excellent resource!

Good luck!! Maybe one day when I'm "Down Under" I'll see a huge office complex with your name on it!

Brain fart. (1)

IAAP (937607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686277)

The point of a business is to so that it shows that you thought of how to start, operate and exit the business - NOT how to operate the business

If this looks like a contradiction, it isn't. It's the difference between thinking about operations and what's needed to actually operating it. In other words, everyone will know that you're not going to operate the business EXACTLY or even close for that matter as you described in the business plan. It just shows that you have a really good idea how to do it and you thought of the in and outs.

some tips (1)

modir (66559) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686302)

I can recommend one book: The New Venture Adventure written by Ueli Loosli (ISBN: 1587990032)

One other thing I want to tell you: Your first round of financing should always be the FFF round. (Friends, Family, Fools). If your relatives don't believe in you and give you money why should a VC?

Another thing you should ask yourself. What do you need more a VC or a Business Angel? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Depending on how your company is going to look like a BA could be the better option.

Read other business plans (1)

Daath (225404) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686405)

The best advice, by far, is: Read other business plans! Of course you should mainly read those that got the company finances ;) After you read a few, you start to see your own format emerge :-)

Good luck!

Business Plan (3, Insightful)

WoodieR (860635) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686408)

Page 1 - Cover Page

Page 2 - Table of Contents

Page 3 - Executive Summary - Should be no more than 1 page - explaining you, you plan/idea/business model/revenue stream, succinctly and professionally

Page 4 - Purpose of the Business Plan - to organise your ideas, to demsontrate that you are capable of pulling this off, and making it profitable, and repaying your loans, to obtain start up capital, through traditional or private lenders

Page 5 - Products / Services

Page 6 - Operation - your hours of operation, your specific business model, your factories/employees/hiring/policies/procedures in short forms, your revenue stream, how are you going to make money at this, and pay me back, and is there really that much profit to be made?

Page 7 - Ownership - your one page bio, your experience/training qualifications to run this, your partners(same again) convince me to part with my money

Page 8 - Organization - Personnel / Leadership / Management, industry bodies (Ontario Truckers Association or similar)governing bodies /legislations (regulatory bodies)

Page 9 - Marketing / Sales Activities - your planned strategies / costs / advertising / networking / partnerships / affiliates

Page 10 - Exit Strategy - how is the lender getting his Return On Investment, how is this entity going to separate itself from you with it's money back, and interest, and let you carry on your merry way? loss of ownership after fully repaid or 5 years while you've hit various milestones? buy out when you decide? right of first purchase and right of first refusal if they were to sell their interest? would you sell out?

Page 11 - Market Analysis - what / who is your market, how many widgets should you seel to break even, how many can you sell in a week / month / year, expanded markets / franchising, will these be repeat customers / one time only / recurring revenue streams?

Page 12 - Funds Required and Their Use - how much you want and what will you spend it on, why? how little could you get going with? maximum possible expenditure? detailed / itemised, please. don't forget taxes / accounting / legal / logos / artwork / letterhead / cards / flyers / mailers / warranties / equipments / rents / deposits / communications / website

Page 13 - Financial data - what you've put in, are poutting in plus your effort, they need to see your " Hurt Money "

Page 14 - Forecasting figures for year one, projections through Fiscal Year 3 repayment schemes for the startup loan, project into year 5 with your expansions etc. include professional chart here

Page 15 - Appendices / Exhibits - self-explanatory

Page 16 - Privacy and Confidentiality Policy

Page 17 - Disclaimer

Page 18 - Confidentiality and Non Disclosure Agreement

Page 19 - Circulation Control Sheet

Page 20 - FAQ / notice of copyright / trademarks

Do NOT neglect to include somewhere, your weaknesses, and how to overcome them, or at least mitigate them, include any specific strengths and advantages in this plan as well This should at least get you started, email me if you'd like - particularly those persons in and around Toronto, Ontario Canada. email is yourwizard AT NO SPAM financier DOT com

My 2c with 5 year guaranteed 5000% ROI (2, Insightful)

cordsie (565171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686464)

Quite simply, the most effective business plan is the one that contains the exact information your target investor wants to hear.

This sounds extremely simplistic, but countless people, especially those writing business plans for the first time, tend to completely overlook the basics.

Forget about formatting and templates and what section headings to include. These will come together later. Instead, put yourself in a VCs shoes. Pretend you are considering risking a considerable amount of money on an idea and a team that will implement these ideas (assuming your company has no existing product or revenue stream, that it is still in the idea phase). The guise is that if you provide x amount of capital, this group of people will employ it to generate x*n amount of capital in a given amount of time.

Ask yourself, what is it about my ideas or plans will ensure an investor that this is not only going to happen, but happen to such an extent that it will generate many times the amount of capital invested. Investors are not looking to break even, they're looking to make a large increase on the amount of money they invest.

You need to be completely honest with yourself and your idea. If, (as would be natural given the forum,) your idea is based on a technology, remember that an investor has absolutely no interest in how cool or exciting it is or whether it's written in Java or Turbo Pascal. What problem does it solve? How are you going to sell it? Who is going to buy it? How are you going to advertise it? How is it going to generate the many fold return on investment I'm looking for? 10 pages on the design and features of your wild new technology does nothing to address these concerns.

Ask yourself, would you put up however many millions you are asking for with complete confidence? People gripe and moan about greedy VCs, but remember, you're probably asking somebody to take of 100% of the financial risk. If it fails, you could just walk away into another job. The VC may be out millions. What's so special about your idea that this financial risk is worth it?

Finally, consider that the process of putting together a business plan is likely to be far more informative to yourself than any investor, as you are forced to consider all of these questions, and consider your idea in the cold harsh light of reality. If you cannot answer, and answer honestly, any of these questions, then it is more than likely your business idea simply needs rethinking.

I've learned all of this the hard way. Perhaps the simple answer to the question 'What's the best way to write a business plan' is 'many, many times.'

University or Small Business Center (2, Insightful)

microTodd (240390) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686544)

I'm not really familiar with Austrailia, but in the United States most public Universities have Small Business Centers that provide free help.

For example, near where I live in Florida, the University of West Florida offers services [uwf.edu] .

Or the United States Small Business Association provides resources [sba.gov] .

My wife made use of these when she started up her business [floridajewelz.com] . Its been about 18 months, not making a profit yet but sales have been increasing.

Watch "Dragon's Den"... (2, Interesting)

Bazman (4849) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686626)

The title may sound like some sort of LARP show but its not. They get entrepreneurs in front of four VCs each of which has a HUGE PILE OF CASH in front of them. The entrepreneur then explains their product or idea, and says something like "I want 50,000 UKP and you get 10% of my company".

Each VC, or 'Dragon', then says "You sweat too much, I'm out", or "I cant work with you, you're clearly a moron, I'm out", or if you are lucky one will say "I'll give you 25,000 for 15% of your company". Well, that's no good, unless you get all the money you ask for you get nothing. So maybe Dragon 4 will say "I'll give you the other 25k for another 15%". So now you've got your money but you've lost 30% of your company. If you want it.

  Anyway, see if you can check out the show (on BBC2 in the UK). Anyone who dithers about figures or sales projections or plans is out on their arse immediately. Anyone who seems to have a clue tends to reject the VCs even if they do get an offer, thinking they can get better elsewhere....

  Barry

if you have to ask about it ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14686801)

If you have to ask about how to write your business plan then you haven't thought things through. Once you have a real concrete idea for what you expect to do and have figured out how you'll manage to make money you'll have the ingredients for the business plan. Once the ingredients are in hand it all boils down to assembling them into a coherent presentation/documnent. Getting that "real concrete idea" DOES NOT involve writing code or evalutating technology at a level more fundamental than getting a AUS dollar figure. Sadly, there are many people who do not understand how to run a business.

Just be careful if Bill Gates stops by for a visit (2, Funny)

stevea1210 (951255) | more than 8 years ago | (#14686852)

Back at the peaceful Simpsons house. Homer is reading "Internet for Dummies".

HOMER: Oh, they have the Internet on computers now!

MARGE: Homer, Bill Gates is here.

HOMER: Bill Gates?! Millionaire computer nerd Bill Gates! Oh my god. Oh my god. Get out of sight, Marge. I don't want this to look like a two-bit operation.

GATES: Mr. Simpson?

HOMER: You don't look so rich.

GATES: Don't let the haircut fool you, I am exceedingly wealthy.

HOMER: Get a load of the bowl-job, Marge!

GATES: Your Internet ad was brought to my attention, but I can't figure out what, if anything, CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet does, so rather than risk competing with you, I've decided simply to buy you out.

HOMER: This is it Marge. I've poured my heart and soul into this business and now it's
finally paying off. (covering his mouth) We're rich! Richer than astronauts.

MARGE: Homer quiet. Acquire the deal.

HOMER: (to Gates) I reluctantly accept your proposal!

GATES: Well everyone always does. Buy 'em out, boys!
Bill Gates companions begin to trash the "office".

HOMER: Hey, what the hell's going on!

GATES: Oh, I didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks!

Bill Gates lets out a maniacal laugh. Homer and Marge cower in the corner as the room continues to be trashed.

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