Updated: Aug 8
Business plans to raise finance are essential marketing tools. Read how to structure your plan and what you should include to convince investors or engage a corporate finance consulting firm.
To secure finance, you will need to have a business plan which is tailored to meet the individual requirements of your finance provider according to a recent article by Forbes. Whether debt or equity, a potential backer wants to see why you need finance, how you plan to use it, and what evidence you have to back up any claims.
If you have an inexperienced management team that hasn’t dealt with raising finance before, you should get in an adviser who can help you build the right business plan.
Structure of your plan
You should include the following:
Executive summary: Your overall vision; a mission statement; plans; the state of the business; your product or service; growth strategy; unique selling points (USPs); sales; forecasts; what funds are needed and when. History and background: The business; its origins; historical performance; sales data.
The market: Size; growth rate; major players; your position; technical advances; forecasts; relevant government regulations. Future opportunities: Vision and objectives; customers and their needs; target market; product or service positioning and value offering; USPs (such as plans to make your product cheaper, or to launch a new product); patents or other legal protection; pricing; distribution channels; marketing plans. Operations: Financial; organisational and human resources available to the business; any requirements not yet met.
Management team: Outline background, responsibilities and skills of your key people. SWOT analysis: Strengths; weaknesses; opportunities; threats.
Risks facing the business: Competition; potential pitfalls; barriers to entry.
Financial forecasts: Sales; gross margin; assumptions underpinning figures (including financial performance to date); profit and loss account; balance sheet and cashflow three-year forecasts; payback; breakeven.
Financing: Loans and debt arrangements;
a breakdown of how finance will be used. Exit routes: Possible exit strategies
This covers most forms of fundraising, although securing debt requires less detail, with added emphasis on assets, security, credit worthiness and aged-debtor analysis.
How much to include
Each section should be around three or four pages, with slight variations depending on the type of business – a technology business might talk more about its products’ intricacies, for example.
Avoid overemphasising any one section, and only use headline figures in the executive summary. Companies tend to go overboard on financial information. The plan is simply there to seduce investors, to make them think they want to spend more time on it. If there is interest, they will have the opportunity to find out more.
Empathise with your audience
Backers considering offering debt will want to be confident that they will be repaid on time. Talk about how risk can be controlled, loss can be limited, and security. Adjust the tone depending on the audience
Invoice and asset-based financiers are less concerned about security, more about the quality of your debtor book, your credit management capabilities, bad debt record, and the extent to which the business suffers credit notes. They may want to have an idea of the sell-on value of your assets [for more on how asset-based lending operates, go to pages 19-20]
For equity investors, focus on market opportunities and exit options, such as trade buyers and the chances of flotation
Focus on the present
While projections are vital to help backers see where you may be going, don’t forget to tell them about your existing sales, customers and the make-up of your management team. “Backers want facts and figures – what you have done, who you are selling to, and how proven the concept is,” says investor Dave Romero.
Keep a straightforward look and tone
Lengthy plans are off-putting, according to Donaldson: “An executive summary of four or five pages should explain what the company does – not how it does it. Write that section last, after you have written 20 to 30 pages on the other relevant aspects.”
Presentation is everything. Make sure you keep the language and appearance of the plan straightforward and easily accessible. Use photos and graphics where relevant, but don’t overcrowd it. Supply the plan as a professionally presented document.
Get advice – but make sure that if your advisor is writing your pan that you have a significant amount of input. It should have some of your own character in it, as investors are backing you personally as much as the idea, so try not to make it appear too formulaic.