Thursday, April 30, 2009

Building a Business Plan, Worksheet 1

As someone who works with entrepreneurs, I'm often asked for help with business plans. Admittedly, plans take a lot of work. That's part of their value, that they require you to deal exhaustively with the concept you're attempting to bring to the market. However, many people tie themselves in knots trying to eat that elephant in one bite.

At i2E, we use a Commercialization Model that guides business plan construction in terms of the information needed by stakeholders (people with something to lose) at different stages in the Business Lifecycle. You can see the Commercialization Model here.

Entrepreneurs should understand that a business plan helps everyone investing in a project see clearly:
  • What's being done
  • Why's it being done
  • How's it being done
  • Who's doing it
  • Where are they doing it
  • What's the payoff for doing it
  • Has you ever done it before?
  • Who else is doing it?
  • Why you, and not them?
The "everyone" that needs to see this includes the entrepreneur, who could sink a large amount of time and money into a concept that might have fundamental flaws.

Therefore, I've created some short little worksheets for my entrepreneur friends. They are sparse by design, and intended to be filled out either at your computer or by hand. These questions should enable anyone to begin drafting a rough outline for a business plan pitch (our model for a pitch slide deck can be found here). The pitch can then be expanded and supported, thus providing the information for a full business plan(pro forma financials notwithstanding).

The first questions every entrepreneur must ask regarding any product or service are:
  1. What problem does your idea solve?
  2. How do you solve the problem you seek to solve?
  3. What makes your offering different or unique?
You can view these questions as a document formatted as a printable worksheet here. If you'd like some help or feedback once you've answered these questions, submit your materials to me via the email address on this page.

Helping Those Who Help Themselves

The National Venture Capital Association is wrapping up its Annual Meeting in Boston today. Anyone who operates with start-up companies knows about the problems facing both entrepreneurs and the investors who back them when it comes to exit scenarios. The NVCA has produced a set of recommendations to help put liquidity and movement back into the system. You can either read the press release or view the slide deck. There's definitely some food for thought here, and it appears to be a good start pointed toward some concrete action.

Additionally, Mark Heesen, NVCA's president, sat down this week with The Deal magazine for a discussion about the industry's issues and plans to evolve, along with some discussion about what with the current administration might entail.

Watch Part 1 here:

Watch Part 2 here:

Discuss, please.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Taking offense vs. making excuses...

Blair over at Imaginative America links to a BatesLine post that he states "makes a pretty convincing argument as to why the legislators that voted against the Flaming Lips are not complete dopes." Complete dopes, no. Spineless literalists, yes.

Taking offense to a rocker wearing a hammer and sickle design on a T-shirt demonstrates a number of points about our state representatives:

  1. They were looking for an excuse to pick a "safer" song than one by the Lips;
  2. They lack the ability to distinguish between an individual's personal statements (fashion or otherwise) and their artistic achievements;
  3. They need to pull all of the state's memorials to Woody Guthrie;
  4. They need to read their Oklahoma history about the legacy of socialism in Oklahoma (especially in the agricultural area of the state; read as MOST OF IT);
  5. They pay attention to T-shirt sloganeering;
  6. They have little to no sense of irony or subtlety;
  7. They personalize WAAAAY too much.
The final point may be the biggest. Honest and rigorous debate is crucial to a healthy functional democracy. Democracy was in full effect when the people of Oklahoma voted "Do You Realize?" as the state's Official Rock Song. However, a portion of the State House felt the need to negate that expression based upon their assessment of Mr. Ivins' moral validity. Because he wears this shirt, he supports communism. Because he supports communism, he is bad. Because he is bad, everything he does is bad. Because everything he does is bad, if we show an affinity for anything he does, we either endorse badness or we ourselves are bad.

Am I the only person out there disturbed by the inability of our elected officials to separate the message from the messenger? Subtlety and reason apparently don't go far at the Capitol.

Back in the Saddle...

Those of you who've been following my status changes on various social media outlets know that it's been a crazy period for me professionally over the past two months. My bad, nonetheless, on keeping around here. I have a renewed commitment to this site; I will post, I will post, I will post!!! Yes, on a regular basis, too.