You’ve decided that growth is most easily achieved through acquisition.  The funds for your acquisitions may likely come from investors.  What are some tips for success in the all important written business proposal and presentation?

For fifteen years, I’ve participated in various roles as literally hundreds of proposals have been submitted and presented  Here are some of my observations:

  • Most important of all, express yourself clearly. Before submitting the proposal, have your most critical friend pretend they don’t know you and read it from scratch.  Is it clear what business you are in now and what its future is?  Above all can they maintain their interest while they are reading it?  If they switch off while reading a section – put a line through that section!
  • Investors and boards receive many proposals and have a limited time to read each one. Your content has to stand out. So you have to be exceptionally clear and concise. Whatever you have to say, give it to them right in the first sentence, in the simplest possible terms.  Use the KISS principle.
  • However, with the presentation, assume that the investors have read the proposal.  The show and talk should be only be a few minutes reviewing the written document and for the rest of the time be prepared to answer their questions.  Ask the investors what their “pain points” are that would make them want to purchase your product.  Story tell your businesses development to date.  Get the whole team involved.  Show some flair and have a little fun!
  • With almost every proposal there is a failure to address a customer retention strategy.  There’s always a focus on how to get new customer, but rarely a description about how to maintain the existing ones.  The existing customers are the lifeblood of the business existence, the easiest to up-sell future services, maintenance packages, upgrades to in the future.  They are the ones that will recommend you to their friends, rave in blogs about you.
  • Get properly acquainted with the technology behind the documents that you produce to make them more appealing to read.   Can you say in a single chart everything that you would put in a long winded text description?  Better still, outsource their production, but don’t forget to copy check!
  • Remember this is a strategic plan for your business, not an operations manual for how your business currently operates.  Investors don’t need to know what you do for every hour of the day, what insurance policies your company has, or even a list of every competitor.  On the subject of competitors, they’re more interested in what your strategy is for beating, merging or simply understanding your competitors, than they are about just obtaining a list of them.
  • So with competitors, like so many other issues, the description must answer the “so what” question.  What will be their impact on the products you sell or the margins you obtain from them?  How will their growth strategy undermine your capacity to growth?  Does their direction create any synergies that you could mutually pursue through a future partnership or alliance?
  • With the financial proposal, the key information such as turnover, profit , cash position of company must not be buried in 6 point type at the bottom of a detailed model.  It needs to be made obvious through the narrative.  The profitability of the business and the probability that things are going to turn out that way are fundamental to the plan.  The alternative i.e. should I just close the doors and go and get a job now needs to be considered on the light of this?  If you want to further strengthen your plan describe some alternative scenarios e.g. failure to gain funding versus success gaining funding and talk about what your financial model will look like under each.
  • If you have a technology that is patented you need to consider within the plan how it can gain the greatest market traction in the shortest period of time.  While a direct sales route may be unaffordable, creative consideration can be given to licensing, distribution etc.  A more rapid expansion will usually also result in a per unit cost reduction through economies of scale in manufacture.
  • Finally, an investors greatest concern is whether you have been able to visualize what your market will look like in five years time.  What overall macro and micro-economic trends will occur, how will consumer behavior change, how will your industry change as a result etc?  Speculate that the world will move even faster in the next five years and think about what you will have to do to reach your ideal marketing position – perhaps ready for your own exit?