Getting to "yes" in a world of "no"…

Over the last few years, a large part of me has come to despise business plans and formal pitches, the means that entrepreneurs typically employ to try to communicate their BBGF (“barely believable growth forecast“) to potential investors. It’s entirely true that almost all of these are formulaic, clichéd, and template-driven, with their Advisory Boards, edgy American clip art and dinky little hockey-stick curves: but the thing that “totes gets mah goats” is much, much bigger than any of these pettily lazy annoyances.

No, the big issue I have with them is this: that even though pretty much every startup has an interesting story to tell (particularly if you ask the founders about it in the pub), pretty much every formal startup presentation I’ve ever seen – including most of my own, ashamed as I am to say it – tells the company’s claimed growth story as viewed from the wrong side of the table. Which side is that? The company’s side. So which is the right side? The customer’s side.

Furthermore, it may sound like an obvious thing to say, but almost all the tech entrepreneurs you’re likely to meet are more interested in the tech part than the entrepreneur part. And the two parts aren’t 50-50, far from it: doubtless I’ll have to keep on saying it until I’m blue in the face, but 90% of entrepreneurship is sales. And the art of sales is the art of seeing things from the other side of the table.

So, here’s my challenge to you for today: what exactly is stopping you from building a business plan – or indeed a presentation or pitch – where at least 50% of it is from the point of view of those sensible-headed people who you claim will be buying whatever dog-shit fairy-dust your startup plans to sell? How can you find a way of putting their words into the presentation rather than yours?

Business isn’t about what you think ought to work, it’s about what will actually / slowly / eventually work for the largely rational consumers on the other side of the table. What does the world look like from over there? Do you really know? If you do, why aren’t you even remotely getting it across in your presentations?


Comments on: "What would a genuinely credible 2012 business plan look like?" (2)

  1. Which side of the table were you sitting ? Often experienced investors or evaluators are looking at things other than the overall content. It is the process of creating and delivering the plan that is important and within there are many clues !

    Also, if we knew what worked, there would be little need for entrepreneurs.

    • Avron: my perspective is that most tech entrepreneurs treat everything as a supply-side problem – if only we could build an X, then people would (naturally) buy it. Hence for most entrepreneurs, the (fairy-dust) tech and the team to deliver it form the content of the presentation, the sales pitch.

      Though it’s perhaps brutal of me to say, I honestly believe that the B-school language used by this approach doesn’t really work any more – it doesn’t work for entrepreneurs, for investors, for customers, for anyone. Basically, we need a new way of talking about young companies.

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