|Strategic Planning Information|
Describing Intellectual Property in Your Business Plan
Most companies that are worthy of raising venture capital have proprietary Intellectual Property (IP). In fact, the quality of the IP and the management team are often the two most important aspects of a venture capitalist's investment decision. The challenge that many ventures face, however, is that most investors will not sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and NDAs are critical to maintaining the proprietary nature of the IP. This article details the appropriate strategy for addressing proprietary IP in your business plan in order to attract investor attention while retaining the confidentiality of your inventions.
Focus on the Benefits of and Applications of the IP: The business plan should not discuss the confidential aspects of the IP. Rather, the plan should discuss the benefits of the IP. Remember that even the most amazing of technologies will not excite investors unless it has tangible benefits to customers.
The business plan first needs to discuss the products and services into which the IP will be integrated. It then must detail the benefits that these products and services have to customers and differentiate them from competitive products. When applicable, it is helpful to include non-confidential drawings and backup materials of the products and services in the Appendix.
Focus on Customer Needs and the Relevant Market Size: The business plan must also discuss how the benefits of the IP fulfill a large customer need. To accomplish this, the plan needs to detail customer wants and needs and prove that the company's offerings specifically meet these needs.
Secondly, the plan needs to discuss the marketplace in which the IP is offered and the size of this marketplace. Critical to this analysis is determining the relevant market size. The relevant market size equals a company's sales if it were to capture 100% of its specific niche of the market. For example, a medical device's market size would not be the trillion dollar healthcare market, but rather the sales of all competing medical devices.
Focus on Competition and Competitive Differentiation: Your business plan must also prove that your IP is better than competitive inventions. In identifying competitors, note that listing no or few competitors has a negative connotation. It implies that there may not be a large enough customer need to support the company's products and/or services. On the other hand, should there be too many competitors, then the market may be too saturated to support the profitability of a new entrant. The answer -- any company that also serves the customer needs that you serve should be considered a competitor.
The business plan should detail both the positive and negative aspects of competitors' IP and products/services and validate that your offerings are either superior in general, or are superior in serving a specific customer niche.
Prove that you can Execute on the Opportunity: As importantly as proving the quality of the IP and that a vast market exists for its applications, the business plan most prove that the company can successfully execute on the opportunity.
The plan should detail the company's past accomplishments, including descriptions and dates when prior funding rounds were received, products and services were launched, revenue milestones were reached, key partnerships were executed, etc.
When a company is a complete start-up, and no milestones have been accomplished, the plan should focus on past accomplishments of the management team as an indicator of the company's ability to execute successfully.
Results: Getting Investors to Sign the NDA: If you are able to convince the prospective investor that the IP is integrated into a product/service which yields real customer benefits in a large market, then the investor will take the quality of the invention for granted when reviewing the plan. Later, during the due diligence process, the investor will review the actual technology. At this point, a discussion regarding signing an NDA would be appropriate.
Since its inception, Growthink Business Plans has developed over 200 business plans. Growthink clients have collectively raised over $750 million in financing, launched numerous new product and service lines and gained competitive advantage and market share. Growthink has become the firm of choice for venture capital firms, angel investors, corporations and entrepreneurs in the know. For more information please visit http://www.growthink.com
3 Undercover Ways to Make Big Profits from Your Competition
You have heard that there is extra money on the table marketing products related to yours. You have also heard that your direct competitors product is off the table. How unfortunate. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to profit from the hard work, expertise and quality of your competitions product?
Nine Succession Planning Mistakes Small Businesses Should Avoid
1. Attempt Succession Planning Without Other Strategic Plans. Succession plans define a company's business heirs, but what will they inherit? They will inherit a company with no vision, no strategy to deal with the competition, and no plans for changing the way it does business, if the current owners spend too little time planning for the future. Every firm should have strategic plans to increase its market value.
Cost-cutting Essential to Maintaining Profits
Why cut costs now? Efforts are multiplying to cut costs wherever possible in order to achieve or preserve high profits. The resulting benefits for all of a company's employees should be obvious.
Executive Summary for Business Plans of Franchisees
Writing a business plan for a franchised outlet of a larger company to get funding or find investors is difficult because the franchisor already has a plan which is working, but until you are privy to it upon purchase you actually know relatively few details. The franchisor must keep this information proprietary to insure competitors do not steal the information, but the franchise buyer needs the information to prepare a business plan to get a loan from a bank. Thus a catch 22 exists and is further exacerbated by the fact there are laws against some types of disclosures, which many franchisors due to the litigious nature of franchising do not wish to disclose based on advice from their attorneys. So what do you do? Well, you do the best you can using the UFOC, uniform franchise offering circular or ask the franchisor to send in a business plan directly to your banker who, signs a waiver of non-disclosure and you cannot see it until purchase.
Planning For The Slow Season Of Your Business To Increase Sales
Every business experiences slower periods. For some, they sell more during the Christmas season while others move at a snail pace. Some sell more during the summer and others less. The key is being aware of your seasons and alternatives available to solve the challenge and change the results.
Strategic Planning Consulting
Strategic planning and consulting is the strategy roadmap to manage business very effectively. To improve the performance in each business level, business strategic planning & consulting is essential. We should draw a clear strategic planning model to dilute the business complexity. If the strategic planning models are clearly set it is easy to find the business solution.
Laying It Out On Paper
You might be thinking to yourself, "Why should I waste my time writing a business plan? I know what (web designers, freelance writers, professional organizers) do!" Knowing intellectually what your industry is all about and pinpointing exactly where you want your business to go are two entirely different propositions.
Urban Flight in Ohio
Many of Ohio's downtown areas are in need of upgrading as folks pack up and move to the suburbs. Many downtown revitalization projects are currently going on there. Competition for sales tax, real estate, middle-income housing and quality of life is a power struggle, urban flight has been growing in Cincinnati and we do not see that stopping, but the expansion in the suburbs is very strong indeed.
5 Strategies That Will Boost Your Business Productivity Today! - Part 2
Growing your own small business can be one of the most exciting journeys you could ever embark upon!
Business Results - Four Critical Success Factors
What is a Shared Vision?
So what makes a vision successful? Everyday companies try to create a vision that will lead them into the future but seldom does that vision ever impact the organization. The reason for this is that the vision is created by a few and never becomes a 'shared vision' of the entire organization.
How Good Is a Business Plan To Your Business?
You know you need a business plan. You probably realize that it is one of the best ways to get your business up and running. No matter what your business is, a business plan can help to focus its direction while providing the information you need to get moving. The most important thing a business plan will do is to provide your financial backers with a reason to give you their approval. It will show them how you plan to work your business.
Thinking Like A Farmer
One of the difficulties we face in our industrialized age is the fact we've lost our sense of seasons. Unlike the farmer whose priorities change with the seasons, we have become impervious to the natural rhythm of life. As a result, we have our priorities out of balance.
Seasonality: Whats the Big Deal?
Do you work in or own a business that's affected by seasonal cycles? Do you live in a community whose population changes significantly during the year (e.g., tourist influx, students returning to college)? Do you ever feel stressed out or frustrated by the seemingly constant changes or the extreme highs and lows of your life or your business?
Advice To Manufacturers Creating A Business Plan
If you are a manufacturer wanting to use your business plan to attract investors, then your plan must do two things. It must:
Getting Started with Succession Planning: Part II
Succession planning requires the owner of a small or medium-sized business to plan for what the company will look like and how it will operate after the transition to new owners is complete. Unless the owners have succession goals in mind, they won't achieve them. Once these goals are in place, the owners should backtrack and identify the process that will get the firm from its current status to the targeted status after succession. Some of the people involved in the process of transforming the company should be retained as future managers. Others are best utilized just for the transition but not in a managerial or ownership role after succession.
Making a Decision to Outsource: Strategic Constraints
Many companies are reluctant to dive into outsourcing ocean because of various reasons of strategic nature. As far as strategic goals are touched upon, managers are concerned with the following issues:
How Copying the HBO Schedule Can Boost Your Business
I'm not talking about posting the HBO schedule on your website or sending a Xeroxed copy around to all your customers. When HBO came onto the scene they were innovative, fresh, and willing to do things other people were not.
How to Develop a Successful Board of Advisors (...and Why You Should!)
In today's rapidly changing and highly competitive markets, many privately held companies are creating outside advisory boards to give owners and CEOs fresh, knowledgeable advice. Even for small businesses, setting up an advisory board can give you a significant advantage over competitors that are relying solely on internal talent. An experienced and well-connected board of advisors can help your business grow and prosper in ways you've never imagined. What is a Board of Advisors? An advisory board is an outside group that is informally organized to provide business owners and corporate leaders with support, advice and assistance. While formal boards of directors have legally defined responsibilities and fiduciary duties, advisory boards have no formal power or binding legal authority. They serve at the pleasure of the business owner or CEO. Benefits of an Advisory Board There are several advantages that companies with advisory boards have over their competition. A board offers your business: An unbiased outside perspective. Increased corporate accountability and discipline. Enhanced CEO and management effectiveness. Greater credibility with investors, vendors and customers. Help in avoiding costly mistakes. Rounding out skills and expertise lacking in current management team. A sounding board for evaluating new business ideas and opportunities. Enhanced community and public relations. Improved marketing results and effectiveness. Strategic planning assistance and input. Centers of influence for networking introductions. Crisis and transition leadership in the event of the death or resignation of the CEO. Help anticipating market changes and trends. Steps to Creating an Effective Board of Advisors: Analyze the strength and weaknesses of your current management team. Look for critical areas of expertise and knowledge that your company could use help with such as marketing, legal, finance, eCommerce, and research and development or information technology. If your company is planning on going public within the next few years, seek out advisors who have successfully taken companies down that path. Set clear, written goals and objectives for your board of advisors. Getting maximum value from a board of advisors begins with clear objectives and goals. Board members must know why they have been asked to serve and what is expected of them. Before establishing the board, the CEO and senior managers should sit down and ask some of the following questions: 1. What are the main areas we need advice and guidance in? 2. What specifically do we need the board members to do for us? 3. Who are a few potential candidates for board membership? 4. How do we avoid giving away too much control to outsiders? 5. What will be the powers and limitations of the board? 6. What will setting up the board cost initially? Annually? Will it be worth the cost? Determine the size and structure of your board. Advisory boards range in size from two members to over thirty. The right size depends on many factors, such as your company's size, complexity, stage of development and individual skills needed. My experience and research has found that for most small to mid-sized, growing companies or start-ups, a 5 to 7 member advisory board is an ideal size. Smaller firms can start with just one or two members and add new members as they grow. Recruiting Candidates Determining whom you invite to join your board is one of the most critical decisions in setting up a board of advisors. Often a business owner's first instinct is to ask friends, family members or professional advisors to sit on their board. This is usually a mistake. Unless your friend or family member is a recognized authority in an area of expertise lacking by your management team or a highly successful entrepreneur, they are probably not the wisest choice. Another reason to avoid asking family or friends to join your board is lack of objectivity. Often advice from a friend, family member or management insider is sugar coated to protect relationships. An outside advisor can give you a much more objective and honest assessment of the situation. Using professional advisors such as your lawyer, banker or accountant as board members has it's own pitfalls. These advisors are already working for you and may not be as objective as you need, due to having an interest in generating future business from your company. Some critical action steps for recruiting a dynamite board of advisors are: Develop a candidate profile. After you have determined the areas of expertise your company is in need of, create a profile of candidates that successfully fit these needs. Take care to address knowledge and skills that your company will need to meet projected growth and future challenges. Seek out experts. Search online and offline for experts and proven leaders that meet your candidate profiles. Contact them and begin discussions about possible board membership. Ask for recommendations. Solicit recommendations from the experts you speak with that cannot serve on your board, of collogues of theirs that they feel would be a good fit for your needs. Begin networking with your attorney, accountant and other professional advisors. Once you have successfully recruited an advisor, he or she can often lead you to another good candidate. Find your candidates motivation. Most of your candidates are not going to be motivated by money alone. In fact, if money is their primary reason for joining your board, they may not be what you are looking for. The most effective board members are motivated by the challenge and intellectual stimulation of building successful companies. They serve because they are already high achievers and enjoy the challenge. Have variety in your board. Try to include experts and successful entrepreneurs from several different disciplines. Often board members who are successful marketers, CEOs and business owners from different industries can bring a fresh perspective to your business. These individuals can often help you incorporate best practices from other industries, into your own industry, creating revolutionary changes and opportunities. Look for a proven track record. Find the leaders in their field. The best board candidates are successful CEOs, business owners, professionals, university professors and consultants who have achieved success in their own businesses and careers. Clearly communicate your goals and objectives. Invest time in talking to and meeting with potential members. Communicate to them what your goals and objectives are. Let them know that you are not looking for "yes men" and that you want advisors who will challenge you and hold you accountable for your businesses growth. Board Compensation Board members expect and deserve to be compensated for their time, efforts and advice. Typical advisory board compensation includes a stipend from $5,000 to $25,000 per member, per year. Some companies pay their board members per meeting, with payment ranging from $500 to $3,000 per meeting, with a monthly retainer of $500 to $2,500. Companies should also cover transportation, meals and lodging for members when attending meetings. Most successful boards also give or require members to buy stock or some form of equity in the company. This gives the board members equity participation and a vested interest in the growth of the company. Pitfalls to Avoid Some potential problem areas to avoid when setting up or working with your advisory board are: Members missing meetings. Because board members are usually running successful businesses of their own, they may not always be available for every meeting. However, board members should be made aware that attendance of board meetings is important and expected. If a member is chronically absent, the value of their membership on the board should be reviewed. Insecurity of senior managers. Some company insiders may feel intimidated or threatened by the involvement of outsiders. The CEO or owner must make every effort to communicate to his staff the benefits and importance of having a board of advisors. Incompatible personalities. This is a challenging situation, because most members of your board will be strong willed, achiever types, who have gotten where they are by taking charge. Many will have strong convictions about their opinions and may find it hard to defer the leadership of the meetings to the CEO. You must determine when a member's personality is "too strong" and becoming disruptive. Excessive number of board members. Because of their strong personalities, if you have too many members on your board, the more assertive members often dominate the debates, depriving you of the contributions the quieter members may have made. Lack of CEO communication. Withholding company information or not regularly communicating with the members of your board of advisors destroys trust and effectiveness. Regular communication between meetings is essential to maintaining an effective board. Inadequate compensation. As I mentioned, you do not want compensation to be the determining factor in a candidates membership on your advisory board, however successful individuals of the caliber you seek expect to be fairly compensated for their time and knowledge. Keys to Board Effectiveness If you build it, use it. Owners and CEOs who invest the time and money in creating a board should be committed to soliciting and using its advice on important issues and decisions. Value their input, even when they disagree with what you want to do. Sometimes a board is at it's most valuable when it recommends against a course of action the CEO wants to take. If you recruit a good board, often they have already been down the path you are on, and their experience (and past failures) can help you to avoid costly mistakes. Communicate with your advisors. Keep the members of your board informed about what is happening in your company and industry. Counsel with individual members on the phone at least monthly and send them information well in advance of your meetings, to help them prepare and keep the meetings productive. Hold regular meetings. Most boards meet once per quarter. However, boards should meet more often during times of rapid growth or if company needs merit additional oversight and guidance. Have an objective for each meeting. Your board members are busy people and their time is valuable. Make the most out of your meetings with them, by having a clear agenda and objectives for each meeting. Make sure to cover the most important items of business first, in case the discussions take longer than planned or some members have to leave early. Annual assessment of board performance. Periodically assessing the board's effectiveness is a critical factor in ensuring a good return on investment. Each year the board should set performance goals and define their criteria for success. At the end of the year the CEO and the board should assess it's performance, compared to its goals and criteria for success. Over 80 percent of all private companies are operating without a board of advisors or board of directors. Odds are your competitors do not have one. Because of this, developing a board of advisors can give your company a distinct advantage over your competition. This is particularly true for start-ups and family run businesses. There is tremendous value in receiving objective, knowledgeable advice from a board of advisors who share in the financial and equity growth of your business. I encourage you to begin recruiting your advisory board today!
More Uses for Your Business Plan
You have invested a lot of time and energy on writing a business plan just to get a loan or to attract an investor. What do you do when you get the money or, worse, should you be turned down?
|home | site map|