Entrepreneurial Diary – Week 5 – Building the Business Case

Now we’ve passed the elevator pitch, we’re free to move onto the next stage – to develop a full business case and prepare a full sales pitch to deliver to the dragons.

The last week has seen developments in the quality of the work, the development of the team, and the questionable dedication of some individuals; myself included. From here on in we have to:

  • Create a clear business plan (5 pages of planning, supported by 5 pages of data and evidence)
  • Develop a 5 to 7 minute presentation to sell the idea

We have 2 weeks; plenty of time. Well, that should be…

Getting organised

By this point I was feeling a little hard done by, the workload for the elevator pitch had fallen to too small a group, and I was certainly one of them. Our de facto leader suggested we break down the proposal into Rudyard Kipling’s Six Honest Serving Men and split this amongst the team, each of us studying a:
  • What?
  • Why?
  • Where?
  • Who?
  • When?
  • How?
This was supported by what we felt were the four key elements of the building s stronger business case.  
  • Project management
  • Finance and accounting
  • Data/evidence gathering and analysis

I also used the opportunity to practice carrying out a out a PESTLE analysis and Porter’s Five Forces analysis to get a better understanding of the industry environment, competition and barriers that we may face on the venture.

Porter's 5 Forces
Porter’s 5 Forces

Porter’s Five Forces felt very negative. It didn’t feel as if it was giving a truly representative picture of the environment by measuring the opportunities against the barriers and that potential forces of opportunity did not appear to be readily available, I may have a go at this myself.

We created a monster!

As discussions went on, conversation blossomed, more possibilities emerged for what could be achieved with our product. Not only ideas, evidence too. Graphs, tables, diagrams and figures appeared on our online ideas page for new services our product could deliver. Before long warning signs started to appear on our wiki page for information of overload.

Actual warning signs.

Warning signs just like this. Except with different words.
Warning signs just like this. Except with different words.

Positively, this was good; the team became increasingly more committed to the idea. On the flip side, the idea became complex, convoluted and more complicated to explain. I needed to keep the team focused and found myself dragging conversations back to the core proposal for fear of confusing our proposition with too many gimmicks and development ‘add-ons’. My challenge was to keep conversations on target and focussed. I didn’t want to lose these ideas, but I didn’t want the core offering to get confused and scare off the dragons like some teams did during the elevator pitch.

Gaining a Business Plan

I volunteered to pull the information into a business plan. This gave me the opportunity to research business plan templates (see blog post here) and allowed me to shape the proposal, which I was concerned was getting confused and diluted. This gave me a stronger design emphasis for the proposal with an aim to keep it simple.

This is perhaps a little ‘control-freaky’ I realise. It’s a trick I’ve pulled when working in teams when I’ve wanted to shape the outcome of a project in the face of powerful characters and ideas people. Often I’ve found ideas people tend to be keen to speak their mind, but quite happy to let other get on with the graft.

We rejected the Opportunity Business Model as a means to structure our proposal as it felt unclear and a poorly structured for a formal business proposal, and I put the research into business case templates into action. In practice, I found the templates complicated and annoying. Even my favourite template from the Princes Trust proved annoyingly structured, with too many protected and read-only elements which made it totally inflexible.

After consulting with the team, we decided the key headings needed to be:

  1. Exec Sum and Aims (6 honest serving men)
  2. Management Team / Stakeholders
  3. Marketing plan
  4. Operational Strategy
  5. Risk / analysis
  6. Financials (Infrastructure / ROI / ROE)

I developed our own as a simplified version of the Princes Trust template (the link to it is below). But still, that’s quite a lot of headings for a 5 page business case.

Losing a team

I had been frustrated that the work had seemingly been left to a smaller group on the team for the elevator pitch. I hoped this would be resolved when the hard work would begin in earnest. Instead, things became ever more polarised, and I can’t say I was always on the right side.

My role on the team gradually evolved; not quite the project manager or the leader/shaper. For me it meant keeping everyone on target and making sure things just got done. However, after agreeing to lead on the marketing strategy and business plan, I received some rather good news (sort of…)

I got a new job supporting the Chief Executive, managing key projects and generally making things happen (sound familiar?). Which is great and all, but wow, has it demanded my time. I slipped behind on tasks I had been assigned and could sense the frustration in the group.

The good news is: here's a cake!  The bad news is: it's sad :(
The good news is: here’s a cake!
The bad news is: it’s sad 😦

The first draft of the business plan stood at 21 pages once the original data in ideas had been input. I managed churn out a marketing strategy, a 5 forces analysis and cut down the business case to a mere 13 pages during an incredibly busy week with very little sleep. Then hit a blank, caused three distinct elements:

  1. A total confusion on how to include all the necessary information and supporting data while maintaining a semblance of a coherent plan
  2. A total inability to spend any time on the project
  3. A lack of sleep
I know the feeling Mr Mark Twain, brevity is for people with too much time on their hands.
I know the feeling Mr Mark Twain; brevity is for people with too much time on their hands.

Fortunately, our leader managed to cut it down into an acceptable length the day before submission.

This is probably a realistic problem – When working in entrepreneurial teams, people do have different priorities: jobs to keep the head above water, families to nurture, studies to get on with (see blog post on becoming an part time MBA Jedi). Not everyone in the team can harness their passion and energy when everyone else can.

Next stage – Delivering the pitch… Duh duh duuuuh!

Other articles in this series of entrepreneurial theory in practice


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