The Business Plan, an essential exercise in business creation, is aimed at several interlocutors and has multiple aspects.
The Business Plan is, above all, a tool for the entrepreneur to develop and test the clarity, coherence, and viability of his project. It is then an essential communication medium to convince partners to trust it:
- Financiers (investors, bankers, etc.)
- Potential partners
- Business (distribution network, supplier, etc.)
- Various supports (support organizations, competitions, subsidies …)
The Business Plan describes all the elements of the startup project:
- Why? What? : the context/problem that we solve, the solution/proposal/concept/product that responds to it,
- Where? : the context in which the business will operate: its market, its competition, the regulatory context, etc.,
- How? ‘Or’ What? : the development plan, the commercial strategy, the customer acquisition channels/costs, the KPIs to be managed,
- Who ?: the founding and management team, its strengths, its complementarities, its history,
- Finally, the financial forecast and the financing plan, a numerical summary of all the previous elements.
On this last aspect, the financial part of the business plan, we return here.
Be clear to convince
Considering its history (sales figures, operating costs, etc.) is an essential determinant of future financial projections for a company that already has an established activity. For a startup, the forecasts are essentially based on the entrepreneur’s assumptions. Hence the fundamental nature of explaining and documenting your assumptions: explaining the formation of turnover, on which market studies they are based, making sure that you have taken into account the completeness of the necessary costs, the different payment deadlines, indicating which are the essential metrics that will allow the activity to be managed, etc.
A clear and detailed forecast will reflect the team’s ability to master its project’s challenges, risks, and success factors. The ease of reading and understanding your hypotheses will greatly facilitate analyzing the results obtained by potential investors interested in your project. It will reassure them about the team’s rigor and ability to achieve its objectives.
Seller, but without excess
They will naturally use the project’s most optimistic hypotheses. But, to convince its partners, the investor knows it and, therefore, will not take the figures you present to him as the truth.
Any partner you are trying to convince will have more confidence in a team that knows and assumes its risks than an overly optimistic BP. So do not underestimate the project’s risks, anticipate and do not evade the problems you may encounter, and look for the answers you can bring to them.
A business plan services never turn out as planned. There will sometimes be unforeseen opportunities and certainly hazards that will thwart the goals of the starter. It is also inherent in any entrepreneurial adventure. The answer is not in a crystal ball but the scripting of your business plan. The aim here is to identify the alternative, realistic scenarios in which the activity will operate. In other words, it is a matter of quantifying identified risk areas and their potential impact on key performance indicators, most notably cash flow. For example, variations in sales volumes, raw material prices, customer payment terms, supply costs, etc.
This exercise aims to identify scenarios in which the company will struggle to manage these risks once the activity begins.
The financial business plan, a management tool
The financial Business Plan must be the quantified version of the startup’s vision and the instrument allowing the management of the company’s cash position, both at its launch and later once the activity has been launched.
The financing plan is one of the critical elements produced within the financial PB. It compares needs (investments, change in working capital requirement, loan repayments, distributions of dividends) and cash resources (contributions of capital and current accounts from associates, new loans, ability to self-financing).
In carrying it out, pay particular attention to:
- The working capital requirement (WCR) measures the structural cash requirement linked to the company’s activity. Measure your BFR in each phase of development (investment / R&D, commercialization, growth, etc.) and the amount of turnover and the time required to reach profitability (breakeven point and breakeven point).
- The different payment terms can generate a discrepancy between “potential” cash and “actual” cash. For example, B2B businesses commonly suffer from high payment terms from their key account customers. Plan a cash reserve to deal with these delays.
- Disbursements indirectly related to operations and any other events that may impact the cash balance: for example, disbursements of VAT (or the ability to recover the excess paid), delays in the collection of subsidies and other financial aid … Here again, anticipate and be realistic about the cash needs to be put in reserve.
To build your business plan, many models provide a framework for the non-financial parts described in the introduction.
The realization of the financial BP, meanwhile, requires a suitable tool.
As in most cases, you can use an Excel file, which you will have built or taken over and adapted. A spreadsheet lets you translate your activity with as many parameters as possible and thus enter into very detailed modeling (sometimes too much). However, you will have to spend time on the maintenance and evolution of the calculation formulas and question your reliability in return. Moreover, it remains limited in communication and shared use with your partners.
If you are not an Excel professional or want to save time, it is better to use market software. For example, Evaltonbiz will make it easier to build your financial forecast. With a modern interface, you only have to enter the amounts. Then, the timing of your future activity hypotheses (purchases, sales, investments, and sources of financing), the tool does the rest: automatic calculations of financial projections and forecasts of cash flow, formatted summary file to communicate to your partners, as well as other optional elements such as comparative geo-sector data.
If there is one thing to remember, the business plan is, above all, a tool for the entrepreneur—a tool to convince yourself and set your goals. If your business plan does not convince you, it will not be convincing. Formalizing the elements of your project today means working on their realization tomorrow.
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