HOW TO GET SUPPORT FOR YOUR IDEA
Got a good idea? That’s great! If you have all the money you need to get it off the ground, you probably don’t need to read this post. Skip this one and come back on Thursday when Ben will be saying something very sensible and helpful about claiming rent on home offices.
On the other hand, if you have a good idea, but you don’t have the money you need to fund it, you might need to convince someone else to fund it. That might mean writing a business plan to attract an investor, or to secure a loan from a bank. Or it might mean preparing a funding application for a government department.
I’ve read a lot of business plans, and I’ve heard a lot of sole trader creative types pitching their new business idea. Based on that experience, here are seven things I think you should keep in mind when preparing your pitch for support. Not an exhaustive list by any means, but a few things which I think the best pitches do.
Know who you’re talking to
Whether you’re writing a business plan or a funding application or a loan application, take some time to profile the person or people on the receiving end. Who are they? What are they like? Are they risk averse or risk takers? Are they familiar with your industry and its current fortunes? How much detail are they going to need? ‘Know your audience’ is always sound advice.
State what you’re asking for
Don’t make your target reader search for what’s probably the crucial bit of info: how much money are you after? State how much you want, over what time frame and what you’re planning to do with the money. There’s no need to dress it up, but do make it clear what difference their investment is going to make. What will this money allow you to do?
Explain your idea simply and clearly
You may be tempted to use some flashy words to help sell your idea. But as they used to say on The West Wing, ‘explain it to me using small words and visual aids’. And if you can’t explain it quickly and clearly, you risk your audience losing interest. They’re not going to waste time trying to work out if there’s a good idea buried in reams of garbled text.
(By the way, someone recently said to me about start-up ideas that the best ones make you think, ‘why hasn’t someone done this already?’. Does your idea do that?)
Spell out the opportunity
People asking for assistance are usually pretty good at spelling out how funding will help them. They are usually less clear on how funding them helps the person/entity handing over the dough. An investor will be looking for a return. A government funder will be looking for a clear match with their policy aims. A bank will be looking for a safe bet. So what is the opportunity you’re offering? How can you make it so attractive your target can’t say no?
Consider the context
It’s useful to spend some time in your pitch outlining the internal and external environments in which you operate. The internal environment is about the strengths you possess, the resources you can bring to the table and the pressures you face. The external environment is about those forces impacting on the markets you’re targeting and those impacting on the industries you’re operating in. It’s also about knowing how fierce the competition is you’ll face. Spelling this out shows that you’ve considered the chances of your venture’s success.
Make sure the numbers add up
Yes, you need a financial forecast and yes, this needs to tread a fine line between ambition and pragmatism. It also needs to add up correctly. And the numbers need to be consistent throughout the document. If that sounds a little obvious, I can report from experience that lots of funding applications and business plans don’t follow these rules. The effect is the reader loses confidence in your idea, and confidence is something you’re trying to foster.
If you’re looking for support for a business idea, it also helps to see how your product or service is going to make a profit. That’s its business model and a reader will need to understand how that model works. Your financial forecast should demonstrate the profit generating machine that is your idea.
Be open to other suggestions
You may not get what you initially ask for. But a good idea will often find support which you haven’t considered. Listen to the feedback from the decision makers and if they make a different offer of a support – even a lesser one – don’t write it off. Consider how you can capitalise on the support you’ve got, rather than mourn too much for the support you’re not going to get. Support comes in lots of different forms too; it might be financial, but it might be strategic advice, or mentoring or connections. Think about what else is on offer before replying with a ‘thanks, but no thanks.’
If you’ve got issues in your business you don’t seem to be able to get on top of, why not get in touch? Not only do we provide a full suite of bookkeeping and tax services here at Generate, but we’re also able to help with business coaching, strategy workshops, business plans and much more. You name the problem and I’m sure we can help.