Programs like Dragons’ Den and The Big Decision are putting the spotlight on how businesses look for investors and financing. But are we learning enough from the five-minute pitches that Arlene Dickinson hears each week on the CBC? This is television, after all, and the plot lines are condensed to fit in the time allotted, but the need for speed and clarity is a good lesson to be learned.
Here are seven tips to help you get pitch-ready for that next investment opportunity. Figure out the answers to these questions in advance, so when your local lender or Arlene asks, you are prepared with clear answers that shows you know your stuff.
1. Be Bright, Be Specific, and Be Brief. When pitching, don’t talk in generalities. Do talk about why this product or service is going to solve a very specific business need or challenge. A good way of pitching is to pose a simple question, then provide the answer (your product or service). If you cannot introduce your product or service in 25 words, it needs a rethink.
2. Why is this Important to You? Showing your passion for your business idea is critical to investors – they are, in good measure, investing in you and not your company. It is your passion that will grow the company and pay back your investors – so let your passion shine, but as above, don’t go overboard with zeal.
3. What is Your Unique Value Proposition? Have you done your homework about your competition and the niche for your new product or service? Is there a demand for it, or can you generate a demand? Is it a novelty product that may have a meteoric rise (and fall) or does it fill an ongoing and unique need that will bring success to you and your investors.
4. What Have You Invested Yourself? Be clear about what equity is already in your business. What an investor wants to know is what you yourself have already invested in your business. And of course, they want to see that you have. If you haven’t already invested, how can you ask anyone else to do so?
5. What Are Your Cash Flow Projections? It is important to clearly present your cash flow projections including all your assumptions. Investors will want to know when they will receive a return on their investment. What stage is your business at? Is it already generating positive cash flow? Know your numbers.
6. How Much Money Are You Asking For? If a lender is offering up to $35k for a start-up business, don’t go in asking for that exact amount unless you need it. Need and want are two very different things. And know what you are willing to accept in terms of shareholder involvement – does Arlene get 25% of your company for her investment?
7. What is Your Growth Plan? Do you have a thoughtful analysis of how to bring your business to scale, whatever scale is for you? While the first couple of years are often just investment and reinvestment, at some point that has to turn into realistic profits and owners’ draws. Have you planned to get there? When is there?
The only thing certain about a great business plan is that your business won’t happen exactly as written. Great opportunities, small disasters, timing issues, missed completion dates, staff performance issues, good and bad reviews, lucky partnerships – all of this will happen. None of this will be covered by your pitch, but with a good solid plan backing you up, you can pitch with confidence.