In most business plans, no matter how striking the idea, the covers are
critically important. The majority of investors may flip to the executive
summary, if they get past the cover, when deciding whether or not they
are interested. Exactly like the front page of a daily newspaper, a business
plan cover puts the important highlights of the proposal upfront for
potential investors to read.
The success of an entire business plan campaign may stand or fall on what
is said on the cover of the business plan. In his book, the Venture Capital
Handbook, David Gladstone wrote that of the one-hundred proposals a
week an investor receives, maybe ten are read.
So, providing critical information on your cover is about the most
important thing for sparking the interest of prospective investors. In fact,
your cover page competes with hundreds of other documents, worksheets,
phone calls, articles, and other information for the attention of prospective investors. And, based on Gladstone's figures, it competes in time,
because, seen for a few seconds, it is heeded, or passed up, and seldom
returned to by readers.
Here are the ten critical pieces of information to include on the cover page of
your business plan.Headline: Start your cover page with an appropriate headline that will interrupt and engage your prospective investors. Use the headline to tell them something news worthy about your venture.Company: Be sure the name of your company is on the cover, but the name of your company is not the headline or the most important trigger to an investor. If your company is a start-up company, your name will likely have no meaning to investors.Contact: Indicate the name of the person you want prospective investors to contact about the proposal. Be sure to include a phone number and email address at which they can be reached. One thing about the email address, make sure it is professional; avoid cute addresses.Type of business: In ten words or less state the industry you are in and the stage of your business, such as 'start-up" or first round financing, development stage or second round financing, and so on.Business summary: A brief paragraph describing what your business does or proposes to do. Summarize the material events in the development of your business (including any material mergers or acquisitions) during the past five years, or for whatever lesser period you've been in existence. Describe the industry in which you sell or expect to sell your products or services and any related trends within that industry. Describe that part of the industry and the geographic area in which your business competes or will compete.Management: Simply list the top two or three key people with a two-sentence description of their backgrounds, what they will be doing for the company and unique skills and experiences each adds to the company.Product/service and competition: Very briefly describe your products or services and how you'll produce or render them. If you plan to offer a new product(s), tell its present stage of development, including whether or not you have a working prototype(s). Indicate what it will take in terms of money, resources, and approvals to completely develop the product. Disclose if you are dependent upon one or a limited number of suppliers for essential raw materials, energy or other items. Describe any major existing supply contracts.Funds requested and collateral: State exactly how much money you are raising and a description of the form you are requesting it in (debt or equity). Also tell what you are offering as security to investors, if anything.Financial dataProvide a summary schedule outlining how you'll use the proceeds you raise. Keep it at a high level; you'll have the details in the plan itself. A columnar summary of key historical financial figures like sales, net income, assets, liabilities and net worth. What you ultimately list here will also depend on the type of financing you are seeking (debt or equity). A columnar schedule of key projected financial figures for three or five years out similar to those listed in your history.
Exit: Briefly tell how investors will get a return on their investment. For example, you might plan to go public in five years, buy back their initial investment at four times in four years, or perhaps sell the business to a financial or a strategic buyer.
If you're struggling with how to fit all this information onto your cover page, go here to see an example of a cover page layout: http://www.business-plan-secrets-revealed.com/business-plan-cover-page.html
Mike Elia is a chief financial officer and an advisor to
venture capitalists and leverage buyout specialists. For more information about business plans and raising capital for your business or to review his business plan manual or free business plan guide, visit Business Plan Secrets Revealed.