The Dragon’s guide to writing a Business Plan

The Dragon’s guide to writing a Business Plan

Six simple steps from the Dragons Den.

There is an old saying in business;

“Fail to Plan or Plan to Fail”

This week, The BBC broadcast the Dragon’s Den guide to writing a Business Plan. This 6 point guide offers some top tips to getting investment for your business idea. Here they are;

1. Set Realisitc Targets

Don’t just pick a number at random as your sales or turnover target. There needs to be some evidence of the financial targets you are suggesting. Do your research, and look at the trend over the last year, 3 years, 5 years, both for the market you operate in and your own company. This should give some indication of future opportunites in your market.  In the programme the 2 guys behind The Wand Company (a remote control shaped as a magic wand) presented solid evidence of future orders as well as their current success, and were able to negotiate a great deal with Duncan Bannatyne. The pitch was spot on, as they were able to present targets with confidence and backed by evidence. In fact, their research was so good that they were able to choose not to take up Duncan’s offer.

2. You make it happen

Commercial acumen is important, but your self belief is key

“Once they like you the Dragon’s will view everything you say positively”

If you don’t believe in your product, why would the Dragon’s? The example given – Masque-Erade showed that confidence and belief, coupled to good forecasting (see 1 above) can be a recipe for success.

3. Get the numbers right

An extension of point 1.

“Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity”

Know your business essentials. These figures need to be at hand, and delivered confidently. Deborah Meaden is particularly hot on this, and has torn apart many an entrant to the den. Any decent bank manager would do the same.

You need to understand the Balance sheet, and Profit & Loss as these are the fundamentals of the business, or no one will want to invest in you.

The example of the camper duvet company showed that not knowing your numbers can cost you. They secured a Dragon (Hilary), but they had to give up 26% equity, rather than the 10% they wanted. Had they been better prepared they could have got a better deal.

4. Price it right

This is the opposite problem to that above- over estimating the value of their business, so you look deluded. The example given was Applied Language online translation services. Success came because they had got the value of their organisation spot on.

5. Timing is everything

“The right idea, the right product at the right time”

Obvious really, but hard to get right. The example in the show – online antiques valuation site “Value my Stuff” secured investment from Theo and Deborah because they reasoned that in a recession, people will want to sell their antiques. One year on this proved to be shrewd. The timing was right. The explosion of good quality camers on phones made uploading photos to the internet easier than it was even 5 years ago.

6. Know when to give up

Back to being realistic. A dud is a dud, recognise it and move on. It is good to have self belief, but not to delude yourself. Look at the evidence objectively, and know when to move away. Example of the Zigo baby cycle – massive previous investment of over a million and losing massive amounts. Dead in the water. One year on, they still have the businesss, but one of the partners, Steven,  now has an online price comparison site for funerals.

So there you have it, the Dragon’s guide to Business Planning.

The best example of a Business Plan from Dragon’s Den is Imran’s ITeddy. Imran knew his margins, and had a sustainable business model with opportunities to innovate. He secured a deal with Peter and Theo and is now busy developing new ideas for his ITeddy company. That is the final lesson;

“Don’t stand still – innovate or die”

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