You've started a new business or are looking to grow your current one. You meet with potential investors and then you email them your business plan. And you wait. And then you wait some more. You know they're busy and you don't want to be too pushy, but you don't even know if they've looked at it yet. It's one of the most frustrating feelings, being ready to drive your professional life forward, while impatiently stuck in park, wondering:
- Have they opened it yet?
- What if they've looked at it and hated it?
- What if they've looked at it and loved it, but lost our contact info?
- What if they have questions?
Sometimes, the not knowing is worse than a No.
No longer is that intense stress necessary. When you build your business plan online, you can learn right away not only when your prospective investors and other interested parties have opened the document, but exactly what they have spent time looking at. You learn how much time they are spending looking at each part -- so you can prepare yourself to respond to their uncertainties.
The ability to read your potential investors' minds
The most likely situation is that your potential advisors, investors and loan officers are going to have follow-up questions -- they're almost always going to want more than what they see at first glance. If you do an interactive online business plan, then they can ask the questions right in the document, commenting on the specific text in question.
Knowing what they are thinking when they are thinking it gives you a powerful tool -- mind-reading gives you intense power, particularly when asking people for help and support. If you create an online business plan, you know what objections and concerns your readers have immediately, giving you a heads up to research the answers to their questions and allowing you to prepare a well-armed follow-up.
Benefits of building an online business plan are boundless
First and foremost, you want to spend your time building your business, not creating documents. Building an online business plan allows you to be more productive, moving past unnecessary struggles like layout and formatting to stay focused on the message and vision of your business.
An online business plan is a great way to stand out from the start-up pack. It shows that your business is professional, forward-thinking, creative, flexible and open to feedback.
By inviting those investors into your environment to view your business plan, you are bringing them closer to your organization, staying engaged throughout the process, and putting forth a much better brand image in the process.
Having an online business plan also allows you to give a dynamic presentation to investors. We all know PowerPoint is passé, so why not instead take them on a journey inside your interactive online plan?
Plus, if your business or sector involves any sort of technology, an old-fashioned stagnant business plan will make you look, well, old-fashioned and stagnant. However, if those adjectives describe your investors, you still have the option of turning your online plan into a simple PDF to print it out for them and their red pens.
Creating an online business plan is made easier because it's inherently more collaborative. You, your teammates and your advisors can all work together within the cloud-based business plan at the same time. This is important because your technical experts sure know what they're talking about, but then your marketing and sales guys can help them buff it up, rephrasing everything in a more compelling manner. Before even sending your plan into the den of your potential investors, your advisors (and trusted family and friends) can interact with and evaluate your drafts. Furthermore, since many of us are starting businesses with people from around the world, building an online business plan can be done from anywhere.
An online business plan also gives you more freedom to "show 'em what ya got." Its multimedia assets allow you to include a portfolio, video testimonials, an introduction to your staff and so much more.
While it doesn't include a copyright, your online business plan can give you a sense of security. First, with everything online, only being sent via a secure server to only those you want to see it, there's less of a chance of it falling into the wrong hands. Also, in the off chance that a so-called investor or collaborator ends up going ahead and releasing a project similar to yours, your in-document analytics can prove when your business plan was created and when your antagonist first saw your work. It can help create a timeframe, if an unfortunate legal situation comes up.
How do to build an online business plan
You have an all-star idea for a business, but articulating it persuasively on paper is harder than you think. Plus, you are so busy building your business that you perpetually put off writing your business plan. By the time you're ready to write it, it's the eleventh hour, you're almost out of time and you need to do something fast. You do not have time to learn something fussy and new.
Business plan software helps you organize your plan, taking you step-by-step through the creation process. It provides sample headers and templates so you can just fill in the blanks, not risking forgetting something important. PandaDoc has an ever-growing series of free business plan templates for you to customize for your business.
Now that you have the tool, the next step is to brainstorm with your team:
- What is the key information about our company? The key benefits/solution we provide?
- Where do we see ourselves in one year? Three years? Five?
- What are we asking for?
- What is our financial plan?
- Why now?
- What do we bring to the table?
There are many more questions you can ask yourselves. These responses have to come from you and your team, but your business plan software will help you organize it in the proper way. You and your company can either plan out the details ahead of time or, if you're under the wire, you can just type them into the fields already waiting for you online.
What to look for in a business plan software
You don't need to worry about downloading or setting up a complicated software -- you need everything to be intuitive, straightforward and easy-to-use. You also want a software that offers business plan templates that fit with your organization and industry, but that give you freedom to customize the look and feel. With a cloud-based software like Pandadoc, you don't have to worry about fussy plug-ins or downloads, you can collaborate with teammates across offices, and you can create a multimedia business plan, with links to your official website, press, videos and photos. An app-based software is probably best because you need the online business plan system to be compatible with the financial programs you use, so you can include charts and graphs, as well as other fiscal statistics.
Of course, no matter how easy a software makes it, it's important to make sure the system is backed up by a good customer support team that can help you when you get stuck and can respond quickly to any questions or concerns you may have along the way.
But beware! Using a business plan template can make everything easier, but don't let it make you lazy. The major risk with business plan software and business plan templates is the boilerplate. Investors and bankers can spot a canned business plan from the mile away. Of course, having a business plan template helps you organize your business plan in the popular order, without having to worry about margins, pagebreaks or layout. It also provides you with some of the typical legalize and can help you create all the necessary charts -- cash flow, profits/losses, etc. -- and let's you present it in a multimedia fashion. It does not, however, do all the work for you. There are many ways online business plan templates can make your life easier, but, in the end, a business plan must have a touch of the original, the memorable. Make sure to take your time to think about your audience, making sure you answer all of their questions clearly and concisely within your plan. In order for investors to find you attractive, you need to make sure your business plan is well-thought-out and makes a strong argument. No matter how much of your professional life you can automate, the vision and personality of your business must still be organic.
In the end Writing a business plan can be a tedious exercise, but it's a crucial one for the future of your business. It's not just about attracting investors; creating a business plan helps you and your team organize your business better, with one eye on its present state and the other on building a future together. An online business plan can't do all of this for you -- it just does some of the work for you, so you can dedicate your efforts to what's really important.