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Selling Yourself and Your Idea

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Selling Yourself and Your Idea
Business Plan

Being an entrepreneur in some ways is like being a student: you have to do your homework.

In the business setting, that means creating a business plan: a road map of the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your business.

A business plan is a document that details everything about the business from the product position in the marketplace to the financial information for the next three years. But a business plan is not simply like a term paper-a project that’s completed and then put on the shelf.

A business plan is a dynamic document and should serve four purposes:

Sell you on the business

While this might sound like a no-brainer, the business plan development process includes rigorous research that can be a good eye-opener about the feasibility of your idea.

Ideally, your business plan helps put your idea and its potential into perspective and gives you the details you need to move from concept to reality. However, even if you determine that your idea doesn’t have as much potential as you thought or might cost more than you anticipated, the process of creating a business plan helped you reach that conclusion.

Sell others on the business

In many cases, a business needs some kind of support-financial, consultative, or other resources. In this case, the business plan plays the role of the selling and marketing materials for your idea.

How you make your idea come alive and support it with the necessary research and financial data can be the difference between someone becoming a stakeholder in your new venture or taking a pass.

Give you confidence

Having a great idea is one thing, doing the research to understand exactly what it will take to make the idea real is quite another.

Having a better understanding of what it takes to launch and manage the business puts you in control to solicit investors and other supporters and start your journey.

Improve your chances of success

A business plan is a lot of planning and work, but it’s worth it.

According to a study conducted by AT&T, 42 percent of entrepreneurs who had written a business plan rated themselves as more successful than the 58 percent who hadn’t written one. [1]

Writing Your Business Plan
Every business or organization is different, but a business plan is a common method of planning the launch and management of the business. [2]

While there is no single business plan format, the elements of a business plan are standard. The following business plan outline serves as a guide to developing a business plan. Keep in mind that the order in which you write your business plan should not necessarily follow the order in which you present your plan.

Business Plan Outline

1. Table of contents. Page numbers for each section.

2. Executive summary. Write this section after the plan is completed; this should be a compelling summary of the plan and how it will work.

3. General company description. A high-level description of the product, service, or organization and the unmet need it meets.

4. Products and services. A detailed description of the product, service, or organization; how it works; manufacturing costs; and so on.

5. Marketing plan. A detailed description of the current state of the market, including competition, your positioning, target audience, and how customers will learn about your product, service, or organization and the cost to get the word out.

6. Operational plan. A detailed description of how you will run the day-to-day operations, including product costs, real estate, inventory levels, labor, credit, and so on.

7. Management and organization. A detailed description of the principals of the company, including bios, board of directors, advisory board, banker, attorney, insurance agent, mentors, and so on. 8. Personal financial statement. A personal financial statement for each partner in the business. This is important as business owners often provide capital to start up or support the business; investors want to see the financial standing of the principal individuals.

9. Start-up expenses and capitalization. Accurate accounting of the expenses that are required to get the business started.

10. Financial plan. A twelve-month profit and loss statement, three-year financial projection, projected cash flow, and opening day balance sheet.

11. Appendices. Supporting information such as brochures and advertising, blueprints, leases, equipment, list of assets available, letters of recommendation, and any information that will help support your plan.

Presenting Your Business Plan
Once you have identified your breakthrough idea, conducted your research, and written your business plan, it’s time to put everything to use.

Whether you plan to fund the business yourself or find an investor to provide some capital, you will need your business plan to secure resources from your bank, insurance company, lawyer and other support areas. Your business plan is the universal document for discussions with each of these people.

When it comes to investors, people who are willing to invest financial support based on the potential for the success of your business, there are different types. Here is a summary of the types of investors:


Banks are a common source of lending, and most offer several different types of business loans, including Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed loans.

Banks are the most regulated form of lending; ratios must meet their requirements, and all paperwork must be in order. [3]

Private investors

These are people who are willing to invest money or resources to seed the business or get it up and running. Private investors can include anyone from your uncle to a friend of the family.

Private investors may want to have a say in major business decisions. [4] Each deal is negotiated separately; be sure to agree to terms with a contract. This is the least regulated area so it’s best to be informed about your investors background. [5]

Venture capital

Venture capital firms (also referred to as VCs). VCs usually specialize in investments of $1 million and above, although there are no hard-and-fast rules.

They are looking for a fast return on their investment, especially with the opportunity for an initial public offering (IPO) to take the company public. VCs look for a strong management team and an idea with market potential. Most want a return within three to five years and want to have a say in major decisions that impact the company. [6]

Leasing Companies

If you business requires equipment, leasing can be an option that frees up cash and provides an option to buy at the end of the lease. [7]

Government programs

There are many programs at the local, state, and national level designed to support the growth of small businesses. Many programs offer opportunities for minorities, business loans, tax incentives, and grants, just to name a few.

Research is key to find the program that can potentially support your business; they are not all listed in one place. [8]

Selling Your Business Plan
When you present your business plan to anyone-a banker, a lawyer, an accountant, you are asking her to make a commitment to support your business idea.

While the contents and details of your business plan are critical to gaining support, you are selling more than your business idea-you are selling yourself. How you communicate your vision and supporting details in a clear, concise, and confident manner can make the difference between getting financial or other support or walking away empty handed.


Thinking about yourself and your business idea as a brand is where it all starts. A brand is unique, consistent, and relevant and has an emotional connection with its customers. Your personal brand and your business brand need to accomplish the same goal.

Fast Company magazine identifies personal marketing as one of the first steps for Gen Y entrepreneurs to start their own business: “One of the most important requirements of entrepreneurship is the ability to sell yourself and your ideas.”[10]


Just as you use your résumé to tell “stories” about your three brand positioning points for your personal brand, your business plan pitch should be equally concise and powerful.

Although you have worked for hours on your business plan, your presentation or pitch should focus on the key points and demonstrate that it is a potentially profitable business idea (or nonprofit organization that can achieve its goals), but also that you are the right person to make the concept come alive.

Fast Company magazine suggests Generation Y individuals start marketing themselves as a brand even before they start their business or career.

Here are some things you can do now:

Join professional organizations and become visible
Volunteer at a nonprofit organization
Get a mentor who will give you personal guidance and advice
Write a blog, post, share your observations and theories, get feedback
Read everything you can about the industry [11]

Considering Internships
Finding the right job requires focus, time management, and motivation…and sometimes even working for free.

You have to keep a positive mental attitude throughout your search and manage your time to gain experience An internship, or more than one internship over the course of your academic career, can provide insight into an industry or a specific company or position. What better way to learn about something you might want to do during your career.

When US comedian Jay Leno was young, he saw a Mercedes/Rolls-Royce dealership in his hometown in Boston and thought it would be a great place to work given his passion for cars. When he applied for a job the manager responded with the usual: “We’re not hiring.” Leno was undaunted; the next Monday morning he returned and went to the car wash bay. He told them he was the new guy and started washing cars.

A few days later, the manager saw him and said, “What’s he doing here?” The
head of the car wash team said he was a hard worker; Leno said that he figured he would work there until he got hired. Needless to say, he got the job. [12]

“One hundred percent of the students I hire have had internships,” says Michelle Goza, a campus recruiter for Gap. “It’s foolish not to pursue the opportunity.” [13]

Internships are almost the norm today, and many employers expect to hire recent grads for entry-level positions who have had some kind of internship. “There is no such thing as too much experience, just not enough,” says Craig Bollig, a journalism major at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. [14]

Due to the challenging economy, recent graduates are finding internships to be an excellent way to build their experience. “The need for experience is always growing and one internship may not cut it like it did before,” adds Bollig. [15]

Consider an internship the same way you would consider a job:

Is this the right fit for my experience?
Are the company values in line with my own?
What will I be doing?
Will I be paid for the internship?
If so, how much?
How will I be evaluated?
While the interview process is usually more abbreviated for an internship than for a full-time job, take the time to ask questions so you understand the expectations of the role.

Internship Offer Letter

Before accepting any internship (or full-time job), it’s best to get an offer letter. [16] Even if you are accepting an unpaid internship, an offer letter outlines your areas of responsibility, dates of employment, and other specific information that you should agree upon with your employer before you begin.

Internships come in all shapes and sizes; some are formal, structured programs while others are created by the student.

The Right Internship
Many large corporations have structured internship programs that include paid internships.

However, many industries such as advertising, entertainment, and public relations offer unpaid internships as a way for you to gain experience. The right internship, paid or unpaid, allows you the opportunity to get experience, a chance to network, and the opportunity to test drive a job to see if it’s something you like to do. [19]

In today’s challenging job market, you might find it worth your while to accept an unpaid internship. While that might be a tough pill to swallow, consider Lindsey Roberts’s point of view after she graduated with an MBA from a top business school.

“I could either sit at home all day and drive myself nuts going from company websites, to Indeed.com and back to Gmail and Facebook, or I could get out there, put my education experience to work while I continued my job search.” [17]

It’s not only graduate students who are accepting unpaid internships. According to the Wall Street Journal, the recession has tightened the internship market.

Experienced workers who have been laid off are now successfully participating in unpaid internships for the same reasons students do: to build their résumés and increase their chances for full-time work. [18]

Professional Organizations
Being a member of a professional organization helps build your professional network, and hone your skills.

It’s also a great résumé-builder because it signals to your prospective employer that you are willing to take the time to get involved in a business function during your spare time. Participation in a professional organization can help make you stand out as a candidate or help you meet the right people.This is an excellent way to meet an executive in the industry of your choice. [20]

Professional organizations

The reason for the existence of most professional organizations is to promote the health and advancement of the industry and bring people together for networking purposes. In addition, most professional organizations offer a newsletter that includes information about the industry and companies that can be very helpful for job leads and interviewing research. [21]

Professional organizations provide a platform for ongoing learning about industry trends, case studies, and best practices. Successful people stay involved in one or more professional organizations even after they have established careers.


A business plan is a road map for your business and a tool to present your business idea to potential resources and investors.

A business plan has certain key elements, including a statement of purpose and marketing, operational, and financial plans.

An investor is a person or organization that provides financial or other support to your business.

Types of investors include banks, private investors, venture capitalists, equipment-leasing companies, and government programs.

The best way to get the job you want when you graduate is to work on it right now with internships and by joining professional organizations. Both are expected by prospective employers of new hires for entry-level jobs.

Internships provide an opportunity to gain experience, test drive a job, and network; many result in full-time job offers.

Some internships are paid while others are unpaid; some internships qualify for college credit while others do not. It’s best to consult your faculty advisor before you accept an internship.


List three things you can do now to prepare for a career as an entrepreneur.

Visit your local career center and meet with one of the counselors. Learn about internships that are offered and how to apply for them. List three things that you learned during this meeting.

[1] David E. Gumpert, “The Basics of Business Plans: Sell, Sell, Sell,” Inc., October 24, 2000,http://www.inc.com/articles/2000/10/14871.html (accessed September 19, 2009).

[2] SCORE, “Business Plan for a Startup Business,”http://www.score.org/resources/business-plan-startup-business (accessed September 29, 2009).

[3] “Small Business Loan Sources, Take Aim,” Business PlanMaster,http://www.businessplanmaster.com/small-business-loan-sources.html (accessed September 28, 2009).

[4] “How to Get Funding from Angel Investors,” Wall Street Journal,http://guides.wsj.com/small-business/funding/how-to-get-funding-from-angel-investors(accessed September 19, 2009).

[5] “Small Business Loan Sources, Take Aim,” Business Plan Master,http://www.businessplanmaster.com/small-business-loan-sources.html (accessed September 28, 2009).
[6] “Small Business Loan Sources, Take Aim,” Business Plan Master,http://www.businessplanmaster.com/small-business-loan-sources.html (accessed September 28, 2009).

[7] “Small Business Loan Sources, Take Aim,” Business Plan Master,http://www.businessplanmaster.com/small-business-loan-sources.html (accessed September 28, 2009).

[8] “Small Business Loan Sources, Take Aim,” Business Plan Master,http://www.businessplanmaster.com/small-business-loan-sources.html (accessed September 28, 2009).

[9] Wilson Harrell, “The Way I Work: Bob Parsons, Go Daddy,” Inc., January 1, 2009,http://www.inc.com/magazine/20090101/the-way-i-work-bob-parsons-go-daddy.html(accessed September 19, 2009). [10] Lindsey Pollak, “Gen Y Entrepreneurs: Here Are the First Steps to Starting Your Own Business,” Fast Company, March 15, 2009, http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/lindsey-pollak/next-generation-career-advice/are-you-gen-y-considering-entrepreneurship-first-s(accessed September 28, 2009).

[11] Lindsey Pollak, “Gen Y Entrepreneurs: Here Are the First Steps to Starting Your Own Business,” Fast Company, March 15, 2009, http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/lindsey-pollak/next-generation-career-advice/are-you-gen-y-considering-entrepreneurship-first-s(accessed September 28, 2009).

[12] Jay Leno, “Jay Leno Says: Persistence Pays Off,” Parade, September 6, 2009,http://www.parade.com/celebrity/2009/09/jay-leno-persistance-pays-off.html (accessed May 16, 2010).

[13] “Make the Most of Your Internship,” WetFeet,http://www.wetfeet.com/Undergrad/Internships/Articles/Make-the-Most-of-Your-Internship.aspx (accessed September 8, 2009). [14] Anya Kamenetz, “Take This Internship and Shove It,” New York Times, May 30, 2006,http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/30/opinion/30kamenetz.html (accessed September 11, 2009).

[15] Craig Bollig, “Maybe One Is Not Enough,” Internships for Dummies Newsletter, Spring 2009, http://www.uwosh.edu/journalism/docs/LowRes09.pdf (accessed September 8, 2009).

[16] Kim Richmond, Brand You, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008), 210.

[17] Lindsey Roberts, “A Millennial’s View on Cost/Benefits of an Unpaid Internship Post-MBA,” Millennial Marketing, August 10, 2009,http://millennialmarketing.com/2009/08/a-millennial’s-view-on-costbenefits-of-an-unpaid-internship-post-mba (accessed September 11, 2009). [18] Sarah H. Needleman, “Starting Fresh with an Unpaid Internship,” Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2009,http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203577304574280201046918712.html(accessed September 11, 2009).

[19] Rich DeMatteo, “3 Reasons to Take an Unpaid Internship,” Corn on the Job Blog, July 23, 2009, http://cornonthejob.com/2009/07/23/3-reasons-to-take-an-unpaid-internship(accessed September 11, 2009).

[20] Philly Ad Club, “Philly Ad Club Mentor Program,” May 5, 2009,http://www.phillyadclub.com/news_article.php?id=1973 (accessed September 12, 2009).

[21] Sally Kearsley, “It Pays to Join a Professional Association,”http://www.jobscareers.com/articles/developingyourcareer.html (accessed September 12, 2009).