Telling Your Story…
If you have ever watched the BBC TV Series, The Apprentice, then you may have seen one of the episodes where prospective apprentices are put through a challenging interview. Their CV and business track record is subject to some fairly insightful analysis by experienced and trusted business acquaintances of Lord Sugar. The edited highlights of these sessions tend to focus on the unsupported claims and inconsistencies in the candidates resume. You might also have seen the Dragons Den series, screened by the BBC, which focuses on investor presentations by entrepreneurs seeking start up and development capital from seasoned investors. Whilst raising finance is not always as painful an exercise as some of these TV Series portray, it pays to be well prepared.
Prepare to Win
When presenting your business story to prospective investors and lenders, it is vital you spend sufficient time on planning and preparing your Business Plan and a high level proposal document seeking the funding. Your presentation should include a balanced factual summary of the background to the business, its business model, market position and financial track record. The difficulty lies in not knowing exactly what the investor is looking for and what aspects of the plan are most important. Also, how do you strike the appropriate balance without overwhelming the listener with facts and jargon that obscure the key positive elements that support your funding proposal.
Direction of Travel
When making a credit assessment, the lender tends to want to get comfortable with the background to the business and the key stages of development. The lender will also focus on the future direction of the business, particularly where it is looking at a proposal for a medium term repayment programme. Often the review of what has been achieved thus far by the business and its management is the only reliable platform on which to assess the likelihood that future plans are achievable.
If the business or their advisers are in tune with the key areas that drive a lender's credit assessment then they can help isolate and highlight for the lender key facts and figures which will help advance the arguments for a positive lending decision. If the business is experiencing or likely to experience rapid growth or change in the near future then a forensic analysis of the story thus far can be vital.
Telling your story
The back-story is therefore important to the lender. Remember to include evidence of hurdles overcome, investments made in assets and returns achieved. Ideally this should be presented against the backdrop of a considered strategy. This could be controlled growth by acquisition or alternatively building / maximizing value in existing assets. Whatever the background it should all be set out clearly and link into the new lending proposal being presented. A history of achievement is often the only way a lender or investor can really decide whether you can deliver on your plans.
A few examples of ways in which you might want to present some of the strategies you have implemented are set out below:
Average Sales Income has increased progressively over 3 years by x % due to…
Staffing Costs have been reduced from 63% on acquisition of the business to 57% through…
A detailed review of all Non-Payroll costs had revealed a number of efficiencies, notably in utility tariffs, insurance premiums and advertising costs – annual savings of £ xx identified and implemented …
The Board drew up an acquisition strategy searching for a suitable purchase meeting the following criteria ….5 potential acquisitions were then reviewed in detail before decision taken to purchase XYZ.
Linking facts and figures in this way can be very powerful. The message to the lender or investor can be obvious but also sometimes subtle and subliminal. What is important is that you are able to back up what you say.
A brief article can only scratch the surface on the very broad subject of Business Plans and presentations to investors. Some tips above which we hope prove useful but if you are planning an important presentation we would recommend you consult with your existing advisers or a specialist in corporate credit assessment.
About The Author
Martin How MA (Oxon), ACIB, is a Medifinance Consultant.
Martin was a senior manager in the financial services industry for over 35 years, leading commercial lending teams across a broad geography and working with a wide range of business sectors. Martin is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and holds a Certificate in Credit and Certificate in Healthcare from the ifs School of Finance