It is not uncommon for small businesses with limited resources to be challenged at the thought of facing their bank manager to apply for business funding. The reason is simple; regardless of how long you have been with your bank, you will still have to comply with formalities when it comes to funding your business start-up or business growth. Fundamentally, you will be asked to write a business plan for funding which must be presented with your application form. You may wonder why you need to present a business plan to lenders or investors. Let’s think about why banks want you to prepare a business plan and then you will fully understand why investors ask for this precious document that will cost you some time and money to put together, but ultimately, if done well, will help you raise the much needed finance.
Some Reasons Why Banks Need A Business Plan
1. Banks are taking a risk on you and your business and they need to understand that risk and compare it against the expected reward from your business. Have you ever thought about how banks make their money for their shareholders? Well, they do so investing their capital (money – usually investors’ funds and borrowed funds) in your business with full expectations of earning higher returns than the costs they must pay for borrowing or raising their own capital. If you fail to deliver the returns on their investment from your business, they will end up being a victim of your problems which will cost them their business. In short, your risk of business failure becomes their risk too.
2. They want to gain a better understanding of your management team who will be responsible for managing the funds invested in your business. This is a concept many small businesses and start-ups, don’t grasp fully. They may think their business ideas or wonderful products are sufficient ingredients for business success. Nothing can be further from the truth. A business is an organisation of integrated functional activities designed to accomplish a desired objective. These integrated activities must be managed competently by different people inside or outside the organisation for successful results to be accomplished. The bank manager reviewing your application must be satisfied that your team possesses competencies both at the level of technical knowledge and correct attitude – the critical ingredients for success when present and vice versa. A business that is poorly managed will fail irrespective of the quality of its products and benefits offered to its target market. With this in mind, you must be aware that when you apply for funding from a bank (or any other types of funders), your management team’s quality will have to be judged based on past performance. They also want to know if your management team possesses industry, business and market knowledge. Of course, if you are a one man business, you need to ensure you put in place a team, virtual or physical that brings the balance of expertise critical to give assurance to the bank that your business will not expose them to unmeasured risks.
4. They want absolute assurance that your business model is robust. That you have thought about the pros and cons of each option and have a viable business proposition that is not devoid of reality. This will be tested with questions in areas where gaps are detected and you will be expected to give answers that are credible to ensure their funds are not exposed. Banks want to see positive returns on their investment in your business, they won’t make any compromise for your own short-comings and the sooner you address the weaknesses in your business plan the faster you will be able to raise funding for your business.
Taken together, irrespective of whom you wish to raise funding from, if you want to successfully fund for your business as a start-up or an existing business seeking growth, you must address all the four areas mentioned above in your business plan. I have merely summarised some of the key points for you to bear in mind and you can find more of my articles to learn about the subject thoroughly. In my experience of writing and reviewing hundreds of business plans for funding, a clearly written concise 10-15 pages business plan is sufficient. This should include 3-4 pages of financial information and may I also caution you to stress-test your financial plan for variation in assumptions underpinning cash-flow projections to ensure you have plans to mitigate risks revealed by the tests, as the bank will do so as part of their own due diligence test. This is referred to as sensitivity analysis.
Sheila Elliott is a prominent business plan trainer and consultant. She has coached, consulted and trained thousands of business start-ups and small businesses. She regularly holds monthly webinars and workshops on the subject assisting businesses to learn tools for raising finance successfully. Sheila is an author of many publications and a co-developer of the Unique Online Business Plan For Funding Course that hundreds of businesses have taken over the last two years to help them write their business plan for funding.