The world is full of super busy business people who need to make sure they remain focused on the right priorities. For the entrepreneur it’s an art that is critical because how they spend their time directly effects the success of their businesses. They don’t want to spend time on things that don’t have a impact.
For the entrepreneur, life is often “just-in-time”. With this in mind, the typical Founder is likely to delay putting together a pitch deck until if or when they decide to go for external funding. I would like to present a contrarian view as to why creating a business pitch is actually one of the things they should be doing, even if they aren’t looking for funding today.
I believe that successful entrepreneurs need to forever maintain the short and the long view, balancing the need to do both. An entrepreneur is both a sprinter and a marathoner, dealing with pressing issues to move forward on this day while simultaneously positioning themselves for future success.
Creating a pitch deck – and also practicing it – is a great opportunity to do what I like to call “distilling knowledge”. It provides you with that opportunity to take the long view. I also believe that even though we are learning while running flat out, its good practice to occasionally pause and do an activity that integrates what we learn. Preparing a pitch deck – or minimally keeping current all the information that needs to go into one – is a good way to maintain that bird’s eye view of your living business plan.
One of the things that entrepreneurs don’t have as a side-effect of being in business for themselves is an external accountability or direct feedback on how we are doing as business managers. Sure, there is plenty of external feedback from customers or the lack of them. But they often don’t have an opportunity to say to someone external, here’s what my business is and how it is doing, and get good feedback.
One of the interesting findings from the Startup Genome report is that “Startups that haven’t raised money over-estimate their market size by 100x and often misinterpret their market as new.” I’m suggesting that whether you get the funding or not, the due-diligence of having to justify your business model product-market fit for external consumption helps you have a better perspective then if you don’t do this activity, even if you don’t go out and seek funding.
Similarly, being prepared to pitch is a due-diligence exercise around customer acquisition activities, internal structure and financial viability.
Preparing a pitch in advance of needing it means that when you are called on to pitch your business in the future, you will be ready.
So what are the things that you need to have at your fingertips to put together a pitch deck? The key ingredients for the pitch should be a good understanding of these elements of your business plan:
- The Value Proposition product-market fit statement. The target market and their problem, the solution or offer you are providing, and the distinct value this provides.
- The Business Model, as defined in the 9-box Business Model Canvas, highlighting business viability in terms of revenue expectations, channels, and margins.
- An effective go-to-market Marketing and Sales strategic plan.
- A competitive analysis of your market and competition.
- A 3-5 year financial forecast that provides you with key metrics on the expected performance of the business.
- A solid management team of founders and/or partners and advisors.
- A forward looking timeline of key accomplishments, milestones and plans for the business operations.
Working these things on a day to day basis for your business is the sprint that breathes life into the plan. The long term activity of keeping a current record of strategies, plans and performance will position you to sprint as required. From this solid base of understanding your business, you will be well prepared for the activity of creating and practicing a pitch deck. Of course then once you have one, then it’s even easier to take it out and give it a spin in the real world in front of investors.
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