The deadline for entering a 3000 word Business Plan to the Silver Linings Competition for care solutions for older generations is January 1, 2022.
Win 1x £10k winners prize and 2x £5k runner-up prizes.
In this article, Colum Lowe, Director, Design Age Institute, and one of the Silver Linings competition judges offers tips to potential entrants on how to turn an idea into a Business Plan.
Innovation is defined as ‘the successful exploitation of a new idea’. It has been my experience, based on over 30 years in the design industry, that new ideas are not in short supply; successfully exploited ones on the other hand are somewhat harder to come across.
If you have a great idea and decide to start on that long and winding road to commercialisation well known to all entrepreneurs, before you get too far along it you will be asked for your business plan: investors will want to see it, banks too; in fact anyone you want to get involved in your business will demand a copy.
So what is it and why is it so important?
Simply put, it is your entire business proposal in a single document. It should include your idea, vision, mission statements, brand position, marketing strategy, projected profit and loss, sales targets, recruitment drive, suppliers, stakeholders and risks and much more. I have a template I use with clients (many are available online) which is 27 pages long, and that’s before you start filling it in.
If anyone who is reading this has completed a business plan they will know that they are long, complex and hard to complete with any degree of accuracy or certainty, a lot to invest in terms of time and effort for a business idea that you have little certainty will deliver commercial returns, and many potential entrepreneurs fall at this hurdle.
BUT, there is of course a short version, the Business Model Canvas, initially developed by Alexander Osterwalder, which is a visual one page document with nine separate elements describing your value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances. Its beauty is that it visually depicts your business’s activities and more importantly, how they are connected and the potential trade-offs. It’s single page reporting at its finest.
Obviously, it is not adequate for a significant investment decision, but it will tell you whether it is even worth asking the question, and where the barriers to success might be and as such where to focus most of your effort. I would always recommend completing a Business Model Canvas before undertaking the in depth task of a full business plan, it’s an important part of the journey and if your business idea is going to fail, best to fail here with little time and money invested.
The Silver Linings Competition is looking for something in between a full business plan and the Business Model Canvas: a 3000 word entry based on the criteria laid out on the Silver Linings website. The Business Model Canvas would therefore be a good place to start!
One thing successful entrepreneurs tend to have is endless optimism, which is important to succeed and to overcome the many obstacles to success. But optimism ‘don't sell no beans’, some harsh truths need to be addressed or optimism simply delivers a pessimist with experience.
If, by using a business model canvas, or any other tool for that matter, you can spot all the reasons your business idea might fail, and you can plan to overcome them, then surely your idea will succeed. This is one of the approaches we use at the Design Age Institute when working with our own entrepreneurs and is based on my time working in patient safety at the NHS. It takes a ‘failure mode effect analysis’ (FMEA) approach to entrepreneurship. We reason that if we can spot all the reasons a proposal might fail, understand the effects and then mitigate them, then there is a good chance of success.
We have ten things we look for when assessing an idea’s likelihood of success:
Need – With what accuracy or assurance can you identify an actual need and for which target customer group/s?
Market Niche – How sure are you that the need is large enough to be able to sustain a business venture? How scalable is the idea?
Solution – How well does your idea/solution meet that need in the marketplace?
Desire – How likely is it that your solution will be desired by the users/customers? Has any research been undertaken?
IP / Competition – How well do you know the competition? Is this idea distinctive from them? Can it be protected by intellectual property or other means?
Coalition of the Willing – Can you garner enough support within your own organisation, at all levels, to get the idea all the way to market? Can you yourself commit the time to deliver the idea?
Market Access – What barriers to getting the product in front of enough customers exist and how do you aim to address them?
Sales / Comms – How will you communicate with your customers and market your product/ service? How affordable will it be to tell your customers your product exists?
Funds – How likely is it that you can raise sufficient funds to get the product to market?
Profit – Are you able to make and sell your product at a price the customer is willing to pay and from which you can generate sufficient profit to sustain your business?
Of course, whichever approach you take to business planning as part of the innovation process, one thing they obviously all have in common is that they are all made up; they are proposals, projections and predictions founded on enthusiasm and optimism, and so they should be. Innovation at its heart has to be optimistic, you have to believe you can change the world otherwise you most certainly won't, which reminds me of one of my favourite Confucius quotes “people who say a thing cannot be done should not interrupt those who are actually doing it”.
Good luck with your Business Plan entry to the Silver Linings Competition!
Colum Lowe is Director, Design Age Institute, and one of the Silver Linings competition judges
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