The Apprentice 2015, Week 11: Business plans 101

The remaining candidates were grilled on their business plans in this week's penultimate episode. Follow these 4 tips to get your business plan in shape

A business plan is a crucial step for anyone starting a business; you need to include information on your business model, finances, pricing, market research, your continuity plan and much more.

A solid business plan can mark the difference between winning investment and leaving a pitch empty-handed; as the remaining five Apprentice contestants found out in this week’s penultimate episode.

You might also like: Start-up business plan essentials

Given 24 hours to get their business plans together, Vana, Joseph, Charleine, Richard and Gary faced intense interviews with Lord Sugar’s advisors – Linda Plant, Claude Littner, Mike Soutar and Claudine Collins.

Following the interviews, Richard Woods – who started the day exclaiming “I have a business plan that’s really cutting edge […] “I’m going to win” – looked like a broken man and admitted; “I’ve written a business plan which, if I’m honest, has a lot of waffle in it”.

It was then left to Sugar to decide who would be in the final competing for £250,000 business investment. Having come up with the idea for a “potentially huge” app combining dating and gamification, Vana was named as a finalist alongside “valentino” Joseph; who presented an idea for a plumbing and heating franchise.

So just what made Lord Sugar pluck for Vana and Joseph? Ultimately it came down to the strength of their business plans, business idea, and performance in the “process so far”. Taking inspiration from the episode, we present four quick tips on how you can get your business plan in shape….

Have a USP

When presenting his idea for a mobile disco with a ‘virtual element’, contestant Gary struggled to explain what would make the business different from competitors. Facing questioning from Plant, he said that it would stand out from competitors as it would have virtual presentations and lighting but failed to outline exactly how it would challenge competitors and Plant was unimpressed: “But everyone has lighting, it’s not different at all is it!”

Market research

Your business plan should show that you’ve researched the market and should be able to showcase that there is demand or a gap in the market for your business idea. While pitching convincingly about the “explosion of the dating industry”, Varna later came unstuck when asked about competitors; namely Tinder. Questioning her revenue predictions, Soutar corrected Varna when she said that it had taken the dating app one year to generate revenue – it did in fact take Tinder two years to start making revenue.

Be realistic – don’t make sweeping statements

Several of the candidates’ business plans were overly ambitious, and had little evidence to back up their claims. For instance, hairdresser Charleine made claims that her business idea – a global hairdressing franchise – would be a “worldwide success […] bigger than Toni & Guy” but had nothing to back it up. Plant made it clear that Charleine’s pitch would need to be more convincing: “You’re going from one small provincial salon to opening an academy, who’s going to know your name?!”

Similarly, Vana’s predicted sales figures appeared to have been plucked from thin air as Littner commented: “your projections are wildly optimistic!”.

Know your numbers

Richard faced  serious grilling from Plant on the financial projections for his “unique” multi-channel marketing concept. Having detailed in his business plan that the company would achieve £3m turnover in three years, Plant retorted that she thought that was “bullshit” and continued “Where are you getting the numbers from? Your past performance doesn’t give me any confidence in your future growth!”

Joseph also came unstuck with his profit and salary figures following questioning from Soutar. Joseph explained that he would expect franchisees to take a salary of £65,000 and yet in his next breathe explained that his own plumbing business had only made £60,000 profit in the past year – so the numbers didn’t add up. However, Lord Sugar appeared to overlook this error in his final judgement.

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