What A Business Plan Competition Judge Looks For

Successful entrepreneurs write good business plans. Good business plans win competitions.

I routinely conduct business plan competitions in my entrepreneurship class. As part of the job, I have to recruit savvy and successful entrepreneurs to serve as judges for each competition. Someone who I have often asked to judge is Dan Brown, President of Loggerhead Tools and inventor of award-winning and blockbuster products like the Bionic Wrench. Dan is a true entrepreneur and master of industrial design, patenting, marketing and merchandising.

This year, I want to give my students a leg-up and show them what expert judges look for in a business plan competition. So, naturally, I asked Dan. Here is what he replied.

Dan’s Top 10 Business Plan Presentation Topics:

1. Is there a market opportunity? Does your product or service address an unmet or underserved need and add value to customers?

2. Identify and claim your white space. Have you identified a market segment best suited to establish a strategic foothold for launch?

3. Claim an opportunity gap. Have you realistically identified your competition,  and is there an opportunity for sales based on a value-added strategy?

4. Carefully define the wow-factors. What are the customer-getting differences that add value and compete for the customer’s attention and dollars?

5. Are there opportunities for intellectual property protection? Look at patents, trade names, trade dress and other brand-reinforcing strategies. Do a thorough intellectual property search to be sure there will be no unpleasant surprises after launch.

6. Research several competitive benchmarks and quantify the cost and sales drivers necessary for success in the market.

7.  Have a thorough and realistic development, investment and sales budget, with a realistic cost analysis for development, tooling, and commercialization. Know your costs.

8. Develop a roadmap. Develop an actionable plan that identifies the resources, costs and time required to complete product development and commercialization.  Failure to plan is planning to fail.

9. Generate a simple pro-forma (forward-looking) 3-year sales forecast of investment, cost, and projected revenue with a cash flow analysis. Do you show a return on investment?  Do the numbers support your plan?

10. Assemble a winning management team and advisory board that can succesfully complete the development, commercialization and management of your business.

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