Colin Daniels wins GIBS Business Plan Competition

Posted on October 07, 2011

  Colin shares 10 things he learned from participating in the Business Plan Competition recently held at GIBS :

I recently had the privilege of participating in the GIBS MBA Business Plan Competition which took place in the last week of September. The overall quality of the business plans was excellent and competition was incredibly fierce. Many of the participants had already launched their business ventures and some had even achieved impressive milestones. The seven best plans made it through to the finals where they faced-off in front of judges for the honour of being named the winner of the 2011 GIBS Business Plan Competition. This is what I learned from winning the competition, in no specific order: 1. Even the best ideas need to be sold

Judges and investors buy into ideas so it’s important that you are clear on the problem and ensure that your solution addresses a real need. Many pitches failed because the person didn’t spend enough time outlining the problem and/or the potential solution and simply jumped ahead to other areas such as the market size or business model. 2. It's not just the idea that counts, it's the complete package

Although the actual business idea is important and needs to be perceived as being viable, there are many other factors that contribute to a successful pitch. These include the format of the presentation, the delivery of the pitch, the image you portray, and the level of passion for the idea. Some pitches fell short simply because their PowerPoint presentations were badly designed or too text heavy. 3. Tell a story and make it memorable

Storytelling has been the preferred format for transferring human knowledge for thousands of years and a pitch is no different. People aren't interested in abstract concepts and technical jargon. Relate your idea to real world applications and tell a story so that the pitch flows and a golden thread runs through it. Importantly, make it memorable so that you stand out from the crowd. 4. Pitching is scary

It’s not just the fact that you have to present in front of an experienced panel of judges in an auditorium full of strangers that makes it scary, but rather the thought that they might hate the idea that you’ve grown so attached to. The simple lesson here is that you can’t take feedback too personally nor let it discourage you. Feedback is intended to improve your idea, not stop you from pursuing it. Therefore, it’s important to be able to distinguish between constructive and destructive feedback in order to unlock the full value of the experience. 5. Pitching opens doors

Entrepreneurs who feel compelled to keep their ideas close to their chests because they fear that others will "steal" their earth shattering ideas are seriously missing out. Within hours of my pitch I received valuable feedback, offers for introductions to other contacts, invitations to finance events, mentorships, and free office space. Don't be afraid to discuss your ideas with other people. Get them out there because you are probably not the first person on the planet with the same idea and you never know what doors might be opened as a result. The likelihood of someone “stealing” your idea and actually being able to execute on it are negligible and worth the risk. 6. It's important to be flexible and manage uncertainty

Just like in life, your pitch might not go entirely according to plan, no matter how hard you prepare for it. Murphy has an uncanny knack for introducing tech gremlins, the judges might constantly interrupt you, and your allocated time might be cut short due to unforeseen circumstances. Humans are rather inefficient at predicting the unpredictable and as Nassim Taleb proposed in his book, The Black Swan – “it is often said that ‘is wise he who can see things coming’ … perhaps the wise one is the one who knows that he cannot see things far away”. While you may not be able to predict every eventuality, you can certainly plan for the worst-case scenario and maintain your composure throughout the pitch. The way in which you handle an adverse situation could actually end up counting in your favour. 7. Be prepared for questions

Questions from the judges or members of the audience are an integral part of the pitching process and shouldn't be seen in isolation. You should spend as much time preparing for potential questions as you do for the actual pitch. The “deer in the headlights” look during question time can seriously undermine your credibility as well as other people’s faith in the idea that you’re trying to sell them. 8. Remain humble

There’s a fine line between being confident and acting like a "know-it-all" during your pitch and question time. The former is a critical ingredient in establishing credibility and respect while the latter can make you look smug and naïve. Respond to questions with humility and sincerity and make sure that you don't fall into this trap. 9. Don't expose weaknesses in your plan

How many people would hire somebody that started an interview by saying, "I don't really think that I’m capable of doing this job but I thought that you'd hire me anyway?" I would guess not that many yet this is what occurred with surprising frequency when participants joked about the flaws in their business plan during their pitch. Be professional and don’t sabotage yourself, even if you might be secretly trembling inside. 10. Pitching an idea is the easy part, executing is the hard part

Once you have been through the time-consuming and excruciating process of formulating a business plan and pitching the idea to judges or investors you can console yourself with the thought that the hardest part is yet to come. Pitching an idea might be hard, but executing it is even harder. It is therefore a good idea to be realistic about your timelines and not let minor setbacks put you off because they are part of the entrepreneurial journey and separate the wolves from the sheep.

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