Tim Berry has a great post, Moot Corp Lesson: Even the Best Plans Change. It highlights the level of competence in some of the top business plan competitions and also makes clear the value in these exercises.
One of the judges commented that what was on the slide was different from what he saw in the business plan. The entrepreneur immediately answered “no, of course not, that was an earlier iteration.”
That favorite moment wasn’t part of the flawless finals session of the winner. It was in the finals, though, as a Carnegie Mellon team presented a technology to monitor glucose levels using contact lenses. What I liked about that quick answer was the underlying assumption that plans change. New information matters. There was no reason to keep the numbers from last week after new information this week suggested they should change.
If the projections today don’t match those from two weeks ago, no apology is necessary.
The winner, BiologicsMD, also won the Rice University competition a few weeks ago. If you get a chance to see the video of their performance, both with their pitch and their business and their answers to judges’ question, take it. That’s the best I’ve ever seen. The company, one of two finalists from the University of Arkansas, has developed a new medicine to treat osteoporosis. It included a PhD researcher, an MD researcher, and two business executives. The panel of judges, three of the four of them with backgrounds related to medical technology and FDA approval and such, asked an amazing array of detailed industry-specific questions. And they were presented with an even more amazing array of straight-on answers. That was as good as it gets.
I recently read an article decrying business plans, their static nature, and business plan competitions. (Steve Blank is new to me, but I am reading some of his stuff). I will share some of his thoughts in a separate post later this week. Tim and others clearly articulate the importance of change in the business plan process.
But Tim’s example highlights that importance of the act of writing plans and defending them to those with critical lenses. That even holds true for in-class competitions where part-time undergrads are subjected to questions about their “used jean retailers” by judges of adjunct faculty members and local bankers.
Berry’s Moot Corp example and my undergrad retailer example exist at different points on the business plan and competition spectrum, but provide important value to society and the economy — from viable, potentially high-impact firms to a generation of college grads who understand the importance and role of small businesses and entrepreneurs.