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Member News: C.C. Eship / NACCE Journal Summer/Fall 2009

How a Business Plan Can Work as Part of Your Curriculum

Friday, September 18, 2009   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
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By Edward Rogoff

Chair of the Management Department

Baruch College, New York, NY

Students are creative forces bursting with ideas and ambitions. Many students dream of being entrepreneurs and building successful businesses. For most entrepreneurs, the transition from the idea stage to reality begins with a business plan that tests the idea’s feasibility, presents the idea to others, and convinces investors, bankers, and partners to participate. A business plan project can be an effective part of an entrepreneurship or business course, and it can be structured to fit the interests and abilities of students at any level. By marshalling the students’ interests, goals, and motivations in the process of writing a business plan, you can truly create a great learning experience and a course your students will remember forever.

Entrepreneurship is a team sport and bringing a venture to reality requires the support of others such as bankers, investors, and partners. With a structured curriculum, students at any level of financial and quantitative skills can create complete and convincing business plans with high-quality financial projections.

A business plan integrates skills and issues from various disciplines including marketing, management, finance, and law. In an era when so much business education stays in separate silos, a business plan project breaks down these divisions and shows students how their goals, skills, and knowledge can work together. Because a business plan is a complete and professional document that establishes the viability of their business ideas, the students get to build both their writing and presentation skills.

At the heart of a business plan is financial analysis. This includes estimating how much money is needed to start a business, what revenue and expenses will be, and how much profit the company will make. Working on a plan answers questions such as "How will I obtain the financing I need?” and "What will it cost me to operate this business?”

The tools used to answer these questions can be matched to the abilities, skills, and background of the students. Students who are comfortable with Excel can create their own financial statements; students can also use any of a number of templates that help them through the process more easily. For students who are less comfortable with quantitative work, the plan can use worksheets to answer key business plan questions such as start-up costs, revenue projections, and operating costs.

Business plans can be done as individual or team projects. Because many plans require research about the industry, competition, and expense items, there is more than enough work for a three- to five-person team. A team also becomes a forum for discussion of the many decisions about the business that need to be made. Individual projects work best when students have businesses they have already decided to pursue and have carried out a great deal of the preliminary work.

A business plan course should be structured around achieving interim goals such as generating ideas, establishing the viability of the idea, completing industry research, and developing operating plans, marketing plans, and financial statements. These steps make the overall project more manageable and less daunting. Reviewing their interim pieces or drafts of the entire plan gives you the opportunity to provide feedback so the students can integrate your comments into their final project and produce the best final plan possible.

I also believe in having students do two presentations to the entire class during the term. The first presents the idea and elicits everyone’s feedback, which helps involve the entire class. The second presentation is of the full plan as if the class were potential investors or bankers.

When the business plan is completed, students will have:

• Brought their business idea closer to 
reality or figured out how it must be 
changed to make it viable.

• Learned how knowledge and skills from 
their other courses can be used 
together.

• Seen how all business decisions 
and various business disciplines are 
interrelated.

• Gained greater understanding and 
respect for people who build and 
manage their own businesses.

• Seen how a business is the result of 
many decisions made by the 
entrepreneur and the consideration of 
many external factors.

Students who participate in a business plan project build their skills and knowledge. They experience the process of generating and testing ideas. They learn how to inspire others about their concepts, and when the plan is completed they have a strong sense of accomplishment–and a project they will never forget.

If you have any questions feel free to email me at Edward.rogoff@baruch.cuny.edu.

For my textbook, Bankable Business Plans for Entrepreneurial Ventures,(ISBN number 978-0-97915-222-1)

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