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PowerPoint Business Plan - Really?

For a long time I abhorred business executives using MS PowerPoint to create company presentations and calling them business plans. For me it was the equivalent of how email is inappropriately used to communicate complex and sensitive topics – I felt PowerPoints were superficial and futile attempts to disguise inadequate information about a business in a manner that looked credible - the old "Lipstick on a Pig" approach. I still believe this is often the case but like many things, PowerPoint is neither good nor bad – it’s simply a tool that can be used effectively or poorly.

In more than one instance I’ve had a CEO who needed business plan for a critical meeting, yet the managers could not be relied upon to create the required level of content. However, when the managers were asked to create small chunks of content for presentations, and given enough direction on the level of quality, they would often turn a couple of decent slides around fairly quickly. And so, I contemplated how to leverage PowerPoint to create a plan in the required timeframe and still provide the depth and quality of content required. So far, the following process has worked well in situations from sell-side M&A engagements to public company financings:

  1. Using a standard finance due diligence checklist, I broke the business planning exercise down into small enough bite sized chunks in the form of slides such that it could be digested by even the most attention-challenged.

  2. I took the business’s master slide format and created slides with the headers, tables and guiding comments such as “insert best chart available showing x from a respected industry article here” with the rest to be filled in by the managers. This worked much better than attempting to have the managers write large sections of the business plan such as, “Competitive analysis” in a document format.

  3. I applied a team approach to create the slides, with the CEO championing the creation of the content with my input. In some cases we'd co-create as a team core strategic information using some of my preferred formats and processes such as a competitive analysis framework and advanced SWOT format I created. For other content, team members were paired up such that one process-oriented person who could write and format content was paired with one who was the content expert. This worked well as often the content expert was amazing at verbalizing his/her knowledge but poor at translating their genius into logically organized written form.

  4. I required proper references for all external information to give maximum professionalism and credibility to the material and so that it could easily be transferred to a formal business planning document if required.

  5. The managers wrote the scripts (how they would speak to the slide if they were presenting it) in the notes section of each slide such that their reasoning and assumptions were available for me to take and incorporate into a formal business plan document if required.

  6. The CEO drove this as a priority emergency process having team members create the slides days ahead of the presentation date to ensure adequate feedback and revisions. This approach worked because they could view it as a short (e.g. less than a week) life or death, “all for one, one for all” heroic situation that they could support.

  7. We had daily review and feedback meetings with team members reviewing the slides for flow, content, format, level of supporting references and data etc.

  8. Once the content was a agreed, I had a PowerPoint expert ready from a freelancer crowdsourcing site (e.g. Upwork) to, with my guidance, format and provide background and additional graphics ideas based on images that the team had found and resonated with, and that fit the branding of the company.

Using this method, it generally took only a week to create a relatively solid business plan appropriate for presentation to an influential investment bank or to a potential acquirer of the business.

Because, every point was properly researched and referenced, and each slide scripted with talking points and assumptions, I was in a position to then write the business plan document if required. However, following the creation of smaller additional second, and sometimes third, sets of slides to address key questions and supplemented by detailed financial models, budgets and assumptions, I often find that audiences do not feel that they need a formal business plan document any longer.

Using the PowerPoint business planning method:

  • the client makes the most effective use of management resources creating the business plan quickly in a format that also serves the presentation needs;

  • is relatively fun and enjoyable (more so than team members sitting around a board room table debating the language, section by section in a MS Word document;

  • the plan can be readily updated and re-used for multiple audiences, and

  • makes most effective use of my time such that I can simply provide guidance and feedback on review calls versus writing or editing a long MS Word document, which is also much more cost effective for the client.

So, next time you’re strapped for time and need both a high quality presentation and a “proper” business plan, consider leveraging this PowerPoint business planning method to create both at once.

If you'd like to learn more I welcome you to contact me at the email address or phone number below.

Written By Rob Pilz © Copyright March 27, 2015 Revelation Business Solutions Ltd.

About Rob Pilz

A senior executive, including former CFO, of public and private companies, I have more than 20 years experience building, optimizing and financing businesses ranging from Fortune 500‘s to Delloite’s Technology Fast 50TM. With a talent for bringing out the best in leaders and an expertise in creating leverage, my current passion is building a network of highly conscious leaders generating a virtuous cycle of positive change and wealth. I am constantly looking for ways to improve the odds of business success and have developed a process combining mind, heart and gut to make better faster decisions that I call Zero Point Decision MakingTM. I welcome your questions or comments to my email address at or phone 646-480-0507.

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