The Concept Proposal: Your First Step To A Business Plan

And the races are off! This week, marks the official start of the Panasci Business Plan Competition on the Syracuse University campus. Over the past week, teams from across campus have been submitting their concept proposals for ideas and new ventures competitive to the teeth. For the aspiring entrepreneur out there, the concept proposal represents your first step on the way to a business plan. This proposal includes roughly 2-3 pages of brief summaries on the major parts of your business plan – sections like the concept, marketing, operational requirements, and importantly, the team. Think of it like the preview feature on your media player. 

Putting together a good concept proposal is no cake walk. Whether you’re a novice or an expert well versed in the art of business plan writing, this outline of what we believe to be the important parts of a concept proposal should serve you well. 

1.The Concept: At this stage, you should have a clear vision of the goals for your new venture. You should also be able to communicate clearly and concisely your value proposition – i.e., what are your primary customer benefits? In answering this question be sure to focus on what will be unique about your new venture. This section also affords you the opportunity to provide some detail about the products/services that you will be offering. 

TIP: Try to summarize your business in 3 or 4 complete sentences. If you need more than that to explain your concept, then you will run the risk of losing your reader.   

2. The Opportunity: This section of the concept proposal can be compared to the industry section of your business plan. Entrepreneurs are taught to identify trends in the market and for this section, your goal should be to explain to the reader the trends and forces creating the opportunity you seek to exploit. 

TIP: Be sure that the reader can clearly identify the need you are addressing, and if possible try to quantify the opportunity in terms of the annual revenues that can be expected or the economic value of the industry being neglected. 

3. The Business Model: This section of your concept proposal is used to communicate exactly how your business will make money. While it may be impossible to get into specifics at this time, the focus should be on things such as your prices for products/services, your cost per unit, and your expected margins. 

TIP: Avoid getting bogged down by too much detail. Remember that managing a start-up is a dynamic process and things will change. Focus on the specifics of what you do know at this time and what will not confuse the reader. You will have a chance to get into specifics when you write your actual business plan. 

4. The Target Market and Marketing: For this part of your concept proposal, you want to communicate to the reader that you already have an idea of who your target market will be and how you expect to reach them. 

TIP: Focus on explaining how you intend to break the market down; which segments exist; and which you will prioritize. From there you can also add brief descriptions on the marketing strategy or channel you will use to reach those targets. 

5. The Team: It doesn’t take rocket science to know that all investors pay keen attention to the start-up team. This section of your concept proposal gives you an opportunity to showcase the talented individuals that are on your team and the roles they are expected to play. 

TIP: Start by identifying the most important functional areas of your business at this time. Then, beginning with yourself, assign those functional roles to the members of your team based on their current skillsets. If you are the only person on your team at this point, then you can highlight the names of those you intend to have join your team and the role you see them playing. 

Ideally, you should be able to complete your concept proposal in a short amount of time. As mentioned, if done right, these 2-3 pages of content can have you well on your way to a completed business plan. For a business plan, you would take the content of the proposal and expand on what you have already prepared. Also, do keep in mind that your business concept proposal can be an important tool in your arsenal to attract team members and potential investors as it allows you provide some insight into your idea/venture without giving away too much detail.

Sound off below with your tips for writing concept proposals and be sure to check out oour blog every week for everything Entrepreneurship!