The 5 most important numbers in your business plan, part 3.

Long term financial projections for a startup are pretty much always wrong. After all, if an army of financial analysts can’t predict next quarter’s revenue projections for a company like Apple that’s been around for 30 years, how are you expected to forecast your monthly profits five years out, for a company with no track record?

Still, it’s worth building a financial model that incorporates your best estimates – for yourself, and for partners and investors. In previous posts, we discussed the importance of:

1.) marketing efficiency, and

2). break-even

Here are some other numbers that are particularly useful:

3.) Scale. Have a ballpark prediction for what your annual revenue will be after five years. While you won’t get the number right, you should be able to predict the order of magnitude (e.g. are you shooting for sales of $1 million? $10 million? $100 million?) That will be help investors, partners, and other stakeholders grasp the size of your opportunity and help them to know that if things go well, the rewards will be worth the risks. Also, make sure your scale is reasonable, by looking at comparable companies. How long did it take them to reach a similar size, and how much did it cost them?

4.) Capital requirements. Have a prediction for the timing and amount of investment capital that will be required to get the company through the next five years. Raising capital is difficult and time-consuming, so you should avoid any surprises on this front. Also, understand and demonstrate how you’ll spend your investment dollars. They’ll want to know what you plan to do with their money.

5.) X-factor assumptions. You’ll base your projections on many assumptions. One or two of them, when modified slightly, change your projections dramatically (e.g. the cost of acquiring an average customer or the amount of revenue generated by an average transaction). Also, know which assumptions are common to your industry and make sure your numbers are in line with standards (e.g.those might include markups, or sales per square foot in retail).

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