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Bill Roth headshot

How To Write a Green Business Plan That Stands Out

Words by Bill Roth

Having a green business plan is mission-critical to your company's success in the global green economic revolution that has leaped in less than a decade to trillions of dollars in annual revenues. Business success is now being determined by a company's ability to sell solutions that align value with values.

This article begins a two-part series on how to write a green business plan that will win customers, successfully recruit millennial generation work associates and attract investors.

The green business plan

A business plan is a company’s roadmap for achieving its goals. It needs to paint a realistic and compelling picture that answers key questions on strategy, competitive advantage, growth potential, human resources requirements and financial projections. A good business plan is a winning combination of a sales pitch and realistic documentation that delivers a compelling message to investors, work associates and customers.

Addressing the issue of sustainability is a mega-trend change in business plan writing. Oil is just the most current example of commodity price "unsustainability" that is disrupting stock prices and business success. Supply chain disruption is now a business norm caused by weather events made more intense by global warming. Every business plan must outline the sustainability of its supply chain and the company's best practices.

Your business plan must address the millennial generation's use of social media postings in deciding what to buy and where to work based on a company's social responsibility. Never forget while writing your business plan that "we are all naked." A company's business plan must be authentic in its representation of its facts. It must be genuine in outlining the company's social responsibility (CSR) positions on issues important to the millennial generation like climate change, product safety and labor practices.

If your business sells to other businesses, then your business plan must articulate how it will operate within corporate America’s greening of their supply chain. Corporate America has embraced net-zero waste management. Corporate America is not only measuring its emissions but also the emissions of its supply chain.

Today's successful business plans define a strategy for winning competitive bids not only on price but also on a company's ability to align with corporate America's green supply chain bid criteria.

The elevator speech

The best approach to pitching a CEO is to "be brief, be good and be gone." The saying that time is of the essence has never been more true in our always on and connected world. Being both brief and good is especially hard for most business people. We know too much. We are experts in finance, engineering and operations. Because we know so much, we often end up explaining how to make a clock when the question is, "What time is it?"

The requirement to be both succinct and engaging also applies to the design of a business plan. An elevator speech is the time-condensed messaging of your business plan. It is what you would tell an investor, a potential key human resources candidate or a customer to spark them to say yes to a next meeting. It should be one to three sentences in length, take 15 to 30 seconds to say and generate an interested response.

But an elevator speech should be more than short. It should be compelling. It should paint an engaging vision. That is why I approach writing a business plan by first writing the elevator speech. If I can identify the engaging passion of the business, then writing a business plan becomes the process of validating the vision's authenticity and business potential.

Crafting a compelling elevator speech is the hardest part of drafting a business plan. The challenge is how to say in just three sentences or less all the things about your business that you think are critical to engaging an investor, work associate or potential customer. The answer is: You cannot.

The mission of the elevator speech is to create an interested response. Active venture capitalists, angel investors and bankers see ten or more deal proposals per day. Talented work associates have multiple job opportunities. Today’s customers are jaundiced from all the product pitches they receive. The challenge is to get their attention on your opportunity.

Here are a couple of one-sentence statements that are recognized by financial professionals as being effective in succinctly stating a business opportunity:

For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books.

For upscale American families, Volvo is the family automobile that offers maximum safety.

These statement are effective in helping a potential investor, work associate or customer understand if the business and product being described is a good fit for them. If I am a book lover, I will want to learn more about Amazon. If I am an affluent mom, I will want to learn more about the safety of Volvo vehicles. These example statements succinctly state the key facts of market segment, company name, product segment and competitive advantage.

Five steps to writing an elevator speech

Identifying your "sizzle" is the first step in writing an elevator speech. How is your business plan the fire extinguisher to a customer's burning platform? How will your business plan realize the dreams of your work associates? When you have figured out your sizzle, then you will be on your way to selling your steak to the customer, investor or work associate targeted by your business plan.

With your sizzle defined, then the format for writing your elevator speech should include these five steps:

  1. Begin by identifying the target customer

  2. State the opportunity

  3. Provide the company’s name

  4. Identify the product category

  5. Conclude with a statement of benefit

Tomorrow: How to format a green business plan

The second article in this series outlines the steps in writing a green business plan. It will provide a business plan format. It will also provide insights on how to incorporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility into the business plan to attract investors, work associates and customers.

Bill Roth is an economist and the Founder of Earth 2017. He coaches business owners and leaders on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles business case studies of pioneering best practices that are proven to win customers and grow product revenues. Follow him on Twitter: @earth2017

Bill Roth headshotBill Roth

Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!

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