Business plan: tell a story with numbers
Professor Aziza Laguecir teaches “financial aspects of the entrepreneurial pitch” to EDHEC’s MSc in Entrepreneurship & Innovation students. She has long experience in coaching entrepreneurs and evaluating business plans, having taught and designed managerial accounting and control courses in various universities around the world. The professor tells us all about her course at EDHEC Business school.
Why this specific focus on the financial aspects of entrepreneurial pitching?
We came to realise that students needed to understand the financial aspects of a business plan. I had once supervised students who defended a business plan that didn’t include any financial elements. Even if they have an accountant, entrepreneurs need to know the key elements of a business plan and how these are calculated. The course is based on the idea that a business plan and pitch require a good command of the financial aspects. When reaching out to investors, entrepreneurs will need to convince them by answering any questions they may have. Cash management is essential. To design the course in a way that meets the expectations of both entrepreneurs and investors, I asked for feedback from some of them.
What are the key elements of a strong business plan?
When pitching a business plan, students will need to know their business volume. Business volume means potential market and potential clients. There is no sense in talking about complex elements such as opex and capex if you don’t know your potential market! Based on that data, you can talk about your operational needs. Do I need a machine? Do I need to hire people? What will my structure be? Students also need to know their breakeven point. For companies selling a product, this is the point at which sales cover expenses. Another key element is a company’s working capital requirement (WCR). The WCR is the amount of money a company needs for its daily operations. I teach them the difference between income statement and cash flow and the difference between depreciation and amortisation. These crucial financial elements of a business plan are checked by investors. I also discuss the impact of loans on charges and the income statement. I also give them advice on how to negotiate a loan with a bank.
After we finish going through all these elements, I give students a business plan full of errors and they must identify them. The final exam is a two-minute entrepreneurial pitch in which they have to use five financial metrics. At the beginning of my course, most students are illiterate when it comes to financial pitching. At the end of the course, they tell me that the course really delivers on what they need as entrepreneurs on a day-to-day basis. I also invite entrepreneurs and investors into the classroom.
What is your field of expertise?
I hold a Ph.D. in management accounting and control. I’m involved in the scientific committee of the EAA and IPA conferences. I serve as an associate editor of the Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, and Contrôle Comptabilité Audit-Accounting Audit and Control.
Are there prerequisites to attending your class or a must-read?
I use my research to design the course, so students can read my paper, entitled How Business Plans Are Used: Contributions from Activity Theory. It’s based on interviews with entrepreneurs.
Will students with a business idea be able to work on their business plans during your course?
Yes, and I can incorporate examples according to the sectors they are targeting. Students who do not have a business idea can work on a fictional business case. This course is practice-oriented. We do not study complex theories.
What do you expect your students to master upon completion of your course?
They should feel comfortable pitching in front of investors, using critical financial figures to represent their company project. At the beginning of the course, I show Magritte’s famous painting, La Clairvoyance. In this self-portrait, Magritte pictures himself painting a bird while his model is an unhatched egg. He painted the future. I ask them: when you deliver your financial pitch, do you want to present an unhatched egg or an eagle? They must not forget that figures tell a story.