Every business needs to be able to do a one-page proposal. Any business seeking funding from private investors definitely needs to be able to develop a one-page proposal. When talking with people in industry, they often cling to their infographics and market research like comfort blankets. They often feel the need to demonstrate their journey by developing very detailed presentations for investors, banks or state funding agencies.
While there are certain circumstances (like public procurement) where there is no choice but to use the templates provided, in many cases, a well thought through one page proposal will go much further than a detailed (and unread) presentation. In order to develop a one-page proposal, detailed supporting material is still needed. Businesses using a one-page proposal are simply leaving the use of detailed material until such time as the customer, investor or key stakeholder’s attention is positively engaged.
- Outline the key facts, rationale and conditions pertaining to the project / initiative in question;
- Use clear language in a convincing and persuasive manner to build a case for approval;
- Outline a specific course of action and next steps; and
- Fit all these elements onto a single printed page.
The objective of any one-page proposal is to convince the person the business is speaking with of a specific course of action (hire the company, buy the product or invest in the business).
One-page proposals are a template that outline the step-by-step process by which the recommended course of action can be achieved. It is a distillation of ideas that quite easily run to hundreds if not thousands of pages if all correspondence and research were to be included as background material.
One-page proposal development is a process that requires a comprehensive understanding of the subject at hand. Discipline, insight and intuition is needed to have complete confidence in the clarity that can come from simplification.
To experienced investors and business people, long proposals can explicitly or subliminally suggest that they need reams of data, charts and narrative to grasp and then make up their mind about the proposition at hand. They do not. They do not have the time in many cases to read proposals that are immensely detailed. Too much information can delay rather than speed up decisions from being made.
A test of whether you understand your own business
Both Professors (and nobel laureate physicists) Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman are attributed with the apocryphal quote “if you cannot explain something to a six-year-old, then you probably do not understand it yourself”. While this is not meant to be taken literally in scientific terms, it is meant to be taken somewhat literally as a benchmark test for less abstract concepts. It is safe to say that the VAST majority of proposals produced across the world every single day fail this test.
What a misapplication of effort.
So what should a one page proposal look like?
In this posting, I am going to focus on a business concept rather than a research project or some other form of one-page proposal. The general format is as follows:
Objective / Target:
This section should outline the specific deliverables / goals / outcomes expected from the initiative. It should also contain a brief but well crafted and content rich contextual section.
Financial benefits / requirements:
This section outlines the investment requirements and/or project returns to fund the initiative. It should be clear and comprehensive but at a summary level.
This outlines the current status of the initiative and crystallises the go / no-go nature that one-page proposals drive the target audience towards. This section provides an up-to-date assessment of what the initiative needs to move forward should the target audience choose to do so.
This can be many and varied but in this context it is a straight forward request to make a decision to either fund / invest or pass on the opportunity.
An essential skill
This is an essential discipline to master. In fact, many businesses would benefit immediately from putting their own commercial strategy into a one-page proposal so that they have absolute clarity over their strategic purpose and business operations.