Interested in Winning a Business Plan Competition?

19 03 2009

Watch the video HERE.

When you pitch your business plan to a friend, peer, or adviser, do you get laughed at? That’s a good sign that you still have some work to do.

Business Week Online interviewed Randy Swangard, the Managing Director at the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Oregon and Director of the News Venture Championship, to find out what venture teams can do to win a business plan competition.

After watching Swangard’s interview, his suggestions seem pretty realistic and obtainable to me, most likely speaking to the success of the University of Oregon’s past venture teams.

Swangard stresses that each venture team member be personable. He says, “You always bet on the jockey, not on the horse.”

Randy Swangard has been working at the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship for over 25 years

Randy Swangard has been working at the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship for over 25 years

If you have a team accepted to compete in a business plan competition, you already know you’re business plan is well qualified. At the New Venture Championship, only about twenty percent of teams are accepted to compete. Thus, realize that your plan was chosen as a good contender to win and the characteristics that will set your team apart, are people skills.

These skills are not academic. There is a large difference between the academic world and the business world. Similar to internships, business plan competitions rely on one’s ability to function in the “real world.” Success seems to be defined, as Swangard says, as “The ability to take a plan and get it done.” To be a business leader in America, strong action, personality and charisma are necessary.

Developing these people skills is a trait that has been prevalent for many past winners of the NVC. It allows participants to enhance their image. One way to do this is by managing time during question and answer periods of business plan competitions. Be aware to manage this time in your benefit, not that of the judges.

Remember, these judges are not robots! They are real people. All have established themselves in the business world and while they might not agree with you, they do know what they are talking about. Make sure to take in as much information as possible at each business plan competition. A judge’s suggestion will help you regardless whether the winning prize is advice, money, or a scholarship.

From what I’ve learned from Mr. Swangard’s interview, is that being successful parallels with being prepared and personable. Understand that your goal is not accomplished just by submitting your business plan and being accepted! If you do not win, realize that your trip was not a disaster. Success is not necessarily defined by winning. Good luck at competitions and hopefully this rundown of advice from a business plan competition director can help you be successful!

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