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Business plan assessment methods

There are many methods that help to define business models and business plans. The Bell-Mason methods from the field of venture capital, for example, provide a rigorous framework for paying attention to the many elements that together make up a credible business plan, such as skills, marketing and finance. Their model for new ventures has 12 axes shown in the diagram below. For each of them progress is mapped in four stages. First is the concept stage. This is seeded and then developed as a product. Finally there is the market development stage. They have used this diagnostic model to chart the progress of more than 450 ventures, in order to identify key areas for further development so that one of them does not bring the whole project down.

In the diagram the most progress has been made along the technology axis (as we might expect in Silicon Valley), along with the business plan, the CEO and the financing axes. The least developed are sales, the team, the Board and systems of control. For the social economy the issues of control, the team and relations with users are likely to have greater priority and may in fact be the substance of a new social technology on which a venture is based. In the diagram below we identify 12 alternative axes which may be more appropriate for social ventures.

These are useful tools both for managers and investors that drive attention to the many elements that combine to make a business work – any one of which can be the decisive weakest link.