7 Business Insights from a Judges Seat During Miller Coors MUES Business Plan Competition

VIDEO: Bonus tips in this blog from the other national judges during the competition.

This past weekend was a once a year opportunity for young entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas.  A panel of judges from diverse business backgrounds came together on behalf of the MillerCoors MUES competition to award these competitors a shot at $150,000.

While riding shotgun over this day and a half event, I felt a great sense of appreciation from where I've come from after being in business for 13 years.  I remember the grind, the start up, the planning and eventually, the selling and telling of my company's message.

Here are some insights taken from my notes:

  1. Financials are Audited, But Financials Not Understood.  Many business people have miscalculated their margins, offer their services too cheaply which reduces their ability to stay IN business. Plus, don't give away too much ownership to a partner that is only critical during the start up phase of your endeavor.
  2. Don't Understand Break Even Point.  They approached their business like getting a job or taking an order.  Without knowing how much product needed to sell in order to recover expenses or new clients to obtain made certain businesses extremely short sighted.
  3. Working Part Time.  Being an entrepreneur is a privilege in itself.  Your business and your dreams should be worthy of your full time effort, even if a current job is needed to cover the bills for the meantime.  Part time schedule does not mean working half ass.
  4. First Obligation is to MAKE MONEY.  Starting with a charitable heart is one thing, but don't sell yourself short giving away all your money and you have nothing left for emergencies or funding a new project that makes you even more competitive in your market.
  5. Anticipate Supplier/Provider Challenges.  Don't let their shortages affect your reputation.  Underpromise then overdeliver. Have more than one that can be trusted and depended upon.
  6. The More You Talk to Explain Your Point, Your Credibility Drops.  If you don't know the answer, your "business intelligence" should tell you to say so.  Your answers should be clear, quick and concise ultimately leading you closer to gaining more customers and getting in front of influencers.
  7. Be Organized, Drill and Practice Your Pitch. As an entrepreneur, you'll be selling for the rest of your life asking for a check or getting an order. Your shorten this learning curve by following and asking those who have established patterns of success.  Plus, find someone you can be proud of speaking on behalf of your company that can be comfortable in any environment.

Lastly, the judges talked about which reality shows they watched and what they observered in them.  We all had a similarity in why we like these shows.  The number one overwhelming business mistake that is exposed, addressed and dealt with...was arrogance.

We look forward to announcing the winners of the 2012 MillerCoors Mues competition on March 8th!  Great job finalists!

PS.  If you want to compete in the next business plan competition for your shot at a piece of $150,000, go here.

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    Matt Sapaula

    Proud father, former U.S. Marine Sergeant, financial coach, podcaster of the "Money Smart Show", co-host of MSN Money's "The Invested Life" personal finance reality show

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