“Treat me like an idiot. Some C-Splaining would be good” said a CEO recently about how he wants business cases explained to him (and I laughed out loud).
Having a business case and PROVING the business case to implement a change are two very different things.
For 12 years I’ve been showing people how to build business cases in corporate, in startups and in universities, including in partnership with Cambridge University’s various bodies.
I’ve seen by now thousands (if not tens of thousands) of business case pitches.
There are 3 common mistakes people make when building a business case:
1. They don’t make it crystal clear “WHY NOW” and “WHY THIS PROBLEM” — They think it’s enough to mention a problem. They don’t demonstrate enough urgency: “What happens if we don’t do anything about it?!”
2. They try to “boil the ocean” — instead of choosing one clear problem, they talk vaguely about a cluster of problems that become so abstract, they come across as unimportant. This also makes it difficult to show and build a risk/cost/benefit story because it’s too wide and vague — which leads me to…
3. There not a clear message about the risk/cost/benefit ratio and about why this should be acted on above the other 100 important things we could be doing.
Whenever I have one to one meetings with each person about their pitch, I often discover just how business critical their pitch actually is, but the way they pitched it sounds like:
“Meh, we can probably do without bothering about this one”.
Therefore…Having a business case and PROVING the business case are two very different things.
The business need might be there, but it’s up to the person seeing the problem to make the case for a solution… Or to make the case for a partnership to create a solution!
Ironically — you can’t blame the audience for “not getting it” and “the company losing money for not listening to me” if you don’t explain just how mission critical this change is.
C-Level people need to hear and see the real story:
✓ show how you came up with those numbers, as just like investors, your CxOs will get their calculator out to understand how you came up with that £10m profit by switching from the current system to another system
✓ they need to understand your thought process — “Treat me like an idiot. Some C-Splaining would be good” said one CEO.
✓ if you don’t have a solution, then you are making the business case for partnering to fix a problem.
The angle of the pitch changes from “say yes to this investment” to: “this is why we need your input and what information/help we need from you to find a solution”.
Remember these key words:
✓ Why now (what’s the urgency?)
✓ Why this problem/solution
✓ What is the risk/cost/benefit ratio?
What do you think are the barriers to building good business cases?
What did you find worked when building a business case?