How To Create Your Business Plan Without Excel - Part 1

Hi there.

Welcome to the workshop “How to create Your Business Plan Without Excel (part 1)”.

I am glad you made it. If you're like most founders, project managers or sales leaders, there are things which probably come pretty easy for you.

  • You can identify a problem that you can solve for customers…
  • You can create a great product or service…
  • Even creating a spreadsheet with a few numbers has been pretty easy for you…


what's not so easy is the thing that nearly every startup founder, project manager and sales leader struggles with whether their business is just starting up or even being further along: 

Creating a business plan which can answer the simple questions

“Is Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) significantly higher than Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) ? ”.

It sounds pretty logic that it should be, right? 


If entrepreneurs and business managers can answer this question for their projects, they win the blessing and support of investors and decision makers. And because this in an ongoing exercise, they should be able to create or update their business plan in hours and not struggle with it for weeks or months:

Evaluating a business idea or case to see if the assumptions make financial sense.

Why is this so hard to deal with decision makers? Think about it

  • Decision makers such as investors or business managers deal with business case and numbers on daily basis...
  • They typically have a financial background and know the metrics they want to see...
  • They know the benchmarks which make meaningful assumptions...
  • And what decision makers hate is wasting time if their expectations are not met...

All of us would, right?

More than 80% of spreadsheets investors receive are either too simplified, too over-engineered and have lots of errors – these are - what they call - OMG business plans!

So, no matter how great your product is, no matter how much your early customers love it, no matter how strong your team is, no matter how much you hustle…

…you'll run into the challenge of presenting your business plan – typically while being under time pressure.

You don’t want to send another OMG business plan. You want to make sure that you take every chance to increase your funding success.

What you learn

In this workshop, you’ll learn 3 things about the best way to present your business:

  • No1. Understand the key metrics about your customer lifecycle...
  • No2. present and explain them LOGICALLY on just one page...
  • No3. Answer the key questions which decision makers have...
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Today I'm going to show you how that's done in a lean way.

Who am I?

First who am I?

I'm Eckhard Ortwein. I am the founder of Lean-Case - a full-service business planning company and we offer a fully done-for-you business plan.

Why I founded this company? I’ve lots of scarce on my body and learnt it the hard way and would love you to avoid all these common mistakes:

  • As an early entrepreneur in my first startup, I burnt through a lot of money doing all the mistakes which you do if you have too much money, no time and no plan - until money ran out and we changed for the better – planning, bootstrapping and successfully exiting.
  • As a later entrepreneur in my second startup, I had no time, no money but at least thought to have a plan after nights and weekends of work. It turned out to be an awesome spreadsheet but couldn’t raise money as we didn’t know any real benchmarks - until we focused on building our funnel and successfully build an OEM strategy in the US and exited.
  • As an early business angel, I made a terrible investment being blended by product and team not asking about unit economics. That did not help any anyone. The company crashed a few million and a few years later.
  • As an M&A Advisor and VC Partner, I am seeing lots of great companies and product ideas with little clue about metrics every day. And I can see investors and decision makers struggle on a daily basis to make smart financial decisions based on the business plan presented to them.

The process of using spreadsheet is inefficient and broken!

We recently ran a survey among experts who create financial spreadsheet on a regular basis.

Can you believe that only 21% of them trust their own spreadsheets to make sound financial decisions?

With Lean-Case, we started working with some of the best companies and investors. They understand that they have to change.

The Get-Keep-Grow Customer Lifecycle Model

A Customer Lifecycle Model is fueled by your strategy to get customers, keep customers and grow customers. You may have heard about the Get-Keep-Grow Lifecycle before and I always like to refer to Steve Blank as the key originator.

This lifecycle is also relevant to understand the key metrics along the customer lifecycle to see the forest for the trees.

  • Getting Customers is about engaging users and let them do something you have planned for them to do.
    The key metric describing the Get Customer Phase is the Cost of Customer Acquisition (CAC).
  • Keeping Customers is about ensuring that they don't churn. It is a major business objective to keep customers because typically it is much more expensive to get a customer than to keep a customer.
    The Key Metric of the Keep¬ Customer-Phase is Churn.
  • Growing Customers finally maximizes the return over the entire future relationship with a customer (the customer lifetime). The key metric is the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV or often CLTV)
Customer Lifecycle

From a business perspective the Customer Lifecycle is essentially about answering 3 key questions which I'll tell you all about in today's workshop:

3 Key Questions for your Business Plan

From a business perspective the Customer Lifecycle is essentially about answering 3 key questions which I'll tell you all about in today's workshop:

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Essentially these questions are the same for every business or project idea be it SaaS, ecommerce, advertising whatever. If you can answer and present these questions, decision makers listen to you, build trust and eventually decide to invest, fund or support you.

If your business already has paying customers, then you've probably figured out how your sales funnel works and know:

  • How many of your leads you convert...
  • How long it takes to convert them...
  • Which effort is involved...

If you are early stage or are in search for your product/market fit and don’t have paying customers yet, you might say this is not for me yet. That’s wrong!

And I love to quote Michael Gilroy from Canaan Partner – a prominent VC:

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So, don’t worry. Even if you might not know your numbers yet, we have benchmarks available which at least provide you ballpark figures.

Excel Is An Investor Trust & Deal Killer...
How to Create Your Business Plan Without It!


Discover the Viability of Any Business Idea in 20 Minutes...

4 Metrics at play

At every step in the customer lifecycle there are the same metrics at play which you  have to consider 

  • Volume – to fill the pipeline (e.g. traffic sources like Search or Social Media, Leads created by Sales Teams, ..)
  • Conversion Rates - to push the volume through the pipeline from stage to stage (e.g. converting a Lead into a Free Trial and a Free trial into Paying Customer ...)
  • Time Delay Metrics – which describe how long a conversion takes...
  • Financial Metrics - which describe how much a conversion costs and which is typically linked to the sales effort which is required to convert a customer.

So, answering the 3 questions and applying the 4 Metrics - this is where I'll focus the rest of the workshop.

A 1-page example on key assumptions

Let me start with an example of a SaaS B2B company so that you understand what I am talking about when I say let’s show all the assumptions on 1 -page:

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Let's go one-by-one explaining the funnel from left to right:

How does the company create leads?

The company uses Paid Advertising (100) and Organic Traffic (100) to create prospects using a team of MDRs. The no of leads grows by 5% per month and the average cost per lead is $200.

How does it convert leads into paying customers? 

The company converts leads into paying customers across 2 stages:

  • Sales Dev Reps convert 20% of qualified leads into SQLs in about 4 weeks
  • Account Executives convert 50% of SQLs into Live Customers in about 8 weeks
  • The overall conversion from Lead-to-Deal is about 2% and takes 3 months and CAC totals $3,600

How does it grow its paying customers?

The company grows its customer across 2 stages:

  • A new customer typically signs a monthly contract with average MRR of 1k. 2% of Customers churn on a monthly basis. Cost of Good Sold are 30% of revenues. 
  • Customer Service Reps ensure that customers use the service and understand the impact to minimize churn
  • Account Managers ensure contract renewal and upselling. Typically, 30% of Live customer convert to Impact Customers after 9 months signing an annual contract with average MRR of $1,250. Annual Revenue expansion is 20% and actually higher than Annual revenue churn (15%).
  • This results in a CLTV value of 21k and average lifetime of 50 months

Answering investor questions

With the assumption in mind, let’s have a look at the results and answer the typical investor questions:

Investor Questions

Zoom in for Example


Unit Economics indicate that the long-term indicator “LTV over CAC” and the short term indicator “how long does it take to pay back CAC” are critical in the first year ...

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.. but turn healthy over time – on average, LTV is 5.8 times higher than CAC and it takes 8.6 months to pay back the CAC

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This will yield a revenue potential of 24M in year 5 with 2,300 paying customers.

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From a profitability perspective the company will break even at the end of year 3 and deliver an EBITDA of 14% in year 5.

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The max investment required is 2.1 m and the invest will be paid back in year

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After presenting all key assumptions on 1-page taking your audience through your customer lifecycle, you can model the lifecycle in Lean-Case and immediately analyse and share results. If you are working the old way, you have the option to export and also show all the answers to the Investor Questions on 1-page

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You don’t need to deep-dive into a spreadsheet only to get puzzled looks. It only takes 5 minutes, you are demonstrating that you know what you are talking about, you create trust, you increase your chance to get support for your project.

Now, here are the 2 essential steps that you have to follow to come up with such a plan:

Essential Steps

No. 1 Think about your business along these 3 simple questions:

  • How do you create leads?
  • How do you convert leads into paying customers? 
  • How do you grow your paying customers?

No. 2 When building a business plan - getting, keeping and growing customers, 

there are always 4 different types of metrics at play.

  • Volume – to fill the pipeline...
  • Conversion Rates - to push the volume through the pipeline from stage to stage...
  • Time Delay Metrics – which describe how long a conversion takes...
  • Financial Metrics - which describe how much a conversion costs and which is typically linked to the sales effort which is required to convert a customer.

Most common mistakes

I’ll share the 2 most common mistake with you and a couple of tips for you to get the most out of your planning.

First, most founders and project managers do not see the forest for the trees. They start at the wrong end and list all the expenses which are required to run a business such as rent, salaries, cost for tools, and the cost for their accounting.

I am not saying it is not important to know what your expenses are to control your cash flow. But in terms of presenting your plan, this comes last. Start thinking about how to answer the 3 questions:

How do you create leads? How do you convert leads into paying customers? How do you grow your paying customers?

And then understand the key metrics to see the forest for the trees along the customer lifecycle:

  • Getting Customer is about CAC (the cost to sell and market your business)
  • Keeping Customers is about Chun, Revenues and COGS (the cost to keep your customers running) 
  • Growing Customers is about Lifetime Value and Growth rates.

If you understand this concept, you can then answer the simple question is CLTV >> CAC?

If it is not higher and you are in early stages, it is not a drama, but then please don’t make the mistake to spend money to scale your business but continue to work on your product market fit.

If CLTV is at least 3 times higher, great - spend money to scale.

Second, the business plans most people build in excel are static, don’t show the conversion dynamics of a customer lifecycle model but only show the number of customers per month. 

Why is this? 

Well, it is super difficult to this in Excel. Many start to build a business plan trying to show the funnel conversions and time delays but end up like my friend Aran. This is what he achieved before turning to us. 

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They manage to create conversion mechanics for 1 month but then get stuck if they want to build them up month for customer cohorts over 3-5 years.

And - as we learned - modeling time delay is only 1 of our 4 types of metrics which are at play at every stage. For example, modelling the financial metrics which describe cost at every conversion step is another major challenge in Excel. This requires you to model all possible cost drivers in a generic way.

Last but not least, if you don’t get your model right – it becomes impossible to calculate accurate key metrics like CLTV and CAC.

Excel Is An Investor Trust & Deal Killer...
How to Create Your Business Plan Without It!


Discover the Viability of Any Business Idea in 20 Minutes...